Monday, October 22, 2012

Upcycled Dish Scrubby Buddy

This was one of my wife's brilliant ideas and since she has a brilliant husband, she knew I could make one. She handed me a couple plastic citrus bags and asked me to make a dish scrubby.

For clarification, the bags are plastic, not the citrus fruit, in case there was any confusion.

This was super easy to make and only took a minute or two. I simply wadged up one bag and stuffed it into the bottom of the second one, then twisted the outer bag and turned it inside out, twisted, repeat, until there was no more bag. Then I threaded a piece of string around the bag opening, pulled it tight, knotted it and vwahlah! Scrubby Buddy! Works just like the $2.50 one at the store. Only it cost $2.50 less, is keeping the plastic out of the landfill, and Scrubbybuddy Corp. will produce one fewer of their flagship plastic products (at what I now know is a 2500% markup).

Unfortunately, as I've  used this, the twists have begun to unravel. It doesn't look nears as good as it did in the picture, but still cleans the dishes as intended. Fortunately, looks aren't everything (just ask Steve Buscemi) And, I already have a solution for this problem. Instead of just threading the tie-off string through the bag at the opening I'll also make a single pass through each of the twists at that end of the scrubby to prevent them from untwisting.

If that doesn't work, I'll report it and my next solution in an update to this post. We're getting into citrus season so I'm sure I'll come across plenty of bags to experiment with while creating the perfect upcycled dish scrubby buddy.

UPDATE: 5.24.13 ~ The solution was a smashing success. The scrubby buddy held together for seven months before getting a tear (from cleaning a knife). To fix it, I stuffed it all back in through the tear and put it into a new citrus bag. Twist, invert, repeat and tie off as detailed. Works like a champeeen!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Plastic Bag Dryer

Plastic Bag Dryer

This is a second post about things I've made that make it easy for us to reduce our consumption of single use plastic.

The old way. :( Booo.
This one was a little more involved than the first, but still took me less than an hour. We reuse plastic grocery bags, produce bags, and Ziploc bags many times. Until they are torn, or have holes in them. Washing and drying them was kind of a pain in the butt. Not so much the washing - that's a breeze, but the drying. We would hang them from bulldog clips and they'd drip on the counter, put them in the dishwasher to dry but they took forever, or we'd put them over the faucet to drip in the sink, but then you'd have to remove it to use the sink, and they were always in the way. My wife had been asking me to make something for drying bags for some time.

In my head this bag dryer was very complicated. It folded up and twisted and would hide under the cupboards, maybe have a fan and a timer, some flashing lights and an alarm. Laser perhaps. I wasn't sure how I'd make it or what I'd make it from. Then my wife showed me a picture of what she wanted. It was muuuuuuch more simple than what I had envisioned.

We had an old end table that I had thrown into the fire wood pile. I removed one of the legs, sanded it, polished up the foot with steel wool, stained it with some leftover stain from the front stairs, drilled some holes in it, stuffed 1/8" wooden dowels in the holes and screwed a paint can lid to it for a base. Holds eight bags, fits on top of the fridge.

This makes it very simple for us to reuse plastic bags. We can reuse a Ziploc bag 10 or more times and produce bags up to 10 times. This dramastically (that's a word I believe was invented by one of the articulate frat bros in a business class I took) reduces the amount of plastic we put into the environment. Additionally, we haven't bought Ziploc bags in three years.
The New Way!  *<}:) Yay!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pack Your (Plastic) Bags, We're Going On a Guilt Trip

This post is about plastic and a few easy ways that I've found to help reduce my consumption.

If you're familiar with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch you'll understand that this planet doesn't need more plastic in its oceans and landfills. The GPGP is the largest of five major oceanic garbage patches and by some accounts is estimated at twice the size of Texas. That's larger than the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, The U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut  New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawai'i, Maryland, West Virginia, South Carolina, Maine, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, and Louisiana.


Here's more perspective. Every single living human being on the planet, all 7,045,045,481 of us, would fit  on the GPGP and we each would have about 2,100 sqft of plastic gunk to ourselves. And lest we forget... there are four other major oceanic garbage patches.

Decomposed Albatross & Stomach Contents
Before I dismount Hoof Hearted (that's the name of my high-horse), the Midway Atoll in the Pacific ocean is home to the largest albatross population in the world. A recent study showed every single dead albatross on the atoll had plastic in their stomachs. All of them. In most cases, they contained more plastic than food. Dr. Seuss was quite the prognosticator when in 1972 he wrote of "crummies in their tummies." Sure, he was writing about the Brown Bar-ba-loots  frisking about in their bar-ba-loot suits and not albatross (or is it albatri?) frisking about in their albatross... floss..., but the important distinction here is that albatross exist. Currently. Aight, I've gotten way off track, but one final thing. If you have Netflix, I highly recommend the documentary Bag It. It's not all preachy and doomy, and it might give you some insight into the yin of plastic's yang. I've included the link, so half your work is done.

Edward Everett Hale wrote "I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything  but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do."

Over the last 10 years I've tried to be a better steward for the earth. I've gotten so much better at being aware of what I purchase, what I throw away, what I reuse, etc.But it didn't happen overnight. I started out recycling a little and over the years have gradually found ways to improve how I use the resources, eliminate some of the things that I don't need, and purchase in a manner that uses fewer resources (eg. reuse our dish soap bottle by refilling it at a grocer that carries bulk soap, reuse produce bags, avoid packaging by buying from the bulk bins, etc). I'm a looooooooong way from being good at this. Ultimately I'd like to nearly eliminate single use plastic from my life, but because we live in a disposable society it will be very difficult to do so. And, I love Coke. I buy a bottle of it a couple times a month. I could stop buying it in plastic bottles but it's usually an impulse buy and they don't sell individual cans at the Quickimart, nor am I ready to eliminate that impulse. Perhaps someday.

Until then, here's the first of a few posts detailing some easy things I've made to help my wife and I justify my Coke addiction.

Indoor Herb Garden

My wife recently discovered a neat book called The Zero-Mile Diet. The essence of which is organically growing everything you need to eat year 'round. Beyond the fact that we greatly enjoy working in our garden and eating the fruits of our labor, one of the many things that we find so appealing about adhering to this type of life-style is trying to eliminate pre-packaged foods with single use plastic containers and wrappers from our lives.

We already grow some herbs in our garden, but we would like to have more herbs and have them year 'round, so we want to grow some herbs indoors. We are also motivated by the environmental impact most packaged herbs are burdened with. They typically come in single use plastic containers or bags which are often not recyclable.

Our House, In The Middle of Our Street
I've mentioned once or twice that we live in a very small house (which leaves us lots of room for a garden), so finding some space for an indoor herb garden was a challenge. It had to be near a window so it could get plenty of sunlight, but our house only has seven windows, and space beneath them is already occupied by things like The World's Greatest Cat Condo, other plants, the dinner table/pile of bills, the kitchen sink, the bed, a stairwell, etc. Then my brilliant, beautiful, creative wife "discovered" (as in Columbus "discovered" America, really she identified what was already there and then pointed it out to Europe me) a couple feet of unused space right in front of a window. Our kitchen cupboards extend all the way to the edge of the kitchen window but the sides of the cupboards were free to have something attached to them.

I bought a few screw clamps from Home Depot (with the gift certificate my brother and his wife gave me for my birthday), screwed them to an 11" piece of the cedar fence boards I got a steal on, with wood screws from our old screen door, and attached them to the side of the cupboards. Then insert a peanut butter jar, tightened the clamp, and voila! Indoor herb garden. Well, "voila!" once we planted the herbs. Anyway, took me all of 10 minutes and cost me a buck.