Posts Tagged ‘reuse’

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by Jessica Wilmer

I am awful at keeping New Year’s Resolutions. There is something about them that screams, “Make ridiculous requests of yourself, then feel guilty when you can’t live up to your own expectations!”

So for 2016, I decided to go with something that seemed more attainable: reduce waste. More specifically, I decided to focus on food waste: both the food itself and related packaging.

Six R's are better than three

Six R’s are better than three

Waste has weighed on my conscience for many years now, and our “throw-away culture” doesn’t ease my pain. Sometimes it feels as if we make things just to throw them away.

Part of my resolution was to learn more about waste. Over the past few months, I’ve watched upsetting documentaries*, read eye-opening articles, and researched many amazing local organizations, including the Food Recovery Network and Hungry Harvest.

It might surprise some people that over 40% of the food produced in the US each year is thrown away and 23% of the solid waste stream comes from packaging and single-use containers. It’s become an epidemic that costs over $218 billion a year in the US alone.

While I have learned a lot through my research, the real lessons have come by making the conscious effort to stop and think every time I purchase or eat food.

A few lessons learned

3514710196_ba6d7b3a87_oSingle Use items are out of control

Have you seen that awful video of the sea turtle conservation group, Leatherback Trust, removing a single use straw from a sea turtle’s nose? Google it. It is a seriously devastating visual of what can happen to single-use products after their purpose is served.

On a typical day, Americans use over 500 million single-use straws. 500 MILLION. Just let that sink in for a second.

Always ask questions

While brainstorming ways to reduce waste, I wondered if it was ok to bring reusable packaging to the market for bulk items.

It turns out you can; all you have to do is ask! The customer service desk at the Foggy Bottom Whole Foods was more than happy to help me navigate their system. Turns out, bringing cloth bags and glass jars is a quick and easy way to get rice, quinoa, greens, and many other items while skipping the extra packaging.

Photo credit: Jessica Wilmer & Steve Milner of http://www.dcphotoop.com/

Photo credit: Jessica Wilmer & Steve Milner of DCPhotoOp

Check your trash

Household_food_trash_NY

Photo credit: petrr

I noticed that the majority of the paper waste in my home came from paper towels. It’s amazing how many of those suckers you rip off when you are learning to cook!

Luckily, I stumbled upon Bamboo paper towels. They are easy to wash out while you’re using them, and when they get too gross, you can throw them in the laundry with your towels. Some can be washed up to 100 times! Sustainable, reusable material? Definitely a win-win.

Going Forward

Be prepared

Single-use containers are everywhere, and our food service industry has made them almost impossible to avoid. However, my experience taught me that you will feel more successful when you have all the proper tools.

I carry a reusable, glass water bottle, coffee mug, and set of bamboo utensils every day. I also keep a set of dishes and utensils at my office, so I’m not tempted by single-use options. Every time I hear, “Grande Americano in a personal cup”, I feel like I’ve received a gold star.

You will save money!

A huge portion of food costs is in the packaging, so when you just buy the food you bypass that cost. Bonus! This summer you won’t have to spend $2 on a bottle of water at that hot-dog stand, and you’ll save a bit each time you bring a personal mug to your local Seattle-based coffee shop.

The Wave of the Future

Thankfully, food and packaging waste has come into the spotlight. Recently the government stepped up efforts that address this large and systemic problem. Individuals and companies are also realizing that food waste affects not only the environment, but also the economy and hunger.

If the momentum continues, I think that there can be a real change. We have already done a significant amount of damage both financially and environmentally, but we do have the ability to stop the damage from growing exponentially.

I may be just one person who made just one resolution, but for the sake of the environment, this is one I’m going to keep.

Jessica Wilmer is an aspiring blogger, vlogger, photographer, and activist. She currently works in finance and lives with her boyfriend on Capitol Hill. You can usually find them at the farmers market in their matching Patagonia sweaters looking for new veggies to include in their repertoire of vegetarian dishes.


* Recommended documentaries: “Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” (2013) and Morgan Suprlock’s “United States of Trash” on his series “Inside Man” (2015)

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on DIY Gift-Wrapping: Do It YULESELF

This Holiday Season,  Wrap Your Gifts With Sustainable Style And A Personal Touch

Written by DC EcoWomen Board Member Catherine Sweitzer

Whether DIY is a personal mantra or a nice idea you keep at arm’s length, there are many ways to make your gift wrapping a little more festive AND green.

Most of my holiday projects are about the same: cute with minimal dedication.  Greening your holidays doesn’t need to be an added burden this busy month! I used three simple ideas while wrapping gifts this year: a recycled tree cutout, map wrap, and magazine streamer. Keep reading to learn how to wrap it yourself!

Stuff You Need:

  • Paper Bags
  • Maps or Newspaper
  • Magazines
  • Ribbon
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • Scissors

The bags I used were left over from Sweet Green take-out and holiday shopping – go ahead and raid your stash of Whole Foods bags for an instant abundance of wrapping supplies. The maps and magazines were things I found around the office, although both can be found thrift stores.

And don’t forget the last thing you need: Gifts!

Now for the wrapping ideas!

Recycled Tree Cutout

Need – Brown Bag, Magazine, Scissors, Tape

Choose a bag that will be appropriate for the size of your gift. Then choose a magazine image that you would like to be peeking through your wrapping paper.

Grab the paper bags and pop open the bottom of the bag and flatten it out. It looks a bit like this:

Cut off the handles of the handles of the bag then cut the bag lengthwise to create a large piece of wrapping paper.

Cut HALF of a tree in what will be the “front” of your wrapping paper (as you can see I goofed up the “half” bit on the bottom).

Grab your image and tape it to the front of your gift. Line up the wrapping paper so your image is peeking through, tape it just right and tah dah! green gift wrap magic:

Map Wrap

Need – Map, Tape, Ribbon, Scissors

Check out the photo of the presents under the tree if you need to be sold on how darling this looks when finished!

It isn’t fancy but newspaper or a map as wrapping paper turns out well especially with a little ribbon for flair. For extra points, use cloth ribbon with wire, which is easily reusable.

Magazine Streamer

Need – Magazine, Tape, Scissors

Some things are difficult to wrap. Namely, anything that isn’t in the shape of a square or rectangle.  By cutting strips of magazine, newspaper, or a map you can piece together wrapping paper that fits the form of your gift AND it looks artsy.

For this, I cut strips of magazine to be wrapped around bracelets.

The bracelets turned into a small wreath of glossy magazine photos; the possible results are as varied as the shapes of all of the awkward-to-wrap gifts!

If you need a little extra help gift-wrapping, don’t forget to stop by the DC EcoWomen Gift Wrapping Fundraiser happening throughout the next couple of weeks.

Here’s to a happy holiday season, may it be filled with green and festive DIY-ing!