handmade duct tape wallet photos & notes| sustainability

handmade black duct tape wallet
my first attempt – prototype

I have a few sustainability projects I have been working on lately. I am planning on hemming my pants and also making my own slippers out of felt fabric (we shall see how that turns out), but I also recently made some wallets out of duct tape. These photographs show the prototype or the first attempt one. I used cardboard for sturdiness, but I took it out for the final prototype and it made a positive difference. Don’t use cardboard!

handmade black duct tape wallet
This was made with cardboard for sturdiness, but I would suggest NOT using cardboard. Just use duct tape. It is sturdy enough and lighter and more comfortable to carry.

My partner had a really old one and it was falling apart. I wanted to try and see if I could make it out of the duct tape we had. Fortunately, he really likes the final prototype one (I don’t have photos of that one, but it looks similar to this one in design, not in color.) It is a lot thinner with more card compartments and neater lines. He finds that the duct tape wallets are more light, more versatile (customizable), affordable and easy to fix.

handmade duct tape wallet
This is the prototype one with cardboard (inside view). The final one I made has neater lines and more card compartments (no photo, sorry).

If you were interested in making your own, I suggest Googling duct tape wallets and seeing various images of them to get inspired. Some people have made some really clever and cute ones (the ones I made are pretty basic). I also suggest going on YouTube and watching how-to videos. The one I watched was the brand “Duck Tape” and their video on how to make it. It was fast and fun for me. I could totally see myself make one as a gift, but with a specific theme with brighter colors and neater lines.

Some questions I asked my partner about his final thoughts on this:

What do you miss most about a conventional wallet?

I know that it’s in my pocket because it’s heavy. It looks better than a duct tape wallet. Duct tape wallets are not fashionable, but it is practical.

Would you go back to a conventional wallet or do you think you’ll still with duct tape ones?

I think I’ll stick with duct tape ones because they’re cheaper and easy to repair or make another one.

What are you most happy or most annoyed about with duct tape wallets?

I am happy with the comfort with it and that I know my cards aren’t going to fall out of it (referring to the old broken down leather wallet he previously had). And also they’re cheap.

Interview with interpretive park ranger Vivian Wang

Ever since I started watching documentaries about food waste, climate change, fast fashion and others, I began to really look at how my actions were in connection to these issues. I believe this really sparked my passion for nature more than I ever have. I developed a new appreciation for the world.

a Redwood tree I saw during my trip to the Redwoods

National parks and hiking locations became the focus for (almost) all my travels and as a result, saw the most magnificent views I’ve ever seen in my life. My trip to the Redwoods is a great example. Seeing the redwood trees in person was such a moving experience for me. I am specifically grateful for the helpful park rangers who informed us of some amazing hiking trails. Without their passion and knowledge, I think my time there would have been less fulfilling. I found out that one of the bloggers I follow happen to be a park ranger. That’s why I am happy to welcome Vivian Wang to this interviewing series.

Vivian works at Yellowstone National Park as an interpretive park ranger. She and her friend, Jennifer, also founded the website, Tinycaravan. Their passion for the environment and hiking is infectious. I asked Vivian if she could answer a few questions about what it’s like to be a park ranger and the experiences associated with that position. Check out her answers below :)

Connie: First thing, for those of us who don’t know, what is an interpretive park ranger?

Vivian: The goal of an interpretive park ranger (interp) is to positively enhance a visitor’s experience. We do that through leading ranger programs, helping at the front desk, answering general questions, and simply engaging with visitors throughout the park. We educate the public by allowing them to form their own intellectual and emotional connections to their surroundings and meanings to certain resources. We want you to learn, appreciate your surroundings, and ultimately, have a great time.

Vivian Wang in uniform (Image courtesy of Vivian Wang)

How did you decide on the path to becoming a park ranger and what is the process like if someone was interested in becoming one?

I love the outdoors and everything that comes with it. Ever since my trip to Yosemite three years ago, I became hooked on national parks. I’ve always thought it would be so cool to be a park ranger and live in a national park. You see them everywhere and they just looked so cool with their flat hat, badge, and uniform.  My co-worker saw an opening at Yellowstone and encouraged me to apply. I thought, “Eh, why not. The worst that can happen is that I get rejected. Not much to lose.” I applied and the rest was history. There are tons of different park ranger positions ranging from law enforcement to trail maintenance to wildlife biologist to interp. You can find park ranger positions at usajobs.gov and type in ‘park ranger’. Depending on the position, there are different qualifications and requirements for them.

You mentioned in your blog (and with several beautiful photographs on your Instagram) that Zion National Park is your favorite, as well as, Yosemite being a second. How do these parks differ with others you’ve visited and why are they so special to you?

The first time I went to Zion, I was absolutely blown away. I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley of southern California where there are no massive red-colored rocks like Zion. Having never seen such natural structures like that, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was shocked that a place like Zion existed — so sacred and special in every way. During that trip, my friends and I hiked Angel’s Landing, Observation Point, and the Narrows; all challenging but so so fun. Combine my initial feeling and a memorable, thrilling trip, Zion tops the cake. Yosemite is special because it was where I found my calling for the outdoors. I had a lot of “firsts” with Yosemite. It was my first visit to a national park, my first time camping, first time seeing massive waterfalls (Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall), first time seeing tall tall trees, and first time hiking long full-day hikes. It was honestly a life-changing experience and part of the reason why my friend and I started Tinycaravan.

The Narrows of Zion National Park (Image courtesy of Vivian Wang)

To have a fun, yet safe, experience while hiking, what are the tools and supplies one should carry with them during their trip?

The most important thing is water. Bring at least 2L of water or more depending on how long your hike is. For day hikes, I usually bring food (nuts, snack bars, sandwich), first aid kit, jacket, swiss army knife, map (depending on the hike), headlamp, sunblock, camera, trekking poles, and of course, water. It’s also important to wear the right clothing, socks, and shoes. Always check the weather and terrain of your hike.

Can you list some tips or advice about visiting national parks?

– Depending on which park you go to, their national park website is super helpful in planning your trip to one. It’ll answer most of your questions.
– Always check weather, road conditions/closures, and trail updates.
– Google Maps does not work well in national parks; a paper map is the way to go. The map park rangers give you at the entrance gate should be good enough.
– Read the newspaper they give you at the entrance gate. It has lots of useful information about the park, safety, service, and amenities.
– Respect the rules and regulations of the park. Simply doing this helps preserve the park for future generations.
– Pack your patience. If you’re going during peak season, expect large crowds. Avoid them by starting your day early.
– Don’t expect to have cell service or WiFi in or around the park. Enjoy the outdoors!

Vivian at Half Dome at Yosemite National Park (Image courtesy of Vivian Wang)

Is there any fun/interesting fact that you can share about being a park ranger that maybe most people don’t know?

Especially during the summer, there are lots of seasonal rangers. If you go early summer like around June, interp rangers only had about a month to prepare their multiple programs and cram as much information in their head. It may even be their first time in the park or presenting their programs so be nice to them; they’re trying really hard. In general park ranger don’t know everything; it’s impossible.

What does a typical day look like for you and what’s been the best thing about the position?

My schedule looks different everyday, but the tasks we do are similar every day. Each day we have certain hours on the desk, certain hours walking and talking with visitors around the district, and present at least one ranger-led program. The best thing about being interp is that you get to create your own programs however you want. There are certain layouts and information that you have to incorporate in your programs, but other than that it’s a free-for-all. In my programs, I always incorporated messages along the lines of sustainability, preservation, and visitor use in the park.

Yellowstone National Park (Image courtesy of Vivian Wang)

Were there any things that you learned about yourself or the environment that you did not know before obtaining a position at the Yellowstone National Park?

One thing that Yellowstone has taught me is the importance of keeping things wild. Yellowstone is big on keeping everything as natural as it is and as it should be. Sometimes when people go to national parks and see road signs, visitor centers, restaurants, hotels, and gas stations, they tend to forget that they are in a natural place. People start to have expectations that they should have cell service or WiFi or easy access to things you normally find in the city. It’s important to remember that you’re in nature where dangerous things can happen out of your control. I always say, “Expect the unexpected.” You never know what is going to happen so the best thing is to be prepared. One of the reasons national parks are so special is because there’s not a lot of these natural, wild places left on Earth — untouched by human civilization. These natural formations can’t be found elsewhere in the world. I can’t stress enough how important it is to preserve these places or really, what’s left of it. Though it can be annoying and frustrating, following park’s rules and regulations is key. There’s a reason why they are there, both for your safety and the park. If you’re going to Yellowstone, I highly recommend reading the book Death in Yellowstone. It’s a little morbid and dark at some points in the book, but I think it’s an eye-opening and necessary read for the public.

Lastly, if there was one thing you’d want readers to know or to do about the environment, what would that be?

To know that you play a large part in preserving these natural places even by visiting them. We rely on the environment for everything from food to shelter to medicine and more. Why would we not want to protect the only thing that can sustain life? There are so many beautiful natural places all over the world; take the time to simply appreciate it for what it is. Don’t get caught up in the social media and what you’ve seen or heard. Cherish the experience and make it your own. After that, leave it better than it was found so future generations can enjoy it too. The environment is an open space for everyone and that in itself is pretty great.

Vivian, I was excited to read your answers. I think a lot of us, including me, had very little idea of what a park ranger has to go through. Thank you for the care and work that you do!

To connect with Vivian, check out her Instagram account at @vivwangg.

Vivian Wang (Image courtesy of Vivian Wang)

My hope is that when more people expose themselves to the outdoors, they are willing to learn about the area, and then want to protect it.  – Vivian Wang

To see more interviews in this series, click here.

Product review: Baggu Chestnut Duck Bag | sustainability

Baggu Duck Bag Chestnut Review

A little story….I feel so lucky to have found this bag. I was exploring my favorite Salvation Army store and came across this gem right before I was going to check out. I felt that it was very durable and cheap: $2. I needed a bag big enough to carry my small laptop and also just something I can carry for lunch and other miscellaneous gear for work. The thing I was so pleasantly surprised to find out was that this bag is made from 100% recycled cotton! For someone like me trying to be sustainable, it was like receiving two gifts for one occasion.

Baggu Duck Bag Chestnut Review

Positives: unisex wear, very durable, not super trendy, in neutral color, very practical (used for grocery shopping, travel, hiking, everyday use), dual handles with shoulder strap option, inner pocket, made from 100% recycled cotton

Negatives: buttons are a little loose (probably due to all the heaviness from groceries or travel), wish there was a zipper or a more secure closure

Sustainability factors (based on info on their website):
-Their products are made in America or ethically made in China.
-They have an option to recycle their product via return (if you find it no longer useful to you) and in exchange they will give you a discount for your new purchase.
-Their products are made with double stitched seams and can hold up to 50 lbs (pounds) for longer use and durability. Check out other information on their website.

Baggu Duck Bag Chestnut Review

Final thoughts: I like the variety of bags they have. I browsed their reusable tote bags, but I’m going to try to hand make my own. I am pretty satisfied with this product. I have been using it for several months (possibly even for a year now) and haven’t seen any tremendous wear (other than the aforementioned loose button).

I encourage everyone to always do research and check out reviews for each product you want to buy. The more you know before buying, the more likely it is useful for you and less waste for the world.

I was not compensated in any way to write this post. I purchased this product by myself at a thrift store. All opinions are my truest thoughts.

*Product reviews will almost always be exclusively of those that are sustainable and positive health-focused.

Check out more of reviews on this page!

DIY: felt food (slice of bread and a piece of cheese) keychains or toys | sustainability

I love sewing with felt. Below are instructions to make a slice of bread and a slice of cheese keychain. I wanted to make a set with a fried egg one I made a while ago. They are now a breakfast sandwich family (with a felt kitty) :)

Materials/Tools:
-Ruler
-Two different colored felt pieces for bread (brown/tan and beige-ish) and one yellow/orange one for cheese
-Thread (if you want a neater appearance, choose colors that will blend well with the color of the felt pieces)
-12mm split ring (for however many keychains you plan on making. One per keychain)
-Keychain ring or shower curtain ring
-Needle
-Scissors

Directions (for slice of bread keychain)

1. Measure out the dimensions for how long you’d like your keychain to be (grab the beige felt piece). I made mine 2 inches by 2 inches.

2. Cut out the square piece. I cut it out with a wide “m” shape on top to make it look more like the tops of breads.

3. Grab the tan/brown felt piece and cut out a small piece that will later become the edge piece of the bread. I didn’t do this neatly. I sort of placed the beige bread piece on top of the tan one and estimated the shape I needed.

4. Place it behind the beige bread piece. Make sure to cut the pieces to make it more fitting and smooth.

5. Sew the two pieces together. This is how they will look:

6. Trace the beige bread piece onto the tan felt piece and create an exact shape of it.

7. Take one of the 12mm split ring and cut out a small rectangular tan felt piece. This will create a neater appearance for the ring attachment.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

8. Place it wherever you’d like your keychain to focus. I placed it in the middle, so the slice of bread can stand up straight. Sew all three pieces together and you are done! :)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Directions (for the cheese slice keychain)

  1. Grab your yellow/orange felt piece and cut out two square pieces in sizes of your choosing. Again, since I wanted to make it a set, I decided to stay with the 2 inches measurement.
  2. Now cut out holes in one or both of the felt pieces. If you make the holes on both pieces, make sure to match them in size and shape for a neater appearance.
  3. Remember to make a small keychain attachment with a small rectangular yellow felt piece and 12mm split ring (refer to step 7 from the bread slice instructions). Sew the three pieces together.
  4. Now you are all set. You can attach all these to a keychain ring or shower ring or each individually.

Alternative uses:
-Toys
-Bookmarks
-Patches on clothes or bags
-Decorations
-Small gifts

Notes:

I’m excited to make more in the future. They aren’t hard to make and are more affordable and unique than buying from the store. Since I hand sew these, this method cuts down the use of electricity and carbon to transport to the store. What I love about making these things myself is that they are so easily customizable. I think if I were to do this again, I’d be more picky about the color of the threads since I think the cheese could have looked neater than what I presented.

Did you like any of these?

DIY: mini scrapbook by upcycling toilet paper rolls | sustainability

Materials/Tools:
-Scissors
-Toilet paper rolls (however many you like)
-Hole Punch
-Decorative materials like scrap paper/old greeting cards/magazine cutouts/fortune cookie words of wisdom/washi tape
-Binder clips (optional)
-One shower curtain ring
-Glue/Tape

Directions:

  1. Gather some toilet paper rolls.

IMG_1355

2. Fold them down flat.

IMG_1352

3. If they are being stubborn, you can clip the edges with binder clips.

IMG_1349

4. Decorate! Below are some closer views of the ones I liked most. The one below is made out of an old thank you card, mini film versions of photographs I got included with my developed photos and an old stamp.

IMG_1360

This one below is made up of a magazine cutout, an old thank you card, paper bag, paper hearts from a gold envelope and yellow scrap paper, an old fortune cookie fortune and washi tape.

IMG_1364

5. Hole punch each decorated paper roll. The good thing is, you can always add more since they’ll be connected by a shower curtain ring.

IMG_1356

Here’s what they look like put together:

IMG_1357

Alternative uses:
-Bookmarks
Gift card holder (link leads to the DIY from last year)
-Flashcards for study
-Keychains
-Gift tags
-mini handheld art gallery
-mini photo album

Notes:
I LOVED THIS PROJECT! It was so fun and I felt like it was less overwhelming to decorate and less time consuming because the surface is much smaller compared to traditional scrapbook paper sizes. All materials and tools were things I had at home already.

the things I’ll never see

Mount Rainier at Reflection Lakes

Mount Rainier at Reflection Lakes, one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen

I went to a poetry festival a few years ago. There was one poet who stood out for me, but I unfortunately don’t remember her name. She read her poem aloud. After sitting through and hearing from other poets read their pieces, I admittedly felt kind of lost because I couldn’t understand what they were saying entirely. I know that this may be the case with some of my poetry pieces here and that’s okay. We all interpret things differently. But with her poem, I knew what she was saying. She talked about how she found value in writing poetry as a way for her to preserve history. She would reference animals of current day because someday they may not be current anymore. I didn’t value what she had said then, but I certainly do now.

This was years ago and it was relevant then as it is now. It’s safe to say that there are so many beautiful things in this world that I’ll never see. Safe to say and sad to say. After reading their post about Glacier National Park, Jennifer and Vivian reminded me of this poet. The value of her words and what they mean. Our world is disappearing piece by piece. There are things that my future children and their children will never ever get to see in person. And for causes that could have been preventable. It breaks my heart to realize this.

Our time in Glacier National Park was an unforgettable one. Beautiful as it was, we couldn’t help but question how it was possible a park that used to boast a large number of 150 glaciers now only have 25 active glaciers remaining –– which are said to disappear within 10 years. Can you believe that? In 10 years our future generations will no longer be able to see what we saw or enjoy what we enjoyed. In 10 years we won’t see the park as it was, ever again. Climate change is real. It’s happening in our lifetime and Glacier National Park is proof of that. – tinycaravan, To Explore: Glacier National Park

I so appreciate and value what we do have. It makes me savor the photographs and memories of the national parks I have seen (I feel so lucky to have the resources to do so) and to make a list of ones I want to visit that are still here; to preserve them through words and in life, to share them and shower them with love and attention.

Quick links from the National Park Service

Donate | Artist-in-Residence programs | Volunteer | Get an annual pass (4th graders can get for free)

enclosed is my sentiment | sustainability

To disclose this sentiment,
We enveloped ourselves,
Packaged our gratitude and attitude
In a sealed box for delivery.
For the time when,
The recipient sees it, opens it,
To discover ideas and articulate thoughts.

But we can’t waste time anymore,
There aren’t enough supplies
To generate and operate.

We have to negotiate,
We have to create,
We have to elevate.

a poem on sustainability and protecting our natural resources

handmade 2018 planner | sustainability

It’s that time of year again! I love seeing the different styles of each since starting in 2016. If you’d like to see some photographs for my handmade 2016 & 2017 planners, check out this post called “paper-related items” I published last September. For 2016, I believe I just used a blank notebook and filled it in. 2017 and 2018 are made from scratch. My notes for this project are below :)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Items used to make this planner: grocery paper bag, washi tape, black thread (and needle), block letter stamps, stamp ink, black pen, stencils, colored pencils, markers, blue pen, ruler, and loads of scrap paper (I decided to fold them in half, so the blank side could still be used).

Notes: It’s much more minimal this year with no photographs, or magazine cutouts. I also decided to create a table of contents page and numbered the pages. I saw that I didn’t use up all the pages from this year’s planner, so decided to cut down for next year’s. It was fun hand stamping the headings, however, I need more practice for sure. I wish the colors were a little different and that I figured out the dimensions for each day better. I’ll try to remember that for the 2019 calendar :) Lighting and quality varies with each photograph since I used different cameras. Creating holes for the binding took a bit and my hands got sore, but it was totally worth it for me. This project made me want to make more handmade journal-like things.

.org spotlight: Rescuing Leftover Cuisine |reducing food waste|sustainability

I always wondered what happens with the excess food prepared in restaurants and sold in supermarkets. A long time ago, there was a bakery I liked in the city that reduced their pastry prices by half after dinnertime knowing that a lot of it would end up as waste by the end of the night (unfortunately, they stopped doing this a few years ago). I thought it was genius and awesome for everyone involved. I also know that some supermarkets will donate some portion of their unsold fresh food to local food shelters, but unfortunately, I think there is still a lot that still gets thrown out.

Recently, I came upon this non-profit organization that focuses on exactly this: Rescuing Leftover Cuisine. According to their website, 40% of the food in the United States become waste and one in seven people do not have access to food. That is quite a statistic! But I think they are changing that. Since their inception in 2013, they’ve saved 1,280,377 pounds of food and served 1,066,981 meals.

I believe they are based in New York, but they have a presence in multiple locations (Florida, Georgia, California, Oregon, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and more) around the U.S. Please check them out and especially if you’re a restaurant owner or would like to volunteer. I think it’s a great way to be a part of a solution to a huge problem we all are affected by (according to the EPA website linked below, 95% of the food waste end up in landfills). Hopefully they can expand into more states in the future.

Below are a couple links I found on how to lessen food waste at home:

10 Easy Ways to Cut Food Waste | Parents (YouTube video)

Reducing Food Wasted At Home | EPA website

Speaking of which, in order to salvage my soon to be expired Goldfish cheese snacks, I made them into crumbs for my breaded chicken sandwiches (which were yummy, by the way). I am also currently on a baking kick since I’d like to use up my chocolate chips before they expire in two weeks. My next batch will be chocolate chip peanut butter cookies from this recipe. I hope they’re tasty!

Fashion Revolution Week – who made your clothes?

To learn more about Fashion Revolution Week, go here: http://fashionrevolution.org/

Source of video: The Fashion Revolution YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0JS74vyisaHej_xEq_zZ1w

Dear handmade blazer,

I remember when I first saw you. I was a child and as children do, I would do little scavenger hunts and fulfilled my curiosities by trying on Mom’s clothes or lipstick or earrings (the clip-ons) and checking out every little crevice of the house because I thought I’d find something really fun or cool.

And I was going through Mom’s clothes and I saw you. I asked Mom where she got you. You were small and you fit me. It reminded me of something a person riding horses would wear and how chic they looked. I wanted to look good.

Mom said that she made you. I didn’t believe her at first. Convinced she made it up because that’s not what she did for work (clearly, I was so naive then). I investigated and didn’t see a tag. Throughout the years, I saw more clothes Mom had made and I knew she made you. She told me how you weren’t really finished and you were a prototype when she was learning to make clothes. But I didn’t care. I loved you and still do.

I wore you to school as a spring/fall jacket. I got compliments and asked where I got you and said my Mom made you. Even then, I knew that other moms didn’t make their clothes and I felt special because mine did (among the many other things that makes my mom awesome). You are not something I can wear anymore, but I still keep you with me. Because you’re something that came out of my Mom’s creativity, her own two hands and her patience and time.  Because you are a reflection of her and I want to cherish that forever.

Love,

Connie

#LovedClothesLast

The clothes you wear were made by someone. Do you know their story? Do you know their name? Support the companies and brands who do know and let you know. Transparency is so important. Be curious. Love the clothes you have and love the clothes you buy. Think more deeply when you make a purchase and where you are buying it from. Make your own. There is power in you to decide where your money goes, who your money supports and the values you care about.

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day  saying “I will try again tomorrow.”

-Mary Anne Radmacher

green tip #13 |celebrate mother earth

I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy. – Marie Curie

Earth should be celebrated everyday and Earth Day is a nice reminder to treat our world with respect, kindness, understanding and a bazillion hugs and smiles. I want to admire it longingly, gazing up in the sky when the sun sets and the skies are filled with indescribable colors of love. I wish I had more to give as it has given a lot to me.

And I can give more, all the time. Giving back and continuing the cycle of life is how we can all function together when our resources and ourselves can unify. To continue changing and evolving for the better takes time. It takes a lot of effort and cannot be done in one day. Just try one thing. I remember when I was first inspired to have a more eco-friendly lifestyle. I was overwhelmed. There seemed to be so much I should have been doing and it felt really difficult. But I decided to try one thing. Then I tried another thing. And I’m still trying new things and methods to lessen my carbon footprint, to lessen my dependence on plastic and to be realistic about stuff; past the superficial happiness that quickly fade. Consuming things just isn’t the same anymore—buying, eating and etc. I’m not perfect at all. I am just beginning. Each day is a learning day. I think essentially, it’s just taking an extra step and thinking, “how will I recycle (dispose, reuse, compost) this when my use of it is over?” Here are some ideas for you to try your one thing: Earth Day Website and tinycaravan’s list of ideas.

Here are some more:

  • Plant some flowers or trees. Sunflowers are bee-friendly and we need more of these little friends!
  • Go for a hike somewhere and appreciate all the beauty you see.
  • Do something that requires no electricity, no carbon, no plastic or all three!
  • Show love by creating art of nature–paint, draw, write poetry, etc.

One of the many positives of living a more eco-friendly lifestyle is that the experiences are more worthwhile. The happiness is deeper because they aren’t motivated or supported by money, by recognition or society’s standards. They’re meaningful in ways that touch my soul like walking in nature. To really challenge myself in looking at what I use and own in a completely different way. To appreciate the little things. To have more memories.

Here are some of mine:

happy earth day.

green tip #12 | food & packaging| Recycling stations, Terracycle & donating

It’s been a while since I’ve posted something regarding sustainability; although, it’s something I think about all the time. For a few updates, I would say I’ve improved on being eco-friendly with gift giving and recycling. It’s becoming more second nature for me to give gifts that are either experience (gift certificates, museum passes) or something that is handmade or fair trade. I have also cut down giving cards, as well. Since there are many more stores now that are jumping onto being more green, sustainable gifts are easier to get. With recycling, I make sure to check on the material if it’s recyclable before throwing packaging away. I’ve always had this in mind, but I think it’s become much easier for me now.

A few suggestions:

  • Check out your local grocery stores. They may be able to recycle your extra plastic bags.
  • Look into what your local recycling center will take. They may recycle more items than what you currently think.
  • Electronic stores may also have recycle stations for old cell phones, ink cartridges, computer parts and light bulbs.
  • Remember that donating to goodwill or thrift stores or to friends/family members are options if you have an item you want to dispose of. Please don’t put in the trash if you have other options. (I’ve received and given items (including food) to friends/family and they’re always appreciative as I am since it’s a win-win for everyone.)

I also recently researched a company I heard of for a while called Terracycle. I was always frustrated about how chip bags, pens and teeth cleaning products weren’t recyclable. Luckily, they do! They recycle all sorts of things, too, and partner with brand name companies to make sure the packaging goes back into use. I also like that for every item you recycle, they give some monetary donation to a charity of your choice. I’m not sure of specifics, but if you look into their website, it seems like a good way for organizations and schools to jump on (and obviously individuals, too.) So save those snack bags and inkless pens and get recycling!

Another thing to think about is to look into your pantry. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but really go through the cans & boxes of food you have and the fridge because before you know it, time will fly and the food you were planning on using may need to be thrown out. To save the food (and carbon emissions from landfills), buy what you can realistically use before it expires. This is an area in which I have improved greatly, but would like to be better at as well.

A few suggestions:

  • Donate the food if you know you can’t get to it. Give to friends/family or shelter or other community organization that accepts.
  • If you need to use up a particular item, I like to search online for easy recipes. You’d be surprised of the cool dishes or snacks you’re able to make.
  • Meal plan (I loosely do this and I’m more better at for some weeks than others, but it does reduce food waste).
  • Check the expiration dates before you buy the food item and make sure it’s something you really can use within that time.
  • Buying bulk may save money, but be realistic with portions and cravings. Is it something you will be happy to eat again and again for future months?

the things we own & meaning | sustainability

It’s now February, beautiful February. It never lasts as long as the other months, but it does hold quite a bit of quality doesn’t? I always think pink. Or red–a nice warm vision (although the weather may show otherwise). With recent events, we can use a lot of warmth nowadays; inside and out. Whenever I see children in the city, young, cute and energetic, I remember that we have to teach them. Teach them to be kind, to share, to respect one another. To love.

And so I wanted to show some love today.

For this, specifically, are things I gathered that were either secondhand from family or friends or from my adventures in thrift shopping. I took a moment to really think about why these items were important to me. I encourage you to look at the things you own/use/have and really think about its meaning to you. Do consider what you buy, why you buy and for how long you will have it. Consider in investing on pieces that matter more and last longer.

I used to really love just browsing a store and if I saw something I really thought I liked, I’d buy it. Nowadays, it’s not the case. I do still like browsing and I sometimes have the urge to buy, but it’s not at all like it used to be. A lot of the things I see in stores don’t have meaning to me anymore. I take an extra moment to think about: 1. Is this something I have already? (Nice jeans, but how many do we need of these?) 2. How long will this feeling of happiness last? (A lot of times, my answer is.. until I have it and then it just becomes a part of my other wardrobe pieces). 3. How important is this to me, really?

Here are some of my dear things:

my first 35mm camera (secondhand):
I had a 35mm camera prior to the one I have now. It was my dad’s and it did take really beautiful photographs. I remember I had to look everywhere for their specific batteries and it was a journey. But it was worth it. Below is a photograph from this camera:

thinking

cigar box purse made of embroidery beads (thrifted):
It was so beautiful. It was my first time going to this thrift store and it had so many unique and funky things (a huge telescope, colorful sofas, etc) I saw the purse sitting on a shelf and it was so eye-catching. It’s also very well made. This item reminds me that there are beautiful, practical upcycled items–makes me feel inspired & creative!

t-shirts (secondhand):
I think this is something everyone can relate with. I wear all kinds of t-shirts I’ve gotten over the years from loved ones. I especially like the oldie ones. They hold special meaning to the person I got it from, but also for me. It’s not just a shirt I can get at a mall. There are stories, memories and reasons behind them.

Although I care about these items, I know that they are only a catalyst of what holds the most value: time, ideas, emotions, people & experiences. One day, these items may find themselves in a new home with new owners who can feel the joy and inspiration I’ve had. Or at least I hope so. Even if it just produces practicality and ease in someone’s life will be enough of their existence–but it should be sustainable.

green tip #11 | sustainability | donate or DIY crafts with your used holiday & thank you cards

For those who are wondering what to do with used cards you receive from loved ones or new ones you don’t plan on using, here’s a suggestion: donate them. I only just learned of this today and I’m happy I came across this. An organization called St. Jude’s Ranch for Children have a used (& new) card recycling program. They accept cards all year round for all occasions. Here is a link to find out more information about this organization: https://www.stjudesranch.org/about-us/

Here is their mission:

“Transforming the lives of abused and at-risk children, young adults and families by empowering them to create new chances, new choices and new hope in a caring community.”

For those who would like to get some DIY crafts going and perhaps use for next year’s holidays, I’ve linked a few resources I found online. I saw some really cool and interesting things!

Martha Stewart Holiday Card Ornaments
Good Housekeeping 8 Ways to Get Crafty with Old Cards
Care2 18 Surprising Ways to Reuse Greeting Cards
Artists Helping Children Recycle and Reuse Christmas Cards with Crafts for Kids