Sunday, July 27, 2014

Summer Project: Repurposing Your Old Carpet

By Maggie Wehri 

Summer has returned, and many of us are thinking about home improvement projects to spruce up our homes. While these activities may be fun and exciting to plan, the not-so-fun byproduct is one that we most often ignore: where the discarded waste will end up.

A common household renovation that many of us do every so often is changing out our carpets when they begin to look a little too dingy. If you are considering a carpet change this summer, there is good news on the waste front: There are a multiple ways to repurpose leftover carpet without sending it straight to the dumpster.

Disposable beds for pets

We sure do love them, but those furry friends at home can make quite a mess in their living space. While buying new beds and mats can become pricey over time, a quick and easy, money-saving solution is to cut up a few squares of your old carpet to change in and out of their pens or bedding.

Carpet for your car

No matter what kind of vehicle you are driving these days, consider cutting up your floor covering to use as mats inside your car. Help protect your existing mat by placing a freshly cut square on top. Plus, during the worst of weather seasons, which are always just around the corner, your old carpet will take the beating, leaving your car flooring unscathed.

Flooring for the clubhouse

As the weather warms up, everyone is heading out for some time in the sun. For the kids in the family, clubhouses are going to be a popular hangout spot over the course of the next few months. To give your tree house a homey feel, think about lining the space with your old carpet. As the kids venture outside for their next clubhouse retreat, they will definitely thank you for providing added comfort to their special hideaway.

Lining the cubbies and crannies

We all have a certain area in our house that could use a little extra cushion. From the welcome mat at the front door, to the concrete flooring in the backyard shed, cutting up carpet for these spaces can make a huge difference. Repurposing your old carpet is a small green task that you can do instead of tracking in excess or suffering the cold floor.
Instead of paying for haul-away cost and letting your old carpet hit the nearest landfill, think about the many ways you can repurpose your carpet without it ever leaving your home. Perhaps this resourceful thinking may even jump-start a new idea that fits your everyday needs. When thinking about small renovations such as replacing carpet, remember that there are ways you can repurpose the leftovers.
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Saturday, July 26, 2014

How to Recycle Gift Cards

By Sophia Bennett

Gift cards seem to get more popular every year. A survey conducted by the National Retail Federation in advance of the 2013 holiday season discovered that 80% of Americans planned to purchase at least one gift card for someone on their shopping list. On average, they planned to spend $163 on gift cards. Those numbers were the highest since the trade group started the survey 11 years ago.

Gift cards are great because they let your friends and loved ones purchase whatever they want. However, they are not the greatest gift for the environment. They are made with one of the most toxic plastics out there and cannot go in your recycling bin. Fight the instinct to take the easy route and throw them in the trash. There are definitely ways to recycle them — or maybe even reuse them.

What are gift cards made of?

Gift cards are made of polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC or by the recycling #3. Credit cards and hotel key cards are made of PVC, as are items like pipes, vinyl siding for your house, records, shower curtains and mattress covers.
PVC was first discovered in the 19th century, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that anyone figured out how to make a marketable product out of it. Waldo Semon, an industrial scientist, first used it as a waterproof coating on fabric.

Made with chlorine and heavy metals, PVC is a known human carcinogen. It is also one of the most difficult plastics to recycle. Many curbside programs will not take it, and beyond that, there are a limited number of facilities that process it.

You should still try to send your leftover gift cards to a recycler, however. Like other products made of PVC, gift cards will eventually leak harmful chemicals into the soil (or the air if your trash is incinerated). Since gifts cards are less bulky than, say, the siding on your house, you can easily get those unwanted pieces of plastic to someone who will do something useful with them.

How to recycle gift cards

Macy’s will take gift cards at the register and put them in a special bin for recycling. It stands to reason that other companies will do this, too, so when you buy a gift card for someone, ask the clerk if that particular retailer has a recycling program.
If you have a gift card from a company that does not offer a recycling program, there are a couple places you can take them. Best Buy has recycling kiosks inside each of its retail store locations. You can drop off gift cards at no charge.

Earthworks Systems, which manufactures gift cards from 100% recycled PVC, will also accept old cards for recycling. To get instructions about recycling your cards, fill out the registration form on the company’s website and a representative will email all the necessary information. You have to pay the cost of mailing your cards to Earthworks’ facility, but otherwise the program is free.

The Gap is one example of a retailer that uses Earthworks’s recycled PVC for its gift cards. Company owner Rodd Gilbert suggests asking your favorite local retailers to consider buying cards from Earthworks. If they buy recycled, it will cut down on the amount of new PVC being produced.

Your gift card may come inside a small decorative holder. Those are almost always made of cardboard or scrap paper and can be recycled along with the rest of your paper.

Alternative types of gift cards

Major retailers like Target and REI have started using gift cards made of biodegradable materials. The cards, which come from a company called NatureWorks LLC, are corn based and will eventually break down in some composting systems.
Cut down on your gift card’s carbon footprint by giving an electronic certificate rather than a plastic one. Sephora, iTunes and Amazon are just a few examples of retailers that issue e-gift certificates. The added advantage of doing this: You can buy one at the last minute if you forget about Father’s Day, an anniversary or a friend’s birthday.

If the store where you are shopping offers paper gift certificates instead of plastic ones, opt for those instead. The paper certificate will be easy to recycle once it has been spent.

How to reuse gift cards

Another idea is to purchase rechargeable gift cards for friends and family. That way they do not have to throw them away once they have used up your gift; they can simply put more money on the card and use it over and over again. Walmart and Starbucks are examples of national chains that allow you to recharge gift cards.
The durable plastic and interesting designs on gift cards make them a great material for craft projects. Check out this post on the website Totally Green Crafts, which has 20 ways to make jewelry, home décor and even luggage tags from old gift cards.
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Friday, July 25, 2014

Compost is the Solution for Your Dingy Dryer Lint

By Maggie Wehri

Believe it or not, there are many waste materials that can be added to your personal compost. From apple cores to yard clippings, many organic items are beneficial to your heap, offering a great way to further utilize them instead of opting for the trash. Most consumers, however, are unaware of more uncommon items that can be added to mix, such as dryer lint.

While some of us may be skeptical to try composting dryer lint, examine it a little closer. Dryer lint contains carbon and fiber, but only decomposes well with an even mix of both green and brown materials. Brown materials, like dry leaves, wood chips, straw, sawdust, corn stalks and newspaper, are usually abundant in the yard or around the home. On other hand, green materials, including items like food scraps, grass clippings, coffee grounds, manure and weeds, which are full of nitrogen, supply your compost with the most amount nutrients. Dryer lint is considered a brown material, as it is a source of carbon that helps add bulk and allows air to flow through the compost.

To get started composting with dryer lint, designate a container in your laundry space for saving lint. Every few dryer loads, clean the lint trap. Unattended lint traps are a potential fire hazard and can become dangerous when left unattended over long periods of time. Disperse of the lint with no more than an inch depth of each layer. Sprinkle some water on top and rake this into the compost. This practice will help you from being overzealous with the portions and will ensure that you maintain a balanced pile.

Adding dryer lint to the compost is a simple enough task, but it should not be overdone in the compost. Having the balance of both green and brown materials with sufficient moisture is crucial to a great composting system. While green materials are the “powerhouses” of the compost, do not forget to add in the brown materials, which add stability in the equation.

Next time you are doing laundry, before tossing out your next bunch of dryer lint, consider adding it to the compost pile out back. Small actions like these can make a big difference in your compost’s stability, but they are also beneficial to reducing consumer waste and promoting a sustainable lifestyle.
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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Reusable to-go containers

Reusable to-go container service aims to do away with throw away containers in downtown Portland. GO Box, a Portland-based service providing reusable containers to people receiving to-go food in Downtown Portland, has reached its three-year anniversary and is simultaneously celebrating its achievement of eliminating the use of over 50,000 disposable to-go food containers. GO Box is the first company of its kind anywhere in the United States that aims to do away with the problem of single-use, disposable to-go food containers by offering a convenient system providing durable take out containers. There are nearly 2,000 subscribers and 75 food vendors participating in downtown Portland. To coincide with its anniversary, GO Box is also announcing the launch of a new, updated website making it easier for customers to find their favorite food vendors and drop sites for their boxes. "As of this month, GO Box-ers have eliminated the use of over 50,000 disposable take out containers!" said Laura Weiss, GO Box owner and founder. "If you stacked 50,000 GO Boxes one on top of the other they would reach 11,458 ft -- higher than the height of Mt Hood!" Customers can sign up on the new website, or at any participating vendor where they receive their first meal in a GO Box. After their meal, customers return their used container to a drop site and receive a token they use to exchange for another meal in a GO Box repeating the process. All boxes are picked up by GO Box staff and brought to a commercial kitchen for cleaning and then redistributed to food carts and other food vendors. In order to remain true to its low-impact mission, all pickups and deliveries are done by bicycle. Weiss recognized a need for this type of service after learning that you could not bring your own container to receive to-go food from food carts due to health regulations. It is estimated that over 60,000 disposable containers are used by the downtown Portland food carts each month. Since its inception, GO Box has gone on to receive national recognition and in 2012 received the Award for Best Sustainable Product or Service from the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. In addition, Weiss has licensed out the GO Box concept to Sacramento, and San Francisco has plans to launch this year. GO Box also offers companies and buildings a way to get involved by becoming a Corporate Partner. The Corporate Program allows companies to host a private drop box exclusively for the use of their employees and/or tenants. There are currently 30 Corporate Partners participating in downtown Portland. To learn more about GO Box, visit GO Box - See more at:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Twelve Unique Ways to Reuse Old Windows

By Falesha Wojitysiak

You'll be amazed how old windows are repurposed into stunning new uses.
There is something about old windows that inspires nostalgia. Nowadays, there has been an increase in the popularity of salvaging them for other purposes. Here is a list to spark your own inspiration.

1. Bulletin board

Image: Mom 4 Real
Blogger/DIYer Jessica Kielman combined buttons, tacks, wine corks, an old window and hot glue to create this charming addition to her home office. Having found a salvaged window at her local Habitat for Humanity ReStore, she was able to get the help of friends to save up the corks she needed to complete her project. Upon finishing, she used an estimated 324 corks for the project.
In all, the cost of this project came in at under $15. This is not only an excellent way to upcycle materials, but it is also an awesome way to help keep anyone organized.

2. Chalkboard calendar

2-chalkboard-calendar.png Chalkboards for home use are becoming more and more popular, but this one is especially stylish and functional. This board creates a central place for everyone in the family to see and add to the schedule. Plus, there is room to jot down needed groceries, and keep a running to-do list. The addition of the coat hooks to hang a child’s clothes for the next day is wonderful bonus idea.

3. Bulletin board

3-bulletin-board.png This is an adorable double-window corkboard that is glued on the original panes. Best of all, it’s definitely not a strain on the pocket book. By keeping as much of the original window hardware intact as possible, it retains its rustic look. The windows would also serve purposeful by painting some of the panes with chalkboard paint. Simply put, the possibilities are endless.

4. Farmhouse cupboard

4-farmhouse-cupboard.png There’s repurposing, and then there’s repurposing. This beautiful cupboard definitely falls into the latter category. Other than the paint, the hardware on the drawers and the bead board backing, all of the materials used here are upcycled. The door hardware is original to the windows themselves, and you would never know by looking where the lumber came from. It is actually wood from an old waterbed. What a wonderful way to create what is sure to be a family heirloom with materials already in the home.

5. Dry-erase menu board

5-dry-erase-menu.png Chances are, you’ve probably been asked, “Hey, what’s for dinner?” a few more times than you’d like. Well, someone found a way to answer that once and for all with this lovely dry-erase menu board. This was created by using an old window, an eye-catching graphic and frosted glass spray-paint. This is a useful board that would not only look great hanging in the kitchen, but could also easily be used outside for a backyard party this summer.

6. Vinyl signage

6-vinyl-signage.png Lindsey at Diary of a Crafty Lady immediately saw the potential in this large 25-inch x 19-inch window when she spotted it on the curb for trash pick-up in her New England neighborhood. By using vinyl lettering, she not only created something visually stunning, but also changeable if she ever decided to repurpose this piece into something else. Something tells us that will not be happening anytime soon.

7. Framed prints

Image: Crafty Nest
There are prints available on any subject that can be found online, whether your personal tastes lie in botanicals, music, art, sports or something else entirely. This one-of-a-kind piece is a great example of how to make a work of art that reflects who you are at a great price.

8. Quilt holder

8-quilt-holder.png Nothing quite says “Americana” like using an old window to display a handmade quilt. Jaime at That’s My Letter has found a way to create a piece of art that does just that. She made her quilted sections individually. If, for example, you are keeping a damaged quilt for sentimental value it is possible to use this method to preserve your memories. You can also try using alternating color schemes in each pane to shake things up.

9. French shelf

9-french-shelf.png This French shelf would look great in any number of settings. It would fit well in a bedroom with a coastal theme, a living room with a shabby-chic motif, a large bathroom or even a dressing room, just to name a few. The glass is frosted and it contains wire mesh because this piece was made with old windows from a school. It was then combined with other repurposed wood to make the finished product you see here.

10. Jewelry organizer

10-jewelry-organizer.png Unlike most window frame jewelry displays found online, this one uses burlap instead of wire mesh for the panel areas. The addition of small hooks at the top for bracelets and clear casing on the bottom for earring studs or rings is a great touch. If you do not have the counter or drawer space for a good jewelry box, this is a wonderful alternative!

11. Wedding decorations

11-wedding-decorations.png When Dawn E Roscoe Photography took pictures of Aly and Chico’s wedding, there was something unique and unusual about the reception décor. The couple used old window frames hung from the ceiling over the dance floor to add another dimension to the room. While most would consider using window frames to be rustic, the way they are hung carefully spaced and in alternating directions gave this celebration a fresh, modern art theme.

12. Headboard

Image: Modernette
Aly loved the window panes that were used in her wedding reception so much that she wanted to keep a couple for sentimental value. She chose two that matched in size, painted them, and currently uses them as a headboard. Using window frames as a headboard is a great idea. They can be decorated in a multitude of ways. You could put fabric in the panes, or raise them a bit overhead and add artwork.
I hope with all the different inspirations above, you can find your own creative way to reuse old windows. The resulting product is only limited by your imagination.
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

SolarBee deployment in Jordan Lake to begin today

SolarBee deployment in Jordan Lake to begin today

RALEIGH – State officials said that solar-powered water circulators are being installed today in Jordan Lake with the goal of reducing chlorophyll-a concentrations associated with algae in the lake.
Thirty-six of the water circulators, known as SolarBee machines, will be placed at two locations in Jordan Lake to circulate the water in an effort to prevent algae from forming in the stagnant, warm water where it tends to thrive. The Environmental Protection Agency has designated Jordan Lake as “impaired” under the federal Clean Water Act because excessive amounts of algae that formed in the lake due to the gradual buildup of nutrients from stormwater runoff, wastewater and other sources.
Twelve SolarBees will be spaced 1,300 feet apart in the Haw River arm in the southern part of Jordan Lake and 24 other machines will be similarly spaced in the Morgan Creek arm at the northern end of the lake. These arms have demonstrated high levels of chlorophyll-a due to the amount of nutrients coming into the lake from these watersheds and the long retention time. Deploying all the SolarBees is estimated to take about two weeks.
In 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly enacted Session Law 2013-360, which required the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to establish a 24-month demonstration project for the management of nutrients in Jordan Lake.
The Division of Water Resources performed baseline sampling in the lake before the SolarBee machines were installed. With the machines in place, water quality monitoring will be conducted once a month for 18 months, according to the Division of Water Resources Demonstration Project Monitoring Plan. The state agency will collect water samples to determine the type and amount of any algae that is present and to test for nitrogen, phosphorus, turbidity, and chlorophyll-a, which is an indicator of algal activity.
The division also will collect physical data for temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH and conductivity. Water quality monitoring information will be available online at The division will report its findings to the General Assembly by Oct. 1, 2015.
SolarBees, which are manufactured by the Medora Corporation, are designed to reduce taste and odor problems that may affect drinking water, and improve dissolved oxygen levels, pH levels and aesthetics in the lake. They are designed to complement other nutrient- and pollution-reduction measures advocated by the EPA.

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