Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Eleven Projects to Repurpose Household Junk

By Falesha Wojitysiak

What might seem like junk could actually be repurposed into into attention-grabbing home décor items.
The old items you constantly find no room for in your home do not have to end up in your recycling bin quite yet. With just a little ingenuity you can give them a makeover. If you are like me, you may be stumped for ideas and need to draw inspiration from somewhere. This list is that source. Check out these 11 ideas to get your creativity flowing.

1. Suncatcher
Image: Glass Blooms
The glass suncatcher is perfect for your garden. It adds a different form of esthetic sense to your foliage. Your visitors will not only marvel at your fresh flowers, but also at these striking glass versions. Since they are constructed from glass, they are the perfect suncatchers. They would also look gorgeous along the parallel edges of your garden walkway.
2. Decorative wine glass holder
junk-2.png This beautifully rustic wine glass holder will turn each and every head that walks into your kitchen. You will surely reap a lot of praise from guests as this creation is not only unique, but also very artistic. This is also a budget-friendly way to display your favorite wine glasses and to make them easily accessible to your guests who stop by.
3. TV stand
Image: artemano
This sleek TV unit is made from recycled wood and is modestly complemented with black polished feet. It can be placed in your den or bedroom, however, I think its simplistic design will stand out beautifully in the living room as well. All of the TV stands that artemano creates are not only functional, but they are also attractive pieces of contemporary art.
4. Address signage
junk-4.png These rustic house numbers are out of the ordinary and will surely stand out above your neighbor’s. With this particular design you can either opt for the number to be floating or flush mount. This is a simple yet elegant way to spruce up an old board, and while adding a bit of class to your curb appeal.
5. T-shirt to cute shirt
junk-5.png We all have clothes that we no longer wear. Maybe they no longer fit properly, or possibly they are out of style. Whatever the reason, there is no need to toss them immediately, especially when you look at the simple creation above. What a cute top or even a cute coverall to wear over a swimsuit! The resulting look is up to you, so you could try expanding on this idea and cut patterns into the shirt. Attempt reinventing your own old T-shirts with this fashionista idea.
6. DIY ladder shelf
junk-6.png The ladder shelf will make an empty corner appealing, not to mention useful. I am definitely not a carpenter, but this seems like it could be simple enough for me to make with my kids one afternoon. Use fun and frisky colors or perhaps a stencil to personalize it for your own home. Using some old wood and the DIY instructions you can create a cute decorative ladder like the one above. If you desire your ladder shelf to be placed outdoors, simply apply your preferred waterproofing sealant.
7. Pallet furniture
junk-7.png Pallet furniture is a great idea for anyone who wants to give their patio a facelift without spending vast amounts of money. To make the furniture appear as if it was directly pulled from a showroom floor, be sure to give each piece a thorough paint job. If you plan on using them in a spot to unwind, choose pastel colors, as they help make you feel more relaxed. You can also add wheels to the pallets to easily change the positioning.
8. Stump side table
Image: bet 1975
This side table made from a tree stump is a fantastic upcycled home décor piece. It provides a simplistic yet rustic look with functionality. Make sure that you use multiple coats to achieve a brand new look. If you want to protect your new table from spills and scratches, you will need to use a coat of clear enamel.
9. Bottle place markers
junk-9.png These handcrafted bottles are so simple to make, yet they have the potential to provide a lavish look in lieu of a simple one. The upcycled bottles can be used as table numbers or vases. Here they are perfectly utilized in a wedding as markers at a table setting. There are a multitude of designs you can make with all the different kinds yarn available.
10. Mounted wine bottle shelf
Image: SalvageOwl
The wooden wine bottle shelf would be a wonderful addition to your kitchen, covered porch or even to the décor inside a restaurant. It has a distinctive touch and can be simply personalized. If you are in need of more kitchen space, this can assist with that issue.
11. Bucket planters
junk-11.png I love these bucket planters and intend on making my own for my back patio. They would make perfect decorations to any flower garden or front porch. Simply painting them can help spruce up the look of your entire yard.
Those are just a few of the many ideas I have seen about repurposing old household junk into cool, useful and even beautiful items. Plus, you are decluttering your home to give way to new creative ideas and possibilities.

All images used are copyrighted and used with permission of the photographers/artists.
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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sustainable Surfing

By Kara DiCamillo

The ECOBOARD Project ensures that dozens of manufacturers are able to produce eco-friendly surfboards.
ECOBOARD.pngWhile the surfboard industry is still a long way from being sustainable, there are several companies that have made it their obligation to design surfboards to be eco-friendly. For those of us who are looking to find those companies to purchase our surfboards from, we can rely on the ECOBOARD Project, an initiative from the nonprofit organization Sustainable Surf.

The ECOBOARD Project label is “the first independent 3rd party, consumer facing ‘eco-label’ for surfboards,” and provides a benchmark for sustainable surfboard materials. It helps us as consumers connect with companies that have been verified through the ECOBOARD Project so we can choose a high-performance surfboard (just in time for the September hurricane swell).

Through the ECOBOARD website, we are able to find a list of nearly 30 shapers and brands that have agreed to offer surfboards made using the ECOBOARD benchmarks, including Firewire, one of the largest surfboard manufacturers in the world.

“We have a moral, ethical, and, hopefully, a soon-to-be commercial obligation to make our products as eco-friendly as possible, without sacrificing performance,” Firewire CEO Mark Price told Surfer.

But what perhaps is even more important is that ECOBOARD is also making it easier for surfboard builders to source greener materials. To ensure that they can include the label on their boards, specific materials must be used that have been certified by Sustainable Surf. For example, one of the materials used to build surfboards are shaped from foam blanks. Through ECOBOARD, the Benchmark criteria for foam blanks is 40% recycled or biological content. This not only reduces the toxic chemicals that surfboard builders are exposed to, but it also keeps this material out of the landfill. The other two materials that must qualify are resin (the benchmark criteria for surfboard resin is 15% biological carbon content and low volatile organic compounds) and wood (the wood is sourced in a responsible manner).

The first ECOBOARD that was ever made, bearing the “001” serial number, was shaped for pro surfer Mike Losness and was made from recycled EPS foam. The ECOBOARD Project website states that a surfboard must include these three concepts in order to qualify for a label:
  1. Performance: ECOBOARDs should have equivalent or better performance than boards made from industry-standard materials.
  2. Ease of Manufacturing: ECOBOARDs should ideally require minimal changes in current manufacturing techniques, so that early adoption by the industry is possible.
  3. Environmental Benefits: ECOBOARDs must have a significant and meaningful reduction in environmental impact as measured by factors such as lifecycle CO2 emissions and toxic chemical/VOC emissions. To make the judgment on what constitutes “significant and meaningful,” Sustainable Surf analyzes data and reports on the impacts of surfboards, as well as existing and pending government regulations, and the latest environmental science.
If you’re looking to purchase a sustainable surfboard, make sure to look for one that has a serial number laminated on it as verification that it was built by ECOBOARD Project standards. Then, go show it off by uploading it into the ECOBOARD database!
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Monday, September 29, 2014

Fined For Table Scraps

Seattle residents with too many table scraps in their trash can now be fined

Waste separation slackers in this 3-bin town will receive friendly notices — and eventually small fines — when caught mixing compostables with trash.
Watch what you put in which waste bin if you live in Seattle. (Photo: Quinn Dumbrowski/flickr)
For several years now, the good people of Seattle, plastic bag-banning jewel of the Pacific Northwest, have been dutifully hauling their salmon bones, espresso grounds and leftover chicken teriyaki to the curb for organic waste pick-up.
But more than five years into one of the nation's first citywide combined food and yard waste curbside collection programs, Seattle officials aren’t quite where they want to be with their landfill diversion goals. And so, beginning at the top of 2015, Seattle Public Utilities will upgrade its curbside composting program from "strongly encouraged”  to “absolutely required" status. Those living in single-family homes who are found to be slacking in the trash separation department will initially receive “educational tickets” affixed to their emptied garbage cans. Eventually, these friendly reminders will turn into fine-carrying violations.
San Francisco is currently the only other American city with mandatory curbside composting.
As reported by The Seattle Times, starting in January, city garbage collectors who are already on the lookout for errant recyclables will be taking an even closer look at the contents of trash cans as they are emptied into the back of collection trucks. These trucks, by the way, are outfitted with computerized systems that allow collectors to keep close tabs on each individual receptacle.
If a collector observes that more than 10 percent of a garbage bin's contents are compostable during a “cursory look,” they’ll leave a notice for the offending resident kindly reminding them to please knock it off take advantage of the designated food/food-soiled paper/yard waste bin that they've been provided with. Beginning July 1, a fine of $1 per observed violation will be tacked on to the garbage bills of those who continue to fail to separate pizza crusts and greasy napkins from the rest of their trash.
And apartment dwellers and businesses aren’t off the hook. Dumpsters will be routinely scrutinized for compostable items that shouldn't be comingling with run-of-the-mill, landfill-bound waste. As with single-family homes, inspectors are looking for instances where 10 percent or more of the refuse in question is composed of items that should have been chucked into a food and yard waste bin. Differing from single-family homes, apartment complexes and businesses will be issued two warnings. A third offense will result in a $50 fine.
Tim Croll, solid waste director of Seattle Public Utilities, explains to the Times that the beefed-up rules aren’t strictly to punish non-separators while generating cash for the city: “The point isn’t to raise revenue. We care more about reminding people to separate their materials.”
Since 2009, the city has only amassed $2,000 in fines from residents who have been nabbed repeatedly tossing their recyclables — glass jars, plastic bottles aluminum cans and the like — into their trash cans.
As with the recycling penalties, SPU believes that the new composting ordinance won’t result in significant revenues but will generate an estimated 38,000 additional tons of compostable waste per year. Through the law, passed with flying colors by the Seattle City Council earlier this week with a 9-0 vote, officials hope to reach a landfill diversion rate of 60 percent by the end of 2015.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Waste to Waves

By April Stearns

Expanded polystyrene foam, typically used for packaging and not much else, can be reborn into a new surfboard thanks to Waste to Waves.
Though summer’s warmth is winding down, some of us may still be able to take advantage of our favorite outdoor activities for a while longer. For those of us who are lucky enough to be near a body of water, water sports and activities might still be an option, particularly surfing.

For eco-friendly beach goers or those who are interested in taking up surfing, Waste to Waves is the perfect program to look into for aiding the environment while catching waves at the same time. Waste to Waves was created by Sustainable Surf, a California-based nonprofit charity organization that works to make surf culture and industry harmless for our oceans. There are a few steps for consumers to take to help keep the ocean clean with Waste to Waves.

Most electronics and furniture come protected by expanded polystyrene foam. EPS foam is not recyclable in most communities and therefore is usually thrown in the trash after being used. However, Waste to Waves gives consumers an opportunity to recycle this foam so it can be remade into new, useful products. The company accepts clean, white, #6 EPS foam, which is usually used to cushion large items. The program does not accept foam contaminated by food, foam “peanuts” or broken surfboards.

Those located in California that are interested in donating their EPS can search for a participating local surf shop. These places will have a collection box where consumers can drop the foam off. You can check out the list of shops participating in the program here.

After the stores collect the foam, it is picked up to be recycled and recreated into surfboard blanks, which is foam that is shaped into surfboards. Waste to Waves’ partner, Marko Foam, uses two methods to do this. One method is grinding up the EPS foam and mixing it with new foam to go into the surfboard mold and expand. Another method is packing the recycled foam into hard, plastic lumps and sending it off to be remanufactured. From here, this product can go on to be sold as a completely new but recycled and eco-friendly surfboard.

So far, Waste to Waves has been a major success. As of 2012, the program had collected such an overwhelming volume of foam that some of it had to be recycled to create EPS products other than surfboards. At the time, the program announced it would begin planning an expansion of its recycling system while making it more efficient.

Surfers can also make sure the next surfboard they buy is made from recycled EPS foam. Consumers should order a custom board, specifically a Marko “Enviro Foam” recycled foam blank. Many top manufacturers offer the Enviro Foam board, such as Channel Islands, Super Brand and Lost. Surfers who do this are eligible to proudly display the Waste to Waves logo on their board.

Waste to Waves helps limit the amount of plastic trash going into landfills and oceans, and using recycled EPS foam results in a 50+% reduction in lifecycle carbon dioxide emissions.

Our oceans should be kept clean and safe for surfers. So, when looking to purchase a surfboard, it is best to look for one that will help make this possible. Think Waste to Waves.
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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Head of state environmental program elected officer of national clean air group

RALEIGH – A national air quality association has elected Sheila Holman, director of the N.C. Division of Air Quality, as its vice president.
The Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies, or AAPCA, elected Holman and other officers during its annual meeting last week in Austin, Texas. AAPCA is an organization that supports state and local air quality agencies, seeks consensus on issues dealing the national Clean Air Act, and provides feedback to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on air issues.
“I am delighted to take on this leadership position at a critical time for states and the Clean Air Act,” Holman said. “AAPCA provides a unique conduit for our states to share information and best practices.”
Holman has worked for the state Division of Air Quality since 1993 and has directed the division since June 2010. She has a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from N.C. State University.
“We’re excited that Sheila was elected to this important position,” said John Skvarla, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. “She brings to the table great expertise and leadership from a top-notch environmental program that has made great strides in improving air quality for North Carolinians.”
AAPCA, which is based in Lexington, Ky., is a policy program with the Council of State Governments. More information about the group can be found at its website,

Friday, September 26, 2014

Constance Zimmer: From Recycling to Upcycling

By Constance Zimmer

Actress Constance Zimmer has long been a greenie. Now, she has turned her attention to educating her daughter to reduce, reuse and recycle.
Constance Zimmer and her daughter, Coco

Being a good role model for my daughter, Coco, is very important to me. I want her to grow up and be able to enjoy all that the earth has to offer. That’s why I think it’s imperative to teach kids at an early age to be environmentally conscious, especially reminding them to think before they toss!

Here are three simple ways to be a green parent:
  • Recycle, recycle, recycle. I can’t say it enough!
  • Buy greener products that are composed of recycled materials.
  • Utilize craft books that inspire and teach kids how to use materials/items you have in your home to make new unique toys and gifts.
I recently started building “fairy houses” with Coco, using old, unused planter pots. It's a lot of fun for us, but it’s also a great way to teach her about upcycling. She now loves to think of ways we can turn old, broken things around the house into something fun and useful! We’ve turned old scarves into capes, and voilà, Coco becomes a superhero.
Coco has found a wonderful amount of joy in giving some of her friends old toys that she has loved but outgrown, so they become gifts from the heart and great toys for someone else. An old Elmo doll that has been loved and has her smells on it becomes another child’s favorite snuggly toy.

Searching for like-new items

I also search and scour eBay for any “new” items my daughter has put on her Christmas or birthday lists before going to a store and buying brand new. Vintage books are a big hit in our household as well. Kids don’t care about new or used, I promise. They’re just happy to get it. Plus, I can’t stand all the plastic packaging that takes hours to get through.
Any clothes of Coco’s that are too soiled to hand down to a friend or sibling are cut into hankies, napkins, blankets for fairies, etc. The fairies and dolls don’t care if the edges are sewn, by the way.

E-waste education

In an age where technology is becoming increasingly more prevalent, I want to make sure to recycle my outdated appliances right, and teach Coco to do the same. Instead of creating e-waste, I donate my old cell phones to those stationed overseas. I have saved a couple old phones for Coco to play with as a toy phone instead of purchasing new plastic ones. And, when she gets tired of playing with it, you know what we’ll do? We will give it to Electronic Recyclers International to recycle properly.
Reusing can be fun, plus you get to spend more quality time with your child. Just remember: THINK BEFORE YOU SHOP! If it can’t be reused, then find the best way to recycle it.

Reduce, reuse, recycle,
Constance Zimmer
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Home Electronics Disposal

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