Thursday, 16 August 2018

How to Throw a Waste-Free Party

Summer is full of weekend get togethers and backyard barbeques. All these parties can create a lot of excess waste and garbage. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many ways to reduce or eliminate waste at your next summer party. Here are some tips.

Use reusable plates, cutlery and napkins 
    • While disposable dinnerware may be tempting to use for convenience, it creates a lot of extra garbage. Most of these items are plastic, Styrofoam, or coated with a water-resistant finish so they are not recyclable. If you must use disposable items try to find ones that are labelled as Certified Compostable
    • An easy alternative to disposable plates, cups, and cutlery is to use your own dishes and flatware. What’s that? You don’t have enough? Ask your guests to bring some. Having an assortment of dishes creates an eclectic fun atmosphere for the party. Aren’t these colours and patterns fun?
Image Source: DandelionMama

Image Source: Pinterest

    • Along the same idea of using reusable dinnerware, the same applies to drinkware. Skip cans and bottles for beverages and serve drinks from pitchers or jugs. This will prevent having to recycle empty bottles and cans. It will also allow guests to have as much or as little water/juice as they want; they aren’t stuck with finishing the entire bottle or can or having to dump out the leftovers. Remember to use reusable cups and glasses too! 
    • Worried about washing all those dishes? Most of the individual plates, glasses, and cutlery can go in the dishwasher. That just leaves the serving dishes, which will have to be washed by hand. This is not such a terrible thing! Recruit a couple of your guests to stay later and help. This is a great opportunity to reflect on the party and have one-on-one conversations with guests that you may not have had a chance to chat with earlier. 
Ask guests to RSVP and confirm numbers
    • Knowing how many people to expect is important in determining how much food and beverage is needed and reduces the amount of leftovers after the party. Whether you send out a formal invite or a casual instant message, try to get an accurate number of the guests you are expecting. 
    • For quantity planning, check out the spruce for tips on planning quantities of food needed.
Have guests bring reusable containers for leftovers, or try a potluck, instead
    • This will reduce the amount of food that is wasted. Guests can take home a little bit of everything and have lunch or dinner for the next day. If you choose potluck style, then guests can take home their individual leftovers and you aren’t stuck with all of the remaining food.
Image Source: food network

Skip paper invitations
    • There are lots of great websites where you can create custom invitations for your party and send them via email or text message. These sites allow you track RSVPs, set up potluck instructions, plus loads of other additional features. Punchbowl is one that I like. It’s very user friendly and offers a variety of fun templates for any theme.

Serve seasonal, minimally-packaged bulk food
    • Purchase seasonal local produce and prepare and cut it yourself. This will reduce a lot of plastic waste from pre-packaged fruit and vegetable trays.
Make the Most of Local Vegetables and Fruit
Image Source: Food Banks Canada
    • Purchase deli meat, olives, nuts, and other snacks in bulk. This will not only save you money but will minimize having to toss empty bags and packaging.

Do you have any other ideas for hosting a waste-free party? Comment below with your thoughts and ideas.

Vanessa (Staff)

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Making Paper: A Kid-Friendly Crafting Activity

After a mad session of decluttering and office organization, what can you do with piles of shredded paper? Sure, you can recycle it, but as with anything, repurposing it can extend its useful life while creating something new (to you) and fresh.

An added bonus to making paper with a toddler is the messiness of it all. Kids get free range to go elbow-deep in a tub of gooey paper pulp, feeling the messy texture between their little fingers. It's a perfect afternoon activity.

  • Shredded paper
  • Water
  • Wood frame
  • Screen material
  • Duct tape
  • Blender
  • Felt or similar material
  • Glitter, leaves, or any type of embellishment you'd like to add

A big ol' bag of shredded office paper. Photo: Ellen Hanna
Start with a powerful blender or food processor and a few handfuls of shredded paper. Add any amount of water (you'll squeeze all the excess water out so you don't need to measure) and blend away!

Pulp A.K.A. goop. Photo: Ellen Hanna
Meanwhile, you'll need to create or repurpose a wood frame. I used an old painting canvas. I ripped the used canvas portion off (remember--you can use the painted or virgin canvas without the frame so don't toss it!) and duct taped some screen material to the frame. If you have a strong stapler or staple gun, you can use that. Try to source a very fine mesh screen or your paper will be chunky. Screening is usually sold in larger quantities than you need, so look for old material you can reuse for this.

Photo: Ellen Hanna
Photo: Ellen Hanna
Photo: Ellen Hanna
Depending on where you're doing this activity, you may need a bucket to catch the water that squeezes through the pulp. We were going to let the water drop into the grass but decided instead to press the pulp over our empty sensory bins.

Photo: Ellen Hanna
 Next, spoon, pour, or grab handfuls of goopy pulp and place on the screen of your frame. We tried a paintbrush to spread the pulp but found our little fingers were just as effective. Spread the pulp all the way to the edges of the screen. The thicker your layer of pulp is, the longer it will take to dry and you'll end up with a very thick, rigid  paper. If you want to embellish your paper with glitter, leaves or flower petals, or any other addition, now is the time.

Photo: Ellen Hanna 
A very thick layer of pulp. Photo: Ellen Hanna
Photo: Ellen Hanna
Once your pulp is in place, use a sheet of felt to squeeze the water out while smoothing out the surface. We first tried the leftover piece of canvas but the pulp stuck too much and was pulled up from the screen each time. If you don't have felt on hand you could try another type of fabric, like a towel or old piece of flannel.

Don't rush this step; the fun doesn't end with that squishy pulp! We tried rolling the pulp with a toy rolling pin and the wheels of a tiny truck (neither worked very well but were super fun to do).

A piece of felt can be reused over and over until it's soaking wet. Photo: Ellen Hanna
Ineffective but fun rolling pin. Photo: Ellen Hanna
Also ineffective toy truck wheels. Photo: Ellen Hanna

Once you've removed as much water as possible, gently peel the wet paper away from the screen using your felt as a transfer medium. Then gently peel the paper away from the felt. Since the wet paper can be difficult to relocate, consider a good place for your paper to dry where it won't get ripped or stepped on. Ours was very thick so it took days to dry out.

Pulp waiting to become a sheet of paper. Photo: Ellen Hanna
Once your paper has dried out, it's ready to be used. Ours was a nice chunky and stiff piece with lovely accents of colour--perfect for cards. We used one piece as a Thank You card for a friend and another as a Happy Birthday tag on a present. Next time, I'll add some seeds to the paper so that when we give the paper to friends with a gift, they can then plant it to grow some wildflowers.

Ellen (Volunteer)

Friday, 29 June 2018

From Kitchen Trash to Canada Day Crafts!

Now that the kids are out of school, it's a great time to start on some fun and easy summer crafting! Instead of going out and buying new supplies, why not use items that might be already lying around the house? Reusing is less expensive, more convenient and eco-friendly.

If you're looking for new-to-you craft items, the Reuse Centre is a great place to start as they have an ever-changing selection of arts and crafts supplies at a fantastic price (only $5 for up to 25 kg of materials).

With Canada Day fast approaching, here's a selection of craft ideas that the whole family can enjoy together. Each project takes a common kitchen recyclable that can be found in your blue bag and turns it into something festive!

1. From Soup Can to Wind Sock

This craft is a great example of how a common waste item (like an old soup or vegetable tin) can be upcycled into something celebratory! This activity is also great for using up scraps of coloured paper and ribbon to create the windsock and string, yarn or wire for the hanger loop.

2. From Glass Jar to Centerpiece

Although the original project calls for mason jars, spray paint and wood cutouts, this project can be made more inexpensively and kid-friendly using empty jars from jams or sauces, acrylic craft paint and a DIY maple leaf made from leftover card stock.

3. From Milk Carton to Bird Feeder

The feeder shown here has been painted to resemble Jellybean Row houses in St. John's, Newfoundland, but you can come up with any design imaginable! Setting up a bird feeder provides a great opportunity to observe and learn about local wildlife and to share why nature and sustainability are so important.

Happy Canada Day!

-Karlene (Volunteer)

Monday, 25 June 2018

3 Easy Ways to Reuse Water

Canada has a bountiful supply of freshwater, accounting for 11.7% of the country's total area, according to Stats Canada.  Despite having such a large amount of water available, it is important to be mindful of the amount of water used, as water is not an easily replenished resource. Currently, the average amount of potable water used per person in Canada every single day is 466 litres! With that in mind, here are three easy ways that every individual can reuse water in their home to reduce this gigantic number.

1. Place a Bucket in the Shower

Let's be honest, nobody gets in the shower after immediately turning it on. Since it takes a while for the water to get warm, most people aren't crazy about hopping into the cold. An easy way to save that cold, potable water is to place a bucket in the shower while waiting for it to get warm. The water collected in the bucket can now be used to flush the toilet by slowly pouring about 4 litres of the reused water into the toilet bowl. Flushing a toilet can use anywhere between 6 to 14 litres of water each time. Therefore, the ability to subsidize water by flushing the toilet with cold shower water minimizes the total amount of water used in a household.

Source: Giphy 

2. Pasta or Vegetable Water to Water Your Plants

Cooking pasta takes about 16 cups of boiling water for a family of four people. Normally, when the pasta is done, the next step is to use a colander over the sink to drain all the water. Instead of draining the pasta water into the sink, why not save it by putting the colander on top of another pot? The pasta water is full of starch which plants will love due to the added nutrition. This is what I call a win-win situation: more nutritious water for your plant and a smaller water footprint for you.

17 DIY plant pots and stands that’ll get you ready for spring

3. Install a Rain Barrel Under the Gutter

When it rains, rainwater is normally sent down the drain and left unused. That means that using rainwater is free and that it does not take any special plumbing for you to use. Installing a rain barrel underneath the downspout of your rain gutter is the perfect way to capture rain water -- and there will be lots of it. Edmonton receives an average of 80 litres/m² each summer month with June and July being the rainiest months. A great way to use all of this captured rainwater is to use it to water your lawn, as watering the lawn can be one of the most water-intensive activities during the summer months.

Water is a super precious natural resource. Every time we find a way to reuse it, we minimize our everyday impact, leading to a more sustainable way of life. If you have any other ways to reuse water, please comment down below!

-Dolly (volunteer)

Monday, 4 June 2018

Create a Cheerful Craft Nook on a Budget! (Part Two)

We will continue our project of creating a fun and sustainable crafting space!

In part one, we discussed how to find a workstation and think about storage. Now we will move on to the next steps.

3) Choose energy efficient lighting. Good lighting is critical for your crafting area, especially if you’re reading patterns, taking photographs or working on a smaller-scale project like cross-stitch. Especially in the winter, our natural light fades quickly!

Photo: Karlene L.

My craft nook is in a basement with dimmable LED fixtures and an LED desk lamp with adjustable brightness and position. This way, I can control the amount of light I need – whether I’m watching a movie or working on a project – and the energy used is a fraction of that consumed by conventional incandescent bulbs.

4) Accessorize! Congratulations, you’ve made it to the really fun part! Your space should be an extension of who you are, so whatever brings a smile to your face, now’s the time to display it using shelving, cork boards, pegboards or a gallery wall!

My area is a work in progress so the walls are still bare, but I’m taking inspiration from my office where I have a beautiful vintage map of Belgium (to remind me of my travels) and a display of some of my completed craft projects (to provide inspiration).

Photo: Karlene L.

My accessories include a vintage tall ship model, a locally-made ceramic yarn bowl, two "Made in Alberta" letterpress cards, a repurposed IKEA (zebra print!) office chair and a whimsical button-print rug.

Photo: Karlene L.

Another great idea is to hang paintings that you can make with your family – no experience necessary! With a few inexpensive stretched canvases (available locally at Michaels, DeSerres or The Paint Spot), brushes and acrylic paint, you can have a fun family afternoon and decorate your space at the same time.

So there you have it! With a little bit of time and creativity, you can have the whimsical and sustainable craft nook of your dreams. Instead of saying, “there’s no way I’m cleaning off my desk and dragging the sewing machine out,” you can just sit down at your workstation and start making.

-Karlene (Volunteer)

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Create a Cheerful Craft Nook on a Budget! (Part One)

Like many of you, I pour over craft blogs and gaze longingly when they profile their work spaces. Such beautiful storage! Such beautiful lighting! But, how do you begin?

For years, that’s as far as I went. I didn’t set up my own work space because I thought that it would be too expensive nor did I have the time or the room. I didn’t even know where to start!

That all changed when I saw a profile of a sewing space that was simple yet functional on the British Tilly and the Buttons blog. It looked like a charming place to curl up with a tea and a project on a rainy afternoon.

When I flipped through the crafter’s blog, I realized that she and I had actually been neighbours! If she could make it happen in her space, then so could I. All I needed was the UK profile of an Edmonton blogger to help me realize it!

Photo: Karlene L.

Although my space is a work in progress, it brings me joy every time I see it. Using a small corner of the basement, I designed an inexpensive, functional and eco-conscious playground for creating and exploring - and you can too! Here’s how to start.

1) Find a workstation. Your workstation needs will vary depending on your crafting interests and the space you have available. If you’re into crochet and lettering, you’ll need less flat space than someone who quilts. If you have the luxury of setting up a full sewing room, you’ll have more space for tables than someone carving out the corner of a larger room.

Photo: Karlene L.

In my nook, my eco-friendly workstation is my mother-in-law’s beautifully re-purposed dining room table. The wood is solid, the construction is meticulous and it’s expandable with two additional leaves hidden under the table top. Look for similar vintage gems at thrift stores, garage sales, Find or the Ambleside and Kennedale Eco Station Reuse Areas.

2) Think about storage. If you’re a minimalist: well done, this part will be easier! If you’re more like me, less so. Having all of your craft supplies handy makes projects faster and far less frustrating. Less time finding bobbins means more time stitching.

Photo: Karlene L.

My main storage piece is a happy yellow IKEA KALLAX, which offers space for both storage and display and is a more environmentally sustainable version of the classic EXPEDIT. I also re-purposed a pink IKEA office storage unit from several years ago, which is fantastic for storing patterns and notions. For smaller items such as buttons and crochet hooks, I reused mason jars (from preserves that we had received as a gift) and old coffee mugs (like the one from the Ambleside Reuse Area on the right).

Check back next month for Part Two where we work on lighting and accessorizing our new spaces!

-Karlene (Volunteer)

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

2018 Reuse Resolutions

Happy 2018! With another year, comes another list of resolutions. You may have committed to some resolutions that are still going strong, or your resolutions may already be nonexistent. In any case, there's still time to take action this year, especially with regards to reuse. Let's change our waste habits together in order to produce less waste in 2018. Who's up for the challenge?

To get started, here are some simple reuse resolutions that you could commit to this year.

1. Be a reuse champion in the kitchen

We often transport our food or store away leftovers in the fridge. These are great habits; yet, how can we make these habits even more sustainable? One way is to remove disposable packaging materials such as plastic wrap, plastic bags, disposable containers or any other 10 Disposables to Ditch from your Kitchen. You may not choose to eliminate them all at once, but removing one kitchen disposable at a time can decrease your waste. Then, add in reusable products such as reusable containers, reusable snack bags, reusable wrap or even just start reusing your yogurt containers.

Want to go one step further? Start bringing your reusable containers to restaurants and other events where there might be food. Package up your leftovers in reusable containers, while encouraging others to do the same next time.

2. Rethink the free swag

It can be hard to resist something that is free: lanyards, stress balls, pens, notebooks, magnets, buttons and other trinkets. You can accumulate a lot of free swag, but do you ever use it? Not always. It is definitely great to repurpose free furniture and eat free food, but maybe let's slow down on all the free swag. Stop to think -- will I use it? If not, leave it for someone else who might really need it.

3. Bring out the reusable grocery bags

How many times do you go shopping and forget to bring your reusable grocery bags? With more and more grocery stores charging a fee for plastic bags, it is also a cost savings solution to bring your own reusable bags. Stash them in your vehicle or hang them on your doorknob to grab them on your way out of the house. 

Want to go one step further? Invest in reusable produce bags or make your own DIY produce bags. Use them at the grocery store, instead of disposable plastic bags. Or just grab your produce, without a bag!

Source: Wellness Mama

4. Borrow instead of buy

As consumers, we are prone to buying new items whenever we see a need. It can sometimes be the easiest and simplest solution; yet, definitely not the most cost effective nor sustainable option. This year, before making a purchase, look at other lending option beforehand.

For example, head to an Edmonton Public Library to borrow books instead of buying new, check out Edmonton's Tool Library to rent tools for your next project or even reach out to a friend to borrow a dress for a special occasion. You would be surprised how many people are willing to lend out their things. Or you could even organize swaps in your community such as clothing swaps, baby item swaps or even tool swaps.

5. Box up those Reuse Centre donations

In order to reuse waste in your home this year, why not commit to the goal of bringing your accepted items to the Reuse Centre. To make this happen, find a box, label it, attach the Reuse Centre accepted items list and place it near your other waste containers (garbage, recycle, Eco Station).

One of the best ways to create a change of habit is to make a resolution simple and accessible, while also having a visual reminder. Therefore, the first step of creating a purposeful Reuse Centre donation box will get you on the right track. Need help sorting your waste? Don't forget about the WasteWise app which can help you learn what goes to the Reuse Centre and what goes to the other waste streams.
Source: CBC Edmonton

Have some other reuse resolution for 2018? Share them in the comments below!