Fit to Wear

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There are many ways of approaching the goal of producing less waste but for me, one of the most obvious things is to consume less and make do with what you have.

Mending, repairing and refashioning will significantly extend the life of items, save them from landfill for longer and of course, reduce the need to purchase a replacement.

Here is a practical example that I did this morning in less than an hour.

This is GMan’s sweatshirt which he wears on the weekend when gardening, mowing and painting as you can see.  The cuffs and lower band are all frayed and badly stretched but the body of the garment is still relatively sound.

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When I said that I could replace the cuffs, he commented how much he liked the fit of it – although I don’t think ‘fit’ is actually the right word.  So, The first thing I did was to make a pattern for future reference.

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I use lightweight interfacing for this purpose and have a roll of it.  I find the patterns cut on interfacing are durable and unlikely to tear.

There are only 2 pieces required – one for the front and back (with different necklines marked) and one for the sleeves.

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Next, I had a dig in my stash of ribbing to find a suitable piece.  I found some bottle green which was exactly enough for the lower band and sleeve cuffs – no wastage at all.

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I then found a piece of black for the neckband and set to work.  I will not try to explain how the ribbing is attached as there are plenty of good instructions which can be found using Google.

The final result.

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GMan is happy and I am sure this will see plenty more wear in the garden.

 

Gobsmacked

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Sometimes titles for my posts are really easy to choose and other times it is a little harder.  The title for today was immediately obvious.

According to the dictionary it means utterly astounded.  Yes, that really sums it up.

I and many, many others care about waste, saving the planet, using resources wisely and so on.  Some people are more passionate and devoted to their cause than others and all of us do our bit in different ways.  However, almost everyone makes some effort.

So, I was shocked yesterday when a young work colleague appeared with a large handful of good quality, plastic-coated paper clips and announced that someone was throwing them out.  I have a small box of these at work which I carefully use and re-use as files become obsolete and and put in the confidential waste bin for shredding and the large handful was more than my entire collection.

Worse was yet to come.  She returned with another handful and announced that there were ‘heaps more’.  My curiosity got the better of me and I went with her to check out the source.  I found that someone had thrown a bulk quantity of these paper clips into a green wheelie bin in another area of the office.

I quickly considered my options and located a reuseable shopping bag from another work colleague and we set about retrieving as many as we could.

These paper clips were loose and not contained so they would quickly and easily slip to the bottom of the bin which was already about 2/3 full.  We carefully scooped up handfuls and although we could not get them all, I feel that we probably saved about 90% of the discarded paper clips.

Here is the result of our efforts.  I apologise for the poor quality of the photos.

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Half a bag full of paper clips which I estimate weighs between 5 and 8kg.  It was so heavy when I lifted it that I carried it in my arms rather than by the handles because I was concerned that they would break.

Here is a close-up.

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I am still angry when I think about the appalling waste that this represents – both in environmental and economic terms.  The other question that bothers me, is why did someone come to have this many paper clips in the first place?

What did I do?

Firstly, I have no idea how these are going to be used, so at the moment, the bag is in the bottom of the small storage cupboard beside my desk.  It is just as well that I maintain minimal ‘stuff’ at work as well as at home so there was some spare space.

Secondly, I sent an email and photographs to the team who are responsible for sustainability on a corporate level.  I do not know who discarded these paper clips, nor do I want to, but the team who work hard to improve the sustainable credentials of the business need to know where there are problems and develop strategies to change this sort of behaviour.  I believe that this is an extreme but not isolated incident.

The next challenge is to work out how best to distribute these paper clips to people who will use and reuse them wisely.  What do you think?

New Homes

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Just as it is wise to be conscious of your consumption when buying stuff, I try to be equally thoughtful when it comes to letting go of possessions that are no longer required.

Sometimes they can no longer be repaired and the rubbish bin is the only option.  However, more often than not the item may be of some use to someone – either in its current form or to be disassembled, repurposed or recycled.

It has taken me a couple of weeks but with a bit of patience and planning I have managed to re-home a variety of things which were unearthed during our latest round of decluttering the workshop.

My first action was to contact the local Men’s Shed to offer a variety of power and hand tools as well as some drill bits and miscellaneous handyman bits.  I do not have a photo but the gentleman who collected them was very grateful and I am pleased that they will be put to good by a local community group.  It really ticks all of the boxes to my way of thinking.

I listed the rest of the things on a couple of local Buy, Swap, Sell pages on Facebook.  I chose to give the things away as finding someone who can use them is more important to me than recouping any money.

We sorted through the many cans of paint and decided that a few of them were no longer required mainly due to changes in the exterior colour scheme.  These are being picked up tomorrow.

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The recipient is also taking this sprinkler.

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Someone else asked for these couple of cable reels.  We have 2 with long extension cords on them but these are excess to our needs.

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I did not think the inflatable pool was going to find a home but it has now been requested as well.

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I feel sick at the knowledge that some people choose to do a massive declutter over a single weekend.  They achieve this by hiring a skip and throwing everything they no longer want into it with no thought to the end result of all of this stuff end up in landfill.

By taking my time and thoughtfully rehoming them, all of these items will continue to be used and people in my community will benefit.

Back to the Scales

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Some years ago I weighed our rubbish each week for a period of time.  The quantity was small but I cannot even remember the approximate weights.

I have decided to make a start on this again and redouble our efforts to reduce our small amount of waste that goes to landfill even further.

This is the contents of our kitchen bin for approximately 2 weeks.

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Not all of it is identifiable but there are 2 cheese wrappers, packaging from a parcel we received, an old sponge (left by housesitters 6 months ago), a mouldy ziplock bag which was beyond being salvaged, a small mayonnaise bottle and a butter wrapper (Aldi have changed to foil wrappers – not happy so I will be voting with my feet and buying butter elsewhere in future).  The rest is mostly plastic packaging of one sort and another – mostly one off items from Christmas gifts/catering.  The silver star looks like something from a child’s toy which has been left here – so not strictly our waste but it does have to be discarded.

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Here it is – all packaged up.  I put most of the small bits compacted into the ziplock bag.  I always try to contain any small, lightweight rubbish as the last thing I want is for it to drift out of the collection truck or the landfill site and end up in a watercourse.

The next step was to put it all in the parcel post bag and weigh it.

152g or 5 and 3/8 ounces for my non-metric friends.

Once I had done this I put the rubbish in the bin, except for the post bag which I have saved for next week’s rubbish.

From now on I will weigh and post about the rubbish each Friday so that we have a weekly total for comparison.  It will vary from week to week as some things are only discarded rarely but my hope is that we will continue to generate very little waste.

Plastic is definitely the major culprit when it comes to items going to landfill.  The challenge is to look for feasible alternatives and investigate any recycling options for those items which I do not currently recycle.

Do you generate much waste?  Are you looking for ways to reduce your use of single-use plastic items?  I would love to hear your stories so that we can encourage each other.

Gift Giving

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I have probably been reading far too much on various groups on social media but I am feeling really fed up with what Christmas gift giving seems to have become.

Just to give some context to this post, I am 58 and grew up in what some would regard as a simpler time.  I am one of 4 siblings.

As far as I can remember, we each received a gift from our parents and one from Santa.  We would buy, individually or jointly a small gift for each of our siblings as well as our parents.  Our pocket money, sometimes supplemented by Mum, was used for these purchases.  There were modest gifts from our grandparents and some aunts and uncles but these were often for the family (a tin of biscuits or perhaps, a lottery ticket).  There was no buying for sundry work colleagues, friends, neighbours, teachers or classmates.

I am amazed by the number of people who are busily trying to give gifts to dozens of people who barely rate as acquaintances.  For a variety of reasons (eg: budget, environmental or anti-consumerist) many are choosing to give gifts which they have made.  This may seem a noble idea but is it really very smart?

Consider a teacher with 25 children in the class.  How many boxes of chocolates, handmade candles, sleighs made from candy canes, homemade fudge and so on can one person realistically use?  Whatever happened to a writing a thoughtful, heartfelt note as acknowledgement of a job well done?

The final straw, as far as I am concerned, came from a forum in which someone posed the question, “Talking about homemade Christmas gifts (specifically food items). Is it standard for people to just throw them in the garbage?”  There were in excess of 150 responses which ranged from “I never eat anything that I have not prepared myself” to “How wasteful – of course I would eat it” and everything in between.

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It seems that the reality is at odds with the fancy photos in recipe books, websites and Pinterest.

My contribution to the discussion was, “I am very disappointed that this happens. It serves to remind me that no presents is actually the best idea”.  Of course, I am not talking about immediate family or a select number of friends to whom you are very close.

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This brings me back to the point of this post.  Why is everyone madly rushing around buying (or making) gifts for people we barely know? Are we simply trying to keep up with (or outdo) everyone else?

Half of these gifts are unnecessary, unwanted ‘stuff’ which may end up in the garbage, landfill or op shop before January is over.  How would you feel if you knew the fate of your gifts?  Would it change you pattern of behaviour?

What are your thoughts and experiences?

 

Patience Pays Off

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A few weeks ago I wrote this post about cleaning up the workshop area downstairs.  One of the photos showed the old kitchen cupboards which we had been using as storage in this area for the last 7 years.  We decided that it was time for them to go as the chipboard was all breaking up and we had eliminated enough stuff to longer require them as storage.

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GMan cut the shelving into smaller pieces and broke down the cupboard shells and drawers.  We only have a half size (120 litre) wheelie bin so we filled it with the cut pieces each week for 4 weeks.

Now it is completely gone.

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The alternative was to pack it into the ute, drive 20kms to the nearest rubbish dump and pay about $15 to dump it.  The end result is the same – it goes to landfill, which is not ideal but there is really no alternative for this sort of thing.  However, we managed it at zero cost to us because we chose to take our time and dispose of it bit by bit.

Decluttering – The How

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I have done quite a bit of decluttering over the years and most of the time we are in maintenance mode here.  However, every now and then we have things that need to be moved along.

Once you have decided that an item no longer belongs in your home, the next question is, “Where does it belong?”  I try not to throw things to landfill if I feel that there may be someone who can use what I no longer want or need.

There are several options of what to do with your stuff.

Sell it – eBay or Gumtree

Give it away – Freecycle

Donate it – Lifeline, Salvos or Endeavour Foundation

These are just some of the popular and well-recognised methods here in Australia.  Of course, there are others here and I am sure there are different, yet similar options in other parts of the world.

Today I have advertised and sold a queensize bed and mattress using Gumtree.

2013-10-12 01The mattress has gone to a new owner today and the base and frame have been sold to someone else and are planned to be picked up early in the week.

Fridge/freezerFreecycle is a worldwide organisation dedicated to keeping items out of landfill.  I have assisted in that goal today by advertising our old fridge/freezer and some assorted used fencing wire.  Both items have been requested and I am just in the process of making arrangements for them to be collected.

WireNow there is just the child’s car seat which is listed on Gumtree.  I will keep my fingers crossed.

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As you can see, there is a diverse range of things that can be sold or given away.  Before you rush off to the rubbish dump or toss things in the garbage bin, stop and think about whether someone else might be able use what you no longer require.

What options do you use when decluttering?