Archive for waste reduction

Craft Day

Yesterday, my friend Greta hosted craft day. We all brought bits and pieces we’d collected, including:

1. old maps from city planning internships

2. “gift bags” from babysat children including spools of old ribbon and yellow cotton balls

3. cardstock high school graduation announcements

There may or may not have been alcohol, pringles, peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, and bread and brie. Mostly, we made cards. Crafting in groups shares resources, is fun, and is almost… theraputic. It also takes the edge off clean up (granted, I didn’t stay until the end; Greta may feel differently)!

In other news, next weekend is the American Craft Council show in St. Paul featuring green craft! Check it out at the RiverCentre for $10.


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Unique Thrift Store

You must go to the Unique Thrift Store in St. Paul’s North End. Soon.

Unique Thrift Store Haul, St. Paul, MN

Unique Thrift Store haul, St. Paul, MN

Unique Thrift Store
1657 Rice St. (Rice & Larpenteur)
St. Paul, MN
(its sister store in Columbia Heights was rated 2007 City Pages Best Thrift Store, but we all know how much to trust City Pages when it comes to rating businesses – so trust me instead!)

Let me start out with one caveat: there are no dressing rooms, and there are no returns allowed. This is no place to buy a pair of jeans. That said, it is a great place to buy pretty much anything else. Why?

You can get ten brand-name shirts for the price of one. It’s all in one place. You won’t see your neighbor in your shirt tomorrow. With a measuring tape, you can guess at what will fit and/or try it on over your clothes. It has a good selection for men, women, and kids (unlike TurnStyle, which carries a grand total of 5 men’s shirts). 

At Unique Thrift Store, style again becomes treasure hunting, not the art of spending money. Fashion experiments become possible. There are wetsuits. There are sweatsuits. There are unitards. Nobody will hassle you while you search. It’s mostly well organized, but occasionally you find XL and small shirts mingling on a rack like it’s high school prom. If your style trends towards the preppie, you will find Hollister and Abercrombie brands. If you like sequins, you will find beaded and sequined articles galore. Sundresses? Basketball jerseys? McCain/Palin shirts? Check, check, and check.

It’s a business model I can feel good supporting (for-profit, but buys from charitable orgs like ARC and isn’t funneling money to keep a sweatshop spinning… most importantly it keeps unwanted clothes out of the landfill). Did I mention it’s cheap?

I spent about two hours there yesterday and made off with the haul pictured above. I have clothes to wear to work and clothes to wear not at work. I have a raincoat. I have a laptop case. I spent under $70.

It’s mostly clean, and was very crowded on a Saturday. I did feel a bit grimy and overwhelmed when I left (I had to go wash a lot of black gunk from the hangers off my hands), but I’m still not feeling any buyer’s remorse.

Try Unique! I’m sure you’ll find something to take home – for $3.95 or less! For more opportunities for thrift store shopping, or other ideas for living greenly and cheaply, check out EcoCheapo Twin Cities.

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What Minnesotans Do

I look out my kitchen window today, and what do I see?


Minnesota Hoodlums

Minnesota Hoodlums

Two grown men throwing snowballs at a stop sign.


We Minnesotans have to make our own fun out here in the cold, I guess. Is anyone else getting a serious case of the winter doldrums?

1. This is the time of year when I want (need?) coffee the most. Thanks to The Economist (and Devin, the economist that I am friends with), I now know that it takes 1,100 cups of water to make my cup of coffee. Argh. At least apple juice, that vile liquid which I hate, is almost as bad. Maybe I should switch to tea – it takes only about 150 cups of water per cup of tea. Lookout world….

2. I got an amazing birthday present from my cousin Karen. I am told that Liam, my nearly-three-year-old first cousin, made the designs with cookie cutters dipped in wine – food safe! My vegetables will be the happiest vegetables in the store, and I will never have to use a little plastic baggie again.

Re-usable Vegetable Bags

Re-usable Vegetable Bags

3. Eve has discovered Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. This is amazing.  1.5 tbsp salt + 1.5 tbsp yeast + 6.5 cups all purpose flour + 3 c room temperature water + cornmeal + bucket = 4 loaves of amazing bread for 2 weeks. KARE 11 loves it. Strictly Seniors loves it. Even Mark Bittman endorses the method.

4. The Humane Society. It is amazing (if bittersweet) therapy for winter doldrums. So many puppies, so little space in my apartment….

5. Does organic food really taste better? Ask a hamster. (via Caleb and Serious Eats)

In other news, I am off to Madison for a week of energy auditor training this weekend. Will it, too, be amazing? I hope so… you’ll have to forgive me if I come back talking about horsepower and motor rewinding and deluding myself into thinking it is worthy of a blog post…!

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Mailing List

One benefit of moving a lot is that bulk mail rarely follows you.

However! Occasionally a wily organization will track me down. For instance: a nonprofit I flirted with volunteering for in Santa Rosa, California recently asked me to attend a fundraiser – a thousand miles from where I currently live in Minnesota.

unwanted direct mail

unwanted direct mail

Not only is this annoying, but it wastes paper and postage. To maximize my life efficiency, in both resources and time, I found an e-mail address online and sent the following letter:

Dear [Organization]:

Please remove me from your mailing list. I have moved to Minnesota, and as to support your organization I want to save you the paper and postage it takes to mail me materials that I will not use.

I recently received your [fundraiser name] invitation at:


Please remove my address. Thanks very much!

I realize how difficult it is for organizations, especially now, to find ways to make money. I see it as my job to tell organizations how I want them to market to me – and how I don’t want them to market to me. I want to send a strong message that direct mail is not an effective strategy for me.

End rant. In other news, Ed Kohler at The Deets has done a great job chronicling issues, trials, and tribulations of citizens opting out of receiving copies of Yellow Pages. And/or pestering YP until they do something about it.

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Second Runway

Before I forget – tomorrow night, all you Twin Cityites should go to Second Runway at Goodwill/Easter Seals (553 Fairview Ave N in St. Paul). Designers re-create items purchased at local Goodwill stores.

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Week Without Trash: Rules

So I’ve been watching and thinking all week about how exactly I’m um, going to do this week without trash thing.

Unlike “giving up chocolate for Lent,” giving up trash is actually going to change important things in my life. Like actually going without chocolate. Chocolate comes in bars, which come in wrappers. Augh! Cheese too!

There is something brilliant though – bulk foods at the coop down the street – that should help. Chocolate covered espresso beans, here I come… (look out, colleagues). I’ve put down my deposit on my milk bottles and cream bottle for the week, also a brilliant solution from Castle Rock Farms.

Also brilliant: I don’t have to worry about being tempted by the box of Clif Bars in my desk because they are being recalled for fear of killer peanuts.

I’m going to give myself a couple of outs. For example:
1. The supply chain. Coffee in the break room at my work is made with individually wrapped coffee grounds and disposable coffee filters. It’s shared among a lot of people, so my responsibility is .. less. Like carpooling. Or that’s the excuse I’m going to use this week. Some other week I’ll go a week without CAUSING any trash, and actually bother to bring the french press into work.

2. Fruit and veggie peels. I know food waste is the biggest portion of municipal solid waste, but there’s no way I’m giving up some of the best winter produce (grapefruit, bananas, kiwi fruit, squash), even just for a week.

3. Eventually disposable stuff that I use for more than a week. I’m focusing a lot on food, but things like toothbrushes, razor blades, etc. – those are allowed.

4. Dental floss, kleenexes, toilet paper.

Outs I will not give myself:
1. Recycling apart from paper. Lots of this ends up getting landfilled by the recycling company anyway, and I’m going to remove the temptation for myself to get takeout plastic clamshells and say, “They’re plastic. They’re recyclable…” With prices for recycled goods in the ditch, I’m going to do my part to create less supply.

2. My boyfriend Caleb has promised to throw anything away for me, and that way I won’t be throwing anything away, right? Wrong!

3. “Reusing” paper and plastic for trash and recycling.

I’ll go tonight at midnight to 12:00 a.m. February 1.


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Pre-Game: Waste Sort!

In prepping for a week without garbage, I figured I should watch what I’m throwing away in my ordinary life. Gentle readers, please feel free to think how much better at life you are than I am. 🙂

image from the City of Lille website.

I threw out a lot of stuff today. The stuff I threw away falls into a couple of different categories:

Totally avoidable.
* gum wrappers, gum
* disposable coffee cup (bad Jenn!)
* Clif Bar wrapper

Awkward to avoid, but avoidable.
* paper towels in restrooms
* band-aids

Tough to avoid, because I don’t have a compost pile.
* banana peel
* grapefruit peel

Not sure how to avoid.
* tissues (I tried handkerchieves a few years ago and ended up getting sick a lot – I’m superstitious enough about my health to think these two things are related.)

Things I will not be avoiding.
* toilet paper

Lessons from today: I need to bring my own coffee mug and find snacks that aren’t wrapped in plastic.

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