July 10, 2015 Doing A Bit Better

UpCycling 101 – What Is It?

“A term that’s popping up more and more in the green world is “upcycling”. But what is it, and who does it benefit?  More importantly, who’s leading this movement and what are they doing?

Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials into something that’s usable and “new”. It’s like recycling but not in the sense of turning glass bottles back into glass bottles.  It’s more like turning old soda cans into jewelry, or old barn wood into a coffee table.  While people have been upcycling for years, the movement has lately grown – it’s no longer just for the hardcore DIY’ers – in fact, anyone can do it.

Instead of ending up in a landfill or being processed through a recycling center (which does waste energy and water), our waste products gain new life through upcycling at home. These projects make great gifts, and are sold through various outlets such as Etsy.

Alchemy Goods is another leader in the space of upcycling, and produces messenger bags, wallets and totes using old tarps, banners, seatbelts and tire tubing.

Another company, Terracycle, has made its sole purpose to upcycle all of those things that can’t necessarily be recycled or are difficult to recycle (such as Capri Sun packages). Their products are made from crowd-sourced materials and donors are credited for future purchases.

These aren’t the only games in town, and you should certainly explore some home-friendly upcycling crafts on your own or with your family! It’s one more way that you can do a bit better!

 

 “

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Housewares

Quick Fix to Stop the Drip

“An average American consumer uses about 100 gallons of water per day- or 1,600 glasses.  Household water consumption has increased... Read

“An average American consumer uses about 100 gallons of water per day- or 1,600 glasses.  Household water consumption has increased by 200% since 1950, despite our population having only grown by 90%.  As a result, more than 36 states are expected to face water shortages in the next six years.  Stemming the flow is as easy as fixing a leaky faucet or toilet.  A dripping faucet can waste up to 74 gallons of water a day and a leaking toilet up to 200 gallons per day.

In repairing a leaky toilet you can save $30 a year, which may not sound like much, however, it’s also saving 73,00 gallons of water.”

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Doing A Bit Better

Chevrolet Announces Low-Impact Labels by 2013

“Doing A bit Better, just got… well, a little better.  Beginning with the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, Chevrolet plans to apply... Read

“Doing A bit Better, just got… well, a little better.  Beginning with the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, Chevrolet plans to apply eco-impact labels on all of its brand-new vehicles by 2013. As the first of any automaker to present its cars in this manner, Chevrolet’s Ecologic label allows customers to assess environmental impacts associated with any particular Chevrolet vehicle in all stages of its product life.

With these Ecologic labels, GM makes itself more attractive to environmentally conscious consumers. According to GM North America President Mark Reuss, “Customers want companies to be honest and transparent about their environmental efforts and sustainability goals, and rightly so. Putting an Ecologic label on each Chevrolet is just one more way for us to share our environmental progress.”

The numbers and data on the Ecologic labels are determined by independent, third-party sustainability agency Two Tomorrows, a company that provides environmental audit and assurance services to companies.

Source: Forbes”

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Family

DAbB-ing at the end of the School Year

As school begins to wrap up for the summer, teachers and students are left unloading everything from their lockers to... Read

As school begins to wrap up for the summer, teachers and students are left unloading everything from their lockers to their classrooms.  What should they do with all the half used notebooks, gently used binders, old pencils, crayons, non-functioning erasers? Don’t just throw them out!  Think about doing the following and share these ideas with your local school.

-Tear out the unused pages of those notebooks for scrap paper, and use the other parts for art projects

-Empty out the binders (recycle the paper) and reuse them in the next school year

-Collect all the half used crayons and melt them into a new reusable shape (see our previous article on UpCycling Crayons)

-Reuse non-functioning erasers by turning them into stamps instead.  Draw a design on them then cut it out with an art knife.

Save a tree, some money, and give your children a note to year end greening!

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UpCycle

Upcycle Your Old Neck-tie Into a Curtain Tie

Recently, a team member here at DAbB remodeled their bedroom, painted it blue, and bought translucent white curtains.  The problem?... Read

Recently, a team member here at DAbB remodeled their bedroom, painted it blue, and bought translucent white curtains.  The problem?  What to use for curtain ties!  She tried jute rope, she tried denim, and she tried

 

 the scraps of the curtains themselves after being hemmed, but nothing was looking quite right.

 

Then the idea came – we’re all bound to have old neck-ties that we don’t wear anymore – so why not upcycle them into something actually usable?
The steps were pretty easy.
1. Measure out 2 equal lengths of the neck-tie, preferably parts of the same width (a skinny tie works really well)

 

2. Sew the ends of the lengths.  We got lazy and used white thread, which stands out – but it’s in the back of the curtain, so who cares?
3a. If you don’t have a snap setting kit, you can glue two pieces of velcro onto each end3. Add a snap using a hole-punch and a snap-setting kit
4. Take a picture and send it into DAbB!
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Food

Huntington Beach Students Do A Bit Better

We want to give a great big “way to go” to the students of Greg Goran’s sustainability class at Huntington... Read

We want to give a great big “way to go” to the students of Greg Goran’s sustainability class at Huntington Beach High School in California. Over the past three years, these students have planted, nourished, and picked their own fruits and vegetables at their school. It has become such a successful garden that they now sell their produce to Slapfish, a local seafood restaurant. These students truly are, doing a bit better. If you want to read more about their efforts, click here.

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Solar

Good Karma

“Justin Bieber got one for his birthday.  Leonardo DiCaprio’s got one.  Even Ashton Kutcher’s internet billionaire character on Two and... Read

“Justin Bieber got one for his birthday.  Leonardo DiCaprio’s got one.  Even Ashton Kutcher’s internet billionaire character on Two and Half Men drives one.  Yup, we’re talking about the Fisker Karma.

At first glance there is no denying that it is one sexy ride (just look at those curves!). But we here at DAbB know that beauty is more than skin deep – and are consequently drooling like crazy.

Touted as “the world’s first premium hybrid electric vehicle”, the Fisker Karma employs a ton of awesome green features. Here are some of our favorites:

Reclaimed Wood Trim: From the get-go, buyers get to choose from a trio of certified wood trims that range from wood retrieved from the 2007 firestorm in Orange County, CA, sunken wood sourced from the bottom of Lake Michigan, or certified fallen wood from California storms.

One Hot Roof: The Karma features the world’s largest seamless solar glass roof for a production vehicle, which converts sunlight into stored electric energy to charge the battery, regulate interior climate systems, and increase the car’s electric driving range.

That Eco-Suede: Slip inside the cockpit and experience 100% recycled post-industry virgin polyester Eco-Suede, which reduces energy consumption and CO2 emissions by 80% during the recycling process. What does that mean to you and me? Soft, supple, & eco-friendly

Adios, Gas Pump: To top it all off, the Karma sips gasoline, resulting in an impressive 52 MPG on the highway plus an additional 32 miles on a single electric charge! All those savings should come in handy when you’re making payments on a whopping $102,000 base price tag!

 “

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Environment

Fresh-Smelling Air that is Actually Fresh

“Commercials for synthetic air fresheners feature consumers blindfolded in the middle of garbage, innocently sniffing the air, and declaring it... Read

“Commercials for synthetic air fresheners feature consumers blindfolded in the middle of garbage, innocently sniffing the air, and declaring it smells like a spring meadow.  I always wonder what’s more toxic, the garbage or the spray that often contain hazardous ingredients that you don’t want floating around your home.

Consider some non-toxic, economical green products:

  • Orange slices, lemon slices, cinnamon, mint, cloves, or any other herb in boiling water on the stove
    • Create your own “Febreeze” by combining the following in a reusable spray bottle:
      • 12-15 drops of pure essential oil (lavender, peppermint, grapefruit)
      • 1/2 cup white vinegar
      • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Consider an eco-friendly scented candle made from soy or beeswax. They’re eco-friendly and this one from Yves Rocher smells wonderful!

Save money, save the Earth, and save your lungs!”

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UpCycle

GreenYour Pet (Part 2)

Green Your Pet We all know that humans need to reduce our carbon footprint, but what about your pets’ pawprint?... Read

Green Your Pet

We all know that humans need to reduce our carbon footprint, but what about your pets’ pawprint?  A green pet isn’t just for hippies anymore, but a way to help the earth and keep your pet healthy too!  Here are a few things you can do:

Buy Eco-Friendly toys.  There are plenty out there made from recycled and sustainable fibers.  Check out DAbB’s Things We Love: Pets section for our favorite picks!

Protect the Birds!  Keep your cat indoors.  They are natural hunters and a big threat to outdoor life.  Most vets recommend keeping them indoors due to fatal risks such as cars and disease.

Feed Them Natural and Organic Pet Foods.  Animals can also be affected by the chemicals in food.  Feeding them food that is sustainable and organic  leaves you with a happier, healthier animal.

Put Poop in its Place.  Use biodegradable bags for dogs that decompose and steer clear of clumping clay litters for cats.  The clay is strip-mined and is harmful to the environment.

Recycle a Pet and Adopt!  Save an animal and hundreds of dollars by shopping at a local animal shelter.  There are over 70,000 puppies and kittens a year that are abandoned and need a home.

Now go out and reduce that pawprint!

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Food

The PB&J Campaign is Doing a Bit Better!

Ready to save the world one peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a time? The PB&J campaign is all about... Read

Ready to save the world one peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a time? The PB&J campaign is all about pledging how ever many meals a week you can to a plant based meal. Every time you choose a plant based meal, you reduce your carbon footprint by the equivalent of 3.5 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. You conserve 133 gallons of water–5 PB&J lunches a month saves more water than switching to a low-flow shower head! You also save 24 square feet of land each time you have a plant based meal.

Read more about how you can Do a Bit Better with the PB&J campaign here.

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Family

Throw an Eco-friendly Party

“With warm, sunny summer weather quickly approaching, we here at DAbB are really looking forward to some great summer parties.... Read

“With warm, sunny summer weather quickly approaching, we here at DAbB are really looking forward to some great summer parties. Friends, music, drinks, & BBQ – what could be better?  But all the fun and festivities of a classic summer party can produce a lot of waste (and who wants that?).  So here are 5 tips to reduce the waste without reducing the fun:

–              Plastic drink cups can result in a huge amount of garbage, especially in larger groups where guests are apt to set a cup down and forget about it.  To solve this dilemma, rent glassware from a local party supply rental company.  This will eliminate all waste created by plastic cups and give your party a truly classy touch!  If you don’t have a party rental store in the area, use compostable, corn-based plastic cups.

–              When it comes to the food, stay local!  Some of the best produce, meat, and dairy products can be found at your local farmers market.  They’re fresher, tastier, and often cheaper!

–              When it comes to the brew, pop for a keg or pony-keg if the group is large enough.  It’s less likely that you’ll run out mid-party and you won’t have to worry about all those bottles & cans to be recycled.

–              If you are serving wine, aim for organic.  Some of our favorite organic vinos are Grgich Hills, Frog’s Leap, Frey Vineyards, and Benziger.

–              Be creative when it comes to decorations!  Smooth river rocks or large leaves from your yard are a great alternative to traditional place cards.  Large jars or hurricane vases can be filled with household items to make for fun custom centerpieces.

–              When it comes to invites, Evites are definitely the greenest method, but may lack the personal touch you seek for your party.  One solution is to scan in and email out a handmade invitation.  This allows you to add a personal touch that your guests are sure to remember.  Alternatively, you can also send out traditional invitations made of recycled paper & materials.  The result is both memorable and eco-friendly!

Party on!”

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Mom & Baby

Ditching Disposable Diapers

By the time a child is toilet trained, a parent will change between 5,000 and 8,000 diapers, adding up to... Read

By the time a child is toilet trained, a parent will change between 5,000 and 8,000 diapers, adding up to approximately 3.5 million tons of waste in U.S. landfills each year. Whether you choose cloth (like gDiapers) or a more environmentally-friendly disposable, you’re making a choice that has a much gentler impact on our planet.

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Family

Monday Tip of the Week: Make Story Magnets from old children’s books

Our friends over at Sun Hat & Wellie Boots have some great tips for green living. One of our favorites... Read

Our friends over at Sun Hat & Wellie Boots have some great tips for green living. One of our favorites is upcycled children’s books turned into story book magnets.

The steps are simple. Take an old book (a great place to pick these up would be your local library’s book sales–you can usually get children’s books for $.25 a piece!), you cut the images you would like, use a thicker card stock or old manila folder for backing, laminate, and attach some magnetic tape.

This is a great way to teach your children the importance of re-using, and will help their imaginations grow!

 

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Recycle

Can You UpCycle 20,000 Plastic Cups?

New York City is about to find out! Between February and May, CDR Studio will collect 20,000 cups from concerts,... Read

New York City is about to find out! Between February and May, CDR Studio will collect 20,000 cups from concerts, sporting events, and collection boxes. They will then be assembled into a giant serpentine structure in the pavilion of this year’s Figment Art Festival on Governor’s island in New York City. The pavilion will serve as a meeting place for attendees of the festival.

In previous years, the festival has featured pavilion installations made of other recycled materials, including upcycled milk crates, water bottles, and milk jugs.

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Solar

Maryland comes out on top!

The Ecotech Institute recently released the very first “Clean Jobs Index” (there are over 3,000,000 jobs across the county!). Something... Read

The Ecotech Institute recently released the very first “Clean Jobs Index” (there are over 3,000,000 jobs across the county!). Something that we are really interested over here at Doing a Bit Better are LEED Projects. For those who need some catching up, LEED Projects stand for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Projects. This could be anything from a building installing solar panels, to conserving water in the work place. And you all know how we feel about solar (it’s the future!). We would like to congratulate Maryland for coming out on top as the state who has the highest number of LEED projects per capita! Way to go, we hope the other 49 states follow your lead–no pun intended. To read about other states rankings, click here.

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Health & Beauty

Caring about Personal Care

“Let’s face it – when the latest mascara or lipstick commercial comes on, we generally think “that product will/won’t work... Read

“Let’s face it – when the latest mascara or lipstick commercial comes on, we generally think “that product will/won’t work on me”. We’re probably not thinking “I wonder if there’s any lead in that”. Sadly, though, there probably is. And sadly, millions of us will apply that lead to our lips every day.

The FDA currently regulates things such as Drugs, Food, Water, and even some electronics. Cosmetics, unfortunately, are out of the FDA’s jurisdiction, and therefore, regulated by someone else: The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Committee. While there is one representative on the committee from the FDA, the FDA has little-to-no say as a result.

So how do we find some miracle compounds that will beautify us 100% naturally and organically? Chances are even the “safe” products will contain at least one chemical considered harmful to the human body, and generally in micro-doses.   Here are a few of the baddies we recommend steering clear of if possible:

Parabens – These are preservatives found in almost all Americans surveyed by the Center for Disease Control. It has been linked to breast cancer, developmental disorders, and reproductive disorders. Keep an eye out for propyl, isopropyl, butyl, and isobutyl.  They’re often found in shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and scariest of all, personal lubricants.  Yikes.

Phthalates – Yup, just like your water bottles. Many nail polishes and detergents include these cancer-causing chemicals, and most things that simply list “fragrance” as an ingredient include them as well.

Tricolosan – This is a popular microbial pesticide, which is harmful to the thyroid function as well as reproductive hormones. Often found in hand soaps and cleaning products.

Oxybenzone – This little guy disrupts hormones and has been attributed to low birth-weight in newborns.

Formaldehyde – Sounds like a no-brainer, right? If you use hair-straightening products, there’s a good chance you’re spraying this on your head. Oh, and in case you didn’t know, it’s a carcinogen.

Hey, we’re not saying you should throw your makeup bag out. It would be virtually impossible to avoid everything, every day. Start by looking out for the list above. If you can’t seem to find a better alternative in your local stores, try looking online.  There are several beauty retailers whose sole focus is to provide the best products that are the best for you and your family.”

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Food

Don’t Throw That Out!

“Gourmet foodie or mac-n-cheese bachelor, we all despise cleaning out the fridge. It’s frustrating – and not-to-mention wasteful – to... Read

“Gourmet foodie or mac-n-cheese bachelor, we all despise cleaning out the fridge. It’s frustrating – and not-to-mention wasteful – to throw out everything it feels like we just bought.  Here are some ways to keep food more fresh.

Fresh Herbs
If you’re like us, you’ve probably bought a big bunch of parsley, used a little, and threw the rest back in the bag in the fridge. After a day or two, the parsley starts wilting and not before too long, it’s not worth using anymore. To keep fresh herbs useable for about a week, store the stems in a short glass in about 2” of water and cover with cheesecloth or a plastic storage bag. This will help the plants stay hydrated and humid, and will double the shelf-life of your herbs.

Eggs
True egg lovers despise that funky taste old eggs start to get after a while. Much like your box of baking soda, eggs absorb flavors in your fridge. Who wants that smelly-fridge flavor in their Denver omelet? Instead of keeping your eggs at the bottom of the fridge, keep them out! Eggs stay fresh for up to 2 weeks without being refrigerated – in fact, they’re sold on the shelf in the U.K., not the refrigerated section. You can test the freshness of your egg by gently placing it in a glass of lukewarm water. If it sinks, it’s still fresh.

Potatoes
Many people have taken to throwing out their potatoes after losing firmness or once they begin sprouting.  While this is unnecessary and wasteful, there are ways to cut down on these phenomena. Store apples in a dark place, like in a cupboard. In fact, if you store your potatoes and apples together, the apples will help slow the sprouting of the potatoes

Carrots
While it takes a while for fresh carrots to go bad (i.e. soften, mold, etc), they can quickly become hard and knobby. Unless you plan to use them right away, try to buy carrots with the leaves still attached. Much like fruits, the carrot will stay fresher longer. If not using the carrots right away, put them in a tall glass full of wet sand. Add a few tablespoons of water about halfway through the week to keep the carrots fresh and tender.

Spices
Some spices, after a while, pick up moisture from the air and begin to clump together and harden. This is common in especially warm kitchens – but doesn’t have to be! Cut a 6×6 inch square of a fine-mesh cheesecloth or other porous fabric. Place a tablespoon of dry rice in the center of the square, and bunch up the four corners, forming a small satchel. Tie off with string or a twist-tie, and put in the top of your spice jar. The rice will absorb moisture, keeping your spices fresh and dry.

Follow these tips, and food will stay fresher and flavorful for longer! It will save you money, cut down on food waste, and help you Do A bit Better every day!”

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Housewares

Corks, Pas Deux – Bourbon-cork Coaster / Trivet

“After our last article about crafts for reusing corks, we couldn’t help but get excited to try something. We opted... Read

“After our last article about crafts for reusing corks, we couldn’t help but get excited to try something. We opted for bourbon corks, this time, as they’re usually made of real cork (instead of that synthetic stuff), and have the neat wooden tops that give them a real rustic look. It also helped that we had a few laying around.

We also opted for ease, in this case. There are plenty of materials to use if you want to avoid using any sort of bonding agent – but thanks to the magic of a hot glue gun, we were able to whip this coaster up in about 10 minutes. And it shows.

What You’ll Need
9 Corks of the same height
A hot-glue gun
hot-glue sticks
Right-angle
Jute twine (optional)

Steps
1. Using the right angle, glue the first two corks together.  If there’s a label on top of the wood, hopefully you’ll do a better job of lining them up than we did.  Continuing to use the straight edge to make clean lines, add additional corks one by one until you’ve created the desired shape.  Allow the glue to fully cool/dry before picking it back up.

2. Once all 9 corks are glued together, flip the coaster over and bind with jute twine. To do this, simply glue the end of the jute twine to center of one side of the coaster, and begin wrapping around the cork portion, alternating gluing on every other side.

Easy enough! Now you can enjoy a frosty beverage in style.

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Health & Beauty

Gentlemen: Green thy Faces

“Shaving is a regular task that not many of us guys like doing, but need to do anyway.  So, the... Read

“Shaving is a regular task that not many of us guys like doing, but need to do anyway.  So, the least we at DAbB can do is help you feel like you are reducing your footprint while you shave.  Here are three quick tips to help make your shaving routine a bit more green:

Turn off the water – this may seem obvious, but shut off the water while you shave.  The average Joe can save up 3,000 gallons a year!

Go Au Naturale – Next time you go to the drugstore, look for all-natural shaving creams and aftershaves.  Just look for plant based products that are certified organic and/or not tested on animals.  Or, you can enlist a bar of organic soap to make a thick lather suitable for shaving.

Ditch the disposable – Between plastic handles, metal blades, rubber grips and god-knows-what’s-in-those-lubricating-strips, disposable razors create a huge amount of waste.  So look for a more earth friendly solution.  The absolute best choice is a good, old fashioned straight razor – it can be sharpened for great results & used over and over.  But we realize that the thought of putting straight razor to your neck can be a bit intimidating – let’s face it, we’re not all John Wayne.  So why not pop for an electric razor to cut down on your waste?  Many new electric razors on the market are gentle on your skin and offer a close shave.  If you must use disposable, try one of the new eco-friendly razors from Schick!

Go forth and shave!”

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