My Zero Waste Inspiration

Bea Johnson never takes out the trash. She is not lazy or a hoarder but rather a pioneer in the field of zero waste living. Bea and her family choose to act and purchase in ways that have as little impact on the environment as possible. Beginning with small changes and gradually implementing larger ones, the Johnson family completely changed their way of life over the course of a few years. Bea only buys clothes second hand and repairs or tailors them when needed, fills a reusable container with homemade toothpowder that she uses on her compostable toothbrush and harnesses solar energy to power her family’s house. Claiming to find ways to reduce waste addicting, Bea and her family say their alternative and revolutionary lifestyle has made them much happier.

Before learning about Bea Johnson and her family, I lived my life similar to how they did before they migrated towards zero waste. I took long showers, I threw out things without a second thought and I didn’t consider how my consumption affected the environment. I believed I maintained an eco-friendly lifestyle because I recycled and used an aluminum water bottle but in actuality, I was nowhere close to living green.  On the fateful day I stumbled across an article on Yahoo about the “zero waste family,” I thought about every aspect of the world in a completely new way.

produce in cloth bags

Using cloth bags to purchase produce from the grocery store is more eco-friendly than using disposable plastic ones and some bags even have nice designs. Photo courtesy of Emma Kurfis.

Bea lives by the phrase: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot. By applying this motto to every aspect of their lives, Bea and her family now only throw away enough trash in one year to fill up a single 1.5 liter Le Parfait jar. Amazing. Fascinated by this and the idea of being so waste-free, I read more of her blog posts and tried to take some of her ideas and use them in my quest to reduce my own carbon footprint. For example, I try to remember my cloth grocery and produce bags every time I go to the store, I typically use the Durango T to get downtown and I take the time to make sure my recyclables are clean and on the list of acceptable items for the city of Durango. It is quite difficult to become completely zero waste as a college student but any small changes can make a big difference, thus I am providing a list of a few tips that are simple and easy to apply to college life.

  • Refuse what you do not need. Refuse buying bottled water if your tap water is clean and safe to drink. Refuse freebie items handed out at fairs, events and even in the student union to avoid creating the demand to make more and accumulating junk you don’t need.
  • Reduce what you do need. Donate rarely used items to local thrift shops or the FLC Free Store to de-clutter your home. The Free Store is open every Thursday in the Student Union from 9-11 a.m.; donations are welcome and appreciated.
  • Reuse by using reusables. Taking your own shopping bags to the grocery store, bringing your own thermos to the coffee shop and using a refillable water bottle all easily prevent a great amount of waste from accumulating in landfills.
  • Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse. With single stream recycling now in Durango, recycling is easier than ever! However, be sure to know how to properly recycle everything because if recycling on campus gets too contaminated, it gets sent to the landfill! The guidelines for Durango recycling can be found here: http://www.durangogov.org/DocumentCenter/View/589 .
  • Rot (compost) the rest. Create a composting system that works for your home and lifestyle. The on-campus dining hall composts food waste but if you live off campus, look into composting your food waste. Composting is made easy here: http://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/green-living/how-to-compost-00000000021888/index.html.

For more information on zero waste living and the Johnson family, visit the Zero Waste Home blog at http://www.zerowastehome.blogspot.com.

 

– Emma Kurfis

Reclaimed Art: Toilet paper roll wall art

Wall Art From Toilet Paper Rolls

Wall Art From Toilet Paper Rolls

So much of what we end up throwing out or recycling could become something new. Reclaiming materials before they go to the landfill or even get recycled is a much more eco-friendly alternative. In this post, I’ll be showing you how even toilet paper rolls can turn into something beautiful without that much effort.


How to make wall art from toilet paper rolls

What you will need:

What you will need.

Materials and tools you will need.

  1. Toilet paper rolls (the amount will depend on the size of your piece).
  2. Sharp scissors
  3. Clothes pins
  4. Acrylic paints and a palette to mix them
  5. Paint brushes
  6. Ruler
  7. Pencil (and eraser in case you make a mistake)
  8. While glue

Stage 1: Planning

Step 1

Step 1: Decide on shape and design.

You can work with any number of shapes and your design can be as large as you want (also consider that the more rolls you have, the larger it can be).

For this example, we are going to work with leaf shaped toilet paper rolls and a wreath like design (which is a great eco-friendly holiday season decor piece) shown below.

Design Example

Design Example

Stage 2: Prepping

Step 2.1

Step 2.1: Mark cut measurements.

2.1  Grab the ruler, the pencil, and the toilet paper rolls and make 1 inch markings along the length of the toilet paper roll as shown above. You can vary on the size of your markings, but keep in mind that if they are not deep enough, they may not show as much, and if they are too deep, they may not glue together very well (see side view of finished piece below for an example of the 1-inch depth). You can also play with using different depths, if that’s an effect you’re looking for. In these examples, all pieces are the same size.

Depth view

1-inch depth view.

 

Step 2.2

Step 2.2: Draw cut guides.


2.2
 Next, use your ruler and pencil to draw cut guides to help you cut the toilet paper rolls.

Step 2.3

Step 2.3: Cut toilet paper rolls.

2.3 Next, use the scissors to cut the toilet paper rolls along their markings.

 

Step 2.4

Step 2.4: Paint toilet paper roll parts.

2.4 Next is painting, so pick out your acrylic paint colors and paint brush and go for it. Make sure to coat the toilet paper roll piece well and get every little corner. Let dry a little and check to see if you missed any spots. It should look fully coated when you’re done (see example below). It is also helpful to paint the outside first, set it aside to dry, then paint the inside as well (and don’t forget the edges, as they will show the most in a front view). If you want an iron look (which actually looks really good), use a black with a little brown in it. If you’re going for a holiday look, red and greens work well. You can also play with textures and with mixing colors.

Painted example.

Painted example.

 

Stage 3: Assembling

Step 3.1

Step 3.1: Glue pieces together.

3.1 First: make sure to lay out your design to have a sense of how you want the pieces to connect to each other. Then, grab a section of 2-3 pieces and with a brush, apply a small amount of glue to one of the sides touching each other.

Step 3.2

Step 3.2: Clamp glued pieced with clothes pin.

Clamping view from above.

Clamping view from above.

3.2 Immediately after applying glue, use clothes pins to hold pieces together while glue is drying. Wait at least 5 minutes before releasing “clamp”. Continue to repeat steps 3.1 and 3.2 until you finish assembling your design.


That’s it for today!  I hope you enjoy this post and please share your own tips on how to reclaim materials to give them a new life!