Tag Archives: recycling

Living Even More Lightly on the Earth

“A truly good book attracts very little favor to itself. It is so true that it teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint…What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.”Henry David Thoreau, Journal

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I’m at it yet again! Seeking more and even better ways of reducing my carbon footprint on this precious earth. I wrote about this last year, but I wanted to tell you about some improvements I’ve made since then.

I’m vegan but I also began eating more raw foods this past summer, so I had a lot of fruit and vegetable scraps–peels, stems, bruised leaves, etc. My grandmother had taught me an old household trick of putting them in a bag in the freezer until trash day so that they don’t smell up the kitchen. Well, my refrigerator freezer is pretty tiny so that doesn’t always work for me–not to mention throwing away bags of frozen food scraps every week! And, since I live in an historic co-op, I cannot have an outside compost. My solution? An indoor food composter. It’s small enough to fit in my laundry room and the compost is ready to use within a few weeks!

Here are some other things I now do to help reduce my footprint as well:

What’s next? Stay tuned.

How about you? Got any more great eco tips I can use?

~Maria, who feels guilty that she drives to work–but, being from flat Michigan, is terrified to ride a bike in the ‘Burgh!


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Reduce, Reuse, and Then Recycle

Reduce, reuse, recycle. You’ve heard these terms before, right? But I’ll bet that the one you do most is recycle.  It’s the easiest, after all. But think about it. While recycling is good, not having much to recycle in the first place is even better.

I first started seriously thinking about these things when I saw the documentary, No Impact Man. There’s a blog and a book, too, about how one  man in New York City chose to live for a year with as little impact on the earth as possible. This really got me thinking about the many products I buy and how I could personally reduce my own carbon “footprint” on the earth.

So what does this mean? And how do you do it? You don’t have to be as drastic as No Impact Man but you can do some small things which, over time, might inspire you to do even more. Start by looking at the things you use and buy frequently.  Another good suggestion is to actually look at your trash. It sounds awful but you’ll get an idea of what exactly you are throwing away. For me, at one time, it was tissue. So I decided to purchase handkerchiefs (from a vintage thrift shop) and now that’s all I use. Another example, my husband started making our own peanut butter using bulk peanuts. Don’t want to make your own? Bring an empty glass jar or other container to a store with a bulk section (think East End Food Co-op or Whole Foods around here) and buy it in bulk instead. This way, you’re re-using the container and not creating waste.

Another great example is coffee. Who doesn’t love that the Main Library has a café? Well, instead of using a throwaway cup each time you get your fix, why not buy a lovely washable container with a lid (not to mention the very cool Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh name and logo on it in this case) and re-use it each time you buy a drink? Again, less waste.

Author's photo

Finally, another great thing to do is just to make your own products; I make most of my own personal care and beauty products  (body lotion, conditioner, toner, face powder, lip balm, deodorant, etc.) using recipes from  library books including Natural Beauty at Home and Natural Beauty from the Garden, both by Janice Cox. I store them in reusable containers and the bonus is I know exactly what ingredients are in them.

There are many ways to reuse things. How about you? I’d love to hear your suggestions.



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Having a Rodeo of a Good Time

The Triple R Craft Wagon is pulling into town again. In case you missed the two previous wagons or Jude and Renée’s post, you have another chance. Craft curious? This Thursday we’ll try jar and glass etching. Turn your wonky glass jars to whimsical drinking glass. Bring your old and boring glass jars, vases or glasses and a pair of goggles. In the meantime, look for the library’s collection of craft books using recycled materials.

Re-Creative: 50 Projects for Turning Found Items into Contemporary Design, Steve Dodds – Turn yesterday’s trash into swanky items you can use today.

ReadyMade: How to Make (Almost) Everything: A Do-It-Yourself Primer, Shoshana Berger – Can’t get enough of ReadyMade? Practical projects with easy to follow instructions.

Alternacrafts, Jessica Vitkus – Convert an old t-shirt into a rug or newspaper into a flower bouquet. With minimal crafting experience and everyday household objects, discover new uses for discarded junk.

Jump on the craft wagon at 7:00 pm this Thursday, July 31.

– Lisa

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Green and Blue Confusion

Thomas Friedman, New York Times foreign affairs columnist, has a new book to be released September 8, 2008. His previous book, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, was a number one best seller. Carnegie Library is preparing for Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution – And How it Can Renew America to follow in the best seller camp. I just reserved a copy, and though it’s not yet in our catalog, call or come in and we’ll reserve a copy for you.

My own green revolution hit a wall when I moved to Pittsburgh three years ago. I couldn’t believe that the city collected household recyclables in blue plastic grocery bags. Plastic bags required? Really? I’d  made a habit of carrying food home from the store in my own canvas or string bags. Bagging added unnecessary effort and waste to the process, and opposed the point of recycling. I like to shop at small neighborhood stores, and the mandatory plastic bags policy seemed like a blatant conspiracy to get me to shop at a giant store I’d rather avoid. I resolved to collect only the number of blue bags I’d need for the current recycling batch and use my own toters for the remainder of my shopping. 

In many countries, disposable plastic bags have been taxed or banned. This year Whole Foods stopped supplying plastic grocery bags altogether. My need to shop at stores where blue bags are available is also diminishing.  This summer I signed up for weekly produce shares with a CSA. I walk a few blocks from home and transfer the contents of a cardboard box into two reusable bags. No plastic required.

But what to do about recycling day?

The city’s recycling website confuses. In at least six places you’ll read that recyclables are to be placed in blue bags. However, by determined close reading, I found a solution. I almost didn’t believe my eyes when I read this buried on the residential recycling page: Place [recycling] in blue bags only (or bright blue containers clearly marked “Recycling”). It’s true. Recycled materials can be put on the curb in plastic blue bins, containers that will last for years. I recently bought two manufactured by Rubbermaid. I use one for plastic, glass, and tin. In the other goes mixed paper.

Another possible point of confusion is that Pittsburgh is phasing in “single stream recycling.” This means that all recycling items can be bundled together in the same blue bag (or bin!) for curb side collection. Single stream recycling is currently picked up in Pittsburgh’s Central and Eastern divisions only.

When walking around my neighborhood the evening before recycling pickup, I’m not surprised to see blue bags and no bins. Help end the green and blue confusion — spread the word, and set an example on your block.


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breaking down compost

Thanks to the Pennsylvania Resources Council, I am now the proud owner of an Earth Machine. The PRC offers affordable backyard composting classes, where they break down (forgive the pun) the basics of composting and provide attendees with a bin. While composting has intrigued me for some time, I was surprised to discover several key points. Namely, it doesn’t smell bad if done correctly, it’s easy, it doesn’t require much space, and it doesn’t take very long.

If you garden with herbs, fruits and veggies, flowers or trees and shrubs, composting can provide you with a great way to amend the soil in just a few weeks. Using the same ground for years at a time my lovely gardenhas reduced some of the nutrients in my already typically Pittsburgh clay-like yard, but composting creates dark, rich humus that restores beneficial qualities to the soil. Composting is also a great way to reduce the amount of yard and kitchen waste I leave on the curb for the city to collect. Municipal waste management is among the highest costs cities must deal with, and it feels good to know that I’m doing my part to help my garden, the environment and the city budget at the same time.

One more bit of good news about recycling…even though I’m doing what I can to battle the devastating effects of plastic bags, recycling my 1s through 5s, and composting has reduced my weekly garbage day contribution, all the junk mail, old bills, magazines and other paper I throw away still weighs on my conscience. Not anymore though! This week I discovered the Paper Retriever bins–bright yellow and blue dumpsters placed throughout communities where people can drop off paper to be recycled. Their locator showed me that there are two right by my house.

Michael Pollan recently wrote a moving call to action for small, individual eco-actions, and as I take the time to set up systems for my everyday activities, going green gets easier and easier.


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RRR Craft Wagon: Jump On!

The RRR (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) Craft Wagon is about reusing materials in fun and innovative craft projects. We had our first RRR Craft Wagon session on Thursday May 19th and it was a blast!

We taught people a great trick for cutting plastic shopping bags to make “yarn” first. People then knit, crocheted and wove with the yarn to make reusable bags or rugs!

Here’s the schedule for the next three sessions:

June 26, 2008 • Recycle this, craft that.

Make an envelope; mail a button.

July 31, 2008 • Craft Curious?

Jar and vase etching. Wonky to whimsical.

August 28, 2008 • BYOT – Bring Your Own T-shirt

Weave placemats, potholders and coasters.

To get into the swing of things, you should check out related books in our collection. We actually have a great selection of reuse and crafting books here at CLP, like Don’t Throw it Out! or this book featuring projects from ReadyMade magazine. I think you should make a pom-pom rug. That’s on my bucket list. Or a shag rug out of old t-shirts.

There are also some great websites with tips and projects for crafting with recycled materials.

Craft a Green World “features do-it-yourself projects that incorporate reused, recycled, and natural materials.”

Instructable.com calls itself “the world’s biggest show and tell” and includes instructions for projects from knitting a Princess Leia wig to turning old CDs into a CD rack.

Etsy Labs is the instructional blog of Etsy, an online marketplace of entirely handmade goods.

Do you have an avalanche of plastic bags stuffed under your kitchen sink? My Recycled Bags can help you craftily reincarnate them.

Day-lab DIY showcases “innovative and creative ideas that focus on smaller budgets, the reusing of found objects, restoration, preservation and the like.”

Craft is the “first project-based magazine dedicated to the renaissance that is occurring within the world of crafts.” Its website features projects, products and articles.

Craftster‘s motto is “no tea cozies without irony,” and their site has tons of great suggestions.

Hope to see you when the Craft Wagon rolls back into town!

-Jude and Renée


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