Sunday, July 20, 2014

How I Shop

So, I've been trying to buy almost everything I can from bulk bins to eliminate disposable packaging. This is the system I've rigged up for myself after some trial and error.

1. First, I grab a stash of empty cloth bulk bags. (I've made some of my own from an old ripped bed sheet, and also bought some of these.)

Note that I've written a different number on each bag with a permanent marker. This comes in handy later.

2. Then I head to the store and fill the bags with my favorite bulk foods.

Note: Foods such as sesame sticks are oily and will leave grease stains on the bag. It's not a big deal, but keep it in mind if there are certain bags you wish to keep in mint condition. Also, ground coffee stains.

3. I usually just fill up to about an inch from the top. If I'm worried about how much it will cost, I'll weigh it a few times as I'm filling. Otherwise, I just make sure I can close the bag without stuff spilling out the top.

4. I then knot the drawstring as tightly closed as possible. Pictured in the steps below is the knot I usually use, which you can easily untie by pulling on the end. 

5. I use an app on my smartphone called ColorNote to quickly jot down the PLU number and the number on the bag itself.

It looks like this, where "1" is the number of the bag and "5034" is the PLU number for the item:

Tip: ColorNote allows you to "pin" the note to the top of the screen so I can easily pull it down and add to it as I wander through the store.

6. When I'm all packed up, I head to the cash register. I try to place the bags on the conveyor belt in numerical order. As soon as possible, I let the cashier know that I have all of the numbers for the bulk items on my phone and that I can read them off as they weigh each item.

This is where the numbers on the bags come in handy. It makes it so that I don't have to guess what is in each bag as it is being weighed. I can easily look at the number on the bag and match it with the note on my phone. As I read off each number, I can mark it as finished on my checklist.

7. When bagging, I try to keep the bags upright so that they don't spill their contents as I travel home. If I have wet/cold foods, I try to keep them separate, as they will sweat onto the cloth bags.

8. Once home, I grab a stash of Mason jars.

9. Then I untie the bags (by pulling on the end of the drawstring) and fill the Mason jars with the contents. I find a wide-mouth funnel to be especially helpful.

10. If it's an item that's hard to identify, I write the name of the item on the top of the lid with a wax crayon.

11. Voila! All of my bulk stuff, in easy to identify glass jars.

Until next time!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Wondering Why You Haven't Seen Any Updates Lately?

It's because blogging is hard. And I've decided to take the easy way out and publish my eco-friendly tips in micro-batches a la Facebook and Twitter.

So hop on over if you're interested...

Follow The Green Between on Facebook.
Follow The Green Between on Twitter.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Why buy a new ereader when you can buy a new-to-you ereader?

Dudes, did you know that Half Price Books sells (and buys, obviously) used ereaders?

Whelp, now you do. Having had not-the-best luck with the fine folks at Craigslist, it's nice to know that this option exists if I ever decide to abandon my love of print books (borrowed from the library).

Want to learn more about the eco-friendliness of ereaders? Check out this infographic.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Eco-Friendly Products: A Collection

I read a lot of blogs and websites and books and Facebook feeds about eco-friendly endeavors far and wide. It's hard to keep track of all of the products that might come in handy...someday.

Enter Pinterest.

Learn more about Pinterest and it's super fun new board widget and feel free to start following my adventures in green discovery.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Give That Back: Columbus Companies Who Reuse Their Packaging

Recently, I've been feeling a wave of nostalgia toward the age of the milkman. Reusing glass milk jugs, instead of treating them as disposable, just makes sense to me.

So when I heard that two of my favorite companies in Columbus, The Candle Lab and Sweet Thing Gourmet were offering to take back their glass jars for reuse, I got super excited.

I know I've mentioned The Candle Lab before. They sell create-your-own-scent or prefab soy candles (a preferable alternative to candles made with paraffin wax.) They also let you bring in your own jars, which means you could totally take in that sentimental pickle jar you've been hoarding for the right occasion and pay by the ounce to fill it with candle love.

Anyway, if you buy one of their jars, the beauty is that you can take it back when you've burned down every last bit of it, rather than chucking it in the recycle bin. 

And what about when you dig the last spoonful of yummy goodness out of a jar of Sweet Thing Gourmet's jams & jellies. Hand them back the jar and you get a quarter. Woot, woot!

What an excellent way to encourage a repeat customer like me.

Do you know of any other Columbus companies who offer similar services?

Update: Middle West Spirits will take back their bottles for Candles with a Cause. Though they are recycling the bottles rather than reusing them, it's still a good deal. Especially when you consider that they give a 10% discount on one non-alcohol item in their gift shop when you return a bottle. Or you could make this outdoor torch.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

3 Easy Ways to Reuse in the Kitchen

1. Reuse the coffee bag when you buy do-it-yourself ground coffee.
I have a few and rotate between them when I go to Raisin Rack for refills. The only trick is remembering to take them with you to the store.

2. Reuse the rubber bands from produce (like broccoli stalks) for random household needs.

These tend to be thicker and shorter than typical rubber bands, which may be just what you need when you're in a "bind". Keep 'em around and I guarantee you'll find a use for them.

3. Reuse produce baskets to help organize your kitchen.

A place to keep my reusable rags...
A place to hold all of my odds and ends in the medicine cabinet...
Or a place to keep all of my office supplies and aforementioned rubber bands.

What everyday items do you reuse in the kitchen?

By Hand: Unplugged Utensils in the Kitchen

Using non-electric utensils in the kitchen is not always practical or preferable, but sometimes going old school isn't so bad.

 Here are my favorite non-electric tools for the kitchen:
  • Can opener - Growing up, we always had an electric can opener. Not until I went to college did I find out that opening a can was just as easy with a hand-cranked can opener. Added bonus: it frees up prime real estate on the counter top.
  • Garlic press - I know a lot of people who use mini food processors to chop garlic, but really, unless you're doing a whole jar's worth, it's a lot easier and a lot less messy to use a garlic press. (Confession: I only use the press to break the skin of the clove, then chop with a knife so I don't have to wash out the press, which can get a bit messy. I probably don't even need this tool, but as long as there's space in the drawer, I'll keep it.)
  • French press - Although I still have to use an electric appliance (i.e. a microwave or stove) to heat the water, this handy dandy device is still one of my favorites. (Learn more from my previous post.)
  • Juicer - I don't do a lot of heavy duty juicing, so a simple citrus squeezer does the trick for me. Right now, the one I have is plastic. I'm tempted to upgrade to stainless steel, but don't want to be wasteful. 
  • Knife - The most versatile tool in the world. Although blenders and food processors and mixers might do it faster, there's something about the monotony of chopping up a mound of veggies that I find to be quite comforting.
  • Potato masher - Yeah, it's a bit more work, but lumpy mashed potatoes can be charming, right? And hey, you're building muscle, or so you tell yourself.
And don't forget about the most versatile tool that you're never without: your hands.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What Happens When You Try to Reuse, Recycle or Reduce...and Fail Miserably MacBook (circa 2007) was starting to run slow. It wasn't the worst thing, but I use my computer A LOT and it was getting to be somewhat frustrating, especially when I was trying to edit large images with Photoshop and so forth.

I had already upgraded the memory (RAM) the maximum amount possible and had upgraded the operating system as much as it could possible support (Snow Leopard) about a year ago. I knew there wasn't going to be much else I could do with it as it continued to edge toward retirement.

Rather than buy new, I decided to take my employer up on the offer to buy a used MacBook Pro that they had decommissioned a year or two earlier. There were a few discards that were deemed to be in decent condition and I knew the MacBook Pro would support more RAM, therefore allowing it to run faster than my current turtle.

I went ahead and shelled out a few hundred dollars and brought it home. Immediately I realized that it wouldn't hold a charge when not plugged directly into the wall. Though I often use my laptop at home near an ample power source, I knew this would get annoying fast, so I took it into the Apple store to see what they could suggest.

They ran some diagnostics on the battery and determined that, due to its age, there wasn't much they could do to fix it, so they sold me a new one. A bit costly, but definitely not a deal breaker.

Once I got it home (again), I started the process of migrating all of my data. There were a few "must haves" on my list, including iPhoto. Unfortunately, since my laptop was used and the original software had long been lost, I didn't have a copy of the version of iPhoto that worked with the installed operating system. I tried buying a used copy of an old version of the software, but it didn't seem possible. (Side note: This is one thing I did not consider about the fact that most software can now be bought from the app store directly; once Apple decides they no longer want to support old versions, and therfore, old computers, they can disappear them, POOF!, like magic.)

So...I needed to upgrade the operating system. In order to do that, I needed to upgrade the RAM. After a bit of detective work, I found out that I could double the RAM, so I bought some new online. Not surprisingly, during my investigation I found out that my new/used laptop was also a vintage 2007, the same year as my old laptop. Still not a deal breaker, but it made me realize that it had been decommissioned well over two years earlier and was maybe not in the most pristine condition.

Anywho, I learned how to install the new RAM and then proceeded to install the newest operating system (Mountain Lion). Again, I would have been happy to install Lion, a prior version of the software that might have run better on a older Mac and could also support the newest version of iPhoto, but it is no longer available through the app store. (POOF!, remember?)

But all was well. The operating system installed without any major hiccups. iPhoto installed without any major hiccups. I did have an ancient version of Photoshop that I had been using that I could no longer install, which was a bummer, but I decided to start using the similar online service Pixlr as an alternative. If I couldn't accomplish what I needed to with that, I'd take it to work or ask my lovely sister the photographer for help.

Relief. Everything was finally up and running. I transferred over all of my bookmarks, my Quicken file for money management, my photos, videos, documents and the like. I installed the super wonderful Open Office and life was good.


About a month later, the screen up and died. I had a faint hope that it wasn't fatal, but alas, it would have taken all the kings men to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

But there was a silver lining. Another MacBook Pro, also decommissioned from work, was still sitting around, so I requested a "trade". My boss was all too happy to accommodate and I skipped home with my second new/used MacBook Pro in hand. wouldn't boot up past the gray screen. I spent two nights looking up support pages on my phone and trying various options.

(Side note: This is one of the reasons I love Macs. They're not perfect and they're horridly expensive and they're almost totally proprietary, but because of these things, they are a lot easier to support than PCs, IMHO. Since you can't mess around with their inner workings as much, they don't get as jumbled as PCs often can. Therefore, their support options are much more simple, such as "press Command+Option+P+R" instead of "boot up command prompt, type in this crazy long string of numbers, cross your fingers, turn around three times and sneeze over your shoulder.)

Long story long, nothing worked. So off I went to the Apple store again.

(Side note: I have to say, I had the BEST customer experiences in the 3 different trips I took to the Apple store as well as the chat conversation with support and the phone conversation with support during this whole debacle. Even when they couldn't fix it, I left feeling like they'd just given me a puppy. How do they do that???)

The second new/used MacBook Pro was pronounced dead at the scene. It was determined that it would be extremely costly to fix the problem (most likely a motherboard issue) and it would probably not prolong the life of the computer more than another year or so.

Unfortunately, based on the two specific problems with the two new/used computers, there was simply no way to cobble them together to make one working computer. I asked. Twice. I looked on the Internets. I pleaded to the heavens. It just wasn't in the cards.

Having already sold my old/old MacBook to a friend and having already decided that I was in need of an upgrade no matter what, I ended up buying a new-to-me refurbished 2012 MacBook Pro from the Apple Store and called it a day.

Moral of the story: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. And it still might not get you anywhere.

I sincerely wish that I would have been able to save a computer from the landfill and save the environmental cost of creating a new computer from virgin materials. I realize I could have looked on Craigslist or eBay and bought another used computer that could have worked out perfectly, but I just didn't have it in me to go through the process all over again and worry that the seller was giving me a bum deal.

Alas, I have typed all of this on my beautiful new computer that I hope will last me for at least 6 years, as my previous MacBook did. If I didn't use this thing an average of 4 hours a day, maybe I could have lived with less?

We suppose we find out all too quickly where we draw the line when it comes to eco-friendly endeavors...

Til next time. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sandwich Bag Drying Rack

I decided to start reusing sandwich bags. This seemed like a daunting task, but then I discovered this pin on Pinterest.

I decided to make one of my very own, but I was even lazier and eliminated the rice. Voila!

One glass (that I can use for other purposes when not in need of a sandwich bag dryer) + wooden skewers (that I got in a swap) = Easy peasy.

Bikes and Books

I'll be the first to admit it; the new bike rest stop on the Ohio to Erie Trail behind the Westerville Public Library is awesome.

Its official name is the Westerville Legacy Train Depot and it features:
  • Shelter with picnic tables
  • Benches 
  • Tire air pump
  • Bike racks
  • Bike lockers
  • Water fountain with pet bowl
  • and best of all, Bathrooms

Isn't it purty?