Monday, November 23, 2009

Just in case.....

Just in case anyone is actually reading this blog (I don't pay any attention to reader counts or anything,) I've signed up as a partner at letsgogreen, and now anyone who uses my coupon code, MMR20 can get 20% off any purchase at their site! Great green products such as biodegradable trash bags and recycled paper products. See the banner on the side as well. You have to enter the code to get the discount, so make sure you do that at checkout.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

#62 A use for the old holies.

Honestly I have never darned a sock in my life, but that doesn't mean that my old holey socks are going in the trash! I have done a huge amount of wood refinishing this year, and I love to use gel stains, even though they can be really messy. I've found that the best application tool is a sponge brush, and the best "wipe-off" tool is an old sock. It's better than wasting a rag that you would then have to throw away. This vanity is one of my recent projects. The picture isn't great-- but when we bought it it was a natural wood color with not much of a finish on it. Pros: A great use for an item that is trash. Cheap, and at my house, plentiful.

Cons: You still have to throw them away, and I try to do it in an empty stain can with the lid shut.
p.s. I've also used old socks for wax buffing my countertops.

Monday, October 26, 2009

#61 What to do with your brushes and rollers in-between coats.

What do you do with your roller and your cut-in brush in between paint coats? Wash them? If so, you are wasting a whole lot of water! I wrap mine up in a plastic bag and put it in the refridgerator. It will keep several days that way (if you're like me, and with the kids around sometimes I just don't get around to finishing it when I want to.) Then you can take out your brush and/or roller and continue painting! I'm honestly not sure if this is a "normal" practice for a lot of people. But if you do any painting, you should try it! When your done with your roller, wrap it back up in the bag and toss it! Of course, you should wash your brushes.

Pros: Saves a LOT of water and paint from going down the drain. It also saves time and energy.

Cons: It requires the use of a disposable plastic bag. Requires some fridge space.

Friday, October 23, 2009

#60 What to put that paint in!

I discovered another wonderful thing while working on my painting, and now I can't do without it! It's a non-stick paint tray. You don't wash it, you just let it sit and dry. Then you can peel the paint off and, voila! It's ready to use again.

Pros: NO water used to wash your paint tray, and you are also saving all that paint from going into the water treatment plant. No plastic liner needed.

Cons: It doesn't exactly peel off so nicely like in the picture, but it does come off pretty easily. A bit more expensive than your average paint tray-- but it will pay off in the end.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

#59 Recycled Paint!

Where has the month gone? I really have been so busy with canning and remodeling projects that it has been very hard to find time for blogging. But I have in the meantime found some more ways to do green remodeling. When I was in Seattle for weekend in July I went shopping at a place called Second Use. They have a line (called MetroPaint) of recycled paint! Available in different colors! It really made my choice much easier by limiting it. There are so many paint colors that it is usually really hard to choose. I couldn't find a great picture of the walls, and can't take one right now because that would mean I'd have to clean up first (still remodeling!) But here is one with my daughter in front of it:

You can find more information on it here
Pros: 100% recycled paint, and you can choose your color! Now that's using materials wisely! It painted on so easily and seems to be very high-quality. Well under EPA's limits for VOC's. Oh, and did I mention it only cost $16 a gallon??
**UPDATE: I found out that Miller Paint stores in Washington and Oregon sell Metropaint for about $10/gallon!!
Cons: Limited colors and finishes (or this could be a pro!) Limited availability-- I have to go to Portland or Seattle to get it.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

#58 Don't waste the v-bag

Vaccuum bag, that is. I was vacuuming the other day and realized that my vacuum was not working very well. hmmm, maybe that was because it was completely full and filling up the hose part! Yikes! Being a usually prepared but somewhat forgetful mother of 3, I realized I had no extra bags. Oh no! What to do? The Frugal Zealot came to the rescue. I had read her books a while ago (the Tightwad Gazettes) and remembered a tip that I thought at the time that I would probably never bother with. She cuts the bottom off of her vacuum bags and empties them that way and then tapes them back up for reuse. Well I was stuck so I guess I had to give it a try. Guess what? Easy, little mess, and much money saved! Yea! So until I can afford a good bagless, the old reuse-a-bag will have to do.

Pros: Saves time and energy, and saved me a trip to the store. Less waste.

Cons: After a couple of cuts the bag will be too short to use. It's a little messier than just being able to throw out the whole bag.

Friday, August 7, 2009

#57 Cookin' Solar

We had a serious heat wave a week or so ago. There were several days that were over 100 degrees. Doesn't sound too bad if you're in Arizona, but in the northwest that is unheard of. We have no air conditioning, and normally little need for it. But it was hot. And we had guests coming for dinner. We came up with a dinner that we could make completely outside using the grill, crockpot, and this lovely solar oven. We made brownies in it-- and they were almost cooked after a couple of hours (we needed to get them in an hour sooner!) My second attempt at using the solar oven was much more successful with making cookies. A great way to make use of all that heat! I'll have to get adventurous and try some new things in it.

Pros: Cheap materials (cardboard, aluminum foil,
and glass.) Doesn't take any electricity or fuel. No heating up the kitchen!

Cons: It has to be sunny. It takes some real planning ahead because the cooking time for most things is very long.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

#56 This mower is REELY great.

This summer I decided I was fed up with my big old clunky smelly gas mower. It was really heavy, really noisy, and not in the greatest condition. It used to be that mowing was the man's job around here, but well, I guess I've just kept my hubby a bit too busy with other things (ie remodel) and it's fallen into my lap.
I went for a cheap ($20 on CL--woohoo!) no frills reel mower. I don't have a huge lawn and this little mower really isn't hard to use at all. The main difference is that instead of using muscle to push a big heavy mower I am having to move super fast to keep the blade spinning and cutting well. I never realized how much pollution an old gas mower could create until I read this article by the EPA. It makes sense.

Pros: Easy to use, no pollution, no noise, low maintenance. I can mow with my kids in the yard and not worry about flying debris, and my 7-year-old can even use it (and thinks it's fun.)

Cons: It doesn't cut grass that has gone to seed very well. I haven't yet figured out how to sharpen the blades. Little pieces of stuff sometimes get stuck in the blades and bind them up.

Monday, July 20, 2009

#55 Don't pay for hot water you're not using!

Wow! It's been a month since I last posted! It has been a very busy month and I've been gone for a lot of it.
Sometime back in March (I remember because I had just gotten back from somewhere) I read a suggestion to turn off your water heater when you are gone from your house for an extended time. What a great idea! But of course I couldn't post about it until I put it into practice. It's simple, just flip the electrical circuit for the water heater before you leave on vacation, and you won't be using electricity or paying for hot water that will just sit there. I don't know for sure, but I'd estimate that you need to be gone for at least 2 days for this to be an effective money-saving method since it takes quite a bit of energy to heat up the entire water tank once it's all cold.

Pros: Simple, effective, money-saving

Cons: You have to remember to do it before you leave. You will have to wait an hour or so after you get home (after you remember to turn it back on) before you have hot water.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

#54 Oxi-clean saves the day!

I know I finished posting about laundry already, but just recently I had an "oh, duh" moment that has saved me a lot of money and plastic waste. I mentioned that with my homemade laundry soap I have to be extra diligent about stain removal. Well, I was going through spray bottles of Oxi-clean like crazy, and at $3.50 a bottle, the cost was adding up. Although some of the bottles got reused, most were going into the recycle bin. Anyway, last time I went to buy some the price had skipped up to $7!! This made me stop and think if there was another way. Right there next to the spray bottles was a tub of oxi-clean powder. I looked at the label, and lo and behold, I can mix about 1/4 cup in a spray bottle with water to make the same thing I had been paying so much for. The best part is that the price on the other one was a mis-mark and the $7 was actually the price of the tub. Thanks WinCo! Yea!! I just bought about 20 bottles worth for only the cost of 2 bottles. And I can reuse the same spray bottle that I already have for all of those. I feel so silly for not realizing this before. I can also use the powder to add to a whole load that needs extra stain-lifting power.
I haven't found anything better for gettng poop stains off of diapers.

Pros: Much cheaper, and much less plastic waste. Stain removal power is just as good.

Cons: None.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

#53 Catch the rain

There is something that I love and hate about my hubby. It's that he gets an idea in his head and won't let it go until it's accomplished. One day he decided we needed to have rain barrels. Double rain barrels, no less. He watched some online videos of how to make them. The next we had purchased all the parts and as soon as he had a spare hour, there they were. The barrels are food-grade and we bought them off someone on Craig's list. The water is diverted from the rainspout into the barrels and if they get full, the water overflows back into the rain spout. Ya, I know they are not the prettiest things. But they are on the least visable corner of the house, and I will paint them when I get around to it. They have been great for watering my small garden that's here at the house, along with my potted herbs and roses and such.

Pros: Great way to conserve water, lower water bill, less water into the storm run-off, naturally soft water that's great for plants, chlorine free water, good back-up water source in times of drought.

Cons: Not very pretty (although there are some you can buy that are nice looking-- they just cost a lot more,) hard to get water pressure out of the hose. Also, you must make sure the spigot is CLOSED when it rains, otherwise all the water goes right next to the house foundation.
Oh, and did I mention that they are illegal in the state of Washington? The rain run-off apparently belongs to the government. Ha ha. Luckily and understandably, that law is not enforced.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

#52 Cloth Goodie Bags

Okay, one last thing from the birthday party. Instead of the little plastic goodie bags, I made the party guests cloth drawstring bags with some princess fabric. I actually ended up making them out of some fabric that we already had. They were easy, turned out really nice, and the kids can keep them to put whatever they want in them at home, instead of throwing the plastic ones in the trash.

Pros: Easy, reusable, less plastic waste, and something the kids (and hopefully parents) appreciate more.

Cons: It took more time to make them than it would have just to buy the plastic ones. Also, I couldn't figure out a way to label them with the kids' names.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

#51 Easy green tablecloth

Half way there!  Yea!  It's been difficult to blog lately due to computer issues and the nice weather outside.  Also, the party is long over, but I still have a couple of things to post about it.  All in all I could have done better at making it a "green" princess party, but I think I did okay.
One of the things was to skip the plastic or vinyl tablecloth that is so common in kid-themed parties.   Unfortunately I didn't get a great picture of the table, but you can kind of see it in the picture above.  I picked up some purple fabric from Goodwill for the main part, and put a leftover square of purple/pink butterfly fabric in the middle.

Pros: Easy, pretty, and cheap.  Fabric will either get used for something else, or given back to goodwill

Cons: Because of lack of time, I didn't roll and sew the edges.  I still was able to wash it, but it frayed a little.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

#50 Asking for "green" gifts

I debated about posting about this, since I wouldn't consider it the greatest success.  But I tried!  I enclosed a note to the parents in the invitations that said something like, "Please feel free to search your child's unwanted toys or a thrift store for a treasure for our princess.   We promise she won't know the difference."  Well, a couple of people took heed to that, but most didn't.  I'm not sure if it's just that they chose not to, or that they didn't see the note in the invitation.  
So how does this save me money?  I hope to start a trend.  Really I don't know anyone who is just itching for their child to get a whole bunch of new toys with all the packaging that they come in.  My kids really have too many toys as it is, and every so often I have them choose out things to give to goodwill.  My plan is to start a "gift box" where I can store things that my kids no longer want that I think may be gift worthy.  I can add to it things that I find at yard sales as well.

Pros: More reused items, less waste, less cost for used things.

Cons: My kids are hard on toys-- finding one with all pieces intact and they don't want can be a challenge.  Some people may take offense to the idea (I don't think that any one we invited did, but I can't be sure.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

#49 Green Birthday invitations

It's birthday time around here.  My daughter is turning 4 and having her first real party with friends over.    It is of course going to be a princess party like most girls her age would ask for.  I am now up for the challenge of making sure her party doesn't create too much waste or have a negative environmental impact, but still lets the kids have a lot of fun.   The first thing is the invitations.  I looked everywhere for something that was decently priced and eco-friendly and just had no luck.  Any recycled paper invitations I could find were outrageously priced.  But, I found a site with free printable invitations.   I let my daughter pick the one she wanted, then printed them on my own recycled printer paper.  Voila!  Wait, what about envelopes?  I printed those as well!  It prints the picture in the right place for you to fold your own envelopes.   They turned out great.   My daughter had fun putting stickers on them to keep them closed.  

Pros:  Easy, cheap, saves packaging, saves a trip to the store, and you know the invitations will eventually go in the trash anyway(well, hopefully the recycle bin.)

Cons:  It took quite a bit of printer ink.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

#48 Don't spoil the foil

Since I'm on the topic of reusing things, I thought I'd post about reusing your aluminum foil. In this case it pays to get heavy duty, good quality foil. After it is used, carefully wash the foil in soapy water, or even tent it up and stick it in the dishwasher.  If you are careful with it, it can last a long time.  I've had a roll that was given to me about 3 years ago and it's still going strong.    When the peices get too small or holey, I still wash them and then put them in the recycle bin.

Pros:  Aluminum is expensive, so conserving it can save you a lot of money especially if you use it a lot.    It's also a resource worth conserving.

Cons:  You really do have to be careful with it when washing it.  That's why I recommend the super heavy duty stuff.   Sometimes stuff just gets too stuck to it and it's hard to get clean.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

#47 Don't toss 'em 'til they're sad and holey

Know what I'm talking about?  Yes, that ever-so-useful zipper plastic baggie.  They are everywhere, aren't they?  Even if I didn't purchase any (which I haven't since 2007,) they end up in my house.  And lets face it, although I'd like to be rid of such plastics they are extremely useful.   From freezing stuff to holding stray crayons.   So in order to get all the use that I can out of them, I wash them.  It really is simple.  Rinse them out, turn them inside out, and put them in the laundry. Easy, no?  Okay, you have to take them out before they go into the dryer.  But still.  I have not purchased any bags since I started going green, and yet it seems that I have more bags than I used to.  They come home from school, from goodies from friends, and my husband even brings some home from work when they were just going to get thrown in the trash.  
I throw them away when they get holes, will no longer close, or when they've been used for raw poultry.

Pros: Reusing plastic means less plastic waste, while still retaining the convenience of the bags.

Cons:  It is plastic, and they do wear out eventually (the more expensive brands last longer.)  I have to make sure they don't get washed in loads of laundry with diapers.  I have occasionally missed one and sometimes they will get melted in the dryer.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

#46 Avoid dry cleaning like the plague

People are becoming more and more aware that the main chemical used in dry cleaning is perchloroethylene, a known carcinogen.  Why expose yourself to this?  And why pay so much money to do it?  My solution to the dry-cleaning problem is mostly to NOT OWN DRY-CLEAN ONLY CLOTHES!   Simple, isn't it?  Okay, I confess that I have a couple of very nice articles of clothing that slipped in somehow and must be dry cleaned.    But really, any mother of small children knows that it isn't worth owning nice things in the first place.  They end up covered in some sort of goo-- and the nicer the clothes, the more stuff that ends up on them, right?

There are beginning to be some greener dry cleaning options out there, unfortunately there are none locally for me.  Also, some clothing that claims that it is "dry clean only" can actually be washed in a gentle cycle and hung to dry.  I have had success with this with a few items that were hand-me-downs from my mother.  (It's a little easier to take the risk when I didn't pay for the clothes in the first place.)  

Pros: Avoiding the dry cleaners is avoiding a huge expense!   Non-dry-clean-only clothing means more practical clothing.  Staying away from carcinogens is always a good thing.

Cons: If you do want to dry clean at a "green" dry cleaners, it's bound to be more expensive.  No dry cleaning may mean limiting your clothing choices.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

#45 Make your own detergent

Back up to the wash cycle again.  I have been wanting for a while to try making my own laundry detergent, and now I've finally gotten around to doing it!  It was really easy and so far has been working great.  Here is the recipe I used:

1/2 c. borax
1/2 c. washing soda
1/2 bar soap, grated
about 2 gallons water

Place part of the water in a pot and bring it to a boil.  Add soap (I used Lever because that's what I had around) and other ingredients until dissolved.  Take off heat, add to the rest of the water.  Stir.  Use 1/2 to 1 cup per load, depending on how soiled your load is.   I estimate the cost for this entire batch at $0.40.   I used an old cat litter bucket to put it in.

As a side note:  a lot of recipes for laundry soap include Fels Naphtha soap.   I was going to try this, as it has been praised for it's effectiveness.  However, the ingredient list for this soap is "cleaners, soil and stain removers, chelating agents, perfumes, and colorants."  Can it get any more vague than that?  What is really in that stuff??? Sorry, don't trust it.

Pros:  Cheap, effective, much less packaging than prepared soaps.  No added chemicals, dyes, or perfumes (or at least you can choose what you want to add by what kind of soap you use.)

Cons:  Doesn't really have any stain removal power, so I must be diligent in my use of oxi-clean as a pre-wash stain treater.  Also, homemade detergent must be stirred before use.

Monday, March 30, 2009

#44 Ditch the Dryer sheets

Okay, so I get the occasional sock stuck inside a pair of pants.  A little static cling is not more trouble than I used to get from using dryer sheets.   There are a plethora of reasons NOT to use dryer sheets.  I will not go into detail, because I'm lazy and other people have already done that.  One of those places is at healthy and green living.  The reasons not to use them include some very nasty chemicals and some not-so-good long term effects on your clothing.   Other reasons for me include sensitivity to them (they make me itch!) and of course, no need to waste all those materials.   Also, most of static cling comes when you over-dry your clothes.  Be sure to set the dryer so that it stops before they get static cling!
There are some alternatives out there.  One is to use vinegar in your rinse cycle (too much trouble for me,) and another is to use a dryer ball (controversial, since most are made from PVC-- anyone know any that aren't?)   I go for the simplest of all methods.  Use nothing.  There. 

Pros: Less chemical-infused clothing and air, less skin irritation,  less packaging waste.  Oh, and I haven't mentioned yet that using dryer sheets causes unecessary wear-and-tear on your dryer if you don't wash your lint trap (and possibly a fire hazard?)

Cons:  Static cling.  (Did you know though, that most static cling occurs in synthetic fibers?  Use natural fiber clothing, and it won't be such a problem!)  My laundry doesn't smell nice.  But as long as it doesn't smell at all, I'm okay with that.

Monday, March 23, 2009

#43 Sort the "heavies"

Oh my!  When I started this blog I thought I'd be done by now with my 100 things.   Life has just gotten in the way.  I'm not giving up though-- I am going to try to post more frequently.

So, don't you hate it when you go to get your clothes out of the dryer and there are a couple of things that aren't dry?  Usually towels or jeans.  Or what I like the call the "heavies."  So there are two ways to handle those.  First, just make a separate load of the heavy laundry.  Anything that normally takes a little longer to dry.  Then you can plan on running that load a little longer.  The other way is to stop the dryer when most of the clothes are dry and hang up the ones that are not dry so they can finish drying.
By the way, my wish list includes a decorative laundry arbor so I can hang clothes outside in the summertime.  As it is, I have an indoor rack for diaper covers and odds and ends.

Pros: Less dryer time means energy saved and getting laundry through more quickly.

Cons: Sorting heavies means that you may be mixing parts of different colored loads.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

#42 Wash in Cold (or at least not hot)

I used to think that my clothing, and particularly my whites, would not get clean unless I washed in hot water.  Not true!  I have switched to using cold or warm to wash, and always cold to rinse.   I notice no difference in the way my clothes wash.  And I'm not using any special cold water detergent.   I found this great website that has charts of what the costs are per load at different temps.  I know there is a lot of variation, but it will give you an idea of how much the temperature affects the cost.  It also mentions on this website that "washing your clothes in hot water instead of cold water for a year uses more electricity that leaving your refridgerator door open for a year 24 hours a day!"

Pros: Use less electricity, therefore spend less money and reduce carbon emissions.   Less shrinkage of your clothing.

Cons: I can't think of any.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

#41 Fill it to the top! (but not too full)

A very basic piece of advice, I agree.   But for all those busy moms out there who need something washed right now and it's not laundry day and everything is crazy busy... you know what I mean.  Yes, there are smaller load settings on your machine, but it still is going to take the same amount of electricity to run a small load as a large one.  So take the extra moment or two to find items similar to the one you need washed now and throw them in there with it.  I have also been known to leave my last load of laundry on laundry day when it doesn't fill up the machine.  It gets filled up quickly enough, and is washed in the next couple of days.  Ta da.

Pros:  Bigger loads of laundry means less loads of laundry.

Cons:  It's easy to get carried away and fill the load a little too much, causing unnecessary wear and tear on your washer and dryer.

Monday, February 16, 2009

#40 Reduce your laundry load

Oh the dreaded laundry.  Unless you are rich and have a maid, or live in a nudist colony,  you can't really escape it.   The more people in your family, the bigger that pile gets.  Uggghhh!  Not only a lot of work, but a huge energy-consuming task.  So we'll explore some ways to reduce your energy consumption from this task, aside from getting a nice energy star efficient washer and dryer (although I'd love this, it's not in my budget.)  
The first one is: Do less laundry.  Yes, I'm serious.  I know, generally my suggestions promote more laundry (cloth everything, right?)  But does every article of clothing or towels that are used for a short period of time really need to be washed?  In some cases, yes (underwear.)  In other cases, I recommend the sight and smell test.  Before you throw those jeans into the laundry bin, look to see if there are any visible spots on them.  If there are, see if they will wipe off with a damp rag.   If the clothing passes that test, then use your smeller to make sure no icky odors have stuck to the clothing.  And there you have it.  If it passes the test, fold it back up and put it in your drawer or hang it in your closet.  Hang your towels up to dry and reuse them at least a couple of times.  Paying a little attention can save you money and energy in the end.

Pros:  Less laundry to wash, dry, and fold.  Reduce your carbon foot print.  Clothing will last longer when it is washed less frequently.

Cons:  KIDS!  With young kids, not only do they rarely not get something dirty even if it's only worn for 5 minutes, but they cannot tell if something needs washed or not.   It might take a little more effort when you're getting undressed.

Monday, February 9, 2009

#39 A roll of paper towels can last how long?

So what's the significance of this one little empty paper towel tube?  (Besides that it's being shown off by my cute boy.)  That tube is the inside of the roll of paper towels that was already partially used up in January of 2008 when my family started to cut way back on paper products use.   We finally actually used it up.  That's because I reserve the use of paper towels for only the ickiest of jobs, like cleaning poop or puke off the floor or something seriously greasy that wouldn't wash well out of a towel.  It really isn't hard to grab a cloth towel instead of a paper one.  And a few extra towels doesn't have much effect on the amount of laundry I do.  So next time you have a mess to clean up, think about the lasting effects of grabbing that paper towel!  I used to use paper towels in the bathroom to dry my face (the hand towels hold too much bacteria) but discovered it's just as effective to keep  a stack of small clean towels and use those instead.

One statistic I found stated that "The NRDC estimates that if every household in the United States used one less roll of paper towels, we could save 544,000 trees."  Alright, what about several less rolls of paper towels?  And if can't use cloth towels, you could at least use recycled paper towels.  I plan to buy recycled next time I need some, but right now since I bought a package before I started this plan, I have about a 20-year supply.

Pros:  Less paper wasted, less trees dead.  Cloth towels really clean things up better than paper towels, no matter what the quality of paper towels you buy.  Paper towels are not only wasteful, but very expensive!

Cons: Though it may be a small amount, it still is more laundry to do and fold.

Monday, January 26, 2009

#38 Green Remodeling? Use Renewable Resources!

This is perhaps the toughest part of green remodeling if you are trying to do it with spending as little money as possible.  But I'm here to tell you that it is possible to find great "green" products new for good prices.  It just takes flexibility and a little time to search.
First- decide what your requirements are for your project.  Measurements, durability, colors.

Second- determine what types of materials you would like to use.  Something recycled?  Something made of a renewable resource?

Third- research, reasearch, reasearch.  We would not have been able to do ours without the internet.

Fourth- shop shop shop!

Here's my example.  We wanted to replace our kitchen countertops.  We had an ugly color peeling-off laminate counter.  We wanted something classy but not too expensive.   We also wanted it to be durable, waterproof, heat proof, and environmentally friendly.  We looked first into granite.    Not-so-green.  There was an option for a granite cover-up counter that we liked (it meant we wouldn't have to rip out the old one) but very expensive.  Then we found out about Eco-top and Paperstone products.  Made of 100% post-consumer recycled paper.  Awesome!  Was it in our budget?  Not really.  However, when we were at EcoHaus in Portland looking at some, the guy says, "We have these pieces in the back room that are an odd color and we haven't been able to sell them."  Bingo!  They happened to be just the amount that we needed for our kitchen, and at a fraction of the cost.  And in brown tones that I was using anyway.  
 Lucky for me, my husband is handy and was able to cut and install them.  Even with the purchase of some new tools, our eco-friendly countertops cost us only about $900.   And I think they look great.  Other things we did were a cork floor, purchased from a builder's liquidator, and a recycled glass tile backsplash.

Pros:  Less depletion of the earth's resources.  In the case of these countertops, they are fully recyclable as well as made from recycled paper.   

Cons:  Some eco-friendly materials are not as durable (such as our cork floor, but I still like it.)  It takes work to find these types of materials on a limited budget.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

#37 Green Remodeling? Reclaimed Materials!

Okay, so you've  used everything that you could from your own demolition.  Now it's time to start building.  Do you head to the nearest retailers and pick out what you want?  For some things that may be warranted (like drywall) but really the best thing to do first is to check for reclaimed materials that work.  One way is to use Craig's list (the Craig's list people should be paying me for how much I promote their site.)  Another way is to find a Habitat Re-store, or another place like it.  My new favorite place to go to shop for stuff for our remodeling projects is The Rebuilding Center in Portland.  They take all the stuff out of houses that are being torn down and sell it for reuse, as well as create really fun furniture out of reclaimed wood.  Our latest finds there were a drinking fountain for our mud room and an old lighting fixture that we will fix up for the new bathroom.  
Our latest and greatest Craig's list finds were some beautiful travertine tile for bathroom floor and vanity, and a solid granite tub surround that was taken out of a luxury hotel suite (only $200!)

Pros: Reusing stuff prevents it from filling the landfills (The Rebuilding Centers slogan is "Just because it's called a landfill, doesn't mean you have to fill it.")  It is much cheaper than buying new.

Cons: It requires greater flexibility and you may not be able to find exactly what you want.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

#36 Green Remodeling?--- Reuse what you can.

Remodeling is not really green. In most cases, things left the way they are is the greenest route. That old vinyl floor does the least damage left right where it is. Left alone, less goes to the landfill and less products need to be produced. That being said, realistically there is a lot of value in aesthetic appeal and better function. My husband and I constantly have a project going in our home. We are doing it for our comfort and for the resale value of our house. Built in the 1950's and poorly maintained, there is much to be done. 
There are a number of ways that we are seeking to make our remodeling projects as green as possible. The first thing that we do is reuse anything that is possibly reusable when we take it out. Our project this year is converting a room (formerly a bedroom?-- we used it mainly for storage) into a master bathroom and a mudroom. There was a decent set of built-in cabinets and shelves. The cabinets became toy cabinets in the basement, and the shelves moved to the storage/work room for organizing tools.

Any wood that we tear out that is not stained or painted becomes firewood, and decent wood pieces will be turned into something else useful (the wood paneling will become shelves in our shed.) If you can't find a use for it, freecycle or Craig'slist it and see if there is anyone out there who can use it.

Pros: Less trips to the landfill, less in the landfill, and the stuff can fill a need if you will be creative with it.

Cons: There will always be some stuff that just cannot be reused.  Sometimes it takes a little more work to get things out so that they are in usable form (today my husband was complaining about how long it was taking to get the paneling out of the old closet he was tearing out.)