Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Plarn - Plastic Yarn

plarn rug in the making

My Grandma Rose raised 5 kids as a single mom during the Depression. They didn't have much and nothing went to waste. I admire the ethic that was borne of this hardship. My cousin Jackson and I discovered a shared love of our dear Grandma and of crochet. That comes together in the form of plastic yarn, or plarn. His work is tidy and patterned while mine is free formed and a lot less perfect. I'm pretty sure Grandma is smiling down on both. 

Plarn is easy enough to make as shown in this video. Here are some things to keep in mind:
  • Plarn is quite forgiving, even if the strips are not all the same thickness it works fine.
  • If you don't mind a mottled look you can mix various colors and even thicknesses of bags.
  • Stick to a simple stitch, because the plarn is thicker it's harder to keep up with fancy stiches.
  • Once you tell people you need bags they are more than happy to save them for you, you can even get them directly from Target or your grocery store if you want a uniform look.
  • Plarn lends itself to projects that require water proofing such as a soap dish, scrubbie, dog mat for the car, coaster, beach bag, picnic blanket, outdoor rug, and Grandma Rose's ever classic bathmat and kitchen sink rug!
If you are the least bit crafty I challenge you to take up crochet with plarn - get some projects going and then teach someone else how. If we all do our little bit, it makes a difference. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Why

Great Pacific Garbage Patch - The Trash Gyre

My decision to reduce single use plastic and paper has been a journey of heart and mind, and the decision was made based on both fact and emotion. The facts are irrefutable, but also difficult to comprehend because of the massive scale. For example:

  • 14 million tons of plastic is generated a year in the US
  • Half of it, 7 million tons, is made into single use containers and packaging
  • 89% of single use plastic waste is not recycled

What really cinched it for me was the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, pictured above. If you haven't heard, there's a floating island of trash in the Pacific that's larger than the state of Texas. I live in Texas. I've driven from Beaumont to El Paso and this sucker is huge. For that reason, the thought of kayaking around a tangled web of plastic the size of this state made me want to cry. And then, it made me want to do something about it, or at least opt out of being part of the problem. 

And that's the heart part. It's sad to see trash lining our roads and trails, and the effect it has on people's morale in unkept inner city neighborhoods. And the paper - just the thought of trees being cut to make paper, then sheets of paper being used once, thrown away and carted off to a big hole in the ground....that waste is painful. And then there's this short video, again a clincher to make sure that I really really get it. 

"Do we have the courage to face the realities of our time? And allow ourselves to feel deeply enough that it transforms us, and our future?Simultaneously beautiful and haunting, I challenge you to watch it and not be moved. Midway: A Message from the Gyre

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Plastic Mesh - Reuse

My first posts come off as kind of boring now that I look at them, so I thought I'd share this quick little project to reuse and upcycle plastic mesh from various produce purchases. These were from citrus and potato sacks, plus some strips of plastic bag (the white) and mesh from a packaged turkey (the green). There are several ways you could put these little bits of engineered plastic to good use, such as a gift/bow decoration, or other crafty project, but I decided to make a scrubbie for my kitchen. I lay about 10 of them flat, put a zip tie in the middle and tightened it up as much as I could. Then it was a matter or fluffing and shaping with scissors - kind of like pom poms, remember those? I've used this little scrubbie for over a year now and it works great. I'm still saving mesh and have enough for the replacement when that's needed. What do you think?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

File:Waste hierarchy.svg

My first exposure to conservation and reduction of single use consumables came through recycling. I remember being thrilled that our neighborhood was being included in a recycling program. I'm still a big recycler, but have come to the conclusion that reducing is most important, followed by reusing, and then recycling, as shown in the handy graphic above, which I got from this wiki that explains the framework in more detail. Here's my take on the basic three: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. 

RECYCLE- limitations

  • Can be complicated keeping track of which items can be recycled. For example, did you know that tissue paper and aluminum foil are not recycled?
  • May be inconvenient if you have to take it somewhere yourself (as I do) or if you have to sort it first.
Recycle - benefits

  • Gets rid of it, just like throwing it away but without the guilt
  • Saves energy and conserves resources, for example recycling an aluminum can saves a whopping 95% of the energy resources required to make that same can from virgin resources.
REUSE - benefits 

  • It's like getting free stuff! If I buy a glass jar of pasta sauce and then use that glass jar many times in my lunch box, it's like getting a free lunch container with my pasta sauce. 
  • Creative - loads of crafty fun in figuring out how to upcycle - check out this pinterest board full of ideas from making plastic yarn (plarn), to making a sandwich box from a gallon milk jug, to creating lanterns from tin cans. 
Reuse - limitations  

  • Takes some effort and creativity. Ain't nobody got time for that! (Actually, I do, that's fun for me).
  • I can only use so many strawberry clam shells for organizing my craft supplies. 
  • When it comes to plastic there's more of it than can be reused, or that's difficult to get another use out of (for example the plastic that's in any kind of electronic you purchase, you just have to hack it out of there and are left with a pile of bits).
REDUCE - benefits

  • This is the sweet spot because if you don't have it in the first place, then you don't have to throw it away, recycle it or figure out a way to reuse it. Bingo! 
  • Freeing! You spend less, stress less, clean less when you have less - Becoming Minimalist has recently become one of my favorite sites for refreshing ideas on how to do this. A good place to start is with this post on the benefits of having less. 
Reduce - limitations

  • You can't always avoid it. Things are overpackaged - especially toys and electronics!!!! But, even unavoidable purchases such as food and toiletries come with too much packaging. Ones that plague me are berries, honey and milk. 
  • Things are made to break - there's even a term for it, planned obsolescence. The documentary Zeitgeist explains this vicious cycle. It's often more expensive to repair than purchase a new one, especially in the area of electronics. 
I refuse to be discouraged though - I'm focusing on the benefits and trying to make it as easy as possible to reduce first, then reuse and finally recycle!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014 Committment

Happy New Year! Apparently I've become a resolution maker - having recovered from my opinion that resolutions are just promises waiting to be broken. I came around last year when I was inspired by a theme. 2013 was my year to "Use it UP". I wrote some about it on my blog. I used up a whole lot of stuff that I already had, I made things from scratch, I repurposed things. It felt good. 

This year, I pledge to "Do Better". One way I want to do better in is to further reduce my use of single use (yikes, that's a lot of uses) stuff. I already do a pretty decent job of it, but I'm going to step out of my comfort zone some and share the why's and how's with as many people out there as possible. And this blog is part of that. I'm a little leery about becoming "that person" who is always going on about her favorite cause. But, I also believe that we all need to do what we can - so, if I can get more people to do what they gets better all around. So, stay tuned, hold me to my commitment, watch me try, to Do Better.