Sunday, May 29, 2011

Waste not

I'm inspired when I hear about the different ways that people are living sustainably. Especially when it's those in lead of companies.

Like, hearing about how Subaru created a zero landfill auto plant that captures and recycles, reduces, or reuses their resources in such a way that they send nothing to the landfills. Can you imagine? Creating as many cars as they do every year, with no waste!

Or hearing about Sierra Nevada's practices here in Chico, about which I've already shared briefly. Besides the solar panel, there are other ways that they've worked hard to improve efficiency. These efforts include heat/Co2 recovery, using locally grown beef in their taproom, and dig this - they even  have a biodiesel processor so that they can use 100% of the used vegetable oil from their taproom as an alternative fuel source for their transportation fleet. Amazing.

I'm not sure exactly why things like this can get me excited. In such a wasteful, frivolous society, I like seeing others who are more careful with what they have. Thoughtful about how much they really need. Fitting environmentalism into a contemporary lifestyle sometimes makes for some interesting progression. People become inventive, they get to work the puzzle and hopefully come up with clever solutions to have a low impact on the planet.

Taking it closer to home:

I've been taking a fresh look at the items that I've been making and selling in my etsy shop. In an effort to reduce waste myself, I have from the very beginning, kept scraps of this and that, hoping to use or upcycle it elsewhere. But, after over a year of doing it this way, I realize that all this leaves me with is a pile of scraps to be used! And how much better would it be to redesign my products so that there was no waste at all.

For instance: my loveys were at one time an 18" square. I would get an 18" length, and since most cotton fabrics come in about a 40" width, there was always about 4" off the end that I would cut and set aside in my scrap pile (to use in something someday, I tell myself)

But when did I decide that my blankets needed to be square? Is it just because every one else's were square at the time? Why not make my loveys 18" x 20" and not have any waste at all. This actually works out fabulously, even though the minky I use for the backside of the fabric comes in a different width. It is however 60," which is also divisible by 20, so I don't waste any minky either! Brilliant. Why didn't I think of this before.

I will be redesigning my burp cloths and a few other items as well.

One of the biggest producers of scrap for me was my market bag. It was the only thing I had in the shop with rounded seems (in the straps). Which meant I was cutting a round peg out of a square hole, so to speak. Just today, I am proud to announce, I have successfully designed a new kind of grocery bag, that not only uses about half the fabric, but also produces less waste!

Here is an example of one of the older market bags (reversible)
And here is how much I scrap I had from making one:

Here is the bag I just finished today:

And here is my waste:

Two tiny little triangles! They are equivilant to about a 5" square. This is a great improvement over what it was before - I will use less and waste less.

[BTdubs, the new bags will be in the shop later this week  are now available! here]

My next project is to finally use up all those old fabric scraps so they won't be laying around my craft station - that will be a relief! And from now on, with a bit of cleverness, and a fresh perspective, hopefully I can continue to think of ways to not create waste. Or even scrap!

What are some ways you have found to reduce waste in your home or business?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Growing my own

I've always had a romantic notion of being a farmer. I think I've discussed that here before. "Sheeps and chickens and things." Gathering my own eggs. Milking my own cow. Growing my own produce seems especially feasible to me. Unfortunately in the 7 years I've been married (read: moved out of mom's house), we've lived in apartments, so there wasn't any land to work. Well, technically we did live in a house with some acreage... for about three months. It was in the mountains and we lived there during the winter. Not only was it freezing, but the entire lot was covered in redwoods. Very peaceful, quite beautiful. But not conducive to growing anything really.


Our current place is no different. We have a nice second story balcony patio, but it's about 6' x 6'. And Joel's manly barbeque takes up about a third of that. My point here is that while the obvious alternative to having land is to create a patio garden with pots, there is not even much room for that. My other sad secret is that while I love the idea of growing things... I'm actually not very good at it. :} I usually end up either loving the plant to death by watering it too much, or on the other end of the spectrum, I forget it exists and it dies of starvation. I also rarely take time to get to know them very well. I ignore instructions like how much sun it should get. Well, if I have a shady patio, there's not much I can do about it anyway. All this adds up to a few failed attempts at patio gardening, in which the plants usually die after reaching about 3" high. Then I give up and throw them out and get frustrated and decide it's "just not for me," that I must have a black thumb and I leave my empty pots in storage for a few more years until I get the courage to try again.

Enter Fred.

He's my new tomato plant. I was walking out of CVS one day and... something about the way his leaves beckoned me and his cheerful yellow flowers smiled 'hello,' I just had to take him home. The fact that he was only 2.99 might have helped, too. ;) What I especially love about Fred is that I adopted him at a mature age. All my other patio gardens I've tried to start from seed. But Fred has taken root, and grown to a substantial height, so I was hoping this head start would help him through the life of hard knocks he was sure to encounter in his relationship with me. :) But I'm really trying to treat him a little better than his predecessors.

So far things are going well. My son takes joy in helping me water him daily. I placed Fred in the sunniest spot I could find, though it's not his ideal, I'm sure. I even took a daring dash out into a hail storm a few nights ago to save him from certain death.

Then. Like magic. The other day, we walked out and found this!

It's a TOMATO!! I was so excited to see fruit on my patio garden for the first time in 7 years. My son and I continue to water and check for developments. I've even noticed a couple of other buds falling and fruits coming along. I'm trying not to get ahead of myself just yet, but I'll confess that visions of greek salads and tomato sandwiches have been dancing in my head.

Maybe I should go out there and talk to him a little bit. That might help.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I apologize for the absence.

A few days after my last post, I found out that my father, whom I hadn't heard from in 15 years, passed away in Little Rock, AR. Needless to say, it's been a tumultuous few weeks for me. And whenever I thought about blogging, I didn't feel like it, or didn't know what to say... And in the long run, I was cutting myself alot of slack and being OK with letting things slide. You have to really baby yourself through times like these, ya know? It's the only way to get through.

I will say that God is so good. Through the whole thing, He carried me emotionally. It seems to me that He wove together this wonderful blanket - a patchwork quilt of loving people, miracles, favor, provision, and an amazing sense of peace, and wrapped me up in this comforter of love... or maybe I just think in sewing terms. :) He orchestrated things perfectly, so that, with only about 48 hour notice, we were still able to take a 2000 mile journey to Little Rock to be able to attend my dad's funeral. Joel and I were the only family that were able to make it, and I am so glad we did. That is a whole story in itself, which I won't get into right now...

But, it's been over a month now, and I'm starting to get back to my old rhythms. Starting to cook again, and sew again. I actually have a few different posts I've been thinking about over these last few days, so I hope you'll bear with me as I catch up a little.

Life goes on... and in that spirit I leave you with a photo of my baby I took yesterday. He's usually a stickler for his routine, but this day, he fell asleep waiting for his lunch to be made. He slept there peacefully for his usually nap duration - about two hours. Tucked under his arm is his stuffed tiger - a current favorite of his.

What an angel

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I appreciate thoroughness... much as the next girl. But this might be a bit much.

Apparently, just stamping it on the box isn't enough any more? ;)

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