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Composting 101

So I have been thinking about starting a compost. My biggest problem is that I live in an apartment, in a community and have to respect my neighbors.  There is a lot of land in the community so I could start with talking with the landlords and see what they think. I can also shop around for containers I can use on a personal level or share with a few friends.

I found this video which simplifies it for me very well but I think it’s something I need to know everything about. Over the next few weeks I will dig into Composting 101, really get my hands dirty. I know it will be a fun and informative venture. Sure hope you all join me on this journey and we all learn how to composting at any level , in any community.

How The Un-Creative Re-Use

By: Susie Terry

Here I am, bChill’s reluctant and oft-times cranky recycler, with another installment of how I have figured out how to be a little more green without a lot of effort!  I know it’s been awhile since I have posted any new ideas but I have been busy using Styrofoam, drinking from straws I later throw on the ground, and storing all my belongings in individual Ziploc plastic baggies!  O.K. not really…

Some people have to hide their smoking habit or drinking or spending/shopping habits from their spouse or partner in life, I have to hide my paper towel use!  That being said, in my household I learn much more about the impact of trash on the world.  I am also a near-expert on plastic, but that is another story. (See ‘A World Of Plastic’ blog)  One thing I have learned is that the best and most inexpensive way to recycle something is to re-use it.  It sounds really easy to just take something and re-purpose it into something else and voila!  Here’s the thing… if you Google re-use ideas you get an awful lot of “do it yourself” type projects for crafty/handy types.  Have you guys figured out yet that I am neither crafty nor handy?  Well, that could not be a truer statement!  I’m no Martha Stewart or Ty Pennington and, frankly, have no interest in developing those skills!  I just want to be a better citizen to the planet.

I have tried the “turn junk mail into Christmas ornaments”, the “turn old jars into interesting picture frames” and looked at a lot of furniture made out of all kinds of re-use items.  Usually I just end up with a lot of frustration and even more trash.  So these are the ways I have found that you can easily re-use stuff without spending a day throwing things and tearing your hair out (or maybe that’s just me).

  1. That bag of potato chips I just emptied (or cereal or frozen shrimp… you get the idea) becomes the next bag I use to empty the cat box or take with me to the dog park for picking up my pooches poop.  At least it gets another use before going in the trash and prevents an extra bag being used. Plus the weight keeps it from blowing away and causing litter.
  2. The jar of spaghetti sauce I just used (I know, you are shocked I don’t make my own sauce from scratch!) is now filled with rusty old nails and railroad ties we have collected from the street and serves as a door stop because my house is windy.  But you can fill it with anything semi-heavy that you would otherwise throw out. 
  3. My collection of food storage containers is not a modern looking, all fit together in the cupboard, color matching, Rubbermaid type set from Target or Costco (although that sounds really nice…).  My cupboard is filled with the washed out containers that my cottage cheese, fresh salsa, poke, and many leftovers came home in.
  4. My old socks are now dusting cloths and car washing sponges.
  5. Every pot that holds a plant in my house (plants, I might mention that I have been forbidden from touching because I kill them) came from the Salvation Army store or other second hand store.

That’s just a few ideas for you guys.  Like I have said before, every small change counts, even the easy ones!  If you happen to be the Martha type I highly recommend checking out some of the DIY re-use ideas that are all over the internet. Squidoo.com has some fun ones.

See you next time bChillers!

Five Single-Use Items I Learned to Live Without

By Susie Terry

Now that it is 2012 it seems like you have to have been living under a rock if you aren’t aware of the issues regarding the environment these days.  I have always considered myself a person who cares about and keeps herself aware of these issues.  However, after following bChill on Facebook it became clear (or I should say, harder to avoid) that the time has come when simply caring about the issue isn’t enough.  It was time for me to start walkin’ the walk… or putting my money where my mouth is… or at least the can in the recycle bin.  No big deal, right?

Ok, here’s the thing… I lack patience.  I am a big fan of convenience and I pride myself on working smarter, not harder.  Luckily, I believe, and often say, “Something is better than nothing” so start small.  I started by trying to make sure my recycle bag was bigger than my trash bag each time I took them out to the cans.  The problem with this was that it led me to question everything I threw out.  I realized right away that I had a lot of items that I used once and then tossed away.  More importantly, these were all things that made my life easier in some way!  Now that my awareness had been raised I could no longer ignore these items filling my trash can.   So… as I cursed bChill along the way, I found ways to do without the following items:

  1. Napkins.  No, I am not walking around with dirty hands and food on my face, I swear!  Remember those cloth napkins your mom used?  I invested in a few of those, use and then wash them each week with my laundry.  I have to admit, this one was easier than I thought it would be and it is kind of fun to find cute and different patterns and types.  I am happy to say that there have not been any napkins in my house or my trash can in months!  So I guess that’s a point for bChill…
  2. Dusting Cloths.  This I initially did begrudgingly…  I really love those little square cloths with the pledge already on them for a quick dusting of the house.  But there they were filling the can again…(sigh).  I bought a bottle of pledge and recycled an old shirt into a dusting rag.  I have to be honest I still miss those little cloths BUT I had forgotten that this way actually does a better job of dusting AND, added bonus, it is much less expensive this way.  Ok… bChill 2, Susie 0.
  3. Water Bottles.  This was also not too difficult for me.  I invested in a few reusable bottles until I found the type I like and that works best for me.  I had to try a few before finding my favorite and there are a few types for purchase right here on bChill’s website.  Next I bought a Brita filtered water pitcher for my refrigerator.  Easy peasy.  This time the added bonus was I did not have to lug cases of bottled water up the stairs to my apartment.  An initial downside was forgetting to fill my bottle before rushing out of the house for work but that is when those water bottles that didn’t become my favorite came in handy – I put one in the car.  I guess that means bChill 3, Susie 0.
  4. Ziploc baggies.  Let me be clear, I have not completely done away with Ziploc’s but I have eliminated the smaller size and now only have the freezer ones for when I really need them.  I used to put everything in a Ziploc!  I would buy the sandwich size in a box of 50 and go through them in a month or so.  I mean I could put all my snacks in them, organize my fridge, pre-make salads to grab on the go…  it was bad!  I know you are thinking plastic baggies are recyclable but the truth is plastic is complicated and in a lot of places (like the island I now live on) they are not.  That means they go to the landfill and let’s face it, how much can really go to a landfill on an island?  Frankly, I have no idea but it can’t be a lot which means my little baggies will end up in the Pacific Ocean choking some baby seal!  This was not any easy one for me and I’m still resisting the urge to run out and buy a Costco sized box of them.  Think about the ocean and the baby seal Susie!… ok, ok.  This is a simple case of using Tupperware instead.  I don’t like it and it creates more dishes to wash but what are you going to do?  This is just a sacrifice that has to be made.  I am still thinking of trying these reusable baggies to see if I like them better.  Since there is no added bonus on this one I think this point might have to go to me for making the sacrifice.
  5. Pre-packaged fruit cups.  Yes, this is a random one.  In the name of convenience, I really like these guys.  Not only are they are easy to grab on the go and throw in your lunchbox but if you like to watch your calories these are portioned perfectly and you don’t have to think about it.  This is pure Susie-laziness.  Some of these do not even come in the type of plastic that can go in the recycle bin.  Turns out the same brand puts the same fruit and the same “lite” fruit juice in cans.  I tried getting the can and portioning the fruit ahead of time into Tupperware containers.  I have to say, it doesn’t quite keep the same but it’s not bad.  This has probably been the most difficult for me but again, it was a sacrifice that had to be made and there is a solution to these “one use” products.  bChill 3, Susie 2, BUT…..  Earth 5!

I share my struggles to say not everyone is an eco-snob.  Not everyone finds these changes easy, no brainers.  Some changes are more difficult than others.  It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t change anything or that you don’t care as much as the next guy.  It means we have all become accustomed to convenience and you never really know which of those you can do without until you try.  If I can do it, anyone can!  Remember, something is better than nothing.

 

We want to thank Susie for her wonderful insight and excellent blog! Thank You!

If you want to submit a guest blog please do so on our contact page. Love to hear what you do to bChill!

In addition to the link Susie put up here is another for other bottles and reuseable  packaging: Natural Kidz

bTheExample

Not that there is anything wrong with it but most folks are followers. The roll of leader comes to the few, the proud… Yeah, we got it. This system works out pretty great really. With too many leaders things get really confusing and it takes way too much time for things to get done. When you get someone with a great idea they get the ball rolling. Then a few others join the cause and can help put a spin on that ball. Then you get the backbone to keep that ball in motion. This is how most things get done. It works as long as all the pieces keep doing their job.

With this said it makes sense that people can learn and follow by example. If one person starts out with a goal to do something others will join in. We start revolutions, communities, religions, countries. Well, let’s not go that far but you get my point. Let’s start with something simple, picking up after yourself. Sounds simple but this one action by everyone would stop pollution almost completely. Children learn by watching their parents. If they see Mom throw a gum wrapper out the window of the car or Dad snap a bottle cap into a pond this becomes acceptable behavior.

Being that example for good green behavior can be a challenge. No one wants to sound bossy or preachy so being suggestive works lots better. One of the groups I love so much puts it just like that, Eco-Snobbery Sucks. Being snobby and bossy is going to get you nowhere fast. Every little action gets a reaction. This group gives out lots of information on little things you can do everyday to help your environment. It can be as little as picking up after yourself, picking up in your neighborhood or starting a recycling program. Others will see your positive actions and follow in your example.

Our friends at Earth911 have a great article about polite suggestions you can make to your friends and family when throwing a party. It’s hard to make 75 year old Auntie Jane understand that wrapping up the Ambrosia with half a roll of plastic wrap is really uncool anymore. It’s even harder to tell a 7 year old that straws are no fun. They are going to think you are no fun. In such a case you could get them their own straw as this article suggests. There is nothing cooler to a kid than having their own stuff. Plus this action is an example to your friends and the restaurants that you don’t want to pollute the world with every glass of water you drink.

There are plenty of other examples of being a green example; start a recycling program at work, have a beach or river clean up, turn down plastic shopping bags, use reusable containers for leftovers and school lunches. Doing things that make a difference also make you feel good. And if someone else adopts your example you are walking on clouds! Yes, another win/win. bTheExample, bPartOfTheSolution and bChill while doing it.

Recycling 101

As you all know and are tired of hearing, bChill moved to Hawaii. It has been a great choice for us but with it come some changes. That “need” to run out and buy every new gadget around must be curbed. The idea that just because it’s on sale you will be getting one is not always going to happen. That huge selections of items is not going to be there and recycling is not always very easy.

Having been in a major city for the last 21 years has spoiled us. Programs like this one in the Twin Cities are making it super easy to recycle everything. (Good job guys!) I do remember when I first moved to San Diego we had separate bins to put out paper, cans and bottles. This was not a big deal at all. The bins lived outside for all to use and were picked up once every 2 weeks. Done and done. As the city grew so did the demand for recycling. The city founded a new program that made it pretty simple for it’s citizens, put everything in one bin and we’ll do the rest. Awesome! These programs that make it easy are much more successful because there is little work for us to do.

So, yes, the number 1 reason to NOT recycle is space and convenience. This is something we had to figured out in our new home. I won’t kid you, it’s not real simple but these groups; Realsimple.com and Greenmi.net had some very helpful hints for us to start our own household program. Most centers will take all number 1 & 2 plastics, glass bottles, newspaper, cardboard and metal cans so these are the best things to adopt in your program. First, you have to get a few bins. We picked up 2 little cans for paper and cans which fit under the sink pretty well. Since we have a large closet in our main room we were able to put our trash can and a recycled box for beverage containers. Plus Ruby’s litter box hides in there really well. All to do next is to find the nearest center and Earth911.com makes that super easy.

If you have your game going well at home it is always the right time to add something new. The NRDC has this great list on how to step it up at home and on the road. Simple changes and adding the other 3 “R’s” can make an extraordinary difference. Reduce! Reuse! Refuse! There are many new products out there that can help reduce too. I just picked up these babies and I am powered up for up to 3 years and will have a much smaller environmental impact. (25 bucks at Costco)

 

There are other reasons people don’t recycle. This blog from Green Remodeling tells us that money, misinformation and confusion help some to just say NO! Knowing the pros and cons and impact could change a few minds I am sure. These articles explain what is really going on with recycling and why it is so important; Bright Hub and The Gemini Geek. And then there are always the pictures that say a thousand words. This is a very disturbing video so don’t click the link if you are faint of heart. Unfortunately some must see it to believe it. I am tired of seeing it.

Just one simple change can make a huge difference. If everyone added one item to their 4 “R’s” list our oceans, streets, ground water would be cleaner. Our wildlife would be safer and our children’s lives would be better. That really does not sound to inconvenient to me. Help your friends adopt some attitude and be part of the solution.

Disposable Society

I have been doing a lot of beach, lake, park, street clean ups lately. It’s a great way to be outside, get some sun and feel good about doing something in my community. Good for the Earth and psyche. I would love to say it is funny the things I have found on these walks, but it’s not. Just yesterday I found a disposable razor in a park, guess that’s as good a place as any for a shave. But usually it’s paper and plastic bags. Cigarette butts. Wrappers from candy, take out, chips, juice boxes, whatever. Glass and plastic bottles. Bottle caps and the plastic tabs that help us get into said items. To go cups and containers. Newspapers (Ya, even still!) and magazines. Flyers from local clubs and restaurants. You get it, lots of stuff. And for some reason there are folks out there that have no problem dropping them on the ground and walking away.

The thing that makes me sad is that all these disposable items are everywhere. Rivers of trash are all over the world. Little and big pieces laying around everywhere! In community areas; beaches, parks, gutters, highways, everywhere! We have all heard of the garbage islands floating in our oceans. These islands are made up of items that are supposed to make our lives easier. Use it and throw it away items. One use items. Not going to be so easy for our children, or their children. And on top of what was already out there the effects of the Japan earthquake and tsunami are floating around out there and coming to a shore near you.

These items were made for good reason, disposable food packaging keeps disease and tampering minimal. They make it easier to open up that pack of gum. The little plastic tab on bread keeps it in the bag. That plastic wrapped straw helps you drink. That shrink wrap with the zip helps us make sure the cap was not removed so we can remove it to take off the protector seal. That plastic bag…. Sorry, obviously I’m a little bugged. Just hoping for a better way.

There are companies working on these problems and helping all of us to a better way. London Bio Packaging is working on biodegradable and recycled packaging for the food and catering industry. TerraCycle turns these one use items into something that can be used. RecycleBank turns your hard earned trash into rewards that you can use or donate to your community. And there are many others that support a greener lifestyle.

There are ways we all can help. We can be better about reducing the use of these one use items. We can suggest to our local restaurants and stores a better way for packaging items for us. We can put things in a trash or recycling bin and teach our children why that is so important. We can go on clean ups. Let’s end with a famous proverb; You must treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents. It is loaned to you by your children. They are not disposable.

Helping Hands

We all need a little help now and then. We take on new things we know nothing about and cannot find the end. Sometimes we are not even sure where to look for that help. But we have to start somewhere. I get myself into all sorts of stuff that I have to figure out along the way. Be it a project, an event or even a design, I get stuck and hope to find that helping hand.

One of the projects I recently started had  a lot of quirks. Back in the 80’s I had a tricked out sound system in my Honda Civic so I had to have hundreds of cool tapes. I loved my tapes. I had stuff from Bowie to Oingo Boingo to Chicago. They remained cool to me well into the 90’s but then they ended up in the attic. For years I just pretended that one day I would use them again. That day has long gone away. My search for an eco-friendly demise began with Earth911. They listed many local recyclers, I picked Recon Recycling, I am sure you have something similar in your area. After a little chat with a few folks there it was decided that they would take the hard plastic but not the tape inside. Ok, now what? I remembered seeing this amazing designer on a TV show. She made beautiful clothes out of recycled materials and had one made out of old cassette tape. Her name is Deborah Lindquist and she is a pretty big deal. Well, I’ll give it a shot, send her an email and ask where she got the materials. This wonderful lady could not have been any sweeter. With all she has going on with her company she gave this question immediate attention in the kindest way. (Plus she liked the bChill Facebook page) She even checked back with me a little later to see how it was going. Deborah hooked me up with a lady named Alyce Santoro so I made contact. Alyce is a visionary that weaves the tape into fabric. Yes I said, weaves it into fabric. So I write to her and explain that I am not a nut case and ask if I can send her the removed tape. This doll face writes back immediately also in the affirmative and apologizes to me because she does not have a budget for shipping! Who are these amazing people? I am still in awe of the warmth and complete willingness to help a complete stranger with these odd requests. The tape is on it’s way and will be gracing the red carpet sometime soon I am sure. Thank you all for being so helpful.

When we started doing events last June we had no idea what we were getting into. We knew we should have something to keep the long day’s sun off us, some chairs for breaks and of course, the T-shirts. The boy scout in me thought to bring some water and snacks but otherwise we were in the dark. Should we bring all of our shirts? Sure! Should we spend lots of money on swag? Sure! Should we get over excited about our first sale? Sure! Should we use the sales money to buy beer? Sure! Anyhow, the best thing that came out of that day was our new friends Dan and Jill of Surfsnack. Yes, I mention them a lot and with good reason. They taught us quite a few things that day and let us know about all the cool events coming up. We have had the pleasure of setting up with them again and it is such a treat. Great people and they promote us all the time!

As far as the designing, I come up with some stuff here and there but never know how to go about it. If it was up to me to put something together we would have stick figures standing next to unrecognizable objects. That’s where Stacy D’Aguiar saves my butt every time. I have said, somehow she understands what I’m talking about and turns it into this awesome design every time. They are hip, interesting and take my anxiety away.

I feel so lucky to have found myself in this new career with so many wonderful people. It’s a new club for me to learn and grow with. And in creating this new networking system I am creating great new friends and a lifestyle that makes me so darn happy. Here’s to a life of helping hands, helped hands and bChill.

Some Things I Learned From My Mother

As I get older I have been seeing a lot of my Mother in me. Some of those things get on my nerves but most of it is pretty darn cool. Unbeknownst to me, my Mother made me a little treehugger from the very beginning.

My Mother has always been a thrifty one. And I mean this in the best possible way. I remember as a kid, Mom would reuse things around the house in order to save up some cash for our “Tuesday Trips”. These were really fun but I’ll get to that later… She would reuse plastic containers. Grocery bags. Glass jars and bottles. We had lunch boxes before it was even cool! She made us outfits (I loved my striped pants) and used leftover cloth for napkins and such. And I do believe that she still dusts with some of our old cloth diapers.

She has always been a great example to me. Watching her skills in action taught me that I can fix most things. Turn junk into something useful. And even convert trash into art. We were together in Spain when I started my rusty metal collection. She thought it was a neat idea. We will see if I ever get anything done with it.

The other thing my Mother has been saying since I was a little girl, “Don’t Waste Water! It is the most precious resource in the world”. She’s such a visionary. This was some time ago (I prefer not to reveal how long) and just in the past years have the masses considered it to be a long term problem.

As a family group, Mom would take us on the “Tuesday Trips”. We would all look forward to this summer event. It began by jumping into a recycled car, hoping it would start (and then again when we were headed home). Mom would have selected our destination and have it be a surprise for us kids. It was never dull getting there because we were on an adventure and it was always to a beautifully peaceful place. There was always a nutritious picnic. We were taught to pick up everything we brought in and leave only our appreciation.

These things are all so special to me and it is wonderful to convey a feeling I adopted so long ago. Thanks Mom. I may not remember so vividly but I was paying attention.

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