sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

April 22, 2012

Earth Day Special: How to Upcycle Your Garbage Service

Filed under: Bay Area politics, politics — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:56 am

Earth Day weekend AND a heatwave.  Goody!

At my last me time appointment my dentist said, jokingly of course, that he’s telling his children to go into waste management.  They’ll get to drive a big truck and wave at toddlers.  No education is required, and it’s union.  Doctors, on the other hand, have to study, pay rent and insurance and all that, and at the end the money is probably the same.

Our garbage collectors have major attitude issues.  Last time they didn’t pick up our yard trimmings because the lid of our green garbage basket wasn’t fully closed, as per instructions.  I had to call and complain, and they told me to remove some of contents and sent their truck the next day, once the excess disposal was stored in my yard.  I’m not sure how green it is to divert a huge truck to pick up our garbage off schedule.  I doubt it’s financially sound, too.

Evidently they have people in their office compiling lists of arts and crafts projects for us common people and posting them on their website.  Waste Management doesn’t want to see their customers merely recycling old crap, they want their customers to get arty.  They call it an “upcycle”, and they put an ad in the paper we get to inform us about the existence of the webpage.

amazing upcycling

That's what I call civilization!

Turns out, it’s possible to DIY recycled paper.  Will the skill come handy once the dollar collapses, I wonder…  There is a way to turn a lowly cookie sheet into an Advent calendar — “[e]ven those who do not follow Advent”.  And oh, have you ever stitched yourself a hat out of 70s neckties?

necktie hat

I know an upcycle when I see one

To make jewelry out of an old CD assemble:

  • An unwanted CD
  • A pair of scissors
  • Something to heat the CD with (optional)
  • Something to file the edges with
  • Something to drill a hole with
  • An old necklace chain (with links), and a clasp if the chain doesn’t have one
  • Earring hooks (or clips, if you prefer)
  • Jump rings, or a leftover piece of wire long enough to be bent into a loop
  • Small pliers and wire cutters

That should be easy!  I already have a pair of scissors, and I’m sure DH owns pliers and wire cutters.  Home Depo might be able to advise about these “somethings” they mentioned, it’s only a question of being able to fill my gas tank at current prices to get to the store.  From then on I can reduce, reuse and upcycle while using a nice array of electric and/or battery-powered tools.

To make a vase out of a wine bottle, in addition to a wine bottle with label peeled off, procure:

- (1) Top plate connector/ceiling flanges (3/8″ size)
- (1) 1″ split ring hanger
- (2) screws to fit and hold the top plate connector (you may also want drywall anchors if you are not mounting directly into studs or another material)
- (1) piece of 3/8″ threaded rod, cut into 2 1/2″ pieces.
- 1/2″ double sided foam mounting tape (optional – if your bottle’s neck is smaller than 1″, like ours were)
- Silk flowers of your choice.

And to think that for years I was just sticking flowers in a bottle because I thought the label was cute!

For a cool scarf pillow one only needs a cool scarf and a pillow (in addition to sawing machine and notions).  To find cool scarves, browse second hand establishments at your leisure.  Patience and, again, gas money are required.  What I’m trying to get to is this: if vintage DIY aesthetic is your thing, go for upcycling, just don’t pretend you are saving the planet.

I actually like the homemade look, and I will be doing DIY projects with my children once they are old enough to develop necessary hand-eye coordination.  I do realize that these DIY projects are environmentally taxing.  The fact that they require more human and natural resources makes them seem well loved.  Plus I adore the mystique of vintage (well, not the 70s necktie kind).

Quite a few trendy merchants do the upcycled look these days.  Their merchandize is not inexpensive.  If Etsy is pricier than Wall-mart it’s in part because Etsy’s vendors who work on small scale have high overhead because they are unable to maximize the use of energy and other resources in the way that economy of scale allows.

While big retailers manufacture their products in polluting factories overseas, an American small-time craftsman still uses equipment and supplies made in China.  Industrial scale manufacturers have one big machine that works all day for many years, but my handy neighbors use theirs little ones intermittently.  That’s not the shrewdest use of resources.  The chains deliver their products on airplanes and in large trucks, Etsy vendors drag their SUVs all over the town when they run their errands.  Were Etsy environmentally sound, it would probably be cheaper, too.

What really bothers me is that somebody somewhere is actually drawing a salary for compiling lists of DIY projects, and that this salary is not paid for by a private source (I would have no problem with that) but by fees imposed on private residences by a company with a government contract.  What I expect from my garbage service is timely and cheap disposal of refuse.

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