Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I love craft fairs because...

before hat

after hat

...I can get a custom hat made in my favorite color in an hour! I went to the Bust Craftacular this weekend and found a knitted hat style that I loved. But there wasn't a good color for me. So this lovely Alison lady offered to knit one up while I shopped! While I shopped! I came back an hour later and, voila! Brand spankin' new hat. Made just for me. With cute little rhinestones on the side.

I also love to talk to the people that make the things that I purchase. We are often so far removed from what we buy that it doesn't really seem as if someone actually handmade things. When I worked at a toy company the activity book pages were still being hand-collated overseas because it was cheaper to do it that way. Hey at least it gives people a job. We're called consumers for a reason. We consume so much and then toss it away without a second thought. But I bet if you had hand-collated that SpongeBob activity book and then hand-glued on the cover, you'd color up and down every single page. And then turn it over and color the back side.

I love to hear the stories behind my purchases. Like that my vintage wallpaper necklace was made from wallpaper swatch books bought at garage sales. And the hand lotion was brewed up in someone's basement in North Jersey. And the lavender sachets were made from leftover scraps from a friend's screenprinting project. We all know how much I loves scraps of things.

Just as I feel that garbage has feelings, too, so do the products and clothes that we surround ourselves with and the gifts that we give others. There's always a story and it's way more interesting to know the stories which will make us more attached to our goods. And make people think twice before discarding something. Buying fewer, more meaningful objects makes for less garbage. Now that's an interesting concept.

Craft fairs = a celebration of handmade things and their stories. Yay that!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

RePlay ReParty!

This weekend I held the second annual RePlayGround holiday party. And friends of RePlayGround stopped by to celebrate a great year in recycling! Nothing makes me happier than when my not-so-crafty friends get excited about recycling projects. And since no party is complete without a DIY recycling project, we colored and melted piles of #6 plastic into shrinky dinks in true recycled style.

We have lots to celebrate! This year brought the ReMake It recycling kits to store shelves. They've made lots of nice appearances in places like the NYTimes, Treehugger, and Core77. We've helped create oodles of new products for our fellow garbage-loving TerraCycle folks. Our eco-events are taking off and big corporate sponsorts like Pepsi are starting to take notice and get in on the green. There was a nice segment over at the brand new Planet Green network.

And best of all, we got to celebrate with all of our friends that have helped make this year great! Plus, the beer was generously sponsored by the Brooklyn Brewery. That really helped with the celebrating, too.

Friday, December 12, 2008

ReMake It with More Hip than Hippie

The More Hip than Hippie podcasters Dori and Val called me up this week and asked me a few questions about my ReMake It kits. You can listen here at podcast #198. Their eco-funny podast is so much more than granola and tofu. It's beer and chocolate and green tips that won't make you feel guilty about what you don't do. It'll make you feel good on the small green things that you can do.

And if you're listening and that recycling urge comes over you, be sure to visit their store at Greenfeet.com and pick up your favorite ReMake It kit.

Yay Hipsters!

Friday, December 5, 2008

recycle, regift!

It's gift giving season and with the economy on the downswing, there's no better time to save some dough and make your gifts this year.

Wool sweaters work great for reuse projects, like this scarf and potholder project I wrote up for Craft Magazine.

Grab your brother's old football jersey and make a reusable tote bag - which will be a perfect tie-in to your New Year's resolution to use fewer plastic bags.

Then, kick back with a local brew and when you're done, turn the glass bottle into a beaded vase.

Or simply regift something that you aren't using anyway. It'll save time and money and gives you an incentive to clean out the closet. See, this recession thing isn't all bad. It makes us more resourceful.

Regifting reminds me of a holiday at home years ago when my mom was getting our stockings ready on Christmas Eve. She realized that while she had plenty of gifts for my dad, she didn't have many stocking stuffers. Stores were closed, so my brother and I excitedly went on a scavenger hunt through the house to see what we could come up with. We found a few filler items, but the most memorable was a pair of thick wool socks we found buried at the bottom of my dad's sock drawer. And, bonus, they still had the tags on them! My mom promptly stuck the socks into my dad's stocking. On Christmas morning when my dad pulled the socks out, he genuinely exclaimed, "I needed some good wool socks! Thanks!" My brother and I exploded into a fit of giggles, but we were specifically instructed not to tell where they came from. Since my brother and I often exploded into giggles, my dad didn't think much of it. He was just happy with his new socks.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Local Thanksgiving!

I gathered together with some good friends and good food yesterday to once again celebrate a local Thanksigiving. Yum! Just like last year, the food was collected primarily from the nearby farmer's market. And the rest from local businesses.

I recently heard that approximately 70% of the money spent at a local business will stay within the community. The same amount of money spent at a chain store will only keep about 45% of the money in the community. I'd much rather spread my money to my neighbors than someone I've never met before.

In keeping with that theme, we had stuffing with bison sausage from the Union Square farmer's market and bread made from the corner bakery.

Brussel sprouts were in attendance.

The cranberry sauce made a reappearance from last year.

A few local birds. Hi there.

Some wine from around NY. Kudos to Stacy who found a bottle of Brooklyn honey fermented wine. You can't get much more local that that! It's possible a bottle of French wine slipped it's way in there. Ah well, we're only human locavores.

And for the grand finale some sweet potato custard with whipped cream from Ronnybrook farms and baked apples with maple syrup and butter.

Good, fresh, local deliciousness! If we're lucky, my nice neighbor lady Rachel, might post a few recipes over on her blog. Although, like me, she doesn't follow recipes well. It's more of a "handful of this" and "big chunk of that". I like my creative freedom when cooking. Which is probably why I don't bake much. You have to get the baking soda/flour combo right.

While the food was local and everyone in attendance currently lives in New York City, we grew up all over. We had Spain, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Boston, and Long Island represented. And while not everyone was a hardcore locavore, it was a celebration of local food. I even overheard Adam say "I never realized how far my food comes from. This got me looking at labels in the grocery store in a way I never have before." That, is exactly the point.

Good food, good friends, good times. Yum!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

garbage - what a waste!

I got an up close look at a landfill for the first time last week. And boy was it up close. It was part of a project that I'm doing with TerraCycle and our assignment was to go digging around a landfill in Central New Jersey. Wow - was there a mountain of waste. Speaking to Joe, this landfill's head-honcho, I learned that this mountain was garbage collected just in Burlington county. It took them 11 years to fill up 1 enormous hole and then cover it up. They were well on their way to filling up another. Walking through all of the materials, I discovered most of what was in there could've been diverted had it been handled appropriately before tossing. There was paper, glass bottles, plastic containers, leaves. All covered with a layer of gunk. It was so gross and smelled utterly nauseating! I've been known to dig through my fair share of dumpsters and piles of garbage, but once this stuff lands in a landfill, even I don't want to touch it! There was a layer of slime on everything.

This visit reconfirmed that what I've been doing - diverting scraps before they get this far - is so important. And it made me realize that there's a supply of garbage out there that is seemingly unlimited at this point. We have a long way to go before we reach zero waste but it's not impossible. We just have a lot of work to do. I guarantee it won't be a waste.

Both photos were taken from my cell phone. The photo at top is from on top of the 11 year old landfill that has been covered with grass, looking onto the new landfill. The photo above is a "small" pile of garbage accumulated from a few weeks. Landfills get layered with garbage and then soil, so behind that garbage pile, there's another larger pile covered in soil.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

giving garbage a second chance

Listen to our chat on "Giving Garbage a Second Chance". It starts about 6 minutes into the clip and it aired today on WILL - an NPR radio station in Illinois.

The picture above is of the microwave CD holder. It's one of the first "upcycled" projects I ever made. It just seemed like such a waste to throw out something so large and sturdy. So I gave it a second chance. After all, garbage has feelings, too.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

packaged goods

I love bright colorful packaging! Tony the Tiger, the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee dude, Toucan Sam - I love them all. Cereal boxes in particular are one of my favorite items to recycle - as you can see in Craft's recent green issue. The graphics on the outside of the boxes add snap crackle and pop to any project and these containers of cereal have structural value long beyond their first life.

Then there's statistics. About 40% of landfill volume is packaging. Holy cardboard! This brings us to the question of whether packaging should be made in the first place. Granted a certain amount of packaging is necessary to transport objects home, but by offering clever reuse solutions are we giving manufacturers encouragement to continue to overpackage goods? Do we really need 20 twist ties to hold down a single toy doll? Should instead we encourage packages to be more reusable? Design the first life with the second life in mind? Should all packaging be biodegradable? Then should composting collection for packaging start to be put in place? Whew - one solution creates another need.

Which comes first - the chicken packaged in biodegradable packaging or the egg carton that can be turned into game play?

Mancala egg carton image from This into That Garbage Games book

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sustainable NYC!

Do you live in NYC and want to get your hands on a bottle lamp without the trouble of having it shipped? Look no further than Sustainable NYC! It's located at Ave. A and 9th St. and it just reopened this week in a fancy, new space. Our friends over there just had too many great, sustainable goods and had to expand.

If you're not in NY you can always order the kits at karmakiss.com or contact Streamline NYC to find a retailer near you. Hurray for recycling!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

good Times!

I'm very pleased to share that our ReMake It recycling kits have found their way into the gradaddy of news reporting in this fine town - the New York Times! Woo hoo!!! And what a nice article, too.

"There is so much garbage, why not use it?" Maybe our next project will be upcycling newspapers.

Hurray for recycling and do-it-yourselfing!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Craft: Green

I just love Craft Magazine and I love being green - so when these two worlds collide it's a compact book overflowing with goodness!

I've already read my issue cover to cover, so a few highlights include Michelle Kaufmann's DIY herb dryers and Diane Gilleland's mix-and-match greeting cards. And don't miss my very own cereal box projects and sweater scarf.

This issue is intended for the holiday season - so you can make things rather than buy them. What better way to show you care, than with some good old-fashioned scrap materials? My friends and family know that's truly the way I share my love.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Need a quick, last minute Halloween costume? Dig through your recycling bin and gear up for this easy robot project. You'll be thinking inside the box in true recycled style!

>Utility Knife
>Silver spray or acrylic paint
>2 two liter soda bottles (for the arms)
>2 small water bottles (for the antennas)
>Large cardboard box (about your shoulder width)
>Small cardboard box (large enough to fit over your head)
>Assorted recyclables for gears and gauges (we used a yogurt lid, a CD, and junk mail)
>Dry, empty paint can for a trick or treat pail

1. To make a spot for the head to poke through, cut an 8.5" circle in the top, center of the box.

2. Cut an arm hole about 5" in diameter on each side of the box centered at the top. Then, try it on to make sure it fits.

3. For the head - cut a 7" square on the front of the box that's about 1" up from the bottom.

4. Unscrew the water bottles and place them upside-down on the top of the box where you want your antennas. Trace around the opening. Cut. Then stick the water bottle through and secure on the other side by screwing the lid back on.

5. To make the cylinders for the arms, cut off the top and the bottom of 2 liter bottles - keeping the smooth, center portion intact.

6. Paint the boxes and bottles silver in a well ventilated area. Let dry.

7. Add gears and gauges to the front of the robot. We used a CD and poked a hole through a plastic spoon. It's all attached with a brad for a fully functioning "candy meter". We added an old envelope and cut a yogurt lid cut in half for more bells and whistles. Take a look in your recycling bin and use what's there to give your robot personality.

8. Name your robot! You can have any kind of theme. Ours is lovingly known as Recyclobot. But you could use old CDs and cassette tapes for Dance Party Robot. Paper plates and plastic spoons and forks could make up Picnic Robot. Paint cans, brushes and lids could become Art Bot. The sky's the limit on this one! For your trick or treat pail, grab a empty paint can, make sure it's dry, and line the inside of it with paper.

And if you're in on the east coast and have access to Comcast, tune in to the CN8 morning show this Wednesday at 7:30 AM. You can see this costume live along with some other last minute crafty costumes from Craft Magazine.

Thanks, Anna, for sporting the costume in the photo above!
Yay Craft! Yay Halloween!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

colorful AND crunchy

As I ate my breakfast this morning, I glanced into my bowl of granola and thought to myself, "wow - I really am crunchy."

Everything in the bowl is from the farmer's market - the honey toasted granola, the seasonal fruit, and the maple syrup yogurt. And once upon a time I even handpainted the bowl itself when I worked at Our Name is Mud. Local, seasonal, handmade.... crunchy.

I've always known I'm part hippie. My parents met in the Peace Corps. I've been taught to live with as small of an eco-footprint as possible. I buy all of my clothes either from thrift stores (check out Beacon's Closet the next time you're in Williamsburg) or handmade (Etsy is a great place for that). Well, there are a few clothing exceptions. We'll just say the majority of my clothes are vintage and handmade. But that doesn't mean that everything has to be shades of brown and gray. Crunchy can be full of color!

Upon further inspection of my wardrobe I realize I don't currently own, nor ever have owned a pair of Birkenstocks. And I've never really cared for their clunky style anyway. Maybe I'm only 50% hippie.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

get your kits online!

Hey there recycling folks! ReMake It kits are now available online. You can order yours and start recycling over here at Karma Kiss.

There are 3 kits available now, with more on their way. The first of these DIY eco-treasures include the wine cork trivet, bottle lamp, and magazine envelopes. Each one takes less than 5 minutes to make. See - isn't recycling easy?

Hurray for recycling and do-it-yourselfing!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Talkin' Trash take 2

It's amazing what people throw away!

What would you do with a toy army tank, a toy bus, a mop handle, an old clock, a football, a bucket, and everything else left in the garbage in the Williamsburg hood last night?

Carly, Steph, and I set out to inspire others to do more with their garbage than just throw it out. In just a few hours we turned the toy army tank into a clock, the toy bus into a silverware dish drainer device, the football into a purse, a bucket into a padded stool, a pile of wood into a dog house, a mop handle into a drying rack and more.
Actually, we didn't do the turning, but we left talk bubbles that suggest these "trash formations".

Living in New York and being limited on space, you can't take everything useful home with you. But you can encourage others to scavenge what's on the street and turn it into new. Plus it'll hopefully it gives the garbage men a new way of looking at that pile of wood in the morning.

Stay tuned for more adventures in Talkin' Trash. To read the first of our finds look here.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

it's half full

As I was drinking water from a Mason jar this morning I set it down and wondered:

Question: Is it a jar or a glass?

Pondered that for a second then realized:

Answer: It's whatever I need it for. Maybe it's a vase, a pencil holder, a paint brush cleaner, a (not very stable) hat, a lightening bug catcher....

It's all in how you look at it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

adventures in Talkin' Trash!

I don't go dumpster diving nearly enough. And after my recent scrap searching adventure with Time Out NY, I vowed to go dumpster diving on a more frequent basis. Looking at what other people throw away is what inspired me to get into this business in the first place.

Having already quite the collection of scrap materials, I sometimes avoid walking past certain cool-looking types of scrap. I just don't have room to store everything with potential that I find. But I realized that I don't have to take everything home with me. I can encourage others to recycle, too. After all, that's what RePlayGround is all about - teaching other people that they're garbage can become great raw material for making new things.

So tonight a friend and I embarked on our first, in what I plan to make regular, Talkin' Trash adventure! The idea is to place handwritten notes on cool scrap materials and make suggestions for what they could be transformed into. Showing passersby what scrap materials can become if just looked at a little differently. An oversized planter can become a trash can. An old drawer can be turned on it's side to become a shelf. We started with a neat pile of metal spikey things. Those could become stakes to sections off a garden plot. And pretty pages from books can easily be turned into envelopes.

Stay tuned for more Talkin' Trash goodness coming your way. And who knows - you may just want to join in next time.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes. It's from Daniel Freitag of Freitag bags and he passed is on to me as I was researching my graduate thesis entitled Trash Nouveau.

"Waste is a natural resource in the wrong place. Change the place or the context and you have usable products."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Compost piles have no dress code

friend: "Whatcha doin' tomorrow night?"

me: "Going to a fundraiser for my compost pile. Wanna come?"

friend: "Um" {brief pause} "Sure!"

me: "Cool. It starts at 6:30 and it's at Urban Rustic."

friend: "I'll be coming right after work. What should I wear?"

me: "It's a compost pile. I think just about anything goes."


Wow! I can't believe this movie has been out for months and I just recently saw it for the first time. I have been pretty busy with moving, coordinating a big Pepsi event, and re-designing scrap for Terracycle, among other scrappy things.

Wall-e had such an important message with a great delivery. Well, anything in cartoon form gets my attention. This one was particularly well done. Wall-e is the last robot on Earth who's programmed to clean up garbage by compacting and stacking it.

The movie is sending a message about changing the way we live and also giving us hope that we can change. All of the humans were sent to space while robots cleaned the Earth. The humans were huge and floated around all day on hovers and never had to walk. They drank their food. They communicated with the person sitting next to them via the screen right in front of their face.

I won't give away the ending, but will say that what they craved was plant life, swimming, dancing.... earth. All of the things you can't get from a hovercraft or blended drink shake.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

fun with Pepsi

RePlayGround had a table at a Pepsi event recently and we had the best time showing everyone there how to upcycle Pepsi items into new, usable products.

We made soda bottle soap dishes and picture frames, cereal box wallets, Pepsi cup angels, and a whole lot more.

It just made my day when this email came through the inbox:

"We just wanted to say THANK YOU to you folks over at RePlayGround! It was our favorite tent at the Pepsi Festival and we are using all of the wonderful "repurposed" creations we made! We wanted to share these awesome photos of your staff as well. Wishing we lived closer so that we could join your group...

Future RePlayGround Interns???
Annie, Holly, Hattie and Tess"

Posted below are some photos that were sent from the event.

Happy recycling!

boxes... and more boxes

I recently moved my design studio and even though the new place is only 3 blocks from the old, I still had to pack up every single scrap material in the place. If you've ever moved, you know the importance of boxes.... and more boxes. I certainly do - because it's how I keep all of my scrap materials organized.

If you've ever gone to the grocery store on recycling day you can find bales of boxes stacked like a tree fort (a replayground of sorts?). Help get a second use out of those boxes. It's just silly to buy new ones, when so many used ones exist.

I do understand that moving ranks high as one of the most stressful life events. So if you're running out of time for a full-on box recollection, the next best thing is to buy them used - like these from usedcardboardboxes.com.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

pop up funnel

Why would anyone buy a funnel when they can make one with a few simple cuts?

Some friends were recently at my design studio helping me cut up soda bottles. We're using the bottoms of the bottles to make soap dishes, the centers of the bottles will become picture frames, so the top portion was the only part that made it to the recycling bin. Then a friend held up the top part and simply stated "funnel".

Of course!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Design Junkie on The G Word

Check out my eco-smackdown on You Tube. In this G Word episode on Planet Green, I face off in a car junkyard against design friend Evette Rios. We transform car parts into new furniture. Isn't it amazing what you can do with junk when you really put your mind to it?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Urban Gardening

If you're in the New York City area and you haven't been to PS 1 yet this summer, well go! The courtyard area has a really great urban gardening exhibit with vegetables planted in large industrial scrap tubes. The photo up there shows someone harvesting yummy cherry tomatoes. It's so fun to see a garden mixed with the urban skyscraper architecture in the background. More of New York City should look like that.

Reduce - Repackage

I was shoe shopping with a friend earlier this week and while the new shoes are cool, the shoebox is even cooler! This box from the company BC has handles attached so the box becomes the bag. No need for an extra shopping bag when carries these puppies out the door. What a smart design with a simple adjustment to the old classic. How often do you fall in love with a shoebox at first site?

Thursday, July 31, 2008


The latest addition to the RePlayGround team is Carly. She's a superstar seamstress, biker, and all-around good eco-person! She even has her own side business sewing yoga bags from fabric scraps. Keep an eye out for more good scrappy things coming your way.

Happy recycling!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

7-year old designer starts her career

It's one thing to create projects and instructions and show people how to turn scrap into new. It's elevated to a whole new level when people use the concepts of recycling and design to create their own new projects.

This week I received one of the best gifts ever! My 7-year old niece converted an empty chapstick container and into a toothpick holder. And not just any toothpick holder, it's for those fancy, frilly toothpicks.

My brother explained that she came up with the chapstick conversion project all by herself. The center of the chapstick container had popped out and she thought of putting toothpicks inside. Then she decided to send it to me so I would never be tooth-pick-less again! So cute. Plus this special container is still raspberry scented.

Here's a pic of the sweet note she taped to the back of the toothpick holder.
"tiffy this is not lipstik for you. It is now a {recycled} lipgloss container with toothpicks in it. love marina."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

recycle your credit

Hey there fellow design junkies! Any thoughts on what to do with used credit cards and gift cards?

We've made them into jewelry and even packaged them on old cards. But there are only so many earrings we can make. What else can these ubiquitous plastic pieces be turned into? Guitar picks. Mini notepad covers. Back scratchers. Art mosaics. So many possibilities. Which is good because there are so many old credit and gift cards out there just waiting to be turned into something new.