Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Auto couture

I'm a little late on this one, but just had to share this amazing gown I stumbled across (via Craftzine and Ecouterre). It's made of discarded radiator copper and is a fabulous example of how upcycling can be sensible and beautiful! (Learn more at the designer's site: emmawhiteside.com.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Plain and simple microwave popcorn

I love popcorn. It's always been one of my favorite snacks, ever since I'd come home from school and make a big bowlful in my family's air popper. Now I'm a grownup. I don't have an air popper, and sometimes the stovetop just feels like too much effort. And microwave popcorn is just kinda disgusting - and not so great for the environment besides. Even if you disregard the studies potentially linking the inner coating of the packaging with cancer, and even if you don't mind the nasty artificial taste (and smell that won't leave the room for days), think about all that packaging. One cardboard box (which, admittedly, can be recycled or turned into a nifty wallet), three plastic wrappers (which can't), and three wax-and-plastic-coated paper bags (which also can't), for just three bowls of popcorn? No thanks.

So what's the answer? Simple. You can make fantastic microwave popcorn at home with nothing but loose popcorn, a brown paper lunchbag, and a piece of tape. Really. I love telling people this because they are always shocked that there is not a special magic trick involved.

Your standard brown lunchbag (sold in big packs of 50 or so, for cheap) is the perfect size. Use about 1/3 cup of popcorn to fill the bag (and a bowl that will make at least two bellies very happy). Fold it over once to prevent escaping kernels, tape it shut, and go ahead and pop. After you're finished, put in a bowl and season as desired. (I like a mix of melted butter and olive oil with a little salt. Cumin, paprika or smoked paprika are also favorites.)

Usually, the "popcorn" setting on your microwave works just fine, but you might want to keep an eye on it the first few times and adjust the timing accordingly. It's also smart to shake the bag somewhere in the middle of cooking. Other than that, this method takes no more effort than regular microwave popcorn, but you've just eliminated lots of waste and some icky fake butter from your world! It's a delicious, simple, and relatively eco-friendly snack.

To boost the eco-friendly factor even further, buy organic popcorn (it's worth the extra money - tastier and pops better), and rescue brown bags from takeout orders and re-use them in the microwave. I personally don't recommend re-using the bags after they've been microwaved once (the second batch never seems to pop quite right), but you can compost or recycle the brown bags at the end of their (extended) lives.

Happy popping!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Crafting a green community in Flatbush

Sustainable Flatbush is a great example of a community bonding through building a green lifestyle. As a non-profit, they pursue their mission of creating an equal-opportunity, sustainable neighborhood through the arts, forums, volunteer groups, gardening workshops, livable streets initiatives, and partnerships with local businesses.

Sustainable Flatbush is mobilizing the neighborhood around their Zero Waste initiative, which addresses re-purposing from multiple angles - composting, upcycling, and swap events.

Menu snowflakes, from Greening Flatbush craft event at Vox Pop cafe

Magazine snowflakes make great projects for neighborhood events!

Join in, and check out the vibrantly overflowing Sustainable Flatbush calender for lots of green activities in the neighborhood.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Shirt Cuff Wallet

Just wanted to share the upcycled wallet I made earlier this week.

I was using some of the fabric from an old button-down shirt for other projects, and the odds and ends (cuffs, collar, buttons) always tend to be the hardest bits of clothing to recycle. I had been wanting a wallet upgrade - just a simple, good-looking outer shell with a cash pocket, to hold a photo sleeve / card holder I already had. It turned out that these particular shirt cuffs were the perfect width for the holder. I loved this plaid fabric and was totally tickled that the size worked out.

I cut the cuff off above the hem, leaving it intact so I'd be able to use the button and buttonhole to close the wallet. Then I cut a rectangle from the front of the shirt, hemmed it, and sewed it to the cuff to serve as a pocket for cash and to hold the cards. (The top edges look a little frayed because I cut that part directly from the shirt - but I made sure to cut along the part where the cuff joined the sleeve so it wouldn't fray any further. I could have tidied it up with bias tape, but I kinda dig the weathered look.)

Less than an hour's worth of work, and bits and pieces of fabric I thought I'd have to throw away, and my cash and cards have a nifty new place to call home!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Super Crafternoon!

My lovely crafty buddies swung by the RePlayGround yesterday for a SuperFun SuperCrafternoon!

It was a free form craft party and clothing swap all in one. Since it was Super Bowl Sunday cheese-flavored snacks that turn your fingers orange were promised. Of course I got the organic kind and they turned out to be more yellow than orange. But people were too busy cutting and sewing up a recycled storm to notice.

Naomi and friends whipped up some old-sweater whales in no time.

Leslie crafted up some lovely slippers from an old scarf, sweater, and some billboard material.

even more crafty goodness after the jump!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Building a home from garbage

If home is where the heart is, then my garbage-loving heart is racing with joy over this amazing design construction by the Alfredo Santa Cruz family in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina.

The Casa De Botellas and every piece of furniture inside is built entirely from trashed, non-recyclable plastic containers. The walls are made from 1200 PET plastic bottles, supporting a 1300 piece Tetra Pack roof, holding 140 piece CD jewel case doors and windows, surrounding 120 PET plastic bottle couches, and 200 PET plastic bottles beds to sleep on. Some bottles are even filled with soil or sand, to help contain a fire outbreak.

This is an inspiring project that really demonstrates the power of garbage upcycling and creative thinking, highlighting the previous history of the material and confronting consumption head on - then using design to re-create our future and change the culture of cyclical production/waste.

Home is in the details - it's the creative design touch that really makes this garbage house come to life