Compost pickup options

If you’re not able to go to your normal compost drop-off location, you may be able to get compost picked up! A lot of the services are bicycle-powered and pick up every 1 or 2 weeks. Cost seems to be around $20/5 gallon bucket or $30-50/month.

Here’s a map of US and Canadian compost pickup services.

Another rag rug

I made a custom-request rag rug for Sibling C! This is going to go beside a bed, so you don’t step on the cold floor in the winter.

Made from 1 sheet, 8 shirts, 3 of those cloth bags sheet sets come in, and about 10 pairs of underwear (the elastic was all stretched out).

This one is also braided, but in a zig-zag instead of a circle.

White wine mushroom cream sauce

Another way to use up lingering wine. Eat with pasta, omelette, crepes, toast, etc.

Recipe

  • 3 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Parsley to taste
  1. Cook onion and garlic in butter until translucent.
  2. Add mushrooms and cook until they release liquid. Add salt and spices.
  3. Add white wine and cream, and reduce by half.

We didn’t have cream on hand, so we substituted macadamia nut butter mixed with water, which worked quite well! Macadamia nuts are super oily, so the richness was a good replacement for the cream.

Fondue

I’ve been trying to use up some white wine (originally found on the sidewalk when walking back from the train station). Thanks to Reddit, I made a couple of really good and quite novel (for us) dishes in the last few days. The first was Swiss fondue, recipe courtesy of half-Swiss friend S! Thanks~

Fondue

  • 40% by weight Gruyère
  • 40% by weight Emmental (can substitute with Jarlsberg or similar American “Swiss” cheese)
  • 20% by weight Appenzeller (can substitute with havarti)
  • 50% of the total weight of the cheese of dry white wine (e.g. Sauvignon blanc) (1 cup ≈ 0.5 lb)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Pepper
  • Nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup kirsch or water
  1. Rub pot with cut side of garlic clove.
  2. Add grated cheese and wine to pot on low heat.
  3. When melted and bubbling, add cornstarch dissolved in kirsch, lemon juice, and spices to taste.
  4. Simmer for 2 minutes to thicken.

Exact measurements for garlic, cornstarch, and lemon juice are meant to serve 4 people. Adjust to taste/number of people/amount of cheese. The experts tell me Trader Joe’s has most of the requisite cheeses for cheap.

I can’t say the presentation is great, but it was good! We ate the fondue with homemade ciabatta (in background) and kimchi.

Decluttering art supplies!

Here are some old projects I found. I think I made them in middle school – I was really into beading and jewelry then.

Collection of pendants made out of polymer clay!
This is a waterfall jungle scene, complete with vines and reptiles. You’re supposed to hang dangly things from the bottom holes.
Some abstract thing I actually turned into a necklace. It looks kinda like corn…
My mom’s grade-school watercolor kit (we did not get rid of it), and her scientific drawing dip pen! Vintage~

Both of my siblings are strangely attached to crayons. Although they allowed many of our crayons to be given away, the compromise was that we had to keep the 96-color set. As sibling C said, “Who knows when the world will end and we realize we need crayons”.

Estate sale find: safety razors!

Sibling C and I went to a cool estate sale in Austin a few weeks ago! It was particularly well-organized, and much of the normal junk that clutters estate sales (old food, low-quality mismatched silverware, low-quality pans, etc) had either been hidden or sold.

I was excited to find a small collection of old shaving accoutrements. I have a straight razor (that I need to get sharpened), but I’ve also been interested in trying out safety razors, with the particular goal of being able to recommend them to friends in good faith.

I bought 2 of the razors from the sale for $3.75 each, which seemed like a good price 👍

On the left is a Gillette “Tech” made in the ’40s. It is stainless steel and essentially the same design as modern razors. On the right is a Gillette “Old Type” made in 1914 (105 years old!!). It is silver-plated brass.

Free food!

I discovered a neighbor was moving out when I discovered trash bags full of dry goods (gasp!) outside their door. I couldn’t keep myself from asking if it was fine for me to take what I wanted (the answer was “yes” and I was even offered my pick of furniture), so I ended up with this haul:

Let’s see, from left to right, there’s cereal, spaghetti, butter, cornmeal, cashews and almonds, water chestnut flour (used as an alternative to cornstarch, I think?), a “string” of fig “buttons”, various Indian spice mixes, salsa, jaggery (unrefined sugar), olives, chickpeas, cooking oil.

I love getting stuff I wouldn’t normally buy. It’s a treat 🙂 I especially enjoyed the salsa.

The day the neighbors moved out, I dug through the apartment dumpster, and additionally got a chair (for putting my “in use” clothes on), an apparently never-used yoga mat, laundry detergent (never get Gain original scent… On the plus side, I hear Gain is super strong), and a single handkerchief.

Extended Producer Responsibility, etc

Here are more resources related to corporate responsibility and extended producer responsibility:

The Electronics TakeBack Coalition “promotes green design and responsible recycling in the electronics industry”. They write various articles on green electronics, including how to recycle and proposed laws.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics campaigns for the removal of toxic and harmful ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products. The website includes information about what ingredients to look out for.

The Environmental Working Group does a lot of different stuff. Broadly, EWG monitors ingredients and contaminants in products that consumers use, including food, water, electronics, etc. The company promotes safe and sustainable products, and they produce many different consumer guides to help do this. EWG is most famous for their extensive Skin Deep cosmetics database, which includes extensive ingredient information and safety ratings.

The Bottle Bill Resource Guide compiles information about regions of the world with current or proposed bottle bills. Bottle bills (or container deposit laws) require consumers to pay a small, refundable deposit for every bottle purchased. When the bottle is returned for recycling or reuse, the deposit is returned. Bottle bills significantly boost recycling rates. Here’s a cool history of the switch from reusable to disposable bottles and cans.

How to use a handkerchief

A lot of y’all probably know that I use handkerchiefs in place of (disposable) tissues. I find them very convenient and, since they’re such a foreign concept to most people, I want to explain the ins and outs of their use and care!

What do you use hankies for?

I treat hankies as a cross between a tissue and a cloth napkin. I use them to blow my nose, and occasionally wipe my hands and mouth, but appropriate use varies by culture. For example, in Japan, it is rude to use your handkerchief to blow your nose (or to blow your nose in public at all); handkerchiefs are meant only for drying sweat or your hands. And in the US, handkerchiefs are just not used (except in hanky code by the gay and BDSM communities), so there is no particular etiquette I am aware of.

How many handkerchiefs do you need?

I carry one handkerchief in my pocket every day. I use it until it gets too dirty, then I switch it for a new one. Unless I’m sick, I usually use the same one for a week. I carry a couple backups in my backpack in case I suddenly get hit with allergies, or a friend needs a tissue.

I have about 20 hankies in my personal collection, but that’s way more than I need for day-to-day use. If you’re gonna switch to tissues for a really runny nose, 5-7 hankies should be fine for the rest of the time.

What do you do when you’re sick?

I use hankies when I’m sick too! I’ve never needed more than my 20 hankies in a single day. If it looks like I’m going to run out, I wash some handkerchiefs by hand and let them dry overnight to use the next day.

How do you wash handkerchiefs?

You can wash hankies either by hand, or by machine in a mesh lingerie bag. I usually put mine in with the rest of my laundry. In either case, unfold each hankie and soak in water for a few hours before washing. This rehydrates dried mucus so that it can be washed off 🙂 Handkerchief fabric is very lightweight so they dry super fast. I always air dry them.

Where do you get hankies? What should they be made of?

My handkerchief collection is all from my maternal grandparents’ estate. My grandparents had a huge number of handkerchiefs and bandanas. Apparently, they had grown up using handkerchiefs (during the Great Depression) and continued to do so until disposable tissues took hold.

Some of my collection. Almost all are embroidered. Some have crocheted or tatted edging. A few have handmade lace!

Because of the switch to tissues, there are lots of old hankies available at thrift stores, antique stores, creative reuse stores (I’d say this is your best bet), and on eBay. You can use thin woven fabric, like a bandana, or t-shirt material.

The fabric should be natural (cotton and linen are common) and not a satin weave – your snot will slide right off 🙂 (Pocket squares make poor handkerchiefs because they’re usually made of glossy fabric.) A color or patten will help hide stains. If you’re worried you’ll look weird using a hankie, use white ones; they’ll look just like tissues.

How do you fold handkerchiefs?

I fold mine into sixteenths (in half, in half hamburger-style, in half the same direction, then in half hamburger-style again) to make a sort of “book”.

Each time I use the hankie, I use a “page” of the book so that I have a new surface available. I use the main fold of the hankie booklet for wiping my mouth so that I can keep food and mucus separate. To keep the outside of the hankie clean, don’t use its “cover”.

A lot of people think hankies are gross, but you’ll be fine if you’re used to washing other cloth items that come in contact with bodily fluids, like cloth menstrual pads, cloth napkins, even underwear. If it really bothers you, you can also use each hanky just once before washing (but then you’ll need a lot).

Good luck!

Pilot in Paris and NYC of products in reusable containers

Here’s the full article (and another with more info). In short, several large companies are partnering with TerracCycle (about), a company that recycles hard-to-recycle items, to offer waste-free versions of their normal products. This will include ice cream, deodorant, and shampoo in returnable, refillable metal containers. Although the program is currently just a pilot, it’s a step in the direction of extended producer responsibility!

There are a few big downsides to this approach, however.

Metal and glass containers (most plastic is not acceptable for commercial reuse because it is porous and can’t be completely cleaned) take a lot more resources to make than plastic, so using them is only more sustainable if they are actually reused and reused a large number of times. (The containers require a security deposit to receive which hopefully will mitigate this potential problem.)

The pilot program relies on door-to-door delivery, which introduces a last mile problem. The “last mile” refers to the last part of a delivery network. It is often the most complex and expensive (and thus energy- and resource- consuming) part of the network. Instead of going to the grocery store (which, by the way, is another “last mile”), each household gets individualized delivery, so someone still has to drive around. And since the program only includes a small number of products, the delivery route will be in addition to households’ normal grocery trips.

For my friends in New York, maybe you’ll get to try this out soon!