Spring Awakening

Although it seems like all’s been quiet on The Green Bin front for the last few weeks, there’s actually been so much happening behind the scenes!

Now that I’ve got a couple large commissioned projects finished and happily tucked away in their new homes, I’m ready to officially unveil a new The Green Bin website and logo!

They reflect the direction that The Green Bin has been taking for the past few months: a furniture and home goods upcycling business that blogs about eco related topics.

How did this happen?

Well, The Green Bin began as an eco blog.

At around the same time, I rediscovered my love for refinishing and upcycling furniture. Before long, I was selling pieces and having fun doing it.

It just made sense to combine the two elements under The Green Bin.

Upcycling falls into the green movement as it offers a more conscientious alternative to buying new goods.

Refusing to buy new products reduces our carbon footprint and upcycling keeps items with life left in them out of landfills.

It also helps reuse items no longer wanted or loved, repairs anything that needs attention and extends the life and beauty of furniture and home goods.

Plus, there are so many gorgeous, vintage, unique and custom pieces out there to find!

Welcome to the new and improved The Green Bin.

 

 

No Junk Mail, Please

My hang up with ads, flyers and junk mail is long standing.

They are a misuse of resources.

“But Jill, they’re recyclable,” I’ve heard.

Yes, they certainly are.

What’s better than recycling? Not having to recycle.

The junk that shows up in mailboxes and doorsteps is a waste of resources, plain and simple.

Junk mail is a waste of trees, paper, water, ink, tiny plastic windows in envelops, thick plasticky bands that bind the piles together in distribution centres, gas, exhaust fumes and time spent on getting them out to households.

Ads, flyers and junk mail often contain information on services I don’t want, stores I don’t spend my money at, products I’ll never buy and political faces I don’t want to see in my mailbox.

Living in this technological world means easier access to the products we do want, at stores we frequent and for services we need.

We have apps and websites at our fingerprints that allow us to cherry pick what is of interest to us.

Stopping junk mail distribution is easy.

If you’re getting a pile of flyers on your doorstep at the same time as your free weekly local newspaper, call the distribution department and ask them to stop delivery.

If it’s in your mailbox, put a sign on it (or on the inside of your community box) asking for no unaddressed mail.

Save time. Save resources. Ditch the junk mail.

 

Jewelry Box Makeover

I found this very dated jewelry box at a second hand store in the summer and bought it with the intention of giving it a makeover and gifting it to my three year old for Christmas.


Naturally, I didn’t hide if very well and she found it (more than once). Every time she played with it, she told me how much she liked it. It was destined to be a hit.

I thought about reconstructing it to really make it unique but reason won. She’s three and a half and her little sister’s current nickname is “The Destroyer”.

I’ll be happy if the jewelry box makes it through to the end of January.

They will eventually each get an heirloom box but that can wait until they can appreciate, and not tear apart, pretty things.

For those reasons, I kept this makeover simple.

Luckily the itty bitty handle pulls are quite lovely and complement the colour I chose, “sovereign”, quite well.

I used four different but equally pretty pretty crafting paper I had kicking around. I applied Modge Podge to both glue and seal the paper to the glass.



On Christmas morning, it was a hit.

She loved the box and the bracelets I hid inside.

We bonded on a busy Christmas morning when I explained that was a special gift just for me to her. She understood.

Every time someone comes over, she brings them to show them her “special” jewelry box.

Awwww.

This was such a fun project to work on that I can’t wait to work on more custom jewelry boxes.

 

Green Giving 

My husband came up with the best Christmas gifts for his colleagues.

He cut off nearly a dozen baby offshoots from our large and happy spider plant and potted them in some old, unused and chipped mugs.

Since I can’t throw anything out, I’m so pleased that the mugs have been repurposed. 

I also love that our spider plant is going to improve the air quality while brightening up his stuffy workplace.

And, for bonus points, no waste was produced. 

I’m certain his colleagues will appreciate such a sweet and thoughtful gift.

Bravo!! 

But Sometimes You Need to Buy Things

I’m tired of being told by advertisers and retailers when to shop, what to buy and what I need.

Stores filled with St-Valentine’s hearts in December, St-Patrick’s Day paraphernalia and plastic Easter baskets in mid-February, orange Halloween decorations in the summer, Christmas in September and mega-sales on bonafide holidays have driven me to spend my money elsewhere.

There’s nothing of quality in most the aforementioned holiday stuff. It’s all junk, made overseas, brought here by exhaust producing transport trucks and packaged in plastic. Once broken or used a couple of times, the garbage truck will bring the items to the dump where they won’t decompose or degrade for decades.

That’s a pretty grim reality for most things were buy.

The anti-consumerism movements that have taken off in recent years are amazing. And some are even retailer supported.

Patagonia, the California based outdoor clothing company, is encouraging people who own their clothing to repair and trade amongst themselves rather than buy new. There aren’t many retailers who support and encourage consumers to extend the life of their products.

And the Canadian who started Buy Nothing Day is a prince among thieves, in my opinion.

As a consumer who is aware of my carbon footprint, I buy a lot of pre-loved clothing, toys and wares, I upcycle furniture while maintaining a minimal impact, I don’t buy throw away goods and I reuse as much as I can.

The last few pieces of new clothing I can remember buying were maternity or pre-maternity. Since I only go to playgroups and paint stores now, I’ve mostly gotten away with it.

But when I realized that most of my clothing is ill-fitting, off season or paint stained, I decided it was time to shop for myself. I can’t wear my tight paint stained shorts during a Canadian January.

So we packed up for an outing to the mall today.

And, ouch.

I stood in front of the only retailer that I knew would have a few things that would fit, that I’d like, that would be reasonably price and that would get my kids home in time for lunch: The Gap.

Then I saw the sign: “50% Black Friday Sale”.

Sigh.

I went in anyways because outings with two young children in tow are difficult to manage. I went in because I desperately needed clothing, for myself. I went in because I didn’t go there expecting a sale. I went in because it was the Wednesday before Black Friday.

I bought a few things because I know my track record. I’ll repair them when they rip and the buttons fall off and, once I can’t repair them anymore, I’ll cut them into rags and use them to buff wax from my latest piece of furniture.

Because sometimes we need to buy things.

 

 

 

 

The Case of the Curious Skunk

That moment at dusk when you’re sitting at the kitchen table writing and out of the corner of your eye you see a skunk walk across your patio.

You send the following series of texts to your significant other: “THERE’S *#%ING SKUNK”, “DON’T COME UPSTAIRS RIGHT NOW!!!!!!” and “The [patio] door is open eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee”.

And he comes upstairs anyways, ever so quietly, to sneak a peak.

When the skunk is finished smelling around, it turns to walk away, it’s pretty stripey tail bobbing along.

“It’s going for the compost,” he says, nodding his head.

We watch as it staunters across the yard towards the black bin.

When it gets there, he claps his hands loudly and sends it off scurrying in the bushes.

“It’s The Green Bin,” he says.

And he quietly walks away with the words “I told you so” on the tip of his tongue.

Small gesture, big ocean

I live about 14,000 kilometres (900 miles) from the Atlantic so I don’t get to inhale that raw power, endless horizon and calming breeze very often anymore.
I’ve dipped my toes (and sometimes more) in the Arctic, Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans.

But those places are pretty far from the place I call home.

So I was especially moved by a thoughtful act I witnessed not far from my own backyard.

I watched as a young lady plucked plastic six pack rings from a garbage bin. She cut each individual plastic circle and returned the plastic to the bin.

It was such a casual gesture that I was compelled to talk her about it.

She said she did it for the turtles and the dolphins.

She couldn’t bare the thought of potentially being responsible for the death, maiming or starvation of an ocean creature.

I found some faith in my fellow land locked man that day.

Maybe those plastic rings wouldn’t make it as far as the ocean, but if it did, no dolphin or turtle would be harmed.

Even those of us too far from the ocean can still be mindful of our impact on it. For such a small gesture, it certainly was grand.

Happy World Oceans Day,

Jill

And the garden is (almost) in

It’s been terrible spring to muster gardening inspiration and I feel like I’m terribly behind.

But fear not, dear reader! All is not lost.

Insane temperature fluctuations (we’ve hit 36°C and plunged to 0°C in the span of a week), lack of rain, heavy downpours, strong winds and frost will not keep this gardener down. It’s slowed down the planting process and stunted inspiration, but what’s the rush anyways?

I garden because I love it. Because I love being outside, having my hands (and sometimes feet) in the dirt, watching seeds find their way towards the sun, filling my watering can with the essence of life, harvesting beautiful food and connecting with the earth.

It’s the act of gardening that I love so it’s okay if I’m a little behind. I’m not paying the mortgage with my tomatoes.

And that’s a relief because most of my seeds failed this year. Despite planting seeds in March, only two crops survived the wacky weather: the beets and the lettuce. The poor baby tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, green peppers, red peppers, basil, dill and thyme didn’t make it much past a half inch of growth.

So to make up for the deficit, I had to buy a lot of plants this year. I’ll get over it……and done. I’m over it.

Between kids, a new house and trying to have a just a smidgen of a life, every gardening task seems to have taken a week to complete:

  • The raised bed structured were assembled Mother’s Day weekend.
  • The next weekend, the soil was brought in.
  • The weekend after that the plants were purchased.

And that brings us to today. I, along with my princess dress wearing toddler, managed to level the soil and and install square foot markers.

With my handy square foot gardening plan sheet nearly complete, I’m almost ready to populate my two 4×8 foot beds. I figure that I’ve got plenty of room to fail, experiment and hopefully succeed. It’s my biggest gardening project yet and I realize that I’m a little ambitious….especially for someone who is in a new house, and subsequently new yard, this year.

I’ll be planting corn, beans, pumpkins, melons, butternut squash, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, red onion, spanish onion, leeks, garlic, hot pepper, green pepper, cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers and beets. I’m keeping my herbs in containers. And lettuce too — I’ve encountered lettuce loving chipmunks in the past and learned that bringing the container in the house is the sanest way to avoid playing head games with the greedy little vermin. Otherwise, the chipmunk always, always, wins.

I had moderate to low success with the usual suspects, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, leeks, garlic, lettuce and herbs, in my previous raised garden bed. It wasn’t in the optimal location but I had to work with what I had. In my new backyard, the beds are in a super sunny spot and I can’t wait to see what happens.

I’m just unsure what challenges the local wildlife will bring. My lettuce is doing well so it appears that the lettuce loving chipmunks don’t live nearby.

However, the tall raccoons are always around and still trying to figure out how to remove the compost bin lid. Hopefully they prefer the challenge of getting at the rotting stuff over the ease of helping themselves to everything in my garden.

Composting for Dummies

The compost bin has arrived!

I’ve been yearning for a backyard compost bin for years so this is a big thing in my life.

When I lived in an apartment, my friend suggested I put one on my 11th floor concrete balcony. I instead decided to wait until I had my own backyard.

The first house we bought was a cute townhouse with a backyard the size of a large swimming pool. It was in the middle of a suburban neighbourhood that managed to successfully ban clothes lines for a number of years. (That ban was finally overturned in 2008.)

A neighbourhood that fights against line drying isn’t going to be receptive to composting and I didn’t want to ruffle the feathers of the other homeowners.

Plus, we bought this home knowing that it was going to be a short term purchase.

Faced with three options, the choice was easy: move a big pile of rotting food, leave it for whomever buys our home or hold off on backyard composting.

So we waited.

Three years, and two babies, later we sold and moved to our forever home.

We upgraded our pool sized yard to a half acre. We ditched wall to wall neighbours for one neighbour and a farmer’s field. We moved to a place that never disallowed drying linens outside. We moved to a place where I could compost.

But we moved in November so I had to wait until spring.

Thanks in part to having months to scroll through Pinterest, I’d been secretly wanting a rustic DIY compost with two bins made of chicken wire and wood pallets. I could eventually put the chicken coop and bee hive nearby and tether the grass cutting goat on the side yard.

My husband does not share this vision. He’d be happier having nothing to with composting but he humours me.

So I was overjoyed when he went to the hardware store and picked up a compost bin.

It’s not the one from my Pinterest boards but it’s made from one hundred per cent recycled material so it’s okay by me. Compromise.

I assembled it and put it in the most compost friendly spot in the yard. It’s sunny and accessible and far away from our only adjacent neighbours.

I followed the instructions and layered twigs on the bottom to help with aeration. I then put a layer of “brown” or “dry” material, so mostly leaves. Then I layered the “green” or “wet” material, that’s where food stuff comes in.

Alternate green and brown waste. Et voilà. I’m a composting queen.

It’s pretty basic actually. We stick with the basics and only put fruit, vegetables, eggs and coffee grinds in the bin. I’m really good at the coffee grinds. Next year’s tomatoes are going to be coffee flavoured.

It’s surprisingly clean and totally odourless. It doesn’t even smell like coffee.

Despite our new found backyard composting ways, we are continuing with the city run composting program. We’ve been participating for a few years and it’s great. It takes items that are discouraged in our backyard compost: meat, oil, dairy, weeds and questionable leftovers.

We’ve been surprised by the amount of nighttime visitors our backyard receives. The local wildlife, probably raccoons, was getting the lid off the bin. I know that raccoon are clever but are they really able to lift the lid off that’s more than three feet off the ground? We must have really tall raccoons.

An impressive feat no doubt but not one that can be a regular occurrence. What raccoons don’t know is that we have an arsenal of bungee cord so I McGuyvered the lid and haven’t had an issues since.

With the pests at bay and the new routine of two separate compost bins figured out, all I have to do is wait until the old food turns to dirt. And dream about chicken coops and bee hives.

The Mystery of Unwanted Clothing

unravel

I think most of us are guilty of not giving a second thought to items we recycle, compost, sell or discard in the trash.

I certainly don’t ponder the fate of cans or boxes after they’re picked up by the recycling truck. I trust that they go off to the recycling plant and are crushed, melted or broken down before being turned into something shiny and useful.

But I am curious about the fate of textiles, particularly clothing. (And mattresses but that’s a topic for another day.)

I have a tendency to keep old ripped clothing that is unfit to be donated. I hope to do something magically crafty with it one day. I think it’s noble but apparently that makes me a bit of a hoarder.

One reason I do this is because I don’t know what else to do with it.

I won’t throw it out because it will sit in a landfill. I won’t donate it because it’s passing along broken junk that will probably get put in a landfill.

So it sits in a box in my basement next to my sewing machine that has had too little use.

I happily donate clothing that is in excellent condition. Those items will surely be sold or re-donated by the pre-loved clothing retailers or community services that receive them.

But what of the donated items that aren’t deemed good enough for that?

The old ripped shirts, sweaters with broken zippers, pants with worn pockets, socks that never found their mates and pajamas that have seen too many nights surely go somewhere.

But where?

Check out Unravel for some answers. It’s an award-winning short film about garment recycling and the workers behind the massive industry so many of us know little about.

It’s fascinating. Whether for good or bad, I’ll never think about donating clothing the same way again.

Happy viewing,

Jill