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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Decorate for Halloween…with Trash!

For many people, Halloween involves putting together a great costume. To save money and reduce waste, people frequently make costumes themselves or visit secondhand stores like Goodwill. Halloween décor can be recycled and inexpensive, too, and we’ve come across some fun DIY projects to get ready for the upcoming holiday. Take a look.

Photo: iSaveA2Z
Drink milk (or know someone who does)? For this project, you’ll just need a few milk jugs, a pencil, marker, and X-Acto knife. Use the pencil and marker to draw a jack-o-lantern face, then cut openings in the backs of the jugs so you can put lights inside. (If you have white string lights from the winter holidays, those will work). See a full set of instructions at iSaveA2Z.

Photo: Michele Made Me
We're always fans of finding ways to reuse plastic bottles, and here’s a use we hadn’t thought of: dangling spider decorations. This project is a little more complex than the milk jug pumpkins above (so it’s a little less kid-friendly), but should still be pretty easy to do. In addition to plastic bottles, you’ll need black acrylic paint, a drill, a sewing needle, and fishing line. You can find a full tutorial at the blog Michele Made Me.

Photo: The Long Thread
Having a Halloween party? These papier-mâché bowls are made using paper and plastic grocery bags. This is another fun project for kids, so visit The Long Thread to see how to do it.

Have a happy, waste-free October, everyone!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Reduce Waste with Recipes – Mixed Green and Romaine Salad with Apple and Walnuts

If there’s one thing the grocery store has a lot of—besides food—it’s packaging. Cereal comes in boxes, soda in cans, and even lettuce in bags. Today we want to share a recipe from our cooking class, as well as some tips for shopping for ingredients that have less packaging.

First, the recipe:

Mixed Green and Romaine Salad with Apples and Walnuts


3 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
3 cups mixed greens
1 cup apple (honey crisp or braeburn)
½ cup walnuts

For dressing:
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 ½ teaspoons walnut oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Image: Flickr/Robert Couse-Baker
Wash and chop lettuce. Cut the apple into two-inch strips and hold in cold water with a small amount of apple cider vinegar to keep it from oxidizing. Toast walnuts at 350 degrees for eight minutes and chop if desired. Whisk all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Then toss the lettuce, apple, and nuts with a few tablespoons of dressing.

Now the tips:

In a recipe like this, consider buying lettuce by the head and mixed greens by the pound instead of by the bag. If you’re buying significant quantities of greens, you’ll use less plastic this way. You can even bring your own containers to the store to hold the greens if you’d like. If you’re buying produce that’s sold by weight, some stores will let you have your container weighed when it’s empty so they can subtract that from the weight of the container filled with produce (to figure out how much you need to pay). This can eliminate plastic bags from the equation entirely.

We’ve mentioned this before, but this same strategy can be used for buying items like nuts or spices, too. You can buy from the bulk bins, which is usually cheaper and uses much less packaging.

Bonus tip (for reducing food waste):

Only buy the produce you need. Did you know that for items sold by weight, most grocery stores will let you buy only as much as you need? This means you can buy one head of broccoli instead of multiple banded together or one stalk of celery instead of a whole bunch. Doing this means you will have only the amount of food you need and it’s less likely any leftovers will go to waste in your fridge.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Turn a T-Shirt into a Grocery Bag

Earlier this summer we wrote about how you can turn plastic bags into yarn. Someone even used this yarn to knit us a grocery bag. Now we want to share an idea for a homemade grocery bag that doesn’t require knitting skills. All you’ll need is an old T-Shirt, a pair of scissors, and a needle and thread (or sewing machine).

Don’t let the sewing part scare you, though. The project only involves minimal sewing. You just cut the amount of fabric you need from your shirt, sew the bag’s edge, and cut slits in the fabric with a scissors so the bag is expandable. Once you’re done, it’ll be perfect for carrying your purchases at the store or the farmers market.

Photo: Delia Creates

You can find a complete tutorial at the website Delia Creates or you can check out YouTube for instructions. Plenty of videos and photo tutorials make variations of the T-Shirt bag, so select one that works for you.

Projects like this one are a great way to use old T-Shirts that are no longer wearable, and most of us probably have at least one hiding in a drawer somewhere. If you have old T-Shirts but don't need a grocery bag, Pinterest is full of ideas for other upcycling projects. T-Shirt rugs, headbands, potholders and jewelry are also possibilities.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A 100% Upcycled Game for the Yard

You’ve probably seen our recycling bins made from plastic bottles, bike rims, old cabinets and other reused materials, and today we wanted to share another one of the recycled projects we make since we often get asked about it.

At Trash for Peace we make cornhole sets—that game played with two teams where you have to toss a beanbag through a hole on a wooden board—from materials that all come from the dump. The wood, which we decorate with paint, often comes from construction sites. The beanbags are made from a pretty unique list of materials: bottle caps, chip bags and old cloth. We stuff the bottle caps into the used chip bags, wrap them in the cloth and sew them together. Bottle caps and chip bags can be difficult to recycle, and we think this is a fun use for them.

We make cornhole sets at events and we sell them ($100 with beanbag materials and no paint, $150 with pre-assembled and pre-sewn beanbags and paint). Interested in making or buying a corn hole set? Just let us know. They make great games for outdoor parties and barbecues!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Reduce Waste with Recipes – One-Pan Chocolate Cake

Looking for an easy way to reduce waste in the kitchen? This cooking tip may be so obvious we often overlook it: only use one dish. Sometimes limiting yourself to one dish—especially if you’re cooking something complicated with a lot of ingredients—may be out of the question, but trying to reduce the amount of dishes you need to wash will save water and energy when it comes time to do the dishes.

So this month we offer you a dessert recipe that does only use one pan (and not even a mixing bowl!). This quick-to-make chocolate cake can be mixed right in the pan you bake it in. How simple is that?

One-Pan Chocolate Cake

Photo: Flickr/Lisa Brewster


1½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup cold water or milk


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Meanwhile, measure all the dry ingredients into your pan. An 8 or 9-inch square or round pan that’s at least two inches tall will work best. Use a whisk or fork to mix the ingredients together, level out the ingredients and make three holes in the mixture. Pour vanilla into the first hole, vinegar into the second and vegetable oil into the third. Then pour the cold water or milk over the whole pan and stir everything together until it’s mixed well.

Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes. When it has cooled, you can save even more dishes by eating it right out of the pan.

Dishwashing Tip: When you have accumulated a bunch of dirty dishes, use the dishwasher to clean them (if you have one). Running a full dishwasher actually uses less water and energy than washing dishes by hand.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Knit with Plastic

Knitters have come up with some pretty brilliant ideas for making yarn. T-Shirt yarn, for example, is one popular homemade alternative to store-bought yarn. One of our favorite unique yarn projects is making yarn from plastic bags. You can use any kind of plastic bag for this project, though the thin kind used at grocery stores works best.

To make the yarn, you’ll need to roll the bag into a long tube, cut it into strips, and then tie the strips together. (There are many YouTube videos and photo tutorials that can walk you through these steps. Check out this one from Instructables or this one from Etsy.)  Once you have a significant amount of yarn, you can use it to knit (or crochet) whatever you like.

In our experience, plastic yarn can be made into an effective grocery or tote bag, which is great for shopping or a trip to the farmers market. We received the bag pictured below as a gift, and whenever we use it, it gets a lot of attention. It’s functional, has a unique texture and keeps plastic bags from going to waste.