Tag Archives: recycle

Clever Uses For 25 Things You Throw Away

17 May

garbage can smellyIn the USA each person throws away nearly 5 pounds of trash daily, enough to fill 63,000 garbage trucks, which could form a line that would stretch from the earth halfway to the moon! Almost 1/3 of the waste generated is just by the packaging from all the stuff we buy. You’ve heard the slogan “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, but most people just focus on recycling. This post will show you how to REUSE items so you can REDUCE consumption and the need to recycle and best of all, reduce the amount of trash created.

One of the best ways to start reducing waste is to conduct a Household Trash Audit which will really open your eyes about how much waste you and your family are creating, and is a really good way to teach children about conservation.

  1. Bedding bags
  2. Breadbag clips
  3. Broken crayons
  4. Buttons
  5. Cardboard boxes
  6. CDs & DVDs
  7. Citrus fruit peels 
  8. Coffee grounds
  9. Dryer sheets
  10. Egg cartons
  11. Eggshells
  12. Greeting cards
  13. Kitchen scraps
  14. Kitty litter buckets
  15. Newspapers
  16. Pantyhose
  17. Pill bottles
  18. Plastic bags
  19. Plastic milk jug
  20. Plastic water bottles
  21. Shower curtain liner
  22. Silica packs
  23. Tea bags 
  24. Tin (metal) cans
  25. Toilet paper & paper towels tubes

Reducing waste by reusing and re-purposing things we usually throw away not only reduces pollution in landfills, but also pollution produced and energy used to manufacture new goods. And that’s good for us all!

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Are Bargain Batteries The Best Buy? Tips For Choosing The Right One.

18 Nov

ImageWhen we were recently visited by that infamous home-wrecker Superstorm Sandy and you reached for the flashlight in the kitchen drawer when your lights went out, what happened? Yeah, thought so. Flashlights, smoke alarms and CO2 detectors are only a few of the items we now rely on to keep us safe in an emergency; so you had better have batteries you can depend on. Hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, whether its an act of God, or an act of stupidity (like a drunk driver taking out a utility pole and plunging the  neighborhood into darkness), sooner or later the cord between you and the almighty power grid is going to be severed, so you had better be prepared.

Now that we are entering that festive season of “batteries not included”, how do you find the best battery to power your need without draining your wallet? When it comes to dry cell batteries (as opposed to wet cell) consumers make 3 main choices: cheap disposables, brand name disposables and rechargables. In a perfect world we would all use rechargeable batteries, but not everyone has the means or the inclination. A good battery provides the best combination of long duration, high performance, reasonable price & eco-friendliness.

Cheap disposables. Studies have shown cheap disposable batteries, like the kind you find at the dollar store, only last half as long as their more expensive brand name counterparts. While they cost half to a fourth of the price, you have to buy TWICE as many. The greatest cost is to the environment in the additional resources consumed and toxins produced in the manufacturing, packaging and transportation, as well as landfill space when they are discarded. They would be appropriate to use in a TV remote and other low drain devices, but may only last an hour in your child’s toy.

Brand name disposables. This is the most popular option based on performance and initial price point. Depending on which kind you buy and which device you use them in, these batteries can last up to twice as long as some rechargeable batteries, however, this is where their value ends. They are particularly useful for long trips when carting along a recharger is not a viable option. The best choices are Duracell CopperTop and Energizer Ultimate Lithium. Always choose alkaline or lithium over “heavy duty” zinc chloride or “general purpose” zinc carbon batteries. Use Lithium batteries with caution as they can overpower some devices causing damage. For other options and to decide the best choice for your device, check out the Single Use Batteries Quick-reference Guide (PDF Download)

Rechargeable. While rechargables have higher initial costs for the batteries and recharger, they can be recharged 100-500 times depending on the brand you use, paying for themselves several times over. The main downside beside the initial cost, is the inconvenience of recharging while away from home, and the decrease in their ability to hold a full charge towards the end of their lifecycle. While the Sanyo eneloop Rechargeable is the gold standard, Energizer, Duracell and Kodak make very respectable rechagables. To discover which are best for your needs, check out Rechargeable Batteries Quick-reference Guide (PDF Download).

No matter which battery you choose, it is important to remember that there are 3 things that will affect the life of your battery: time, use & environment. All batteries lose their potency over time even if they are never used, that’s why disposables have an expiration date stamped on them. Rechargeables lose their ability to maintain a charge towards the end of their life cycle (about 500 charges), so it is best to keep them grouped according to age and brand. Storing batteries in the freezer or fridge to preserve potency is a myth and the moisture can cause damage to the batteries. Batteries are best stored in a cool dry place, same as you would store potatoes or apples. Remove batteries from a device if it will not be used for a long period of time and do not store them in a kitchen drawer or other place might come in contact with metal and discharge. Always be sure to dispose of batteries properly.

Armed with some good information, battery shopping won’t be confusing, you won’t waste your money, and you’ll get the most out of your battery operated devices. But you can always save the cheap batteries for your kid’s most annoying toys, and then secretly rejoice when they run out of juice.

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No Frills Wills & Costco Coffins; 10 Tips To Make Your Dirt Nap Dirt Cheap

27 Oct

ImageIt’s Halloween, that time of year when we celebrate all things dead, but when it comes to planning our own final exit we turn into complete scaredy cats. Most of us leave it to a surviving relative and hope there’s enough insurance money to cover it; but is that really fair? During the recent economic downturn many people who had life insurance polices had to cash them in because they could not afford their premium or needed the money to keep the family out of the homeless shelter.

Another factor fueling this change is the Green Funeral Movement; after all, it does not make sense for someone who has been eco-friendly and thrifty in life to spend an obscene amount of money on a funeral including pumping the body full of toxins then dumping it into Mother Earth. Most of these alternative practices also allow for a more intimate experience of the persons passing and a true celebration of their life.

For the best FREE resources for understanding all your options from A-Z as well as the legalities, I highly recommended The Funeral Site and Final Passages.They also have some really creative ideas for customizing your passing, whether you want to be buried at sea or go out with a bang as part of a fireworks display…seriously!

Here are 10 great money saving ideas for your final exit strategy:

  1. No-frills wills. My relatives are notorious for not having wills and it always ends in the deceased wishes not being followed, one relative absconding with the valuables, and another getting stuck with the bills. Wills are great insurance against a family style Michael Vick dogfight. Free legal forms are available online,many courtesy of your local library. You can get it notarized for free at your bank. There are also online services that will run you about $20 for a simple will.
  2. Preplan, not prepay. When you do your research and plan well in advance you make better choices and save money. Don’t tie your money up prepaying funeral expenses, but do preplan and make sure you share your written plans with responsible family members or friends. Shop around and ask funeral homes for their itemized price list to better understand mandatory and optional services, making sure you understand hidden costs. This will give you’re a roadmap for how to plan your funeral, even if you decide not to involve a funeral home in the process. The only exception to the prepay rule is if it is part of a Medicare spend down since it is exempt as an asset.
  3. Funding the funeral. While life insurance and Social Security benefits are the most obvious, remember to explore any organizations, clubs or employers you have been involved with over your lifetime, such as Veteran benefits, trade union benefits, employer benefits, and fraternal or social organizations benefits. Depending on the manor of death, you may get funds from home, auto or travel insurance, even credit cards!
  4. Viewing & services. Home funerals are becoming very popular again. When my grandfather died, he was laid out in a casket in the living room allowing our family to have the viewing, wake and post-funeral potluck reception all at the house. Embalming is not required by law especially if the body is buried within 48 hours, but it helps to crank up the A/C where the body is kept. The undertaker was only involved in transporting the body to the church and cemetery. Many churches also provide one-stop shopping for viewing, services and reception for a nominal fee to members.
  5. Alternatives to burial. By forgoing a traditional burial, you can usually save at least $7,000, by eliminating the need for embalming, casket, transportation, burial plot and headstone. You can save all funeral expenses by simply donating your body to science and your family can still receive your cremated remains free of charge; contact your local medical college for details. Most states, with the exception of California, permit burial at sea. Cremation is the most popular alternative, but unfortunately pyres, including Viking Funerals, are illegal in the US due to the lower incineration temperature.
  6. Green burial. As previously stated, embalming is not required by law, neither are caskets or vaults/grave liners. Green caskets can be cardboard, wicker, wood or other biodegradable materials for a fraction of the cost. You can skip the casket altogether and opt solely for a shroud. Although the law does not require vaults for ground burial, your cemetery might, so check your contract. While there is no federal or state law prohibiting burial on private property, aka your backyard, nearly every local government has ordinances prohibiting it.
  7. Casket costs. Buying a casket has never been easier and most include free shipping; Costco, Wal-Mart, eBay, and Overstock.com, just to name a few. Same is true of grave markers and other funeral supplies. Don’t forget to use the promo code for additional discounts like I taught you in my  15 Tips For Shopping Savings Success” post. If you are opting for cremation, you can simply rent for the viewing. Since there are no laws governing caskets, you can build your own any way your want for a fraction of the cost. You can also put more than one person in a casket, even if they did not die at the same time. In my family, young children and babies are often added to the buried casket of a previously deceased family member.
  8. Plot savings. With people needing money due to the economic downturn and families becoming more transient, you can save a bundle by buying an unused plot from the owner on Criagslist or eBay rather than from the cemetery. Suburban cemeteries cost less than urban areas, since after all, it is real estate. My family has at least two caskets stacked in each grave since our cemetery does not expressly prohibit it.
  9. Omit the obit. Unless you live in a small town and it’s always a slow news day, you will have to pay for an obituary in the newspaper; usually $100 per inch and $100 for a tiny photo. You can eliminate the cost by approaching the paper to run it as a human interest story, especially if you are planning something alternative. Another option is to use free social media including setting up a Facebook page where mourners can be contacted, get updates, and post tributes.
  10. Other savings ideas. Have a friend drive the family to the cemetery rather than rent a limousine and decline the traffic escort. Have a potluck style reception including donation of dinnerware and utensils. Ask musician friends to provide the music. Bury the deceased in their favorite clothing, not new expensive clothes.

Just because you spent a fortune on a funeral doesn’t mean you were loved most, it just means you overpaid. So before you go on permanent vacation, take the time to plan your bon voyage party.

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The Truth About Charity Donation Bins

19 Sep

ImageA while back I was reading an online rant about my favorite thrift store, in which the blogger fumed because the store was a for-profit enterprise rather than a charity. The store never made any claims about being a charity, but it did raise an interesting point: when you use a donation bin is it going to charity? Let me break it down for you so you can make an informed decision.

Charity owned and operated. The charity owns and operates everything from the bins to the collection trucks to the resale stores. An example of this is Goodwill. While this used to be the rule, it is fast becoming a thing of the past since this model is just not sustainable in today’s market. Think about it, they have to maintain buildings, trucks, liability insurance, staff, utilities, office supplies, advertising, etc. in addition to running the programs associated with the charity’s mission statement.

Charity affiliated. An example of this is Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Non-profits have to run leaner than ever with fewer staff, smaller facilities, and less general operating funds for overhead. If the charity’s purpose is to provide dental services to the working poor, it doesn’t make any sense for them to use part of their staff and facilities to run an additional retail business that is completely outside of their expertise. In this model, charities collect donations via bins, trucks or small collection centers, and then sell the items to for-profit business. Some for-profit businesses resell the items via thrift stores or a third party, while others recycle damaged clothing, glassware, etc. that are not suitable for resale into raw materials for manufacturing. The charity gets the money, and they use very little staff and resources to do it, so their profit margin is greater.

Cause oriented/Fake charity. An example of this is American Textiles Recycling Services Arizona. These can take the form of bins, trucks or collection centers, but bins are the most common. These “cause oriented” for-profit businesses rely on false claims, deception, or just donor naivete. They often have the words “aid” “care” or “goodwill” in their title to mislead the donor into thinking they are a non-profit or make claims of affiliation with a known charity. To make matters worse, some for-profit bin owners have been placing bins without the property owner’s permission, and have been vandalizing and raiding the bins of legitimate charities. Many of these operators claim that they are doing a “charitable service” by selling used items at low cost to low income people or have ecological benefit by keeping items out of landfills. With that rationale YOU could say the same thing about your yardsale! Some claim they give the proceeds to charity, but in truth, they only donate enough to get them a tax deduction rather than operating to benefit a charity. That would be like you claiming YOU are a charity because you donate and take the deduction on your tax return! Getting a charitable tax write off is not the same as operating for a charity.

So what can you do about it?

  • A legitimate collector will have the charity’s name clearly displayed; include contact information, and usually a bin number. ALWAYS contact them and ask for a receipt; that’s why they put the info on the bin. This will do two things: it will give you the tax deduction you are entitled to and it will establish the legitimacy of the owner. Fake charities count on the fact that most donors don’t ask for a receipt.
  • Call the number on the box and ask exactly how they donated items will be used to benefit the charity and what percentage of the proceeds go to the charity. A legitimate charity will have no problem answering these questions. Unless at least 60% of profits go to charity, its likely a for-profit company that files non-profit status to game the system at taxpayers expense. Planet Aid only uses about 29% of profits for charity and their “programs” are suspect at best.
  • Use online database search from Charity Navigator,The American Institutes of Philanthropy, GuideStar National Database of U.S. Charities, or Better Business Bureau to determine if they are a legitimate charity.
  • Report any suspected fraud to your State Attorney General’s Office or the BBB.

While you can’t always determine where your favorite resale store gets their items, you can stop fraud at the point of donation. Remember, just because someone has a website, professional signage or says that they support a charity doesn’t mean that they do. So get a great deal and support a great (& legitimate) cause!

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10 Tips For Thrift Store Clothing Shopping Success

6 Sep

ImageThere was a real stigma associated with buying from a thrift store when I was a kid; especially when it came to buying clothing. This attitude was based on two illogical ideas: first, anyone who bought from these stores was a “garbage picker”, and secondly, if you bought from a thrift store you were stealing the opportunity from a poor person to buy that item. In short, it was OK to donate, but not to support the store by making a purchase. Today, people are less ignorant and understand that their purchase, not just their donation, is vital to the success of the thrift store.

Thrift stores differ from consignment stores and resale shops in a couple different ways. The main difference is that thrift stores rely on donated goods, sharing none of the profits with the item’s original owner. Thrift stores do not require donors to make sure the clothing is clean, in good repair, or current. For-profit thrift stores are more selective about the items they sell since they need to turn a profit to stay in business: it doesn’t make sense to waste labor cost or expensive floor space on items that will not sell.

Since the economic downturn and foreclosure crisis began, all of these stores, especially thrift store, have been flooded with items from folks had to dump their belongings in order to lighten the load. Retailers of new clothing, noticing this trend, began to reduce their prices in order to compete for limited customers. As a result, thrift store now have some of the highest quality (often new) clothing for the cheapest prices. In addition, thrift stores have specials (usually half off) and coupons (also half off) for deals that cannot be beat.

Now that you have a better understanding of the current market, here’s some tips for a successful shopping trip:

  1. Take a shopping list. Know what you need and what you have that will work your intended purchases. Know what size you need and what colors and styles work best.
  2. Coupons & sales. Visit the website and check your local paper for store coupons. Check website for special sale days; check in-store signs to see which items are on sale that day, usually by color tags.
  3. Leave the kids at home. Period. This will save your sanity and avoid lots of regretful purchases.
  4. Eat, drink & pee. Since you will probably be in the store a while, make sure you have eaten to avoid low blood sugar irritability. Make sure you are hydrated and use the toilet, since most stores do not have water fountains or public toilets.
  5. Allergy proof. Thrift stores are notoriously full of allergens, especially dust and mildew. I always take an antihistamine before shopping to avoid the misery and constant hunt for a clean Kleenex.
  6. Travel light. Only take what will fit in you pocket. This will reduce your chance of loss and theft. If you can’t afford to lose it, don’t bring it.
  7. Dress appropriately. Since most stores lack dressing rooms, you have to try on clothing in public. If you wear lightweight or form-fitting exercise clothing, you can easily slide clothing on and off right over your outfit. Avoid wearing accessories since they make the process cumbersome. Pin your hair back or cover with a silky headscarf to make dressing easier and keep your hair dust free. Wear slip on shoes, especially if you are trying on pants.
  8. Wear gloves. I prefer cheap disposable latex medical gloves since they are easy to work in. This not only keeps my hands clean, but prevents hangnails and reminds me not to rub my eyes or face which can cause contact dermatitis.
  9. Avoid wishful thinking purchases. Don’t buy clothing that require weight loss, repairs, stain removal, etc. Let’s face it, you’re not going to follow through despite best intentions. Don’t buy items with the idea of reselling for a profit; it’s not going to happen in this economy especially if you are not already an expert.
  10. Wash immediately. If it’s dry-clean only, keep it in the trunk if you can’t go straight to the drycleaners; otherwise, put it straight in the washer. This will not only remove allergens, but remove the risk of infestation of bedbugs, lice, flea, etc.

With a little planning and basic understanding of the process, you can get some really great deals on a new wardrobe!

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7 Ways To Stop Your Refrigerator From Wasting Your Money

10 Aug


  1. Out with the old. Refrigerators are huge energy hogs, on average gobbling up 8%-12% of your total household energy budget! Fridges and freezers made before 1993 can cost you TWICE what a new Energy Star model does to operate; and the news is worse for models before 1970—a whopping FOUR times the cost! Because of the foreclosure crisis, the market is flooded appliances at dirt cheap prices allowing you to buy a newer used unit for a fraction of the cost. Not to be outdone, retailers of new appliances have had to slash their prices and a savvy shopper can negotiate an even better deal.
  2. Chill out. Your fridge has to work that much harder if you don’t allow your food to cool before putting it in the fridge or freezer.
  3. Wrap it up. Condensation from improperly wrapped food makes your fridge work harder.
  4. Shut the damn door. Remember when your mom would yell “shut that damn door, we’re not cooling off the neighborhood”? Mom was right; 7% of fridge energy is wasted when we leave the door open or browse. That is the energy equivalent of a wash load of laundry once a week for almost a year!
  5. Get organized. You will have less open door time if you know were to find what you are looking for; using clear containers, labeling, and organizing by grouping like items all make it easier.
  6. Save some space. Refrigerators and freezers function best at about 75% full. Why? You need room for the air to circulate and cool each item properly, yet enough cooled items to help maintain temperature.
  7. Keep it clean. Those coils on the back of the fridge serve to dissipate heat and help it run more effectively. Not only should you keep a distance from the wall and away from the stove, but you should clean the coils every 6mos. It’s not difficult and will take less than an hour, but will make a big difference not only in how your fridge functions, but also in keeping those expensive repair bills at bay.

Replacing an outdated fridge will save you at least $100 per year, and the other tips an additional $100. Cool, huh?  But don’t take my word for it, check out this savings calculator and find an appliance recycling program near you.

28 Jul

Another hidden cost of fast food.

Sustainability for the Common Good

Everybody creates waste (garbage) in some form or another. We try to convince ourselves that because we throw the plastic bottles into the recycle bin that we are doing our part, yes that is a good thing. In truth it is just the tip of the iceberg for reducing waste generated in a household. In truth there are is a lot of stuff that can be recycled in ways many people never even considered. For my personal sustainability project (psp) I will attempt to reduce the amount of unrecyclable garbage that leaves my house.
A quick run down of the household; I live with my younger brother and 3-4 days of the week his 2 children stay with us. Kids can produce a lot of garbage, everything from broken toys, batteries, un-eaten food, to dirty diapers. All of these things I have witnessed in the garbage. Now I don’t know…

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