Buy Nothing Boxing Day

Boxing Day, traditionally, was a thing in Britain’s Victorian era. Boxes were left out in front of churches for people to donate gifts for the poor. It was also the day when servants of the super-wealthy were given a chance to observe Christmas with their families. Hard-working domestic employees were handed boxes of gifts to give to their loved ones. Tradespeople, too, were thanked on Boxing Day with boxes filled with gifts for services well done.

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A true Boxing Day is a day filled with small acts of kindness. 

In essence, Boxing Day historically is a day to commit small acts of kindness. Today, we can continue the tradition in less class-structured ways and offer boxes of gifts to our neighbors by posting them in our Buy Nothing groups.

Over the holidays we often acquire gifts that might not be to our liking. It’s the thought that counts, right? Once you’re over that warm-and-fuzzy feeling of gratitude for your gift, yet realize you just won’t ever wear it, or eat it, or use it in any way, why not simply regift it on Boxing Day?

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Willa loves Boxing Day © Liesl Clark

In a gift economy, we gain increments of social capital by giving and also receiving with grace. So when we have excess to give, especially on Boxing Day, offering it up to our communities in a transparent fashion, where all can see, is a way of raising our worthiness for future gifts. It also raises the overall wealth of the community since one more item will remain within the materials economy of the neighborhood: an item that might be re-gifted later, or might free-up up its owner to spend more money locally. The more we share within our own communities, the greater our communal wealth. So, get out your boxes and share your bounty. Your neighbors will be thankful, and you’ll earn yourself a little hit of dopamine to go with your added giver clout.

 

Create An Inventor’s Kit For Your Curious Child

Our alarm clock went on the fritz. It just didn’t keep good time anymore and when we put new batteries in, the whole thing decided to stop ticking. Rather than throwing the clock out, our 9-year-old took the opportunity to try to fix it. He looked deep inside and saw the inner workings of the mysterious time-keeper, its simple gears and all the parts that added up to the whole: A simple machine. The adventure in taking-it-apart-land proved fruitful and now any broken gadgets in our household are fertile ground for young inventors searching for new parts to connect together, creating new-fangled machines.

Motherboards are a universe of fascinating connections for the curiosity-seeker. Keep your youngsters’ minds exploring, even if it’s inside the things you thought would never tick again.

The secondary benefit is not throwing perfectly reusable items away. Rather than putting it all into the metal recycling bin or e-waste, these items will have a prolonged life. Our children’s relationship with “things” is changing rapidly, as they see how items may have a new use in a different iteration.

The fun part of finding an old case to use for the kit. We cleaned out some boxes in our storage room and found these to create new kits to give to neighbors.

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Spark creativity in the kiddos around you. You’ll be surprised by what they build, and do send us your suggestions for what you’d add to your child’s inventor’s kit!

Driftwood Building Blocks

We all love manipulatives, items with soft shapes made by the rhythms of the Earth. Give children a few hours and a place to play with found objects, and you’ll be surprised where their imaginations go. During a gorgeous 3 days of camping on our favorite Olympic National Park beach, we picked up not only washed-up plastics battered from years of travel atop the Pacific waves, but we also gathered a beautiful selection of years-worn driftwood.

The organic shapes were beguiling: Sticks worn into rounded gray pieces any child would love to handle, contemplate, and build magic worlds with.

We brought a few favorite pieces home to be used again and again as building blocks for the imagination. And now, whenever we go on our beach camping trips, we collect more, to give as gifts for friends who like to have a basket centerpiece for all ages to enjoy. Gather some up to offer at your next creative meeting with colleagues. They’ll get engaged, quickly. Collect some of nature’s beautiful bounty for your children and friends, and they’ll thank you for the plastic-free tactile experience.

It’s local, organic, and sustainable. What natural found objects do you use for mindful play?

Clementine Box Doll Bed

By Cleo Clark-Athans

This one is a simple trash hack by a 7 year old.

1) Take clementines out of wooden clementine box.

Clementine Boxes Have Huge Potential, Photo © Liesl Clark

2) Place small towels, rags, hand-knit blankets, anything soft inside the clementine box to make a “mattress.”

Inserting the "Mattress" Photo © Liesl Clark

3) Find a cute fabric scrap, a doll’s blanket, or a pretty place mat to use as your bedspread.

4) Add a small pillow (mine was hand sewn at sewing class).

Outer Bed Layers Need to Be Appealing. Pink Seems To Work for My Small Animals. Photo © Liesl Clark

5) Put your favorite little animals or dolls to bed!

No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, Photo © Liesl Clark

Unstuff Your Holidays And Share

Our kids know to not get us “things” as gifts over the holidays. We’ve worked hard to demonstrate that consuming less at holiday-time means less hassle of managing a household of stuff for the year to come. But, how can we take this one step further and try to bring-about a community-wide movement of buying less “stuff” and consuming what is already around us? I’ve found one way to do this: Get proactive, find the perfectly-shareable things that are out there, and help jumpstart collaborative consumption, i.e. sharing what’s already in our midst.

When I was a little girl, I had dreams of owning a shop and offering everything for free. I wanted to take money out of the bargain and let those who truly needed a loaf of bread simply have it, no strings attached. I imagined the happy faces when my clientele would realize they could take it home, along with the freshly ground peanut butter and handmade jellies. I didn’t have a business plan for this sort of shop, of course, but I knew it would thrive somehow. What I didn’t know then was that I was dreaming of a gift economy. Experience now tells me it works, and it can be a huge success.

IMG_5545, Photo © Kim Scott-Olson

Six years ago, my friend Rebecca and I started a local free food gathering that happened every Saturday morning before the farmer’s market. Gardeners would bring extra produce they’ve grown and home cooks would offer fresh baked and canned goodies. We’d see grass fed beef being shared, vegetable seedlings, and locally-caught crab at our gatherings. Everyone would bring a basket and take home their fill of produce, fruit, flowers, and other consumables. Participants departed enriched by the offerings and the knowledge that their food bills would be much less that week. A sharing economy is joyful. It brings neighbors together to share their bounty and eat locally-grown, caught, and foraged foods.

Bainbridge Bounty-Share, Photo © Liesl Clark

Taking this successful model of collaborative consumption further, Rebecca and I wanted to help take the burden of buying out of the holidays. What if we opened a “Buy Nothing, Give Freely Gift Boutique?” The idea is truly simple: Every family has, for example, toys their child outgrows and most are made of plastic. Or perhaps families have clothing, jewelry, kitchen items that they never use. Why not offer them up to others in exchange for free goodies that you might be able to give to family members or friends?  I tend to have excellent toy karma. So, we have plenty to keep 10 families happy for years. So every autumn, I start boxing up our unwanted toy bounty in preparation for the free gift boutique.

A Free Gift Boutique Makes Christmas Shopping Easy and Fun

We also have an arrangement with a local school that conducts a gift boutique for their students. When their shop (of donated gifts) closes, they want to get rid of the nice housewares and toys quickly so we pick up those boxes of goods and add them to our mix so kids and adults can browse for gifts for family members of all ages. Some families come with toys and items to share in the shop and others come simply to gather much-appreciated gifts. All are welcome.

The holiday boutique idea is a one day, once-a-year event and pure joy to see the happy faces and thoughtful children as they think of everyone in their family they’d like to find a special something for.

Free Frames! Photo © Kim Scott-Olson

Free Housewares, Photo © Kim Scott-Olson

Free Housewares, Photo © Kim Scott-Olson

We took this idea about a thousand steps further and created The Buy Nothing Project, which has grown into a worldwide social movement of hyper-local gift economies set up in communities all over the globe. At last count, we have well over 1500 groups and we’re approaching 200,000 members. We’re like Freecycle, but our emphasis in on community-building.

Free Toys For All Ages, Photo © Kim Scott-Olson

Yet, this year I didn’t have the time to host a holiday boutique here in our home, so I collected the items from the school, had my kids go through their toys, and I purged things from our housewares, and we’ve simply been offering them up to the community through our local Buy Nothing group. A truck-load of items that I got from the school has been given away, with only 1 box left for Goodwill. Families are so happy to receive items to relieve the burden of gift-buying, and perhaps free up some funds to spend locally.

My reasoning is this: If we all just take our perfectly-usable unwanted things to Goodwill, we’re removing those items from our community wealth. If we continue to share them with our neighbors, offering up what we no longer need or use, our community  benefits in small but measurable ways by buying less stuff in general and saving that money to spend nearby: in a local restaurant or shop, for travel and exploration, for concerts and exhibits, for education. Over the holidays, there’s so much right here in our neighborhoods that’s shareable. The key is to seek those items out, and divert them away from the landfill or anonymous charity, and circulate them throughout the community again and again. I’m warmed by seeing my children’s dollhouse gifted 5 years later to yet another family. These things last many lifetimes, and sharing them sends a message to manufacturers that we don’t need to make so many, especially of they’re well-made.

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So, I look at our “stuff” as a community asset. Things we should keep circulating around our neighborhoods, for reuse, so we don’t go out and buy the same things over and over, producing the mountains of waste we see heading each week to the landfill. If we change the way we handle our stuff, add sharing into the picture, we can make a huge impact on our planet. In fact, each gift, in our original Buy Nothing Holiday Boutique, had a printed reminder of where the gift came from, the benefits of a gift economy, and the responsibility we each have as stewards of each item, ensuring that it stays in our materials economy, and not in our landfills or oceans, for a long time hence.

The Virtues of a Circular Economy, Photo © Kim Scott-Olson

20 Wine Cork Uses

25 Reuses For Natural Wine Corks. Photo © Liesl Clark

Wine corks have a natural mystique. There’s something attractive about those stoppers of cork once they’re released from a bottle of fine wine. And when you’ve accumulated a few, cork projects come to mind. One of the first DIY projects I made for my first home was a cork board out of a frame of recycled old painted wood found at the dump in Aspen, Colorado. It was such a thing of beauty, I made several of them, collecting corks from local restaurants, and I sold them to a shabby chic antique barn.

Before I start in with this list, I feel compelled to bring attention to the fact that cork is a renewable recyclable material. Recycling your cork through Recork or Cork Forest will keep your cork out of the landfill and result in cork flooring and other cool products made of cork like shoes. Each organization can point you to your nearest recycler or you can take corks to a bin at Whole Foods Markets since they have a partnership with Cork ReHarvest.

The cork forests of Portugal are one of the oldest forms of sustainable agroforestry in the world. They’ve been in production since the 13th century and harvesting of the cork does not require cutting down the tree. Buying wines that use natural instead of plastic corks helps sustain these forests and their biodiverse habitats that need continued protection. But how do you know which wines have natural corks? There’s now a web app for that!  Put out by Recork, I love this app called CorkWatch. I did a search for my favorite local winery, Eleven Winery, and found that all of their wines are corked with natural cork. Kendall-Jackson by contrast has a Reserve chardonnay in natural cork and their less expensive everyday chardonnay in plastic.

Although there’s risk of getting a wine with cork taint if you sample a natural cork wine, I still prefer purchasing a plastic-free wine. We know plastics leach BPA into liquids and there is good evidence showing that the plastic corks are not allowing wines to mature properly. Recork’s CorkWatch is helping me reduce my plastic footprint. Furthermore, Cork Forest Conservation Alliance has a method of identification on the bottles themselves which some wineries are using: If you see an acorn on the bottle it means the cork is natural.

If you have accumulated some plastic corks, apparently the industry says you can recycle them. Of course our recycler won’t take them. I couldn’t find any information whether Seattle takes them and Earth911 had zero results for a recycler in our region. Hmmm. I think I’ll stick with traditional cork.

Ok, so you want to do something cool with your saved natural corks rather than recycle them? Here are a few ideas.

1) Wine Cork Cork Board: It’s as simple as gluing the corks against particle board with a frame around it. I use wood glue.

2) Wine Cork Pot Grippers: I squeeze them inside the handles of my cookware so I can pick up the pot tops when they’re hot without the need of a pot holder. Corks don’t conduct heat so these cork handles have become a staple in our kitchen.

cork potgrippers

3) Cork Stamps: If you’re good with an exacto knife, try carving some stamps.

4) Bulletin Bar: Line up your corks and glue them to a yardstick. This makes a yard-long bar for pinning things like your children’s art.

5) Cork Placemat: With 50 corks, a utility knife, and a hot glue gun you’ll have a cork placemat in no time (Okay, it’ll take some time.)

6) Cork Plant Labels: Cork looks natural in the garden labelled with the names of your veggies and herbs you’ve planted.

7) Furniture Leg & Floor Protector: Little cork disks make great furniture leg pads to protect your wood floors from scratches.

8) Wine Cork Key Chains: They might keep your keys afloat!

9) Cork Centerpiece: If you have a large glass bowl and a tea light you can make a pretty cork centerpiece.

10) Cork Trivet: Cork is a great material for making a trivet.

11) Cork Backsplash: If you have a wet bar, a cork backsplash would look great.

12) Cork Ornaments: Corks and beads make pretty Christmas ornaments.

13) Wine Cork Wine Coasters: They might be a bit wobbly for your wine glass but the do look cool.

14) Cork Wreath: Even wreaths can be made from wine corks. Next thing you know, you’ll be able to make a planter out of wine corks.

15) Wine Cork Bird House: This video shows you how to do it. Doesn’t look tough.

16) Wine Cork Place Card Holder: These aren’t difficult to make and they leave a great impression.

17) Wine Cork Curtain: Alas, I can’t find a decent tutorial, but imagine stringing corks and beads together to create a 60’s-ish curtain of cork-strings in your doorway.

18) Wine Cork Base Board: This Old House shows you how to make a base board runner made of wine corks.

19) Wine Cork Dog Leash: Really! And it’s not hard to make.

20) Plant Pot Moisture Absorbers: This one is 2 ideas in 1. You can place corks in the bottom of your large pots to reduce the amount of potting soil you need to put in while providing drainage. But you can also grind up some corks in your vitamix and put the bits in your soil to help hold moisture on hot days.

How To Recycle Plastic Bags

Let’s talk polyethylene, or plastic bags. They’re stretchable plastic bags, or film, that are #2 or #4 plastics. Amazingly, most people don’t recycle them, but you can. These things just never go away, so doing your best to not acquire them in the first place is a tall order, but well worth it. And then, reusing them as much as you can until you have to recycle them is your best course of action.

Most supermarkets have a recycle bin where you can take your polyethylene or plastic bags. The most common polyethylene bags are plastic bags that you get at the grocery store, but there are many more items that you might otherwise throw away that can be recycled in polyethylene recycling. Let’s review them in a simple list, below.

When you take your bags to get recycled, simply stuff the rest of the polyethylene from your life into that bag to get recycled, too. But please remember: Recycling plastic bags is not a closed-loop system. Best to think about ways to avoid it altogether.

Ok, Here’s the List of Plastic Bags/Film That Can Go In Your Plastic Bag Recycling Bin

Grocery Bags: On our island, we’re lucky these things have been banned. So, they’re few and far between.

Bread Bags: Some bread comes in polyethylene. Be sure to recycle them when you’re done reusing them. And if you want to reduce this plastic altogether, try my fail-proof bread recipe. It’s a staple in our home.

Air Bags for Shipping and Bubblewrap: Definitely reuse these, or offer them up on your local Buy Nothing group. People and businesses who ship items often are always happy to take them off your hands.

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Ziploc Bags: If you use resealable bags that have those zipperlike locks on them, just rip that hard block off of your bag and recycle the bag. I’m proud to say I haven’t bought resealable bags in years because I clean, dry, and reuse what I have.

Garment Bags: Man, that’s a lot of polyethylene. Maybe your dry cleaner will take them back if you keep them clean.

Mail Order Clothing Bags: My husband works for a clothing company and we get samples from them every week. They all come in polyethylene bags. Bothers me.

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Beverage Shrink Wrap: These are usually clean and can just be thrown right into recycling. This excessive packaging is disturbing.

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Newspaper Bags: Digital subscriptions are looking a lot more eco-friendly these days.

Magazine Covers: Be sure to remove the paper address label and recycle that paper label, or throw it in your compost.

Frozen Food Bags: It’s super important that you wash and dry these bags so there’s no food residue inside.

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Cereal Box Liners: According to this website, you can recycle them.

Toilet Paper Roll Packaging: This is the one we can’t seem to avoid. I don’t like buying individually-paper-wrapped toilet paper rolls.

Paper Towel Packaging: Or, just skip them altogether.

Individual Kleenex Tissue Wrap: I found this in the woods on a hike. Using a handkerchief can go a long way toward reducing these kinds of plastics.

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Produce Bags: I reuse mine, taking them back to the store, and no one seems to care.

Plastic Shipping Envelopes: Just remove the sticky label. We reuse these, too.

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Trash Bags: These have to be clean and dry.

Wood Chip Plastic Baling: We used to use wood chips as bedding for our chickens (but now we use shredded paper.) This stuff is polyethylene! If you make sure it’s clean and dry, it can be recycled.

Little Hardware Bags For Nuts, Bolts, Screws, Etc: These little bags are what the hardware store provides for you when you buy bits of hardware in bulk.

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Furniture Wrap: This is film, and it should be recycled.

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What can’t be recycled? My rule of thumb is, if you can stretch your thumb through it, it’s polyethylene. But don’t include Saran Wrap/cling wrap. Apparently, that’s a different plastic (until recently, it was PVC.) If your plastic item crinkles, it’s not recyclable and you’ll have to throw it away. The risk of putting the wrong plastic into your recycling is that the recycler will reject the entire recycling container-full of bags. So, be sure you’re sending the right stuff to get recycled.

I’m a big believer in every office and classroom having a polyethylene bag recycling area, so long as a volunteer will take it to the supermarket for recycling every week or so. Imagine the impact you could have by doing this? It would reduce the waste-to-landfill by a lot, and save the school and office a bundle in solid waste pickup fees.

What can you add to my list?