What green product do you wish someone would invent?

February 28, 2012 by  
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We’ve had an email from Mel asking for a bit of help with a university assignment about green things and I thought it might make an interesting discussion: I have a uni assignment where I need to market an ‘imaginary’ green product – I believe my time would be better spent marketing an ‘actual’ green product – but that is unfortunately not the brief!! Each product I have thought of seems to already exist when I do an Internet search … so I though I might pose the question to you all … ‘What green product do you wish someone would invent?’. I’d love to hear your suggestions and hopefully find a subject for my assignment. It can be as simple or wacky as you like – it does not have to be based on actual science since it is for a marketing subject – but I would prefer to spend my energies on something useful and thoughtful. Thanks! Great site, by the way 🙂 We greenies tend to be pretty resourceful at making our own green versions of things we need if we can’t buy them already (either because they don’t exist or because they’re too expensive) but there must be some things we’re still clamoring for. Plus, I suspect someone of us might be wishing for things that already exist – and hopefully by expressing our wishes we can find out about them! My only ideas are business-to-business ones such as genuinely green food packaging for shops & supermarkets to use — yes, we can take our own containers to some places and reduce the amount of packaged stuff we buy in the first place, but it would be good if supermarkets had more affordable-to-them, greener options as an alternative to formed plastic or vacuum-sealed plastic containers. Or, more of a service than a product but a way for more packaging to be returned & reused like milk bottles or pop bottles in ye olden days. One of my other “why can’t you get…?” pet peeves is the amount of times we’re transporting water around unnecessarily in products that could be made more concentrated or in a dehydrated form — but all the examples I can think of right now are available, for example powdered milk and shampoo bars. Do you have any “why isn’t there a green version of that?” items?

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What green product do you wish someone would invent?

How can I reuse or recycle an old toaster oven?

January 23, 2012 by  
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Joel has an old toaster oven and would like ideas on how he can reuse or recycle it: My wife just bought a new toaster oven. The previous one had problems in her eyes, because the spring-loaded door didn’t work as smoothly as when new, and the unit, after three years, had a couple unsightliness issues. The door is not much of a problem, as far as I’m concerned. It does stay shut reliably when you shut it. So, okay, now I’ve got this little heating unit that I can take to my shop. It seems the controls function as-new. Thermostat system works. Heats up to 450* F. People are using old toaster ovens for flow soldering, for un-soldering components on circuit boards, and for powder-coating of small objects. Right now, I don’t do any of those things… but you never know Got any other ideas as to how it can come in handy? Toaster ovens aren’t very common in the UK but they seem to be mini table-top electric ovens – the bread is put on a horizontal tray for toasting but they can be used for other things too (much like any electric oven). First things first, since it works well, do consider passing it on to someone is less concerned about the door/aesthetic issues — if your local thrift/op/charity shop doesn’t accept electronics, you could pass it onto someone else directly through your local Freecycle/Freegle group. If that ship has sailed though and it’s needed to be removed from culinary service, it may still be ripe for random crafting reuse. It doesn’t go hot enough for things like clay pottering firing or enamelling (the latter of which is a shame because perhaps he could have fixed Su’s casserole pan … 😉 ) but would be fine for the things Joel suggests or other low temperature crafts such as Fimo or the recycled equivalent of Shrinky Dinks (there seems to be a new trend for making pedants from plastic number 6 – (not expanded) polystyrene – cups). Some gardeners recommend always starting seeds off in a sterile potting mix/seed compost which can be bought or made at home – Alys Fowler recommends a couple of minutes in the microwave or popping it in the oven for an hour at 80C/175F – the toaster oven would work for that. Any other suggestions for Joel – how he could pass it on or reuse/recycle it for other purposes? (Photo from Wikipedia )

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How can I reuse or recycle fibre glass baths?

November 9, 2011 by  
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Rosie has emailed: My partner brought home 3 brand new fibre glass baths (minus handles) which were going to be thrown in the skip. Any suggestions for use and does anyone want them? That’s just the type of thing I’d want to bring home too – they seem so useful (and so new!) that I’d struggle to resist 😉 They’re bigger than a lot of the things we feature on here so I think the reuses are going to be limited, unless you have a lot of space. Old baths are regularly reused by people with horses or livestock in a field as drinkers, or buried by people wanting a quick and basic pond. I know also some people with large gardens/allotments use them as deep “no dig” raised beds or for containing crops that have a tendency to be invasive (like mint). I’ve also long been interested in aquaponics – I wonder if a bathtub could be used for the water bit of that… Away from animals and growing, I sometimes play the “what I would do if I had loads of workshop space” game (all crafters do that, right?) and one of the things that would probably feature on my list is a really big dye bath so I could dye long lengths of fabric etc in one go. It’s a will-never-happen thing for me, but I’d probably find a bathtub if I ever did have the space. If you don’t have room or the need for those type of reuses, someone on your local Freecycle/Freegle group might want them instead. Due to so many people having bath renovations these days, there are a lot of old baths knocking around – but it certainly doesn’t hurt to offer them on there. Any other suggestions for Rosie either for reusing/recycling ideas or for ways to pass it along?

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How can I reuse or recycle fibre glass baths?

How can I reduce my use of make-up sponges etc?

October 27, 2011 by  
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We’ve had an email from Charley: I’ve read your pages about reducing toilet paper and sanitary towels . I’m not sure I want to go that far yet but I do want to find an alternative for makeup sponges like for applying liquid foundation. Do you know if there are any recycled sponges on the market or what else can I use? I’m hoping we’ve got some make-up experts in the Recycle This community — I’ve only worn foundation twice in my entire life so I don’t know much about that sort of thing. It’s an evasive answer but that is one way to reduce using synthetic sponges/foam pads – and other make-up consumables such as packaging: wear less make-up and less regularly. I realise it’s not an answer for everyone but it is something to consider. I think I used to wear make-up out of habit but once I got over the shock of going cosmetically nude, I quickly normalised to not wearing make-up. Now to Charley’s actual question: with Google, I can find sponge scourers make from recycled but not finer make-up sponges. Anyone got better Google skills or with more cosmetics knowledge, know where/what to look for? You can get natural sponges for applying make-up (which could be composted at the end of the life) but they usually have their own environmental impact. Anyone got any advice on those? Alternatives: again, possibly not for everyone but switch to a powder foundation that can be applied with a brush – a good quality brush washed regularly will last a long, long time. (On a similar point, I can’t believe I stuck with sponge eye shadow applicators for so long — trained into them by the “free” ones with some shadows I guess — when a shaped brush does a far better job and lasts a lot longer too.) I know a lot of people make their own make-up removal pads to use instead of cotton wool but has anyone made their own reusable application pads? Any other suggestions or ideas for Charley to try?

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How can I reduce my use of make-up sponges etc?

Green Gift Guide for Back to School College Students (Slideshow)

August 9, 2011 by  
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Image: TreeHugger Whether you’re sending your oldest child off to his first day as a freshman or helping your youngest prepare for the beginning of her senior year, making sure your kids have the green gear they need for a successful year at college is no small task. This year, you can outfit them with the most essential items — from classics with a contemporary twist (recycled paper notebooks, reclaimed leather messenger bags, and stainless steel coffee mugs) to modern gifts with a timeless edge (paper-saving e-readers, organic duvet covers, organic food deliveries) — all by following the suggestions in this … Read the full story on TreeHugger

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What can I reuse or recycle to make a bird bath?

July 26, 2011 by  
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Annetta has emailed with two great questions. Here’s the first: Any ideas on making a bird bath out of recycled [things from] around the house? I think it depends on whether you want something pretty, quirky or just something practical for the birds to use, looks be damned. I’d love to hear ideas for all three, personally! I love old ceramic basins outside – not just the de rigeur belfast sink planter but bathroom ones with ivy or another climber creeping their way up around the pedestal and taps too. With a well-fitting plug, that would work well as a bird bath. A big old steel wok could be upcycled into one too – it would need a base if it was a round-bottomed one, but I’m sure that could be fashioned fairly easily from some scrap wood (or branches). I’d imagine it might need some protection from the water/the elements – would painting it with metal paint work/be bird friendly? Staying in the kitchen, an old pottery mixing bowl or the like would be about the right size. We sometimes crack soup bowls in a way that we wouldn’t want to use them for cooking any more but they are still be water-tight enough for underneath plant pots (especially with a little slick of non-foodsafe sealant up the crack) — using the same sealant, a mixing bowl might be watertight enough to be a cute, quirky bird bath. So that’s a few ideas – has anyone got any other suggestions? I’ve been a bit lazy really, just suggested things that are already bird bath size/shaped — any creative suggestions for making them other things?

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What can I reuse or recycle to make a bird bath?

How can I reuse or recycle Leylandii/conifer branches?

July 18, 2011 by  
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We’ve had an email from Jennifer (sorry it’s taken a few weeks to feature it, Jennifer!): We hacked down a couple of huge nasty Leylandii conifer trees from our garden this weekend and don’t know what to do with the wood and branches. It’s far too much for our own compost bin, fear for the state of our car if we tried to take them to the council compost collection because they’re dropping resin and I’ve read that you shouldn’t burn them. My husband thinks the only option might be hiring a skip for landfill but I’d still prefer a green option! Ahh, Leyland Cypress. Depending on your point of view, it’s either the useful sound/pollution blocking instant-hedge or the scourge of urban gardens with its own Asbo law . As we have a woodburning stove and a father-in-law who skip-dives for all sorts of wood, we’ve read quite a bit about burning leylandii – some people say as long as it is sufficiently dry (seasoned), it’s fine to burn and is actually a good start-of-fire accelerator. But it is full of sticky resin which can clog up chimneys with creosote and cause chimney fires – the pro-burning-it people say as long as it’s seasoned and completely dry, this isn’t a problem but it takes a good couple of years to reach that state. (Outdoor fires, such as bonfires, won’t have a build-up problem but if you burn it fresh/green, it will give off clouds of smoke and spit furiously.) A quick Google tells me that some people use sections of cut-down Leylandii trees in aviaries to provide secluded roosting space for small birds. Other people shred them up and use them as woodchippings for paths – they will compost down eventually but will probably take a few years. If you don’t fancy doing either of those things, perhaps someone on your local Freecycle/Freegle may be interested in doing it…? Any other suggestions or ideas?

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How can I reuse or recycle Leylandii/conifer branches?

How can I reuse or recycle Stax potato chip cans?

July 15, 2011 by  
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Tammy Gary has asked: Would love ideas to reuse the Stax potato chip cans. We don’t have Stax over here in the UK but my friend Google tells me they’re like Pringles, but packed in a plastic tube instead of waxed cardboard. Some of the Pringles ideas will still apply: they’re great for storing knitting needles and paintbrushes, can be used as storage for homemade biscuits, and is useful as a small poster tube – for either storing documents without creasing or sending through the post. As these bad buys are plastic (rather than card) so water-resistant, they will lend themselves to other reuses too – I’d imagine they could easily be turned into a bird feeder (cut a couple of feeding windows about a third/half of the way up, add a perch at the bottom then fill with seed), could be used for storing dried goods in the kitchen or as storage for small kids’ toys (eg lego or jigsaw pieces) or crayons. Any other suggestions?

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How can I reuse or recycle Stax potato chip cans?

How can I make sure a spray bottle is really clean before reusing it?

July 7, 2011 by  
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We’ve had lots of suggestions over the years on how to reuse spray bottles from commercial cleaning products and the like but Nancy has just emailed a related question: First I want to comment that this is a fantastic website! Everyone in the world should be accessing it. My question is this: I’m recycling plastic spray bottles to put pure, herbal cleaning products in. Is there a way to make sure these bottles are clean and free of chemical residue before I reuse them? A way to sanitize them first? If I was going to use it for another cleaning product, I probably wouldn’t go overboard with cleaning it, just a washout with water or something, (unless the original product was very bleachy or something that would react with my new product) — I personally wouldn’t mind the chemical residue dregs for that first refill. If I was reusing the spray bottle for something else (eg, as a water spray for plants) though, then I’d probably wash it out more thoroughly (a few rinses of hot water) – but still probably not to a level that I’d class as “sanitizing” it so I don’t know what is needed to do that. (My boyfriend) John uses baby bottle sterilising tablets when he’s cleaning plastic bottles for homebrew – and often has sterilising fluid leftover once his bottles are clean — it is, admittedly, a very weak bleach solution but is apparently stabilised so safer than normal bleach and doesn’t need rinsing off feeding utensils/bottles before they’re used. It seems like overkill to whip up a new batch of the fluid to clean out a cleaning products bottle but if you have it leftover from another use anyway… Any other suggestions? How much effort do you make to clean out cleaning product bottles before reusing them?

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How can I make sure a spray bottle is really clean before reusing it?

How can I reuse or recycle plastic cat biscuit bags (like Purina)?

June 6, 2011 by  
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Shar left us a message on our “Suggest An Item” page: I have increasing numbers of empty Purina one cat food bags. Because they are plastic foil they are not accepted by my local council for recycling.

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