Monday, 17 April 2017 00:00

I hate wasting anything, and I love creative projects, but figuring out how to reuse something when I’m done using it is difficult. Recycling is at the bottom tier of the green mantra for a reason; it’s very energy-intensive. Glass, specifically, is something you can reuse and recycle over and over again. I’ve been agonizing over what to do with my empty glass bottles, and luckily the internet has provided some very innovative ideas. Here are a few fun ideas for what to do with the glass bottles sitting on your counter or inside your recycling bin.

Impress the Neighbors with a Wine Bottle Bird Feeder
This project requires some skill, but the result looks downright adorable! It's a cheap project by the looks of it; all you need are an empty wine bottle (cleaned out, of course), a hose clamp, wood glue, a table saw, a hammer, nails, some pine furring strips, a piece of plywood, and paint for the lovely finishing touches. This project will not only make your backyard visitors happy; it's also a great yard accessory and conversation piece for friends and family!

Out of Flower Pots? Why Not Make a Bottle Planter?
If you feel comfortable cutting a wine bottle in half, this project is for you. It's great for budding plants, and the only costs here are the soil and plant for the bottle planter. What’s really cool is the fact that you can watch your plant grow!

Want a Vase in a Tight Space? Why Not Try Making a Wall Vase?
When I saw this, I thought it looked really modern and cool. It’s also a great solution for someone like me, who lives in a small apartment with limited table space. This project also requires a trip to the hardware store, but it doesn’t look too intimidating. Drill some holes, screw in some screws, insert a bottle, and boom! Wall vase.

Light Up Your Living Room with a Wine Bottle Lamp
Depending on how handy you are, or the size of the bottle, for this project, you can either drill a hole at the bottom of the bottle for the LED lighting wire or simply insert some battery-operated LED lights inside the bottle. The final result is beautiful, so pick some of your favorite colored glass beads, and have fun!

This last link provides a couple of different tutorials on how to cut glass bottles as well as several different unique ideas on what to do with them. The ideas include everything from serving platters to wall mosaics and even chandeliers. I hope you all feel inspired to give one of these projects a try. I’m certainly eager to get started!

Wednesday, 29 March 2017 00:00

Every holiday has its advantages especially when it comes to leftover boxes and gift bags.

These items can be restored. So if you're given a gift, there are ways to get the most out of them if you're not ready to recycle. The cardboard box craft was something I stumbled across on Pinterest. Old boxes, gifts bags, and wrapping paper can be transformed into stylish storage bins, toy chests, or even bookshelves. These crafts are family friendly and add a unique design to just about any living space.

Kids love boxes. Colorful mazes and toy stands can be a fun project for the whole family. Even if you just have tissue boxes or egg cartons offers hundreds of creative ideas toward a greener lifestyle.
Gift bags, ribbon, or wrapping paper can be used to design your boxes. These options can save you time and money.

Wreaths are perfect for Valentine's Day. If you received a variety of cards or even want to find a great way to put your flowers on display, try hanging them up. Faux flowers can last a lifetime. Detaching the stem or tying them together with cutouts of your Valentine's cards are a great option.

Make your memories worthwhile by taking the ends of your boxes to create a flip book. The insides of gift bags and wrapping paper can be a great template to write sweet notes or title each page and add portraits to your book. Poke 2 or 3 holes and attach all cardboard sheets together with ribbon to pull your sweet gestures together.

Everyone can participate in being green. Plan a party or have your family get outdoors and collect rocks for their Valentine gift exchange. Decorate the rock with paint or add cool patterns. If patterns aren't your thing adding the word "love," "friends," or even "siblings" on rocks is a special way to get your message across to those you admire.



Monday, 27 February 2017 00:00

Now and then, we reorganize our share shelves at the ecovillage using containers and shelving that are donated by our residents. Recently we were gifted these lovely drawers that make it easier to find what you want in our free store. The shelves are now neater because members know where to put their items when they donate them. Members who live here can add or adopt items whenever they like. Here are some pics of our new arrangement.



Saturday, 25 February 2017 00:00

At the ecovillage we have a small appliance area of items that are available for anyone to use. The area has a selection of frequently requested items and cleaning tools that are used around the ecovillage. We have jumper cables and bike pumps because those are items that are often needed urgently. The cleaning tools can be used for cleaning common areas or for individuals' apartments. This tool share area would be easy to set up at any apartment complex, as most of the items are donated by residents over time.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017 00:00

My partner recently started brewing his own beer. After his first batch, we found ourselves with a pot full of spent grain, the main byproduct of the brewing process. Chickens love spent grain, but we don't have chickens at the moment. It seemed such a waste to just toss the spent grains into the compost, so I did a little research to see how else we could use them. I was quite surprised at what I found.

My favorite discovery to date has been Brooklyn Brew Shop's Spent Grain Chef. I can personally vouch for their pizza dough, buttermilk biscuits, granola, burger buns, and waffles.

I did mention their pizza dough, didn't I? We have made a LOT of homemade pizza over the years, and this is by far my favorite pizza dough recipe. The spent grain gives the dough a hearty flavor that goes well with any toppings, vegetarian or not. (And pizza goes well with beer—it's a win-win!)

We also love their barley, chocolate, and peanut butter bars, but I wasn't as impressed with the recipes for brownies and blondies. The spent grain flavor pairs well with the salty, savory pretzel and peanut butter in the former recipe, but I found the earthy taste too much for sweets like brownies. Other folks seem to love them, though.

For most of the Spent Grain Chef's recipes, you'll need to dry the spent grain. This isn't difficult, but it is time-consuming—just spread it on a few cookie sheets, and bake at a very low temperature, stirring every 30 minutes or so until all the moisture evaporates. In other cases, their recipes require spent grain flour. For this, you will need access to a mill and a lot of arm power (unless your mill is electric), but the end product is lovely and well worth the effort.

Spent grains can also be used for homemade dog biscuits, but as many folks on the internet have commented, most dogs will eat just about anything. So, perhaps that one isn't as exciting.

Most of the spent grain suggestions I've found relate to baking, but I've also learned that composting spent grain isn't such a waste after all. It's a great addition to any compost pile, or you can just spread it thinly around your yard to nourish the grass and feed the birds and squirrels. Several internet sources also suggest that spent grain provides an excellent environment for growing mushrooms.

And on a larger scale, craft brewers around the country have found innovative ways to reuse their spent grains. For example, Alaskan Brewing Company uses their spent grain to power their brewhouse. After shipping their spent grain to Pacific Northwest farmers and ranchers for years, they built a steam boiler that is fueled entirely by their own spent grain. Efforts like this help them toward their goals of environmental stewardship and zero-waste production.

Many, many other ideas are floating around on the internet. Craft brewers, what do you do with YOUR spent grain?

Wednesday, 08 February 2017 00:00

Have a Christmas card or invitation you want to save, but decoupage isn't your strong suit? Now you can keep your card in a decorative ornament!

You'll need: A card or invitation, a clear ornament, scissors, and ribbon.
Optional: Glitter.

1. Start by getting a clear ornament with a removable top. These are available at most craft stores or in Christmas decorations.

2. Cut your card (or invitation) into strips the width of the opening of the ornament. They should be long enough to wrap around a pen at least once or twice. You can choose variable widths and lengths for different effects.

3. Wrap each strip around a pen or pencil to loosely curl the strip into a spiral.

4. Place each curled strip inside the ornament. You can vary how full you want each ornament, but use caution when removing and replacing the top of the ornament, as too much pressure can fracture the ornament.

5. Use ribbon or twine to hang the ornament.

Optional additive: add a few pinches of glitter inside the ornament for extra shimmer.