9 posts categorized "DIY"

September 21, 2010

Clean and Green: tools, tips & tricks for tidying up without selling out

ACM_450_Kitchen Did you know that paper and paperboard products (paper towels, tissues, etc) made up 20.7 % of the municipal waste discarded in 2008--more than any other type of refuse? (6,550,000 tons!)

Think about it, every time you clean your house how many paper towels do you go through? What about sponges, disposable mop heads and dust cloths? What about all those harsh chemicals you spray into the air or toss away on a dirty paper towel?

Common household cleaners (including toilet bowl cleaners, air deodorizers, floor cleaners, window cleaners, and some detergents) often contain very toxic chemicals. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, even when used properly, these toxins make their way into the environment through evaporation of volatile components.

One obvious solution is to switch to reusable cleaning products - items like microfiber cleaning cloths, reusable scrub stones and refillable spray bottles. You could also switch to all-natural cleaning products - but those are often expensive and still come in throw-away containers - so we suggest making your own cleaners at home.

It might take a little getting used to - in fact, our photographer Sarah wrote a post on her journey to a "greener" clean earlier this year. (Check out Sarah's video below.) But once you make the switch, you'll marvel at how much money you save on disposables and how much lighter your cleaning-day trash bags become.

As Sarah mentioned in her post, we offer a few kits to get you started making your own all-natural cleaning products at home. In addition, we have a DIY Household Cleaners article in our DIY section, with links to some basic recipes for homemade cleaners. 

Finally, our brand-new DIY playlist on YouTube features videos handpicked by us, demonstrating how to make your own dish soap, bath tub cleaner and more. 

With just a few basic items, a handful of ingredients and a little elbow grease, you'll have an eco-friendly, sparkling clean home in no time. Check out this video of Sarah making DIY cleaners:

DIY Cleaning Solutions with reuseit™ spray bottles from reuseit.com on Vimeo.

Do you know of a great DIY cleaning recipe we should add to our DIY section? Leave us a comment! 

September 08, 2010

Natalie's Starbucks Survival Kit

20061101_starbucks_900x600 Don't get me wrong, I love the Fair Trade organic coffee we buy in bulk and grind fresh daily in the office kitchen. In fact, I am not ready to start my day at Reuseit without it. But once a week - usually Wednesday or Thursday when I start to run out of steam - I head to Starbucks for a pick-me-up.

Working at Reuseit I've learned a few easy ways to make my weekly treat more environmentally-responsible and today being a chilly morning in Chicago, I thought I'd share them.

First (and most obviously) bring your own mug! I like stainless steel because it keeps my coffee hot, but I see lots of people using the I Am Not A Paper Cup because it looks so much like a Starbucks cup. You can use the same mugs for iced drinks. The barista should knock a few cents off your drink every time you bring a mug, too.

Speaking of iced drinks - I have two tips for you. One: bring your own straw. It might not seem like a big waste when you look at the unassuming little straw in your cup, but if I'm going to Starbucks once a week, every week all year long that's at least 52 plastic straws a year I'm throwing away. (Not to mention all the paper they come wrapped in.) Again, I like stainless steel but glass is a fancy alternative. 

My second piece of advice for cold drinks is: if you have to take a disposable cup, reuse it. Not to drink from again, necessarily, but upcycle those plastic cups into something new. In fact, there is an entire website called Starbucks Garden 100% dedicated to ways you can reuse your coffee cups to grow your own food. 

I love sweets - and there are lots of them in the pastry case at Starbucks. I easily avoid taking a paper bag I don't really need by asking my barista to place my danish in a reusable sandwich bag. They do kind of think you're nuts at first, but it's a good way to get other people in line thinking about whether or not they really need to throw away so many paper bags every week as well. With my reusable napkin (that really doesn't get very dirty so I take it home once a week to wash with my other laundry), my mug, straw and sandwich bag I'm enjoying waste-free visits to Starbucks every week. 

At the cream and sugar counter I opt for sweeteners I can shake out of a larger container as opposed to one that comes in a disposable package, and I walk out full of caffeine and feeling pretty smart.

I'll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite blogs, Green Starbucks:

"'If only 50 customers a day in every store were to use reusable mugs, Starbucks would save 150,000 disposable paper cups daily. This equals 1.7 million pounds of paper, 3.7 million pounds of solid waste, and 150,000 trees a year.' In 2000 when this report was generated there were only 6500 stores worldwide. In 2007 there are 13,168 stores which means over 300,000 trees could be saved from landfills by BRINGING YOUR OWN CUP."

July 09, 2010

Post-Soap Nuts Upcyling: Laundry Detergent Lamp

So you've made the switch from wastefully-packaged, chemical-laden detergents and you're gleefully washing your laundry with the fruit of the Chinese soapberry tree (Soap Nuts) but what to do with that last bottle of detergent?

Sure, you could rinse and recycle it? But why not keep it around as a reminder of what laundry was like before you found a better way? This laundry detergent lamp is a kitchy-cool project that makes good use of that last bulky bottle. And the video is fun to watch, too!

July 02, 2010

Cold Brewed Coffee: A Delicious Oxymoron

by Umair Mohsin We have been up to something big lately. Really. It's huge. You might want to say good bye to your socks, as a matter of fact, because in a few weeks we plan on knocking them clean off. See that Reuseit logo to the left over there? Well, it's coming... and it's awesome. We can't wait to show you.

That being said, yesterday we figured out we've been averaging about three pots of coffee per day in the office - sometimes a few more, depending on the task at hand. And try as we might, it is hard to resist the siren's song of Starbucks just a block away from our office! Of course we have Natalie's Starbucks Survival Kit to keep our visits waste-free, but c'mon - $5 for a venti iced latte? What's in that thing, unicorn dust?

Then Natalie, one of several coffee fiends here at soon-to-be Reuseit.com, suggested we try cold brewing our cup of joe. It costs a lot less than Starbucks, we can do it right here in the office (which means we can spend more time getting ready to launch this new site) and with more than 60% less acid than conventional coffee it tastes a lot better too.

One of the features of our new site we're most excited about is our DIY section. So, in the spirit of coffee and Reuseit and all things waste-free and wonderful, here's a quick tutorial on DIY cold brewed coffee:

 Ingredients and Items You’ll Need:

  • A storage container for the final brew – a pitcher or a tall jar with a lid will work
  • A tall glass or mason jar with a lid for brewing
  • A second tall glass or jar to pour the steeped coffee mixture into
  • A stainless steel kitchen strainer with a fine mesh (if you don’t have fine mesh, you can use cheesecloth in addition to the strainer)
  • Coffee


  1. Measure 5-6 tablespoons of medium-course ground coffee into the brewing glass. Add about 1.5 cups room temperature water and stir until there are no lumps. If you’re increasing volumeby Jim Ray, a 4:1 ratio of water to coffee will work best. 
  2. Put a lid on the container and let it brew for a minimum of 3 hours – it can sit up to 12 hours, depending on how strong you like your brew. 
  3. Strain the brewed coffee through the stainless steel strainer into the second container. Clean out the first glass, and strain the mixture back into the original container. If the filter clogs at any point stop pouring and clean it out before resuming. 
  4. Pour the final mixture in your storage container or pitcher and put it in the fridge. 

The mixture is 2-3 times stronger than drip coffee, so dilute it with an equal amount of water to start – adjust to taste. For hot coffee, just add hot water to the concentrate. For iced coffee, add cold water and ice! You can also dilute in milk or non-dairy milk for a latte-like drink.

Back to work!

January 20, 2010

Eco-confessions: Sarah Cleans House on Waste

D1427I'm really good at cleaning the house. I get it all nice and sparkly and I feel incredibly triumphant when I'm finished. There was a time when I decided that "housekeeper" was my perfect career choice. And get this, I LIKE cleaning bathrooms.

Over the past two years working at ReusableBags.com, my fiance, Steve, and I have made some huge life changes that I never thought we could. We legitimately use reusable bags every time we go to the store. It took a while to make it stick, but now it's second nature. We drink water out of our SIGG bottles. We're composting in our backyard, riding bikes most everywhere we go instead of driving and encouraging our friends and relatives to make these changes too.

My Shameful Confession: I clean my house with LOTS of chemicals, use TONS of paper towels and feel REALLY bad about it. Since it's a new year and we've somehow overcome all these other eco-flails over the years, I decided to try to make another change. Armed with a selection of products from our site, I cleaned the house!

I used the Mu microfiber cleaning cloth with the scrubber and hot water to get rid of soap scum in the sink & the crusty stuff on the stove. The Mu bamboo cleaning cloth worked great and caused zero streaking when I cleaned the mirrors (in place of Windex, I made a solution from 4 parts water, 1 part vinegar). A Skoy cloth and Seventh Generation Natural All Purpose Cleaner made wiping down the fridge and kitchen counters easy. (Of course we also carry a kit for making your own all-purpose cleaner!)

In full disclosure, we also had some hiccups. Steve kindly offered to help out before he headed out for yoga, but just couldn't part with the Pledge spray for wrestling with the cat hair on the floor and furniture. The hardest part for me was the bathroom. When I approached the toilet, I thought, "I HAVE to use paper towels." After my brief freak-out, I picked up a Skoy and got to work. I definitely had to put a little more elbow grease into cleaning since there was nothing eating away the dirtiness (though nothing was eating away my skin either!)

When I was all finished, I threw the towels and cloths in the washing machine and guess what? The house was just as sparkly, my lungs didn't hurt, I didn't have a mountain of dirty paper towel trash and I felt really good.

November 24, 2009

Reusable Gifts, Remixed


Those of us behind the scenes at ReusableBags/Reuseit.com come up with some pretty crafty ways to Give Gifts That Help People Consume Less. A conversation between veteran employees Natalie and Belinda about how to take a great reusable from our store and turn it into an even more special gift inspired this post - and we hope you find some great ideas to use this holiday. Some of these ideas are meant to be funny, although all of them are useful! (Have ideas of your own about making our products into amazing holiday gifts? Leave us comments!)

ACM_01_PouchesLS_v2 ACME Workhorse Bags are might be the most versatile item we carry. Sure, they're innovative, super-strong reusable shopping bags, but they also make great gift wrap, stocking stuffers and ornaments! Just add an ornament hook onto the bag's loop and decorate your tree with our colorful ultra-compacts. Available in rip-stop nylon, 100% recycled Eco-Circle and silicone-coated rip-stop nylon there's a color to suit all your holiday needs. (The moroccan blue Workhorse and silver Eco-Circle make pretty snazzy Hanukkah decorations, too.) After the presents are opened, send your friends and family home with an "ornament" that doubles as a great shopping bag.

Instead of stockings this year, try a reusable bottle sleeve! The stretchy material is roomy enough for BLT-03-FBM_ai lots of small gifts and candy and when the gifts are gone, they help to keep your reusable bottles insulated and protected from damage. On that same note, you can fancy-up the gift of a bottle of wine by wrapping it on a Built One Bottle Tote. No one will even notice that you gave them "Two Buck Chuck" from Trader Joe's when it's wrapped up in such a cool reusable tote. 

Our Plastic Bag dispenser also makes a funny Christmas stocking - presents go in the top and the recipient can pull them out the bottom. It's also a fun way to wrap up clothes as gifts - just roll them up inside.

Thermal mugs are a great gift for any coffee or tea drinker - and you can give a little extra when you enclose a package of loose tea, a gift certificate to a favorite coffee shop or homemade hot cocoa mix inside.

 If you're on a secret Santa budget, consider giving a homemade cupcake inside a stainless steel sidekick. When the cupcake is gone, they'll still have this easy-to-clean reusable container to use as a part of their waste-free lunch kit.

LMF_01_LS Or what about gifting a Light My Fire LunchBox & Spork with some recipes for your favorite pasta salads tucked inside? On it's own, the lunch box is pretty cool - BPA-free, microwavable, and dishwasher-safe - but with the extra touch of your handwritten recipe it's something anyone at the office will appreciate.

Our favorite silly holiday reusable idea so far came from a fan of Lunapads - the Lunapads Wreath! Now,42511076 this is something you can only give your closest friends - but we're working on one for the office right now! Consider making this for your roommate majoring in feminist studies or for your eco-minded little sister.

The bottom line is, when you gift a reusable you're empowering friends and family to eliminate 1000s of disposables. Use our Gift Center to find the perfect gift, and take a look at our reusable gift wrap tutorial to learn how to wrap them in our award-winning shopping bags. Add a personal touch to make it special - because saving the Earth is a fun job!

October 20, 2009

Waste-free holiday - give us your tips!


I know the gift-giving holidays are a few months away yet, but my motto is, "it's never too early to start freaking out." So not only am I shopping early this year to help spread out the cost (and of course giving as many reusable bags, bottles and housewares as I can) but I'm also thinking of ways I can reduce my overall carbon footprint this holiday.

Last year every gift I gave came wrapped in a ACME Bags Workhorse - not only did I not waste wrapping paper, but I also gave a bonus present of my favorite reusable bag to every person I gifted. (Volume pricing made it an affordable alternative to reusable gift wrap, and they're more useful than regular reusable gift wrap.)

Thinking about this stuff reminded me of a tradition my friends and I have had for years - one that started out of silliness but has turned into a smart way to cut back a little more. Reusing gift cards.

A few years ago my friend Sean sent me a really great card for my birthday. It was so great that when it came time to send him a card, I just crossed out his signature and wrote my own, sending it right back to him. He held onto it and I got it back the next year. That birthday card has been going back and forth between the two of us for years now. I started doing the same thing with other friends and they all think it's hilarious - and I like it because it means I'm buying fewer disposable paper cards every year. (I also like to re-send cards at inappropriate times like condolence cards for weddings - I'll leave that to your discretion.)

But what do you do with all the holiday cards you can't, or don't want to re-send? Make them into ornaments! Decorate your house, or give them away as gifts themselves. It's a really smart way to upcycle one of the unavoidable throw-away items you'll receive this holiday. And it's not just for Christmas - collect Hannukah and Kwanzaa cards, follow the directions and display them in a glass bowl or vase.

So maybe you won't personally slow global warming by upcycling your holiday cards, but it's a start! What do you do to cut back waste during the holidays? Give us your good ideas and you might find them in an upcoming newsletter - if your suggestion is really great there might even be a pre-holiday gift in it for you.

Stay tuned for some great waste-free holiday tips from the rest of our staff!

May 27, 2009

Recycled Gift Topper

image from CreatureComforts.typepad.com The environmentalist in us rejects disposable gift wrap - it's single use, expensive and down right wasteful. But the gift-giver in us still wants our presents to be presentable. One solution, of course, is reusable gift wrap and bags. But a faster and cheaper solution is to wrap gifts in stuff you already have around the house. Choose colorful comics pages from your Sunday paper, or dress up black and white newsprint with a pom pom made from plastic shopping bags. It's free and easy and a great way to keep those plastic menaces out of the landfills.

May 18, 2009

Plastic Bag Hoodie

FCRAHYHFTO54JM0.MEDIUM No matter how hard we try, everyone ends up with a few disposable plastic bags now and again. We like to use them to line small garbage cans and to wrap up pet waste, but this DIY Plastic Bag Hoodie by Indesctructables.com is another brilliant option.

In jut a few minutes you can turn what would have been landfill-crowding waste into a rain-resistant hooded coat  - we love it!