Saturday, July 25, 2009
A simple online search for recycled or repurposed leather will lead you to a multitude of fashion and shopping websites, where you can buy purses, wallets, shoes, jewelry—pretty much anything leather—made from old leather jackets and such. And, since I have personally seen, touched, and smelled one of these earth- and fashion-friendly bags, I can promise all you leather lovers that the bag looks good and smells good—just like brand new leather. It does not look like a patchwork quilt, OK?
Now, I do very little fashion shopping myself, so I don't know for sure, but after browsing a little online, I think can safely say most of the items are priced just like new leather, too. But I'm sure the frequent shoppers out there, like my friend, know where to find the good deals.
Some of these handbag designers use leather remnants, like the ones leftover from a purse factory (or whatever they're called), so it's not so much recycling as it is preventing waste—still a great thing. And others are actually out there scouring thrift stores for battered leather goods that they will recycle into other stylish items.
So, I'll end with a reminder that you should always donate to Goodwill (or Salvation Army, etc.) your unwanted clothes and fashion accessories, even if they have holes or other imperfections. A purse designer is out there, searching for those items, eager to cut them to pieces and make something new.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Gleaning was originally a rural gig; people gathered stray crops left behind after a farmer harvested his fields. I'm not sure if that counts as stealing or not, but I suppose if the farmer isn't going to use the leftovers... Anyway, gleaning has moved into the cities, and in our case, the suburbs. People are picking fruit from seemingly ignored trees in residential areas. I'm not talking about going into people's yards (but if your neighbor has a fruit tree that is just dropping its bounty to rot on the ground, ask him if you can bring over your ladder and have at it—I bet he'll let you). These are fruit trees that don't belong to anybody and are not being picked clean by squirrels, like the trees surrounding an apartment complex.
A few years ago, Len and I noticed a huge crab apple tree in our neighborhood, on what appeared to be common ground, and under it, a massive mush of rotting crab apples, the edible kind just a little bigger than cherries (as opposed to the smaller, purely ornamental variety). We watched the fruit ripen, fall, and rot for two years in a row and were certain that it belonged to no one and was being used by no one. Last summer, we took advantage of this otherwise wasted harvest and picked a Croozer-full of crab apples, which we turned into sweet, tart, beautiful deep-magenta preserves.
We also found a few apple trees that we think exist by happy accident. They are typically near other crab apple trees, so we think they were meant to be ornamental crab apples, but in fact turned out to be full-fledged apples (perhaps due to the grafting of one type of tree onto another type of mature root stock). However they got there, it's free organic fruit! We're pretty sure there are no pesticides being sprayed on these trees, based on the fruit's rustic look. Of course, we nibbled on an apple, to be sure it wasn't some nasty inedible hybrid, and were delighted to find a couple of different and tasty varieties. We have no idea what kind of apples they are; one's Granny Smith-ish, the other is sweeter and more yellow/pink.
This past weekend, we took a bike ride (on our way to the grocery store—gotta combine those errands when you can!) to check on the varying stages of ripeness of "our" trees, and to look for other apple and crab apple trees. We started collecting for preserves and apple butter toward the end of the trees' peaks last year; we wanted to catch them earlier this time around. I'm happy to report we found lots of crab apple trees (more than we can use), some of which are just about ripe now, and even a few new apple trees.
But the best discovery of all (and one we're marking our calendars for next summer) was the apricot tree. Who knew? We can't believe we'd never noticed it before, all the times we've biked past it. But there it was, a litter of small orange fruits all over the ground and plenty more still in the tree. We stopped right there, hoisted ourselves into the tree (it was a big one, old, with thick branches) and picked to our hearts' content. We made apricot jam that very night, and I had apricots in my oatmeal for breakfast the next morning. Delicious. Delightful.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Friday, July 3, 2009
“Normally I don’t eat steak, a burger AND a brat…but it is the 4th of July. I’m going to need the energy if I’m going to start blowing crap up. It’s what the founding fathers would want.”
-Jim Gaffigan, Beyond the Pale
-Jim Gaffigan, Beyond the Pale
People love watching fireworks displays, myself included. Must be something about the low whoosh as they’re launched, followed by that brief moment of anticipation before a cannon-like boom sets off half a dozen lame-sounding car alarms, and a shower of sparks fills the night sky with splendor—and sulfurous clouds of who knows what. God bless the U.S.A., right?
At the risk of, well, having my patriotism questioned, I’d like to suggest that we could do some good by downsizing fireworks displays in the years to come. I admit, making that recommendation on July 3rd seems a little late, but sometimes, you don’t think about these things until they’re right in front of you. Nonetheless, trimming the Independence Day pyrotechnics stands to set a far more patriotic example by minimizing land, air and water pollution, while also saving local, city and state government some green, too.
First, the bad news: fireworks imports have been on the rise recently, more than doubling between 1999 (65,000 tons) and 2006 (123,000 tons). This has lead to an increase in atmospheric emissions of heavy metals, sulfur-coal compounds and some low concentration toxic chemicals like barium, antimony sulfide and perchlorate (the latter is found in rocket fuel). So, while the displays may be breathtaking, that's the one thing you wouldn't want to do in the middle of a smoke cloud. The chemicals released often find their way into lakes, affecting fish and other wildlife. In one study, perchlorate levels rose more than 1,000 times above normal and stayed there for 14 hours; levels didn't return to normal for another 20-80 days. The effects of human exposure over long periods are currently unknown. Suddenly, the fields of non-biodegradable fireworks debris, while a concern, don't seem nearly as scary.
Now, the good news: fireworks are still regulated/restricted in many states by the Clean Air Act (whether that's enforced effectively is another story). Pyrotechnicians have also developed biodegradable fireworks shells and a mixture of clean-burning compounds that use nitrogen instead of potassium perchlorate (the only downside is, many large outdoor displays haven't made use of them because—guess what—they're more expensive, and until there's more of an incentive to purchase them, there probably won't be many buyers). And Disney recently pioneered the use of a compressed air launch pad, saving a bit on gunpowder emissions.
Interested in making the case to green up Independence Day? Unfortunately, I don't have many resources to point you to at the moment, but I'll be sure to follow-up with some information. Until then, I suggest starting at the local level and working your way up. You might find that, with a petition and a handful of signatures, your cash-strapped city government might be open to trimming the budget for the 4th. And, while many might groan at the thought, it never hurts to write your congressmen to let them know how you feel. Or hey, you could even start a blog and gripe about whatever you like. :)
If you’re like me and have a love-hate relationship with fireworks, you might like this article.
Until next time, happy 4th of July!