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decor

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Illuminating A Waste-Free Halloween

Are pumpkins invading your nest like these grinning jack-o’-lanterns that have overtaken this Massachusetts home? Even when the pumpkin glow is at a minimum, if you celebrate Halloween with your little ones, it may be time to pick up those heavy holiday footprints. Why?

According to the EPA, household waste increases more than 25 percent between Halloween and New Year’s Day!

On Halloween, the US spends a whopping $6.5 billion on candy, costumes and decorations. That’s a carbon footprint more like a Loch Ness monster than a dainty Halloween bat. Plumping up our local landfills for years to come is not the friendliest, or healthiest legacy to leave our little trick-or-treaters.

We talk a lot about what we can do to clean up the planet, but often it’s what we don’t do that creates the most impact.

Here’s a ghoulish goal worth bobbing for: Cut down on holiday waste, and don’t perpetuate the horrors of Halloween’s past. Here are 10 DIY Ways To A Waste-Free Halloween and here are my kids demonstrating one such DIY idea: “Ditch the cheap mass-produced non-recyclable polyvinyl chloride (PVC) costumes. Dig through your closet (or a friends), or take a spin through vintage clothing stores, resale shops and flea markets for Halloween inspiration.

Happy Halloween, and hold those red-dyed #40 bloody ladyfingers, because I think I see a green light beaconing out of one of those jack-o’-lanterns!

Photo: Richard Nowitz for National Geographic

Upcycled Tires: Hot or Not?

I’ve been noticing a recycled tire trend. Combining creativity with eco-friendly intentions to make usable goods, bike tire tires and tubes are being upcycled and popping up in unusual places. Not surprising, since according to Recycle To Cycle:

“In the last five years an estimated 18 million bicycles per year were sold in the United States and as we all know each bike comes with two tires and two inner tubes meaning over 36 million tires and inner tubes per year are being shipped into the United States.”

Tire Tread Sneakers

Do you know about Simple shoes? The company thrives to be 100% sustainable. Their products are created from eco-friendly materials — recycled paper, hemp, organic cotton, recycled rubber bike inner tubes, rubber tire tread, wool…they even use coconut shells for buttons. From the Simple website:

HOW we make our shoes is just as important as WHY we make them. That means finding more sustainable ways of doing business so we can make a gazillion more. Which pretty much is where we are today…at the crossroads of here and now, aware of our responsibility to the planet while trying to pay the bills. The nice little shoe company getting in touch with its inner hippie.”

I’ve been smitten with these Simple sneakers - the ones made from hemp with tire tread soles. I must confess, I quietly admired them on my daughter first. So I copied her. While I am certainly inspired by my daughter’s funky sense of style, I rarely out and out copy her. For instance, she wears the best jeans. But the zippers on her jeans are maybe two inches long. I need about three times that length.

I now have three pairs of these Simple sneakers. First, I purchased a gray pair (I wear them with off-white laces). They are my favorite. These almost perfect sneakers go with everything but white pants, so I needed a white pair. Love the white ones. And now that it’s cooler out, I decided I must have a pair in black leather. When I wear them, my son tells me they look like hipster shoes. But I’ve decided they are the perfect dress sneaker. Plus, they channel my inner hippie. Hot or not?

Bike Inner Tube Jewelry

Last week, I visited Bananas Gallery, a boutique on Martha’s Vineyard, and noticed necklaces made from recycled bicycle inner tubes similar to the necklace in this photo.

That same son, who now thinks his mother is a hipster, is also a biking enthusiast. He’s replacing inner tubes right and left…so the necklace piqued my interest. I did not purchase this necklace, but it does intrigue me. Hot or not?

Bike Inner Tube Crochet Rug

What? You can crochet bike tubes? Well, I guess so – Michaela from We Upcycle shares how:

“I crocheted this door mat out of old, broken bicycle tubes. After several attempts I found out that it’s the easiest way to use a tent peg. I cut out the valves and then slit the tubes lengthwise. Washing the tubes has to be done thoroughly because the valves are covered in a thick layer of powdered talc from the inside. Then you have to cut the tubes in stripes and either tack (like I did it) or sew them together. The result is a long “thread” which you just crochet and then you’re done.

Does this upcycled trend celebrate eco-design goodness? Hot or not?

Read more about reusing tire tubes here, and check out these DIY Rug ideas.

Rug: We Upcycle

The US Open of Renovation

For the gazillionth time, we’re renovating. It’s like a sport for us…one that’s yet to be fully mastered.

This time the kitchen is ripped apart. The windows over the sink rotted and mosquitoes have begun to congregate around gaping peepholes eyeing their prey – us. I’m sure I know what they’re buzzing about – my dated cabinets and countertops.

The living room has been in a constant state of redo. Currently, it is striped with paint samples just waiting for Ben Moore to prance in on his off-white horse with his eco-supreme Aura. He’ll just point his magic fan-thingy at the not-too-white wall colors and pick one that won’t send us into a toxic stupor.

Why can’t I decide which color? I’m too busy swooning over the luscious names on the cute sample cans of color goodness – Baby Fawn, White Dove, Sea Pearl, Lambskin, French Canvas, Nirvana…Sigh.

This is not the first time I’ve pondered the power of paint, but this is the first time I’m stymied by all the choices. I may decide which paint color solely because I’m feeling the name. Hands down, it will be Nirvana.

We’ve renovated this house so many times its already won trophies for skinless facelifts. But, the wins have been few and far between since all renovations were put on hold when the kids went to college. How could we pay tuitions and feed a revamping addiction? When the kids packed their bags – lock stock and skateboard, I seriously considered moving. Maybe I secretly wanted to adopt a clean slate to take the place of the kids?

I got another dog instead.

Anyway, that’s old news, and moving was not an option. We are invested in our not too big house in the woods. Not just in the money-pit kind of way, but in a way that says we’re going to get this house whipped into shape if it’s the last thing we do.

With the kids out of college, renovation bets are off. We’ve kicked into high gear again – our sights fixed on the prize. Only this time we have no choice – the kitchen windows are falling off the house.

3 discoveries about the latest renovation…

1. I used to love combing the books and shelter mags discovering the perfect mix of style and sustainability.

2. He used to love strapping on his toolbelt to slay home improvement projects that most of my friends thought only super contractors could do.

3. We’re tired.

Pre-renovation with mustache: Moving day 26 years ago.

He tells me these projects are killing his back. I can tell, he still loves the challenge, but he’s thinking maybe some young stud could come in and bang away at the mess. It might even save on prolotherapy bills (look it up, it seems to work for him). I don’t feel like spending the time it takes to find exactly what it is I want. Yet, I won’t be happy with anything less.

I’m pining for that decorator who told me my house had “good bones” (yes, that’s me and interior designer, Jayne Christie – thank you, Danny).

Since we’re still paying many of those college loans off, the decorator idea is a pipe dream. So, I’ve unearthed the ‘ol tried and true renovation books in hopes that one will tell me that it is ok to just expand and replace the kitchen windows and close my eyes to all the other sagging and dated details crying out for attention.

Did I mention the cabinets are in pretty bad shape and the countertops are ugly?

We could replace the 30-yr old kitchen cabinets with slick glass doors, or totally ditch the cabinets – a look I absolutely love, but where’s the stuff stashed? Oh, one book says the cabinets can be painted. Hmm, then I could spend the savings on the countertops.

Tell me…has anyone ever painted solid wood cabinets and made them actually look good?

When we bought this house 26 years ago, we loved the kitchen. But, I seem to remember we solemnly pledged on our infant daughter to dump the counters as soon as we had enough dough. We soon found the kitchen was functional, and…really, at the time, the most important items in the kitchen were child-safety locks that didn’t pinch fingers.

A lifetime later, the kitchen hosts a professional stove, a slick bottom freezer/fridge, a slew of restaurant quality pots and pans (he would go for nothing less), and enough wine and wine glasses to inebriate a village.

The countertops?

Life got in the way. The counters got put on the back burner. And now that the windows are in disintegration-mode, the counters are rearing their ugly heads.

Last month, at the US Open of Renovation, I swear I read a ruling stating:

“New cabinets and counters can be grandfathered in with new windows – especially if you have important company coming over soon.”

No, Serena, he says. You can not make up rules. The rulebook clearly says:

“Do not spend beyond our means.”

Oh, pleeeze. This is not a spectator sport.

I’m changing that rule.

Credits: dog – Jen Kiaba, cartoon – Danny Shanahan

Library Filled With Creative Reuse, Charm and Children

The Old Market Library in Thailand was built by TYIN tegnestue, a non-profit organization that does humanitarian work through architecture. TYIN is run by five architect students from Norway. This project was financed by more than 60 Norwegian companies, as well as private contributions.

The library, built in a 100 year-old building was once an abandoned and dilapidated space. The roof and walls were in poor condition. Redesigned to encourage community interaction, TYIN used local and reclaimed materials.

“For TYIN it is not only the building of a library that is important, but also that the efforts made will affect the bigger scale. Through the use of local, inexpensive materials we have tried to show that this is something the inhabitants of the community can do by their own initiative, using their own resources. The aim of the library project is to strengthen the passion in the neighborhood that eventually can contribute to a positive development in the area.”

With many libraries slated to close in the US, maybe we can think outside the box and create similar community libraries. The Old Market Library is now a functional space filled with charm, creative reuse of materials, and children. LOVE…IT!

Photos: TYIN tegnestue via ArchDaily

DIY: Mason Jar Wall Planter

I love the cool, crisp mornings we’ve just begun to experience here in the Northeast. Fall is in the air and that puts me in the nesting mood to create craft projects to warm up my home. This in-between season leaves me savoring the last greens of summer before the oranges and browns take over the foliage.

I love this Mason Jar Wall Planter that CRAFT posted from Not Just a Housewife. It creates a wall of bursting green plants. It’s simple, sturdy and great for hanging vine plants and bringing in a few herbs and spices from the kitchen garden before the first frost (gasp).

Do you know about CRAFT? Their goal is to unite, inspire, inform, and entertain a community of highly imaginative and resourceful people who undertake amazing crafting projects. I look forward to their updates in my inbox each morning. The quirkiness and the diverse array of projects from all over the web makes CRAFT a worthy daily read.

In the mood for more fall DIY? Check out these 3 Fabulous DIY Fall Projects For The Home and 5 Fall Plants To Plant and 5 (more) Fall Projects To Make.