upcycling

A “trashy” house wall in New York

… a funny upcycling project in Brooklyn that makes you think about things we throw out

For those of you who expected another recipe today: I’m sorry! But when I went through my pictures the other day, I found something I had totally forgotten to share with you – and before I forget again, I just have to tell you the story.

When I went to New York in March I spotted what I thought was probably the coolest house wall in the world. It was painted in different colours decorated with old objects people had thrown out – a typewriters, a keyboard, shoes, a fax-machine, a guitar, a chair, a cupboard, toys and old boxes. The owners of the house (or whoever did this) came up with some pretty ingenious ideas – to use an old shoe as a flower-pot for example.  I rang the bell, but nobody seemed to be home. “What a pity”, I thought. I would have loved to talk to the artist Nat Hendricks.

Maybe someone has been there or knows what’s going on there (and if this house still exists)!? The house was on State St near Smith St in Brooklyn. This is what it looked like (I wish I would have taken nicer pics…):

P1080139 P1080140 P1080141 P1080142 jon-e cash P1080144

I absolutely love the ideas and I can only hope more people will decorate their houses that way 🙂 I will definitely start with the flower-pot shoes!

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DIY soap dispenser and liquid soap

… the second life of a glass bottle

It’s this time of the year again where everyone around me seems to be sneezing and coughing. As soap bars don’t seem to be the perfect companions for this sort of situation, I started making my own liquid soap. Buying liquid soap is not really an option for me, as it’s impossible (and unthinkable) to get without plastic.

I can’t really give you a recipe for my homemade soap, as it’s way too simple. I just grated my favourite plant-based soap bar and added boiled water (You decide how thick you want your mixture to be) and a few drops of lemon or orange oil to it. I’ve only been using my homemade liquid soap for a few days and so far it seems absolutely fine. As I keep it in a small bottle it will be used up quickly and I guess I won’t get any problems with the texture. But I will definitely give you a little update on the long-term effects of my soap in a few weeks. I also found Wellness Mama’s recipe and the long article on Lovely Greens quite helpful.

So what to do with this now? I tried using glass bottles (with ordinary lids/caps), but it wasn’t very convenient, as I always poured way too much soap over my hands. So I decided to make my own soap dispensers (which by the way are great for my homemade washing-up liquid, too). I saw some many cool DIY soap dispensers online that inspired me to do this, for example on The Red Chair Blog (Mine pretty much look like them now, they were just too pretty) or on Redhead can Decorate. I started asking people for their old plastic soap dispensers (Danke, Mama 🙂 ) and removed their pump caps.

So I went through my collections of old glass bottles (I chose a pretty one from France) and found a perfect match straight away – no glue needed. It fits perfectly and you can remove it easily to refill it. So here are my DIY glass bottle soap/washing-up liquid dispensers:

for my soap

for my soap

for my washing-up liquid

for my washing-up liquid

By the way, I’ve already got a project for the future. This recycled whisky bottle soap dispenser is pretty kick-ass! Someone might find might it under the Christmas tree this year 🙂

DIY jeans napkins

Upcycled Christmas Present #1

There are a lot of things you can buy for Christmas. These hot-water bottle boobies for example.

hot-water bottles seen in Lisbon

hot-water bottles seen in Lisbon

Keyholders for great lovers.

Keyholders seen in London

Keyholders seen in London

Or not so yummy-looking culinary goodies.

A selection of goodies in a souvenir shop in Edinburgh

A selection of (scary-looking) goodies in a souvenir shop in Edinburgh

And shops use even worse slogans to market their products.

Shop sign seen in Amsterdam

Shop sign seen in Amsterdam

So many choices… I guess it’s needless to say that most of the things in shops are not a real option for me as they come in plastic. The only way out of this madness for me: Making my own Christmas presents – and recycling some old stuff at the same time.

So I took out my scissors, my sewing machine, red string, an old pair of ripped jeans and my first project for this year is done: re-usable jeans napkins.

re-usable jeans napkin

re-usable jeans napkin

I cut out a square (I just used another napkin as a sample) and used a zigzag stitch to make the napkins last longer and look prettier. I decided to use red string as it’s a nice contrast to the gray fabric. You can either use a sewing machine or do it by hand. That’s really all it takes. What I won’t tell: who will find them under the Christmas tree…

Getting cosy

A project inspired by Ohhh…Mhhh…’s Frage-Foto-Freitag

The leaves are falling, it’s getting dark earlier and the temperatures are dropping (at least on this side of the planet) – to make a long story short: There is no better time to get cosy at home – this weeks’s Frage-Foto-Freitag topic. Snuggling up under the blanket is always a great idea, but if I want to get really cosy, I need scissors, a needle and glue. So here’s a little collection of my favourite easy upycling projects for cosy autumn nights. All you need is something old you want to pretty up. And the best thing about it: You don’t even have to get up from your couch (if you have a big couch table):

Pimping old pictures

I spotted this genious idea in Edinburgh, Scotland and I instantly knew: This is what I’m gonna do with some of my old pictures!

Pimping old picturesUpcycling old hairclips

All I need for that is fabric scraps and some glue – no need to buy new hairclips anymore.

Pretty up old hairclips

Turning “plastic bag fabric” into plastic bag cosmetics bags

If you made “plastic bag fabric” before, you can get started straight away. Just fold half of the piece of plastic fabric (that would be a regular-sized plastic bag), sew everything together (the nicer side should face the bottom) and attach a velcro fastener to each side.

plastic bag cosmetics bag

plastic bag cosmetics bag

more bags

Scrapbooking

There is no easier way to do something creative with your old magazines. Just make yourself a good old scapbook where you can keep all sorts of pretty or inspirational pictures. I find the process of cutting out pictures extremely calming and relaxing and I also use my scrapbook as I kind of picture diary. Try it out!

I love my scrapbook

I love my scrapbook

After all the crazy crafty-ness I usually treat myself to a homemade goodie – like these awesome cinnamon rolls (click here for the recipe) I tried out last week.

Good night!

Good night!

So I hope I could get you some inspiration for boring nights at home. Have a cosy weekend!

My new “t-towel”

How a favourite t-shirt became a teatowel

My husband loves his t-shirts. So do I. I do have to admit though that there is a stage where I would secretly prefer to dispose of his favourite item of clothing: when it’s full of holes. The good news for him: There is no need to say goodbye – There are plenty of things you can do with old t-shirts. I turned my husband’s shirt into a teatowel.

Of course you can just cut out a tea towel sized cloth and start using it straight away, but if you want to make it last it makes sense to sew it up properly. I found a very useful tutorial here (I chose the hassle-free third method). I basically just cut out two squares, turned the sides around sewed everything together and left a little gap (Just as if you were sewing a pillow case). That way I could turn the towel around easier. After that I sewed up the little gap by hand.

Et voilà, no need to ever buy teatowels again:

t-shirt tea-towel

DIY t-shirt teatowel

Looking for more ideas? Have a look what else you can do with old-shirts here.

Two trashy ideas

… or how I turned old drinks cartons and candy/moisturizer tins into useful objects

I hardly ever buy drinks in cartons nowadays, but whenever I had a carton at home I made sure I didn’t throw it out. I knew there must be something useful I could do with them (aside from DIY business cards). Thanks to Trash Backwards I found a solution – turning my old drink cartons into lunch boxes.

All you have to do is cut the sides and fold them (Click here for the tutorial) over. I used a sort of envelope clip (I tried to find the proper name for them, but I could neither find the German nor the English one) to close the box. I accumulated many of them over the last years. So here’s my drink carton lunch box:

...and another lunch box pic

DIY lunch box

DIY snack containerlunch box

My second upcycling project involved old candy and cosmetic tins. Ever since I started to go as plastic-free as possible I’ve ended up with more and more of them. Most of them are lolly  (Yes, you can get lollies that aren’t individually packaged! Try Pullmoll for example) and moisturizer tins. I adapted an idea I had a little while ago – turning crown/bottle caps into fridge magnets – and used them as a sort of magnetic picture frame. I just glued an interesting picture inside the tin and a magnet to the back. I used an old football magnet which I would have otherwise thrown out. So there you go: candy tin fridge magnets – this might become my ”chain Christmas gift” (a little gift I give to a bunch of people for Christmas) this year.

lolly tin fridge magnet

candy tin fridge magnet

lolly tin fridge magnet

No bag, please!

An update on avoiding plastic

Downsize?

Did you notice? I’ve been posting a lot of recipes, photos and DIY ideas lately. So although I’ve always been keeping the idea of reducing plastic (and packaging in general) in mind, I haven’t really given you an update on or a summary of my efforts. Half a year after I had completed my “plastic challenge” I thought it was about time to put my posts into perspective again. So what has changed?

Well, first of all: Things are still changing. I still try to keep my level of plastic consumption as low as possible, especially as more and more shocking news about the amount of damage plastic has already done to the environment and our health come up (For a short summary click here). But one thing is for sure: I’m still nowhere near the stage where I would say I’ve perfected the art of going plastic-free and turned my place into a zero waste household (like this family manages to), especially as there are some things I just can’t live without (toilet paper would be one of them…). However, I found more and more little tricks, I re-used a lot more things and I also started to reduce my amount of other packaging. On top of that I felt like I consumed less (and spent less money) in general and I discovered a lot of great secondhand markets and online share groups.

The keywords for me are “re-using”, “upcycling”, “sharing” and “making”. So here a few more tricks I learned. I wanted to share them with you because they really made my life so much easier. They will also give you a little summary of what has happened on ingloriousplastics since the end of my challenge.

Re-using

Whenever I buy something packaged I try to find some way to re-use the packaging (I found the Trash Backwards app extremely helpful for that.). This is also how I found a compromise for my toilet paper dilemma: I re-use the plastic packaging. If you cut off the top, you can use it like a normal plastic bag.

As I generally prefer glass, I ended up with a whole bunch of glass jars. Fortunately there are a million things you can do with them and I wouldn’t know how to survive without my little jar collection anymore. I keep on re-using them for all kinds of things: as an alternative to Tupperware containers, for homemade jams (for example my drunken plum jam), chutneys, smoothies, lemonade, dips, dried fruit, herbal oils, as pretty vases, cereal boxes, candy containers or even to serve salad in them. You can also put tea light candles in them. It’s funny cause this wasn’t my intention in the first place, but glass jars actually became some of the most important little helpers in my apartment. Just see for yourself:

red millet salad in a glass jar

red millet salad in a glass jar

apple dessert in a glass jar

apple dessert in a glass jar

Fruit in rum, dad style

Fruit in rum, dad style

tomato chutney in an old chickpea jar

tomato chutney in an old chickpea jar

homemade drunken plum jam

homemade drunken plum jam

Plum chutney

Plum chutney

I found just as many ideas for re-using glass bottles. Pretty bottles can be re-used as vases, for holding candles and of course as a vessel for all sorts of liquids or homemade cosmetics.

homemade herbal oil

homemade herbal oil

homemade green smoothie using a recycled passata bottle

homemade green smoothie using a recycled passata bottle

Old cans make pretty good vases, pen holders, toothbrush holders and plant pots.

I generally try to avoid packaged fruit, but sometimes I found it hard to find things like loose strawberries. So I turned the fruit containers into little greenhouses. That way I don’t have to buy any plastic plant pots. The great thing about that: The fruit containers already have holes at the bottom, which makes it a lot easier to water your plants.

before...

before…

... and after

… and after

Last but not least I tried to find a way to re-use envelopes, magazine pages and lotion containers: I cut old envelopes into little pieces and use them as little notes (for shopping lists etc.). I use pretty pages from old magazines as gift wrapping paper. And I also started using old lotion containers for my soaps.

Upcycling

Whenever I can’t find a way to re-use packaging, I try to make something with it and use at least a little part of it. That’s how I came up with making my own business cards from drink cartons, napkin rings from toilet paper rolls and old newspapers, envelopes from old magazine pages, bookmarks from old candy wrappers and cereal boxes, picture frames from scrap wood and old postcards and fridge magnets from old crown caps. I also found out that you can fuse plastic bags together and use them as a wax paper-like fabric. Then you can turn the old bags into little purses, book wrappers or even clothes. Here’s a little photo gallery of my different projects:

magazine page envelopes

magazine page envelopes

toilet paper roll napkin rings

toilet paper roll napkin rings

The perfect business card for ingloriousplastics - made from an old drink carton

The perfect business card for ingloriousplastics – made from an old drink carton

Reese's pieces bookmark

Reese’s pieces bookmark

melting plastic bags together

melting plastic bags together

... and turning them into unique bookcovers

… and turning them into unique bookcovers

... or postcards

… or postcards

another idea: a scrap wood postcard

another idea: a scrap wood postcard

There are also a lot of things I wanted to do with old clothes. Whenever a piece of clothing was in such a bad state that I couldn’t mend it or give it to someone else, I tried to use the fabric for something different – I turned an old t-shirt into cotton pads and re-usable tissues for example.

DIY cotton pads

DIY cotton pads

I’m also planning on making jeans napkins and pillowcases. And I like to use fabric scraps for decorating my homemade jams:

fabric decoration for my mixed berry jam

fabric decoration for my mixed berry jam

Telling you about all my little upcycling projects I almost forgot the biggest and most fun thing I did: turning an old beer crate into a unique seat for my friends.

beer crate seat

beer crate seat

Sharing & making

Avoiding plastic made me think about what I consumed. So for me it was only logical that I wouldn’t only pay attention to the packaging, but to my behaviour as a consumer in general. I want to downsize and simplify my life. A lot of interesting projects and initiatives like “Umsonstladen” or “Givebox” helped me with this.

Givebox in Düsseldorf

Givebox in Düsseldorf

A public book case is another great idea for sharing things.

A public book case is another great idea for sharing things.

I didn’t only find great secondhand markets in my area (the “Weiberkram” market in Neuss is great for girls’ clothes), but also initiatives that focus on swapping, sharing and giving things to others for free (get more information on this here).

clothes swaps

Even though I was just talking about flea markets, I do actually have to admit I hardly bought any clothes this year as I participated in so many clothes swaps. I got rid of clothes that didn’t fit me anymore and in return I got a completely new wardrobe. I know that this only works as long as people buy new clothes (If we all wore our clothes until they fell apart it wouldn’t work obviously), but I think it’s still a good idea for all those who end up with a piece of clothing that doesn’t fit anymore or which they got as a gift and didn’t like.

I generally try to make more stuff myself – that means cooking from scratch (therefore you can find so many recipes on ingloriousplastics), mixing my own cosmetics and cleaning products, sewing, mending and repairing things. I found a good shoemaker that fixes my shoes for as little as 7€ and I also plan on checking out a Repair Café soon. That way you automatically end up with a lot less packaging – and you save quite a bit of money, too.

So I hope this gives you an idea of what happened behind the scenes of ingloriousplastics and helps you understand the mix of topics in my blog a bit better. And I want to thank all of you for your support and the ideas you sent me. Next week I’m gonna give you a little update on plastic-free shopping, cooking (I love the plastic-free chef) and cosmetics. If you have any questions or suggestions, let me know. Would love to read your thoughts on that!