Friday, September 4, 2009

A Win-Win Scenario: Eco-nomical & Eco-friendly!

I've always been a recycling kind of girl. But I've always sensed that we could be doing more to harm the earth less.

This was especially so when I saw and read how they managed over at Painted Rainbows and Chamomile Tea to whittle down their trash output. I was astonished and amazed. Not to mention, completely inspired! Surely our family could lessen our impact on the landfills by making some wiser choices and scrutinizing what normally gets tossed on a daily basis. I now find myself analyzing each object in my hand as it's poised over the trash can: Can I recycle this? Can I turn this into something useful? Is there a waste-free alternative to this product (such as filling up my own jars/cloth bags in the bulk food section of Whole Foods)?

So, when I came across this article in Family Fun magazine, I couldn't wait to try it out. It takes recycling one step further: take what is recyclable and give it a second life in your own home, instead of in the recycle bin.

We already had the items on hand, so we set to work. I loved the idea of creating a reusable sandwich container for my husband's lunch. I hate using plastic sandwich bags, and the few plastic storage containers we do have (I am slowly weeding them out) don't fit compactly into his lunch box.

The great thing about both the sandwich container and the little snack box (I filled ours with fresh fruit pieces one day and trail mix the next) is that they are washable: the milk jug is plastic and the snack box is made from small juice or milk/whipping cream cartons, which have that slick coating on the inside. So no matter what food they held the previous day, no trace of food/liquid is left behind once it's washed. We have been using and reusing ours for a week now and they are still holding up just fine.

If you want to make these yourself, follow the above link to the instructions on Family Fun's site. However, they are super simple and I'll give you the quick rundown here:

1. Obviously, start with washed and dried milk jugs and cartons.

2. Draw a cutting line as pictured here, making the four "flaps" of your container, one flap being the longest. Note: I didn't make my tallest flap long enough--it ended up not folding over far enough, but it still works.

3. I made the dotted lines, but I didn't use a thumbtack to pierce holes along my dotted lines as the article instructed. It just didn't seem necessary (plus then I would have had a certain four year old begging to try her hand at poking holes through the plastic. And that idea just had disaster written all over it). I just creased along the dotted lines and folded them back and forth a few times to make the container easier to open and close.

4. When making the snack box using milk cartons, just snip off the top and cut down each side until you can close up the box like so:
As I stated before, the top flap on my sandwich container doesn't extend far enough over the front to close with an adhesive velcro dot. You'll see in the photo (directly above) that I tried cutting a slit in the front to fashion a closure of sorts. It didn't work. The top kept popping out of the slit. So, that's where the ever-handy rubber band comes into play.

Now I'll admit that I felt compelled to put a note inside my husband's lunch box, reminding him not to throw away the empty food containers. That would defeat the purpose of this project just a bit, don't you think? I thought that since they were made of materials that normally get thrown away after consumption, he might do just that. But, he dutifully brought them back home again. There may be hope for making my dear hubby "green" yet!

My husband said that his friends at work harassed him today about having a wife pack his lunch in "garbage." Nice, huh? Well, my beloved defended me and told them about my wish to instill eco-friendly thoughts into the minds of our children through activities such as this one. He added that, "If my wife is happy, I'm happy." Now that's a smart man.

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