Saturday, July 19, 2008

Who Wants All This Stuff??

We have hosted several "Stuff Swap" nights (often in combination with a Frozen Meal Swap). The idea is that everyone brings any material possessions they wish to give away. Then each person gets a turn to convince the group to take their items. Everyone goes home happy, having rid their house of unwanted stuff and having acquired a few new cool things.

Then after you try to pawn off all your old junk on your friends and family, what do you do with what's left??

Baltimore has some great organizations who put our unwanted material possessions to good use. Here are a few I know about. Add to the list if you know of others.

1. Baltimore Free Store accepts all usable items that are in good working condition. They collect these things in their warehouse at 31 N. Haven Street on specific days, and then make them available free of charge to anyone who wants them at Free Markets they set up around town. A non-profit organization. They have an interesting couple paragraphs about why to donate to them instead of to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or Planet Aid.

2. The Book Thing of Baltimore's mission is to put unwanted books into the hands of those who want them. They accept books and magazines regardless of age or subject matter and give them away free to anyone. Go to the Book Thing any Saturday or Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and donate (or pick up) as many books as you wish.

3. Velocipede Bike Project collects donated, second-hand, and landfill-bound bikes, and teaches people how to repair and build their own bicycles. They sell very affordable safe, refurbished bikes. They accept donations of bicycles in any condition, bike parts, and bike tools.

4. Baltimore Freecycle is a local Yahoo Group where you can give away any variety of stuff to other Freecyclers in Baltimore. There are over 4000 chapters all over the world. Membership is free. It is very easy to use. We have given and received many, many things through Freecycle.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Homemade Cloth Bags

Re-purpose old sturdy fabric to make cloth bags.

A friend of mine gave me a whole slew of cloth napkins and place mats a while back. And I, being unable to turn away any potentially useful fabric, took them without a real idea of what I would use them for since we already have a dozen cloth napkins and never use place mats.

Looking through my scrap fabric bin for canvas or some heavy woven cotton fabric to make cloth bags out of, I ran across the napkins and place mats. They are the perfect size for grocery bags. Just sew around three sides with sturdy thread, add some 1-inch wide cotton or nylon webbing for handles, and since the edges of the napkins (or place mats) are already finished, there are no hems to sew. Easy. Excellent reuse of sturdy decorative fabric. One more way to ditch plastic bags for good.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Potential Plastic Grocery Bag Ban

Baltimore City Council is advancing a bill which would force big grocery stores to use only recyclable paper bags rather than the ubiquitous plastic grocery bag by January 2010. (Thanks, Kris, for pointing me to this.)

One quoted store owner is concerned that adding a surcharge for the more expensive paper bags would be a turn-off to customers, saying he would not want to be the first store to do so.

But he wouldn't be the first. I first encountered a bag surcharge at IKEA when they stopped using free plastic bags at least a year ago. Also Whole Foods doesn't use plastic anymore.

This is so important, particularly in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Many cities (and countries) around the world have already banned free plastic bags: cities in India, all of China, Paris, and the UK, among others. Baltimore would be the second city in the US to take this step. San Francisco is the first.

Related: fears that the blue crab industry in the Chesapeake Bay is dying (or dead). Pollution and economy sited as causes.

Remotely related: I'm currently reading An Island Out of Time: A Memoir of Smith Island by Tom Horton. "A small island home to five hundred watermen and their families, Smith Island is the subject of an elegant study about a community that has stayed true to its past while witnessing the decline of the natural wonders surrounding it in Chesapeake Bay." Reading this is making personal the importance of protecting this local resource.