Install a Rain Barrel

One of my favorite Craigslist purchases this year was my rain barrel.  I bought it over the summer, but didn’t get around to installing it until September.  It holds about 50 or 55 gallons, and it needed to be set up underneath one of our downspouts.

I thought it would be pretty easy.  Just pull off a few sections of the existing gutters and stick the rain barrel in there.  Ha! Little did I know that gutters are sometimes riveted img_4642together.  Plus, the barrel is a circle and doesn’t fit tight up against the house.  Therefore, the existing gutter won’t feed into the rain barrel without some modifications.  Not to mention the overflow pipe.

But, don’t be scared.  After assessing the situation, I dove in.  Supplies that I used: rain barrel, flexible gutter piping, extra gutter elbow, sheet metal screws, drill, level, safety glasses, bricks, and various plumbing connectors.  So basically, if you have a drill and access to a hardware store, you can manage this project by yourself on a Saturday.  Remember to connect an overflow pipe so water is directed away from the foundation of your house.  Also, since Milwaukee freezes over the winter, I will remove the rain barrel.  Ice inside could bust the barrel.

After the rain barrel was installed, I felt so proud!  It was the largest hands-on project that I had ever undertaken alone.  Now every time it rains, I get plenty of water to use with a soaker hose along some newly seeded grass, on my house plants, and in other creative ways.  For the environment, it helps offset water rushing off of paved surfaces and into storm drains.  Plus, it reduces my use of drinking water for the plants and yard.

Landfill Log

If you are trying to go on a diet, you might keep a food journal.  If you are training for a marathon, you might keep a running log.  If you are trying to limit how much you send to the landfill, then you should keep a landfill log.

landfillWhen this idea came to me, I kept a landfill log for one week, and I even convinced my husband to keep a landfill log for a few days.  Keeping the log emphasized how much we as a society regularly throw away and how we sometimes throw things away mindlessly, almost subconsciously.

While doing the log, I realized that I could save paper towel from the work bathroom by walking to another bathroom.  I realized the importance of composting since a lot of my regular trash was from food waste.  Packaged food bags/ containers was also a trend, which shows that it is important to eat whole, unprocessed foods for environmental reasons in addition to health reasons.  I also mentioned to Greg that yogurt containers are recyclable in Milwaukee.  Overall, it led to a greater consciousness about the things I am throwing away plus a few changed behaviors to reduce my landfill footprint. This activity was free, easy, and eye opening.  I strongly recommend it.

If you’re interested in the full details, they are below.  Shared items such as waste from preparing a shared meal were included in my log rather than both.

Michelle’s landfill log:

Monday: banana peel, lotion nub, hair, pen ink cartridge and bag, 2 staples, oily paper towel, pear core, dirty paper towel, cleaning wipe at the gym, Carmel delite cookie plastic trays, 2 greasy paper towels from bacon, greasy sheet of aluminum foil from bacon, plastic neck wrap off a new mayo jar,  cracker sleeve with crumbs, uneaten piece of lettuce, disposable timing chip from a racing bib
Tuesday: banana peel, fruit sticker, hair, small paper plate (from a work meeting and the banana bread looked so good!), pear core, garbage bag, old leftovers, grape stems, cracker bag, scrap of plastic lettering that peeled off a shirt
Wednesday: hair, banana peel, laminated pieces of paper, piece of tape, pizza paper, sticker backs, envelop peeling, chicken paper wrap, food scraps, risotto bag, old partial chicken breast, blister package from medicine
Thursday: hair, banana peel, grape stems and wrinkled grapes, sweater fuzz, leftovers, sticker scraps, laminated pieces of paper, piece of plastic wrap, empty trail mix bag, kit kat wrapper
Friday: cereal dust, banana peel, hair, 2 medicine blister packages, 5 cough drop wrappers, sticker from work, wrinkly grapes and grape stems, butter wrapper, crumbs, plastic neck wrap from cough medicine, plastic wrap from take and bake pizzas, sauce dishes from pizzas, pizza trays, food scraps, 2 napkins, 4 straws, pineapple slice with drink, paper towel
Saturday: cough drop wrapper, banana peel, hair, blister medicine packaging, paper plate, napkin, plastic fork, plastic spoon, old cough drop, empty cough drop bag, toilet paper with a smashed bug, candy wrapper, straw, plastic spoon, plastic cup with lid, plastic neck wrapper from a medicine bottle, food scraps, floss
Sunday: food pouch, 6 candy wrappers, plastic wrap, plastic toy packaging, food scraps, empty crouton bag, top peel off section of new crouton bag, greasy paper bag, nubs of old soap bars, blister medicine packaging, fuzz

Greg’s landfill log:

Monday: dry cleaner paper bracelets and plastic tab, yogurt container and lid, plastic spoon, 2 fruit stickers, inedible cheese chunk, 9 bathroom paper towels
Tuesday: styrofoam coffee cup, 24 paper towels, 2 fruit stickers, paper plate, yogurt container and lid, 3 napkins, candy wrapper, Qudoba cardboard bowl, plastic fork
Saturday: large coffee cup with lid and holder, sandwich wrapper, napkin, paper bag, receipt

Water Heater Vacation Setting

Yes, I said water heater.  As in, I now own a water heater due to the fact that my husband and I moved out of an apartment and into a house!  This is very big and exciting news, and when you add that to the fact that I got a new role at work, it can help explain why I haven’t posted anything for 4 months.

I’ve been doing lots of eco-friendly things during this time, but I just haven’t written about them.  So, to get back into the swing of things, I will mention one green change that I’ve implemented for our house:


Vacation setting is shown to the left on my water heater dial.

The idea came from reading the instruction manuals for the appliances in my house.  Besides learning that you should clean the filter of your dish washer (who knew they had filters?!), I also learned that our water heater has a vacation setting.  By using this setting, the water is kept a bit cooler than usual.  Therefore, energy is saved while you are away. We switch the setting if we are going to be away for two days or more.  It’s just an easy dial on the back of the water heater.  I don’t even have to remove any panels to access the dial.  Although I don’t have a way to measure the energy saved, I am still making a small adjustment to save energy (and money).

Where are the dead bodies?

I don’t know where worms go when they die.  No, I’m not wondering if there is a Worm Heaven; I am literally saying that I do not know where the dead worm bodies are. RIP Unfortunately, my most recent batch of worms didn’t make it very long.  After only about a month in the bin, I confirmed that they were gone.  I’m not sure what caused their untimely demise, but I still think it is weird that I never saw the dead worms.  No dried up bodies outside of the bin.  No dead bodies in the bin.  My only theory is that the bodies disintegrate very quickly.

So this is my confession that I killed three batches of worms.  My second batch had the longest reign.  Even though I had some trouble with the conditions for my bin, I still highly recommend having a worm bin.  Over the course of my worm bins, I saved approximately 90 banana peels from the landfill.  It might sound like a small amount, but it all adds up.  Also consider that my worm bin was only about as big as a shoe box.  Soon I’ll be moving to a new house where I plan to revive my worm bin and maybe even expand it.  Hopefully all the worms in Worm Heaven will be happy about that.

How to save the world in 1 step

Step 1: Try

You definitely won’t save the world if you don’t try.Try

We each have to try.  Each individual has to understand that if she is not part of the solution, then she is part of the problem.  How can an individual fight global warming?  That individual has to try.  Do something.  Anything.  If that doesn’t work, then try something else.  Even if it does work, do something in addition to the first thing.  We won’t be able to stop climate change if we don’t try.  This philosophy is true for all of the problems that face individuals/ society, not just climate change.  So if you are trying to save the world, remember step 1: Try.


I’m gonna pop some tags, only got $20 in my pocket

Shopping at thrift stores keeps items out of landfills and reduces demand for new items.  I’ve known this and shopped at thrift stores for a while, but recently I had another thought.  As I was purchasing 5 shirts from Goodwill (for $15 total), I wondered how much of my wardrobe is actually 2nd hand.  How much do I practice what I preach?  To answer that question, I took an inventory of of my clothes.  I was pleased to find that my wardrobe is made up of 44% thrift store purchases.  But at the same time, I was horrified to find that I own 137 shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, and tank tops (not even counting workout shirts).  Before judging me for having such a horrid number of shirts, remember that 44% of them are 2nd hand and also know that I immediately purged a bunch of stuff from my closet.

Thrift Shop Macklemore

Macklemore’s Thrift Shop is a great song and the inspiration of this blog title.

So with those things in mind, this blog post captures two green actions:  1) Shop at thrift stores.  Like I already said, this will reduce demand for newly manufactured items, and it will reduce the surge of items going to landfills.  It is possible to find good things (clothes, furniture, decorations, dishes) at thrift stores, it just takes patience.  2) Take an inventory of your clothes.  It will emphasize the stuff you have that you don’t wear or need.  Then, give those things to someone else and close the loop on 2nd hand items.


Start a Green Team at Work

My company has solar panels and does good by the environment, but we can always do more.  A few months ago, I started a Green Team at work.  We have a company website where employees can share posts.  That is how I introduced the Green Team and invited employees to attend the first Green Team meeting.  When I wasn’t the only one at the meeting, I was very happy. That is how our Green Team was born.

IMG_3542 (1)

This is our recycling awareness sign.

If you want to start a Green Team at work, don’t be afraid.  See if others are interested to help with a project or do a small project by yourself.  Then spread the word that the project was “brought to you by the Green Team”.  Seeing successful projects will inspire others to join your forces.
Recycling awareness was the first project that our Green Team undertook.  We created signs to show what could be recycled in each bin and additionally, we posted signs by the garbage cans that said “Landfill”.  This is a small project that anyone can tackle.  Another easy project idea is the Eco Tray.  Once you get some momentum on your team, bigger projects will be achievable too!  But, first someone has to start the Green Team.