Tag Archives: reuse

5 Tips to Be a Smarter Shopper

13 Jun

On Tuesday, I shared a video with you guys called “The Story Of Stuff” by Annie Leonard.  If you got nothing from the video except thinking about what you buy, how much you buy, where it comes from, and where it ends up – I’ll take it!

I realize that it’s a big trap, the consumption cycle.  You think:  “Okay, well now I feel like complete crap about consumption, but how do I make changes without completely changing my lifestyle?”  Trust me, I’m not sitting here buying ethically sourced bamboo/hemp t-shirts online.  I know I probably should be, but….I don’t exactly have $30 (or more) to spend on a t-shirt.  My goal with sustainability is a practical one – how can I do the best I can with what I have?

So here are 5 tips for you to make purchases with your ethics and values (which are unique to you!):

1.  Local. Local. Local.  Buy local.  Just do it.  Even if you feel compelled to buy some made-in-China crap that is contains toxic materials and will eventually cause you cancer, buy it from a local small business.  Avoid big boxes when and where you can – buying from Target isn’t helping to support and grow your local economy.  By keeping your neighbors in business, it keeps the money you spend in your community.  And most of the time, in the hands of people who have all ready made an investment in that community by opening a business there.  Small business owners depend on YOU – the consumer – to keep them in business and you depend on businesses to keep your neighborhood prospering.  This symbiotic relationship is stronger than you realize.  That’s why corporations do any and everything they can to put small business owners out of business.

2.  Do some research.  Do a Google or Bing search to find out what items are manufactured in your area. You might be surprised.  We are becoming a DIY world and many people are finding ways to turn their DIY passion into a viable business venture.  There are artisans, hobbyists, experts, and producers out there making everything from reusable food containers to soda to brooms.  These people are making things ethically, in their own homes and businesses, using materials which suite their sustainable values.  And guess what – you get to have an actual conversation with them. You get to ask them what they’re about and what sustainable values penetrate their products.  These companies are all ready reaching out to you via the interwebs and social media – many times, you just have to a quick search.

3.  Find products that fall within the spectrum of your values.  My friend Amanda recently posted about an app she uses called Buycott. Buycott allows you to enter values which are important to you:    Then, you can scan products to determine which parent companies owns them and if you find them acceptable for purchase.  Some examples of my filters are “Made in the USA,” “Say NO to Monsanto,” and “Avoid eating toxic artificial trans fat.”  Its easy to let technology do much of the research for you!  However, the best alternative is to buy whole foods from local growers and farmers whom you trust.

4.  If you’re having trouble finding products which don’t contain toxic chemicals or are produced using unethical business practices, get involved.  Stop complaining about it and be about it!  Join a letter writing campaign, a Facebook group, start your own local group – by putting pressure on retailers to provide better options to the consumer, you can produce change yourself.  I recently just read about a group called Mind The Store that does just that.

5.  Reuse.  Find new uses for things, whether it be re-purposing or re-directing it from the waste stream.  Use old coffee filters in your potted plants, compost them, donate old clothing and home goods – more importantly, try to make purchases at thrift stores or yard sales.  Its more fun to find new uses for items and you’re able to put a personal flourish on it!

Living a sustainable life doesn’t have to be rocket science.  The most important thing is to open your eyes and recognize what consequences your actions have:  just because it goes in the garbage and is out of sight, doesn’t mean it should be out of mind.  Be creative.  Be aware.  Be responsible.

Spiced From The Strip

17 Apr

Dinner was Strip District-inspired last night.

If you’re not from Pittsburgh, you are probably asking yourself what racy, scandalous inspiration that is.

The Strip District is a wonderful area which connects to downtown Pittsburgh.  It’s called “the Strip” because its just a little “strip” of property that runs parallel to the river.  It’s actually the historic location of one of Andrew Carnegie’s first steel mills, ALCOA aluminum production HQ, and Westinghouse’s first factory to product air breaks.  I just love history.  At the turn of the century, the Strip become the center of produce in Pittsburgh.  The city’s main train station runs through the area, so produce merchants were able to get fresh fruits and veggies through easily accessible channels.  Today, the Strip has changed a lot, but its heartbeat is still the same.  It’s now home to many ethnic grocery stores, a destination for fresh produce, meats, cheese, and pasta.  There are so many little niche restaurants and cafes and bakeries, that you can get lost there for hours on the weekends.

We ventured down there on Monday morning, before I reported for duty at the laundry facility, to visit a novelty toy wholesaler named Mike Feinberg’s.  We had to buy prizes to give the big kids at the Great Cloth Diaper Change on Saturday.  Changin’ Time is in charge of kids games and activities!  Just across the street is one of my favorite places: Penzeys Spices.


I had accrued 4 coupons for free or discounted spices, so I had to stop for a spice haul.

Next door to Penzeys is a gourmet coffee dealer called Prestogeorge Coffee Roasting Company, a company which was founded locally in the 1960s and eventually found its home in the Strip.


When you walk in the door, the smells which lured you in from the sidewalk are amazing.  The walls are lined with interesting and rare blends of coffee beans and teas, biscotti, baked goods, deli meats, and all things delicious.


We were just stopping in for some tea, but I could have spent hours looking at all the different blends.

So – what ended up in dinner last night, you ask?

The featured spice at Penzeys this month is called Berbere, a fiery Ethiopian spice blend.  Because I subscribe to their catalog, I received a coupon this month to try it for free!  You can order it online or find it in the store for $4.39.  We love spicy food, so we had to try it out.  I used it as a rub on chicken.


At Prestogeorge, they had been sampling something called “Caribbean dip.”  We liked the sample and are constantly looking for new spicy items,  so we bought it.  When we got home, we realized that it was a little bit too mayo-based to really use as a dip.  However, I thought it would be excellent to use as a spicy breading base for the chicken, so I brushed some on!


Then, I lightly dusted the chicken with Panko.


And baked it for about an hour at 350F.  When it was done, I topped it with just a dab of the dip and served it.


It was seriously SOOOOO good.  And spicy!  Like, I served it with celery spicy.  A yummy entree which supported two local business. 🙂

Don’t forget to enter my Earth Week Giveaway over here.  Find out how you can get a second giveaway entry if you all ready like SOLE for the Soul on Facebook ♥

Earth Week Giveaway!!

16 Apr

It’s Earth Week – the week leading up to Earth Day on April 22nd.

Do you have anything fun for planned to help your local community?

Start composting
Commit to recycling
Pick up trash in your neighborhood
Plant a tree
Bike or walk instead of drive
Talk to people about climate change
Conserve energy – use cold water to do your laundry, hang clothing to dry, shut off lights!
Use cloth diapers
Reuse instead of create refuse
Campaign for green initiatives

You don’t have to save the world, you just have to do one or two things. If everyone does one or two things, that DOES add up to change. And when people start seeing change, it makes them want to see MORE change.

One of the biggest changes that I’ve made in the last year is embracing the idea of “reuse.” After starting a cloth diaper service with my family, it helped me put things into perspective. Disposable diapers are the perfect example of planned obsolescence: this describes a product which was produced and manufactured with the intention of it having limited use. It is produced so that you have to throw it away and buy a new one. Disposable diapers are used one time and then dumped into a landfill with BILLIONS of other diapers. The millions and millions of resources and dollars that go into producing disposables each year is literally a waste. Reusable diapers (aka cloth diapers) are produced so that they can be washed and reused over and over again. They use less resources. The contain fewer harmful materials. They lessen a family’s carbon footprint with every reuse.

So that got me thinking about what other stuff I throw away. If you look through your garbage can right now, I can guarantee the majority of what’s in there is packaging. Packaging from stuff you buy, stuff you eat, stuff that comes with your clothes and shoes, just stuff. Just packaging. In 2011, I was buying ziplock baggies almost every time I went to the grocery store. They were the easiest thing to dump snacks and lunches into. I used them to organize things: paperclips, change, nuts and bolts, nails, nail polish, hair ties, etc. In 2012, I really started thinking about how much stuff we throw away, where it comes from, and how we can cut down. It occurred to me that our main issue is packaging.

I started collecting containers of all shapes and sizes. I knew I wanted all of my food to be stored in BPA-free containers. I washed out glass jars from pasta sauces and apple sauces and pickles, boiled them all, and stuck them in my pantry. I invested in some BPA-free glass Snapware containers and I recycled all the Gladware and miscellaneous containers I had collected which weren’t BPA-free. I cringe every time I see someone heat up leftovers in one of those plastic containers that Chinese food comes in. That low grade of plastic is full of chemicals which break down before we even use them. It leaches into our food, ESPECIALLY when its heated in a microwave. Not for me.

So here’s a chance for you to make a positive change in your food storage.

BPA-FREE CONTAINER GIVEAWAY (courtesy of Mira Brands)


Mira Brands has given me the opportunity to test out their new line of stainless steel, food-grade, BPA-free containers.  I used them all week long for my lunches and for storing some yummy fruit at home.  Both of these thumbs are pointing to the sky, people.  They kept out the smells, kept my food fresh, were conveniently sized, and durable.  I dropped one which was full of strawberries and cottage cheese, and that lid stayed put!   If you’re looking for something larger, there are also larger ones, which are available through their Amazon store) Just knowing that they are free of toxic materials like BPA, phthalates, PVC, and lead made me feel confident in my container.

Mira is giving one lucky Sole For The Soul (SFTS) reader their own set of stainless steel containers!  The giveaway begins right now and runs until Sunday at 5:00 p.m. EST.  Then, a winner will be chosen by random draw.

Here’s how to enter:

1.  Leave a comment on this post about something awesome you are going to do for Earth Day/Earth Week.

2.  Like SOLE For The Soul on Facebook by clicking here.  If you all ready like SFTS on Facebook, leave a separate comment telling me you are all ready a fan.

The winner will be announced on Monday.  Good luck!!  🙂


I Obviously Need to Watch More HGTV…

24 Apr

On Easter, my future BIL, gave his girlfriend, mom, and sister (which includes me!) a bouquet of happy spring flowers.

Since I am incapable of keeping anything alive (other than pets and people), ours quickly started wilting.

So I cut the stems down and composted them then separated the flowers by color since I’m completely neurotic:

Those little “vases” are old pesto jars I’ve been hoarding.

Voila!  Our hideous lamp is now transformed into a spring showpiece 🙂

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