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Some hands-on techniques to save resources and money

"crumbs of lost material add up to a feast of waste at the end of our lives."

The Garbage Picking Game: Scrounging, Scavenging, Dumpster Diving, whatever you call it it's a new American game. Matrons in Mercedes, immigrants, Good Ol Boys, housewives looking over their shoulders, everybody is doing it. Not only money, but resources are saved and preserved by this sport. Some people make a living doing it.

Neighborhood clean-up days are an excellent opportunity to find items that you can repair, use or sell.
Garage Sales give you an opportunity to extract wealth from what you don't need any more, meet your neighbors and create less clutter and space in your home. What doesn't sell often gets put out at the curb at the end of the day and moves on to others.

Why should every home on a block have its own set of tools, garden implements, and specialized equipment? Take the concept of the library for books and extend it to useful things and your neighborhood can save a tremendous amount of material, energy and money. If your community doesn't already have a tool or specialized equipment "library" what's to stop your community from setting one up?

The City of Berkeley, California, has a tool lending library that can serve as a model : Berkeley public library tool lending library

Is there some reason your community can't set one up?
Subscribe to your favorite magazine through your neighborhood library. Have an automatic hold placed on it for you each month. When your finished reading it the whole community gets to enjoy it.

Food, from epicurean to basic, makes an ideal gift. It is totally useful, leaves little waste and may be subject to no sales tax.

Make a printed list, same order in which they appear in the aisles, of all the things that you buy in your market. As you discover a need for an item during the week, circle it on the list. When you go to the market, you have a tool that will tell you what you need, speed things up and prevent impulse and over-purchasing.

Why would anybody go out an buy a new couch, tv, table, exercise machine etc, etc, etc, when people are literally giving them away free or for barter or very little money on Craigslist. (coming soon to a majore metrolpolitan area near you)

This links to the San Francisco Bay Area Craigslist, "Free" Section note the geographical divisions that you can select at the top of their page.

Note that there are other catagories such as "General" for sale, "Barter", etc. All listed on the opening page at http://www.craigslist.org/

see the listings of cities now served on the main page. Absolutely free to use and enjoy.

The recently postponed SOPA and PIPA laws would have shut down Craigslist and many other sites as they were hurting corporate profits. i.e. Instead of being able to sell your used Monster Cables on Craigslist, you it would be necessary to go out and buy new ones and then landfill them when you no longer needed them.



We've organized these into groupings of somewhat similar things separated by horizontal rules.


*Make a space for a recycling box wherever convenient in the kitchen. Place all recyclable items in this box, thus saving time by eliminating repeat trips to distant recycling bins.

*Start a compost heap for coffee grounds, eggshells and vegetable scraps. Even if you don't have a garden, you can add these materials to a nearby green area that will benefit from having its soil enriched. Just place the organic matter around and under plants. A gallon plastic jug with its top cut off at 45 degrees opposite the handle makes a good kitchen storage and carrying device. Or, a half-gallon milk carton with the top opened up.

*Coffee houses and juice bars are ideal places to get all the grounds and or juice pulp you might want for large scale composting. Places that use hardwood to roast food can be a great source of fireplace ash that, when used carefully and in small amounts, can neutralize acid soil and add nutrients. Only add ash to your compost heap in tiny amounts sufficient to dust the surface and in alternate layers with other materials.. Apply it directly to soil or lightly scatter around plants. Clumps of ash become caustic lye when wetted, so you want it to just be a dusting-and no, do not breath it.

*Salvage and gather reusable screws, bolts and fasteners from wood or other item being recycled or discarded. Place them in a large clear container. Soon you will have a readily available collection of fasteners that are visible through the sides. Except for large projects you may never have to buy another screw or fastener.

*Do the same for larger items by catagory. For example, in a box marked "electrical" , we place lengths of wire, adaptors, extension cords, switch-plates, fuses etc. Some items are surplus to our home, others are garbage-picked or just found. Whatever the source, they inevitably get used. The larger the number of people that contribute to these stashes, the greater the variety and more money and material preserved. Consider catagories such as hardware, plumbing, garden, car etc.

*Paper being saved for recycling can be highly consolidated in a paper grocery bag by laying the bag on the floor, open side against a wall, and then carefully stepping on the bag to compress the material inside. There's a link from our opening page on this:


*"Disposable" cameras, which you would never consider buying of course, have a normal AA battery inside of them. Get your photo finishing lab to sell them for a token price of say, 10 cents ,instead of dumping them. There usable just like a store bought battery and usually have plenty of charge.

* When sending greeting cards, write your message on a post-it note placed into the card instead of on the card itself. This allows the similar reuse of the card by its recipient.

*Cut out the graphics from greeting cards that aren't reusable to decorate your packages. Glue them down to avoid reading of the messages on the opposite side.
* Instead of buying gift-wrapping paper, use old maps, especially from National Geographics, posters or foreign-language newspapers. Hallmark makes billions because people haven't thought of these things.

*Get all the writing, computer, drawing paper or envelopes that you will ever need free from your school's computer lab or printing room garbage/recycle bins. If not crumbled it can easily be fed into any printer. There is usually plenty of paper with both sides blank as well. Recylcle bins behind print shops often have missprinted envelopes by the hundreds for the taking. Cross out the printed address and use them...to mail letters-remember those things?

*Dry ballpoint or marker pens can sometimes be recesitated by holding them in your hand, with bent wrist and flipping them up and down, tip out, CAP ON. This moves the last ink out to the tip or ball. Do this without the cap and you get free wall decorations.

*Write the due date on the back of return envelopes that accompany bills . Place the envelopes in sequential order in a clip then pay them a week before they're due so as to avoid late fees and keep the use of your own money.
Make your money in the bank work for you by starting a credit union account. These are fully insured non-profit banks that return their earnings to you in the form of higher interest rates and lower fees.


*Avoid wasting warm-up water and energy by artfully using hot water outlets most distant from the water heater in the following way;

In the 10 minutes or so before you must have hot water, for a shower, a washing machine or dishwasher, use only the hot water tap nearest the shower etc. for hand washing, rinsing dishes, watering plants etc.
This uses up the cold water in the hot water line and brings the hot closer to where it will be needed. After the essential hot water uses, use only the cold water taps.

Many people automatically use the hot water tap all day long to wash hands and are not getting any hot water, just warming up the pipes along the way and wasting gas or electricity.
Haven't you insulated your hot water pipes yet!? Even in places where it never freezes, foam insulation will allow you to turn down the water heater one notch and still get approximately the same temperature water. Plus the water standing in the pipe will stay warmer longer, lessening the need for warm up water. You get the stuff in long lengths, split it open at the seam and wrap it around the pipe. No tape, no glue, easy to use. It is plastic, but the energy it saves more than makes up for this. Foam insulation for larger pipes can be opened up and wrapped around the bottom of boards on their vertical edge, ("joist") in tight places where you might bump your head.

Consider turning your water heater down to its lowest setting. Ideally you could shower under only the water coming out of the hot water side without mixing in any cold. This will really save on your energy bills.

* Store nearly "empty" bottles of liquids like shampoo, syrups or soaps upside down, (lid on), to obtain the very last contents.

* Bars of soap too small to use effectively can be pressed into the sides of new larger bars softened by recent use.

*Aerosol containers can be emptied, stepped-on to flatten and demonstate non-pressurization, and then may be recycled with steel cans.

*Shaving-cream can dregs, too watery for shaving, can be used for hand soap until the can is completely empty and ready for flattening and recycling.

*Try shaving in the shower. Clean your face with soap to get the oil off your skin then run hot water over it to soften the beard and force the hair follicle to poke out. Lather with soap and Shave by feel. This obviates shaving cream and, once you get used to it, gives a better shave and saves time and money.


* Attach a garden hose to the outlet of a washing machine***and you can use the wash and rinse water to wash vehicles or if you use biodegradable soap, not detergeant, you can water fruit trees or landscaping with it. CAUTION***never let the machine pump the water uphill or highter than the top of the machine because you'll burn out the water pump. Also, it's not wise to water vegetables with this because of the plastisizers that the hot water could leach out of the plastic.
*Hoses often are discarded after the ends get run over by cars or they leak around the metal ends. We have several 100' garbage-picked hoses that were perfectly fine except for this. We fixed them for about $4.00 each. A solid brass coupling, male or female as appropriate, for the appropriate inside diameter of the hose and a stainless steel hose clamp will remedy this and can be used over and over. You can also get double ended male inserts to make a longer hose. Avoid the single-use crimp-ons and all plastic hose parts as they don't last.

*Use cooking or salad oil for lubricating non-essential mechanical things like hinges, tools etc. A light coat of oil will keep tools from rusting and you don't need to buy expensive and potentially toxic chemicals like WD-40 etc. "Oh WD-40 isn't toxic" a reader writes. How do we know? It's a secret proprietary forumula.

* Placing plates or coffee mugs on the middle of the stove-top above gas pilot lights pre-warms them with otherwise wasted heat. If the burner grills prevent contact with the hot metal surface, use a small piece of old ceramic tile or metal to conduct the heat up to the bottom of the cup or plate.
Place a plate on top of the toaster when its on to warm up the plate. Make sure it doesn't cause the toast to burn or get knocked off and broken.
*Use the stream of warm air that exits at the bottom front, of most refrigerators, to dry small rugs, warm your feet etc. Why do you think the cat sleeps there?

* Slices of wine corks can be used as door stops, pads or to replace broken bumpers between toilet lids and seats or doors and walls. Make sure to leave enough thickness to account for the compression of the cork.

*Roll toothpaste or other tubes on a flat surface, bottom to top, using a flat edged bottle or cup, when they seem "empty". You can thus get 99% of the contents and then recycle the aluminum tubes inside a soft-drink can squashed around the tube. Plastic (unrecyclable) tubes tend to spring open. Use a clothespin or binder clip to hold the tube coil closed after rolling it so that you can get the last contents. See our Recycling Page verdant.net/recycling.htm for details and pictures.

*"Disposable" baby-bottle liners, the stiff kind, from playtex, can be washed and reused in lukewarm water. You trust the cleanliness of the spoon and cups you wash, so why not these? We've used one over a hundred times and counting. Hopefully the manufacturer won't make them flimsier in the future just like nylon stockings were made weaker in the 'Forties.

*How about a free, biodegradable, recyclable, customizable, easily replaced toy, that toddlers and small children will go crazy about and will stimulate their imagination more than any video game or tv program? We're talking about a large, clean, heavy-duty cardboard box with all the staples removed and the bottom (still) taped shut. Flip it upside down. On the sides cut windows, peekholes or shutters the shape of an horizontally elongated capital "I". Make an entryway on one side large enough to crawl through. Toys-R-us keeps slaves in China busy making pastel plastic play structures that costs a fortune and pollute the environment because people haven't thought of this.

*Sponges (with no metal components) that smell bad can be disinfected and made to smell fresh in the microwave. Wash sponge throughly, then microwave wet, for a short period. When you see steam from the sponge, the bacteria in the sponge will be dead. Remove carefully, it will be hot! Rinse the sponge throughly before use.

*Microwaves can be used to emergency disinfect clothes, such as a child's cap that another kid has put on, as long as they have absolutely NO metal in the zippers, buttons, rivets etc. (Want to Ruin clothing? Leave a wire twist-tie in the pocket. The end of the wire will attract all the energy and melt at about 2000 degrees.)

ALWAYS place a cup of cold water next to the article to absorb the heat and microwaves.

* Reflective Mylar sheets or mirrors will save electricity by brightening up a room by reflecting daylight or artificial light. Position them in the darkest part of a room facing the lightest.

*Replace your lawn with native plants and wildflowers. You'll save much labor, money, water and will encourage wildlife. Label the garden to educate others who may think it's just "weeds".

*If you are discarding an item that might be repaired or reused, place it on top or alongside your garbage can, where people can see it, rather than inside, so that someone may have the opportunity to pick it up.

*Empty fire extinguishers can be inexpensively professionally refilled and are as good as new. We're talking about the ones with METAL handles, valves and hose-couplings, not the cheap plastic ones, they're junk.

* Carry an insulated plastic coffee mug with you in your travels. It will, after several years, obviate the manufacture, transport and disposal of thousands of paper or styrofoam cups and lids, the wrapping material and cardboard boxes in which they are shipped, hundreds of gallons of hot water and soap to wash china mugs in cafes and more than pay for itself in the discount some coffee places give when you bring your own.

NOTE: RESEARCH HAS SHOWN THAT HEATED PLASTIC RELEASES TOXIC CHEMICALS . You may want to use the plastic mug for cold liquids only or carry a ceramic mug.
*Take a thermos of iced water with you in your travels. This will obviate the need for stops to buy expensive carbonated sugar water usually sold in non-recyclable cups.
Do not freeze water in plastic bottles as this liberates bad chemicals from the plastic.
* Shower curtains can be renovated by being washed, on gentle cycle, with a pint of white vinegar.

* Baking soda and water paste cleans car battery terminals.

* Take your hangers back to the laundry for reuse. If they don't accept them patronize a laundry that does.

* Plastic buckets may eventually get holes in the bottom or sides. These are then useable as planters as they allow drainage.
*Need a new bucket? Bakeries and restaurants often throw out five gallon plastic buckets in which factory-food ingredients are shipped across the country. They're larger and stronger than the flimsy rubbermaid pails that you might buy in a hardware store.

CARS: Now has it's own page:

Ideas, suggestions or other things that you would like included in ongoing changes? Use the e-mail address below.


This next link puts the financial and environmental effects of overcoming consumerism in stark perspective.
Two Comparative Families

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Overcoming Consumerism Index      Consumerism's bad effects

O. C. Accomplishes?     Active Resistance      |hands on methods |

2 Families compared       our personal consumer choices

consumption chart      resources to overcome consumerism

radical anti-consumerism      cars     

How to raise food     How to raise trees

eliminate polystyrene products

Corporate officers and their interlocking interests

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