ReUse Connection

Since one of our missions on this blog is to keep unraveling the puzzle of sustainability, we appreciate it when we come across recycling tips that make sense and as a bonus are fun, too. If you ever wonder what you can do with that mountain of Starburst wrappers on the floor of your car, this is your kind of site.

Since 2009, ReUse Connection has been using social media to promote the re-use of materials and items by providing a platform for people to share and discuss re-use examples. . . and by supporting eco-entrepreneurship.  It’s an inspiring use of Facebook in particular, with over 70,000 followers engaging in discussions and sharing tips for re-using materials in endlessly creative ways.

In the site’s own words:

“ReUse Connection sees ReUse as a much broader umbrella, including recycling, upcycling, some repurposing, etc. Our knowledge sharing purpose is to aid people in thinking outside the box. . .

At times, we focus on the “use” part of ReUse, seeing utility in items or materials otherwise destined for the landfill: for example, repurposing an item or material that has never been used or will never be used because it is expired or blemished.

While some of our content may not directly achieve the goal of reducing waste, our broader goal is to demonstrate what is possible and hopefully stimulate people to act on that imagination.

ReUse Connection aims to reduce waste and improve environmental health by:

1. providing knowledge sharing about ReUse, and

2. creating economic opportunity (with individuals, entrepreneurs, and corporations) by seeing value at the back end of the material stream.”

This is sustainability in action. They’re in the process of developing a website, and in the meantime have created a Facebook page that’s become a clearinghouse for ideas of all kinds.

A few of our recent favorites:

Beach bag made from mesh produce bags, courtesy the journals of giddy giddy

Striped cotton wrap around skirt size 6Y made of a man shirt, courtesy French Garderobe on Etsy

Tie bag from ReUse Picasa page

Ski rack idea/photo courtesy Orvis

Granted, some of the ideas may not appeal to everyone, but one of the things we most enjoy about the Facebook page is the give-and-take in the comments following the postings. Fans on this site aren’t shy about expressing their opinions on whether new ideas make the grade or not.

For more info on the genesis of ReUse Connection and its founder, Ian Moise, here’s an informative interview with him from the website Blue Planet, Green Living.

You may want to become a follower on this page; there’s certainly something new every day. Let us know if you try any of these ideas, or post your own!

Second Scholarship Award at UCSC Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture Announced

The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California at Santa Cruz is working to transform the way we grow and distribute food into a sustainable system that provides social justice and protects the environment. This internationally recognized program integrates social and natural science research, academic and experiential education, and public service.

In December 2009, the Simply Organic 1% fund and the Frontier Foundation made a combined $130,000 donation to the Center to establish a perpetual scholarship in their Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture program.  That year, the first recipient was Evelyn Rosas.

The six-month, full-time program at the University of California Santa Cruz prepares participants to establish their own organic farms and market gardens or to be hired by the growing number of organic farming operations nationwide.

This year’s winner of the Simply Organic scholarship for the Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture is Israel Dawson. Congratulations, Israel!

Israel Dawson, scholarship recipient.

Israel says he’s starting with a lot of self-taught food production knowledge, but little formal training. “I was mostly learning from reading and from trial and error,” he says. “This program is giving me the real grounding I need.”

Israel’s focus is on developing the skills to create Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) projects, with the goal of getting locally grown organic food into the hands of more people through co-ops, farmers’ markets, and urban farming efforts.

He would like to develop a local CSA business model that could be readily adapted in a variety of settings. “This local model would help establish jobs and provide affordable means for people to have a healthy diet from and within their local communities,” he says.

“This is the premier sustainable and organic training program in the U.S.,” says Kathy Larson, Vice President of Sustainability at Frontier. “During my visit in August 2009, I was impressed with the quality of the program – and even more so with the apprentices enrolled in the program. Our scholarship empowers a new generation of sustainable agricultural leaders, who otherwise might not have the opportunity to participate in advanced training and contribute as fully to the organic community.”

Each year, one apprentice receives a scholarship for 100% of tuition to learn organic farming techniques, develop and evaluate new ideas to tackle issues of inequality in the food system, and integrate social and natural science research, academic and experiential education, and public service to transform the food system.

A donation of $70,000 was made from the Simply Organic One Percent Fund (SO1%), which is generated by one percent of sales on all Simply Organic products. The Frontier Foundation™ donated the remainder.

Please let us know if you’ve visited the program at UCSC, or if you have any programs such as this one in your area.

A Walk Through Our Tallgrass Prairie

Kathy Larson, Frontier’s VP of Sustainability, took a walk through the tallgrass prairie at our Norway, Iowa headquarters with her camera in hand recently, and shares her experience and photos with us here. She’s agreed to return regularly (it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it) to chronicle the prairie’s changes throughout the year.

With both a strong warm breeze out of the southeast and gathering clouds foreshadowing rain, I stroll out to the Frontier tallgrass prairie to see which plants are growing and which are blooming.

I notice many remnants of last year’s foliage, including tall stalks of compass plant and ironweed, which are the favorites of the redwing blackbirds. The birds perch atop the stalks to survey their territory and noisily warn away competitors — and they obviously consider me one.

Bunches of dried grasses, still standing tall throughout the landscape, hide much of the new plant growth, but it’s there. Many plants, like gentian and mondarda, are just starting to poke their heads out from the soil. Others, like the Maximillan sunflowers, are already nearly a foot tall, with last year’s flowering stalks rising from the center of the new green leaves.

The only prairie plant I can find that is flowering this early is Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), a member of the carrot family. The plants are just starting to bloom. When fully opened, their bright yellow clusters of flowers will provide a source of nectar for many types of bees, wasps and small butterflies. Golden Alexanders grows in moist prairies and abandoned fields and is scattered throughout the lower and wetter parts of our prairie.

Along the walking trail that circles the prairie, the dandelions are blooming with plenty of sunny yellow flowers — and almost as many fluffy seed heads, ready to be spread afar on the spring breezes.

I see that Frontier employees are not the only ones to walk the prairie trail. Tracks from pheasants and deer crisscross it too.

It’s a pleasure to walk across this vibrant and diverse prairie.

I’ll try to return often and share what I find there with you.

bluecashew Kitchen Pharmacy, Rhinebeck NY

One of our favorite places to browse and shop in the Hudson Valley is bluecashew Kitchen Pharmacy, the creation of Gregory Triana and Sean Nutley. With every visit comes a new surprise, a new arrival, and a fun chat.

On the store’s website, bluecashew is described as “fusing utility & design into a well- merchandised specialty kitchen experience.” This is definitely the case. The store carries a beautiful selection of both unique and classic cutlery, baking and cookware, barware, stemware, and small appliances, at all price levels. A carefully selected and thoughtfully displayed cookbook section complements the merchandise.

On one of our first visits, we also noticed a dedication to offering sustainable and “green” merchandise – and the store design reflected this as well.

In fact, the store won a Retailer Excellence award for its design last August.  One of our favorite features in the store is its wall made from reclaimed wood.

We recently had the chance to check in with Sean Nutley about what’s new in the kitchen these days, especially in the area of sustainable goods.

The words “green” and “sustainable” are being tossed around a lot these days, what do they mean to you? 

Broadly speaking, we like to try to find sustainable ways of meeting of our needs today – this means without compromising the future, and using more of what the earth has to offer. We try to do more creative synchronizing with resources available, reusing and reinventing uses for items we already have.

What are the top products in your store that can help cooks be more sustainable?

We love J.K. Adams Co. wood products, a company from rural Vermont that’s been in business for over 65 years. The company has employed many generations of local people in their area, and does beautiful work. They make a great spice rack, in fact.

Chilewich recycled vinyl products are beautiful and a smart use of recycling.  The company offers its own take-back program, so customers can turn their used products back in to the company for reuse.

We’re also fond of govino recycled plastic beverage glasses, which are made from a food-safe, BPA-free polymer. This material reflects a wine’s color and aromatics like crystal does, but it’s recyclable (#1), and reusable. There are many times when glass stemware just isn’t an option, so this is a great solution. And they’re so great looking.

USA Pan recycled stainless steel produces bakeware for the home, patterned after its commercial products. It’s made from 65% recycled aluminized steel. It’s manufactured in Pittsburgh, so it’s great to know it comes from an area that relies on steel production to fuel its economy.

Tell us about your attempts at being sustainable in your remodel.

This was something we worked very hard to do. We used recycled mushroom wood, and we refitted all the fixtures from our High Falls store when we relocated in Rhinebeck.  The flooring is recycled Formica, and we used plywood for the ceiling tiles. People ask us all the time about our ceiling, since it’s not the usual white ceiling tile.

Green products aside, what’s the one surprising thing you think cooks might add to their kitchens that they might not have thought about?  

Gadgets play a big role for us. Customers always come back and say, “Wow, everything is so much easier now that I have…” Knives are often a big change in customers’ kitchens. They can’t believe how sharp the Messsermeister knives are, and how they make cooking easier.

What are some of your favorite cookbooks?

Balthazar, a Phaidon title, is still in my personal top 10 all-time favorites.

Suvir Saran’s two books; American Masala and Indian Cooking at Home.

Memories of a Cuban Kitchen by Mary Urrotia Randelman is a very beat up book on my shelf.

Way To Cook is a staple, as well as Joy of Cooking.

Great selections with a broad range. Which ones are your bestsellers?

The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion and Cooking Manual has been a huge hit! Again Phaidon cooking titles like Balthazar, Mark Bittman titles, and Deborah Madison titles are all very popular.

So what does this tell you about what people are currently cooking/eating?  

People are definitely trying to find ways to develop healthier eating habits.  It seems people are cooking at home more often too, which we love to see.

We love to see that too, Sean. Thanks so much for this peek into what you and your customers are up to right now in the world of cooking and cooking supplies.

Take a look around bluecashew!

And we invite our readers to let us know if you have a store in your area specializing in green kitchen goods, in a comment below.  We might even ask you to do a guest post for us. Thanks!

Tips for Sustainable Travel

Summer means travel if you’re lucky. Each time we travel, we’re looking for ways to lessen our use of disposable goods – in other words, we look for sustainable elements in hotels, eateries, public transport, and shops we visit along the way.

This quest has led us to become fans of the website Traveling Greener.  The blog features an extensive roundup of global travel tips and informative websites.

A recent feature explains some of the advantages of staying at a rental property rather than a hotel in order to travel more sustainably.

We’ve found this to be true as well. Obviously a rental villa or apartment uses less energy than a big hotel. Consider all the “less” involved: less waste, no daily changing of linens, no waste from an adjoining restaurant, and from our experience, they often stock the rooms with products and supplies that are made locally, which equals less fuel used in transporting goods.

A recent post on Traveling Greener features Lara Dunston, who blogs with Terence Carter about sustainable, local and experiential travel at Grantourismo. Lara offers her top 10 tips on traveling sustainably. A few of them:

  • Apply the same eco-friendly practices you would at home: separate rubbish, re-use plastic bags, use lighting, electricity and water wisely.
  • Travel to the destination by train or boat instead of plane; once you arrive use public transport, ride bikes, or walk everywhere.
  • Shop at local markets, farmer’s markets, organic markets, and specialized stores, such as butchers, cheesemongers and fishmongers. If you must use a supermarket, check packaging carefully.
  • Use small, local, independently-owned businesses to keep the money in the community, instead of big supermarkets, department stores and global franchises.
  • Do eco-friendly activities: walking tours, nature-based activities, visit small museums, local parks and gardens, and use local, eco-certified, responsible travel companies.

Maybe you’ve never considered these sorts of travel options. If not, we hope you’ll explore some of these ideas.  And knowing how careful some of our customers are about sustainability, we know some of you are experts on traveling that way too.

Please share some of your own tips and experiences with us!