A Reused Bin for Recycling

It’s such a thrill when something that seemed old and ruined turns out to be useful!  Here’s an example that’s really working for me:

Back in 2005, when I was an assistant Brownie leader, the head leader got fed up with the amount of troop supplies she had to bring to and from every meeting–troop records, handbooks, craft supplies, paper napkins for snacks, etc.  We arranged with the church that we could store a large plastic bin there, and we bought the bin. 

A year and a half later, when some of the girls flew up to Juniors and I became the leader of their new troop, we took over the bin while the Brownies got storage space in some cabinets in their meeting room.  The bin lasted through my three years as Junior leader.

We were pretty hard on this bin, not out of carelessness but simply because it was heavy and unwieldy, so it tended to bang into door frames and get set down hard.  There was one year when the place where we could store it was separated from our meeting room by two sharp bends, a flight of stairs, and a heavy door, so I would send two girls to get the bin for each meeting and two to put it back, and it was a complicated struggle!

Meanwhile, our city began offering curbside collection of paperboard for recycling.  My family had never been willing to transport our cereal boxes and such to the few, inconvenient places where they could be dropped off, but with curbside collection we were eager to recycle them.  I even began bringing home small boxes from things I use at work.  We soon discovered that in two weeks (the time between recycling collections) we empty a lot of paperboard boxes, so just stacking them next to the kitchen trash can created annoying clutter.  If my skirt brushed against that pile, it would scatter all over the room in seconds!

I chose a large cardboard box from the pile in the basement (you know, where we keep every box we receive that is sturdy enough for mailing or storage, so that when we need a box we’ll always have the perfect one . . . not that we’ll be able to find it in the 10-foot sphere of precariously balanced, dusty boxes!) and put the recycling pile in there.  Daniel (the trash-taker-outter of our household) promptly recycled that box as well as its contents.  I contemplated getting rid of the basement box pile by stealthily choosing a box to meet this fate every two weeks, but, well, I was afraid I would thus discard the perfect box for my next, you know, box-needing situation.  (Yes, we might have a slight waste phobia and/or hoarding problem in our family.)

Then, when I was preparing to hand over responsibility for the Girl Scout troop to the new leader last summer, I slid my hands under that big plastic bin to move it, and I felt that one of the corners was cracked.  A quick inspection showed me that all of the corners were cracked, and there were some longer cracks across the bottom.  They went all the way through the plastic only in a few small spots, but clearly the bin’s structural integrity was failing, and it was only thanks to good timing that it hadn’t collapsed and dumped 40 pounds of miscellaneous Girl Scout supplies on me as I carried it down a staircase!

I transferred the supplies to a cardboard box (yes, I did find one exactly the right size and strength!) and took them to the new leader with the suggestion that a new plastic bin would be a good idea–it’s less likely to get thrown away by accident than a beat-up cardboard box with multiple layers of old labels.

The cracked bin is made of polypropylene (#5 plastic), so I figured we’d put it out for recycling, and meanwhile I put the paperboard recycling pile inside the bin, just to save space.  However, our city requires recyclables to be set out in blue bags, and we didn’t have any blue bags anywhere near large enough to hold the bin–we just use the blue plastic grocery bags given out by the local supermarket–so Daniel left it there.  Indefinitely.

Eventually I realized that, in fact, this broken bin is ideal for holding the paperboard recycling pile!  It’s big enough to hold about six weeks’ worth of boxes, allowing Daniel to skip carrying out the paperboard if he’s overtired on recycling night.  It fits underneath our kitchen storage unit without blocking the heat vent.  It holds the pile out of sight.  It has a smooth front rather than a stack of skirt-catching edges.  The cracked underside isn’t visible, and since we rarely lift the bin (just scoot it on the floor) and its contents aren’t heavy anyway, those cracks won’t destroy it for a good long time.  So what if it says Troop 102 on it in big permanent-marker letters?  Anyone who asks about that will get to hear a happy story about how we didn’t have to buy a recycling bin!

UPDATE: Taking a tip from the comments below, I found that the Magic Eraser removed the black “permanent” marker from the plastic, leaving behind only shiny lines where it was.  My 5-year-old son then relabeled the bin, carefully spelling out CARDBOARD RECYCLING BIN as I dictated one letter at a time.  He learned how difficult it is to write on a vertical surface (and why he should have taken my advice to turn the bin on its side–we learn by doing, right?) but the label is legible and much more informative than the previous one.

40-Day Free Trial!

A note to non-Christian readers: Please don’t think this article is not for you!  The benefits of a free trial period for a lifestyle change can be yours, too, even without the religious significance.  You can fast along with us for these 40 days, or choose a different time period.  UPDATE: In 2017, Lent is March 1 through April 15.

Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite pieces of the Episcopal liturgy, Eucharistic Prayer C:

God of all power, Ruler of the Universe . . .  At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home. From the primal elements you brought forth the human race and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you and betrayed your trust. . . .

As caring for the environment becomes trendy, we’re all hearing about the many things we could do to protect this fragile earth, our island home, the amazingly complete and intricate gift with which we have been entrusted.  For each of us, some changes have been easy to make, but then there are the others–the things we feel we “should” do and might resolve to “try” but never quite get around to doing because we fear the big commitment of changing our comfortable habits.

Good news! Christian tradition gives us a clearly defined season in which to take on something we’ve been meaning to do or give up something we’ve been meaning to stop. Lent offers an opportunity to change my lifestyle without committing to making that change permanent. Read more…

Have an Adventure in the Afterlife: Play Ka!

UPDATE: “Ka” now has its own page, including a walkthrough that will help you if you need hints.

I recently played the interactive fiction (text adventure) game written by my partner Daniel for the 7th Casual Gameplay Design Competition.  It’s called “Ka”.  It’s fun, and it’s doing well in the contest.  Check it out!

In this game, you are a recently deceased Egyptian pharaoh, awakening in your coffin with a scroll full of clues that will help you complete the tasks of the afterlife.  It has an intriguing, dreamlike mood and lots of puzzles that are relatively simple yet still puzzling.

I’m very inexperienced and out-of-practice with this type of game (and I rarely play computer games at all) so I had some trouble figuring out what words to use and how to approach the whole thing.  If you’re like me, expect this game to take at least two hours to play.  If you are an experienced interactive-fictionaut, it might go more quickly.

…or, if you have only a few minutes to spare, pay a visit to Double Cat!

Storing Cheese and Onions

Cheese and onions are the two foods I’ve had the most trouble storing in the refrigerator, after opening, without hosting a mold colony.  I’ve tried various tips for safe storage and finally come across methods that work for me.

They have one thing in common: glass jars, which are overall my favorite way of storing food.  I use old salsa jars, the squat cylindrical kind, for onions, as well as for spicy leftovers; the salsa scent never fully leaves the lid lining, so those jars are for strong-smelling foods while old nut-butter jars (different shape) are for sweeter leftovers.  Because we keep the cheese in a refrigerator door compartment with a flip-up door, where a jar only fits in sideways, I use a flat-sided jar–certain brands of jam and salsa come in those–so it won’t roll out. Read more…