Archive for December, 2006

longest night

Sunday, December 24, 2006

sunrise.jpg Friday was the longest night of the year, a holiday observed by the watered down decedents of the Persian Empire by staying up late reading poetry with our families. We didn’t celebrate this year, but today some Iranians I had never met before came to my mother’s apartment. They admired the bulbous brass lamp hanging above the dining room table (now housing a light bulb instead of an oil dish), the old tile on display, a samovar. We drank tea from small glass cups rested in silver holders and discussed the ill-preserved Empire from which they had emigrated and the cherished objects imported and restored in the years since.

It was a valuable lesson in zero waste and recycling.

If the fragile inlay of a mosaic picture frame buckles in the humidity of this non-desert land, wet it down to mold it back into place. Worn antique embroidery should be protected behind glass and mounted on walls. Draw the shades when leaving the house to keep the sun from bleaching silk-woven carpets. Miniatures of kings holding court, couples reclining on plushy cuddler recliners and horses charging can be displayed in shadow boxes built from small shelves covered in black velvet and fitted to a large antique frame. Simple Persian bedspreads can be cut and sewn around cheap pieces of foam to create a luxurious Bedouin effect in any living room, much cheaper than purchasing furniture when one first arrives in a new country.

I looked around at the things that covered the floors and shelves and walls of the rooms I grew up in and saw them for the first time as symbols of a nomadic culture, started long ago on another continent, but carried on by me and my sister as we dutifully cart our carpets and picture frames from one New York apartment to the next. These things were built to weather skirmishes and sand storms. They were designed to be portable. And to last.

Weekly Compactor: tips from readers

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

This week the compactor focuses on two neat things sent in to me by readers.  The first is an article reposted on a blog.  The second is a program by the WNYC show Radio Lab.  Both are fantastic examples of journalists pursuing stories in trash.  I love it. 

garbage man scam

Monday, December 18, 2006

oboe.jpg  Some asshole in Florida beat the real trash collectors to the tipping punch by leaving fake holiday notes on people’s doorsteps informing them of an address to which to mail holiday tips.  Shame, shame. 

[Tangent Alert]

I have to say though, it was a cleaver scam.  Back in the day, before I got (unjustly and unceremoniously) fired from my very first job delivering newspapers, my wise mother suggested I deliver holiday cards with the papers one morning to introduce myself (and inspire giving).  So I drafted a little note explaining that I was thirteen and saving up to buy my very own oboe.  It worked like magic.  In the space of the next week I made my annual salary in tips. 

Soon after, my grandparents happened to meet a famous oboist after a concert and happened to tell him all about their granddaughter’s quest to buy an oboe.  He let them in on another scam: oboists often pay for trips to France by buying a few oboes in Paris and reselling them in the states for a mark up.  He hooked them up with an oboist on his way to France, they recounted my sweet story and an at-cost oboe was promised to me.  My holiday tips covered one third, my parents came up with another third and my now-very-invested-in-the-quest grandparents covered the rest.  And shipping insurance. 

I have to say, though I haven’t played since college and the prized instrument now wastes away in a closet in my mother’s apartment, that oboe is to date the best appreciating investment I have ever made.

And it all started with a little holiday tip note scam.

further holiday trash…

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

zanisa_bamboosoap.png The good blogger of The Goode Life has thrown a green list on the pile, also by category. My favorite is the frenemy, that middle ground aquaintance.


Fabulously Green adds some fabulous pampering items.

more holiday trash

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

composter.jpg  Oooh, Treehugger has broken out their green gift guide by category…For the Foodie, For the Bookworm, etc.  See also their shout out to

recycled tires

Monday, December 11, 2006

tire.jpg  Once upon a bizarre summer job, I found myself gripping for a film crew hired by the University of Minnesota to make a documentary about wetlands management.  For one shoot, we got up early to attend a demo in the middle of a swampy area where people with ideas for reducing the impact of logging trucks had gathered to share their inventions.

The demo included two sections: actual bridges, for which groups had put together more conventional crossings and ground covering.  The ground covering group was a real mixed bag of entrepreneurs and environmentalists.  Local rangers marked off a large circular track and each participant covered one section of the track with his or her materials.  Next, a logger drove a huge truck around and around over all of the materials.  Finally, a team from the university lifted up the covering materials and assessed the damages.  It was a surreal experience: watching a pristine area of nature be destroyed in order to mitigate future destruction of a much larger area.  One of the more memorable ideas came from a man named Lenny whose master plan it was to unroll huge spools of flattened old tires on the wetlands and have the trucks drive over them.  Most of the other ideas involved wood chips, plastic tarp or some combination of the two.  Lenny had developed his tire carpets as a way for the army to clear land fields.  It was remarkably effective, he said, to drive a tank through unwinding old tires and detonating old mines.  Sadly, the army didn’t want to buy his product because if and when they did clear fields, they preferred seeking out and collecting mines (a more costly process).

Now, I only have Lenny’s word to go on for all of this, so let’s all swallow our salt now.  The only thing I know for sure is that unprocessed old tires are no good for protecting wetlands from logging truck damage and that Lenny was a creative old guy with an unusual product that needed a home.  I don’t know what ever happened to Lenny, but I hope he hooked up with the IWMB, because they have a ton of ideas on their site for what to do with old tires.

give more, waste less

Friday, December 8, 2006

reintrash.gif  While I’m usually the first to trash DSNY initiatives, I have to admit their waste-reducing gift ideas are excellent.  I especially like the notion of giving entertainment, we don’t take advantage enough of the arts around us.

Speaking of art, I’m not sure it’s entirely necessary to spend tax dollars creating clip art to demonstrate waste-reduction principles.

pleasure butters

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

cattop_butter.gif A late runner in the eco-friendly holiday gift suggestions: pleasure butters from Good Clean Love.

And on the subject of eco-friendly erotica, check out the company blog, Making Love Sustainable.

bittersweet news about polyethylene terephthalate

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

pet-bottles.jpg Plastics News, in a piece picked up by Waste News (yes, the trash media industry is that large and that specialized), reported this week that while recycling of resin made from used PET is on the rise, it has yet to make a dent in mass consumption of plastic bottles. Polyethylene terephthalate, better known as PET, is “a thermoplastic polymer resin of the polyester family“. The mass throwing away of PET products is a real shame when you consider that they could be melted down and reincarnated as carpet, clothing, hypoallergenic pillow stuffing and all kinds of other neat products. Not to mention the creative uses people have found for raw PET, such as the building and construction products extensively reported over at the The Temas Blog.

%d bloggers like this: