Waste not, Want not

Cedar and Bones Furniture by Dan Phillips

Every now and then I stumble upon an article or video online that inspires me and motivates me to show it to everyone I know, secretly hoping that they think it’s as cool and insightful as I do.  My most recent find was a video that featured a designer and builder by the name of Dan Phillips.  In the video, Dan addressed his audience politely and quickly jumped into his talk about building homes with reclaimed or recycled materials.  Before I knew it, this long-haired hippie had not only captured my attention, but also my curiosity and respect.  With ease and humor he spoke candidly about the specific human behaviors that have created our current culture of wastefulness, particularly in the home building industry.  While anyone can point out the ills of a system, only the creative and brave will point out and attempt to implement viable solutions.  Dan Phillips is one of those creative and brave people, and his 15 minute video has inspired me to evaluate my own behaviors and come up with ways to limit waste where I can.  Watch the video for yourself and hopefully it will inspire you ,too.

Here is a running list of some of my favorite ways to reduce waste:

1. Cook meals centered around what is ready to eat in the garden (if you don’t have a little garden, perhaps find a local farmer’s market or start your own garden) – limits trips to the grocery store and waste from pre-packaged goods, and also challenges you in the kitchen!

2. Visit the local antique/consignment shops and live auctions for “new” purchases before buying new item – limits the “demand” for new goods to be purchased and packaged and challenges you to create a new, unique look with something old.

3. Bring a reusable mug to Starbucks – not quite a new concept, but will limit the amount of garbage contributed to the landfill and conserve our forests (also, bring your own water bottle to the gym, instead of buying plastic bottles each time…water bottles now come fitted with their own filter too!).

4. Reuse containers as much as possible – limits waste and demand for non-reusable items (i.e.-use empty egg cartons for planting seedlings, donate them to a local school for arts and crafts, or return them to the CSA to be used for future deliveries!)

5. Start a compost bin and try to make it out of used materials – limits garbage and creates nutrient-rich material to add to your garden!

6. Wear clothes more than once before doing laundry – while this only applies to certain clothes, it will limit the amount of water used on a regular basis (also cuts down on the water bill!)

7. Make a work of art for your home/office out of material that would typically end up in the trash – limits garbage produced and turns creative ideas into tangible decorations for everyone to enjoy (i.e.-attach a bottle cap to a small magnet and use as a fun and functional decoration on the fridge!)

8. Skip on using produce bags and bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store when you shop – limits garbage produced per grocery store visit.  We already buy so many pre-packaged items so this is one way we can reduce our waste!

9. Find new ways to use your old “stuff” by turning it into something functional in your new space – limits demand for new goods when you can revitalize items and give them new life! (i.e.-refinish/paint an old table to compliment your new apartment; turn your old college t-shirts into a memory quilt; use old instruments as wall decor in a music room)

10. Install a Mr. Fusion in your DeLorean which uses household garbage to power the flux capacitor and make time travel possible – limits your seriousness and makes you laugh!  No one is denying that this is a serious issue, but we can keep it fun and creative while collectively working toward a common goal of reducing our “imprint” on the world.

Watch Dan Phillips’ video, get inspired, and come up with some of your own ways to reduce waste…feel free to steal my ideas and share some of your favorites with me!


April 28, 2011. Tags: , , , , , . Environment.


  1. benisuryadi replied:

    very useful tips, thank you very much.
    i applied half of them.
    still need to boost it. 😉

  2. successisthebestrevenge replied:

    Thank you for reinforcing strategies to save the earth. I would like to add continued education. Save the earth needs to be integrated in children’s curriculums to start the learning and comprehension process at an early age. Communities need to educate and include activities or training materials at special events. The strategies need to be utilized around the clock; and not just Earth Day. I will watch the video.

    • phdubs3 replied:

      Your point about education is so true. I recall a big push in the late 80’s early 90’s in my school system to teach the importance of taking care of the environment, and then it just dropped off. It needs to be a consistent presence so that our kids grow up as responsible and caring members of their communities. I really love all of the gardens that are popping up in urban areas, but we still have a lot to do! Glad you are part of the crusade!

  3. Dominga Higashi replied:

    Hey, I hopped over to this web site from stumbleupon. It is not an article I would typically read, but I loved your thoughts on it. Thank you for making something worth reading!

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