Sunday, August 21, 2011

Running to Save the World, Knitting to Save my Sanity (Plus a GIVEAWAY!)

When we were still living in Michigan, one of the magazines that I acquired had an ad for Nike® of a female runner, standing there, looking all bad-a$$.  The caption was something to the effect of "Yeah, I could be a knitter, but then I wouldn't be a good runner."  I'm totally paraphrasing.  I can hardly remember the Pledge of Allegiance, so I surely can't remember, verbatim, an ad from pre-2007.  Anyway, I was, at the time, not a runner, although I did go to the gym regularly and workout with weights, cardio, and pilates classes.  I was also already knitting, so I remember taking great umbrage at the ad.  Why can't I be in shape AND knit?  Heaven knows that, in Michigan, one can never have too many knit scarves during the winter months.
Fast forward to last fall, when I actually began running for the first time since high school.  I learned that I really do enjoy running (even when someone whose name rhymes with Schmooey trips me because she saw a cat on the other side of the street) and that my knees can handle it (amazing what happens when one stops wearing high heels every day of the week, right?) and even feel great afterwards.  I signed up for my first run - the Colon Cancer Alliance's Undy 5000 - and had a blast.  Then I signed up for London's Run, Dakota's Run, and more.  This year I've signed up for the Undy 5000 again, and I'll be signing up for several more in the next few weeks.
All of my runs have this in common: they help raise money for organizations dedicated to helping others.  Whether that is finding a cure for colon cancer, the cancer that took my dad from me, or helping out military families like the Tillmans, I run even more happily knowing that my entry fee went to more than the pockets of various racing companies.  I am able to run; I need to utilize that ability to help those who might be so weak from chemo a walk to the bathroom is a challenge or who are struggling to make ends meet because their loved ones perished fighting for the freedom I so enjoy.
In spite of all my running, I have also recently made sure that I find time to knit.  Knitting is relaxing to me in a way that running isn't.  When I work late into the evening - shocking that I'd have to do that while on jury duty - I usually knit at least a few rows of one of my projects to wind down before going to bed.  I've finally finished my 2-year-old daughter's baby big-girl blanket as well as a scarf that I'd started before I became pregnant (when your puppy likes to eat yarn, you are very cautious about your knitting habits).  I even made Wee One a sparkly purple scarf with some yarn remnants that I had, although she hasn't taken to wearing it quite yet; she's waiting for it to cool down to the mid-90's again.  Currently one of my projects is my first double-knit scarf that I am making for one of my fellow jurors.
But this blog isn't about my knitting.  It's about our family trying to eat better and live more sustainably.  I willingly posted pictures of the food that I threw out, which has given me pause at how I consider my ability to "just compost it."  I've talked about how I am no longer using shampoo (still loving it).  I look to support my local businesses and pass my favorites on to my readers, should they have a sudden need to find the best ice cream on the planet.
But this time, my knitting is helping be more sustainable.  The summer we spent in DC right before we came back to Arizona, I discovered an awesome knitting shop over by Eastern Market.  The ladies who run this shop love to have customers sit and knit, and they have many special kinds of yarn that you won't find at the large chain stores.  They also have some interesting knitting magazines.  It was in one of these magazines that I saw a picture of a bag knitted out of plastic bags.  I was intrigued, to say the least, and that magazine traveled back to Arizona with us among my other knitting patterns and books.
Here's the thing - everyone knows the phrase, "reduce, reuse, recycle," right?  Many of us, myself included, feel like we are doing our part when we toss a soda can in the recycle bin.  We're recycling - that's good for the planet.  But what many of us, myself again included, often forget is that "reduce, reuse, recycle" is stated in order of importance.  Reduce first; when you can't reduce, attempt to reuse.  As a last resort, recycle.
Cukes in a bag
So how do I reuse those plastic bags?  DUH - a bag knitted out of them!  We all get those plastic bags, whether they are from the grocery store produce/bulk sections or through CSAs.  On the average week, we receive 6 plastic bags from our CSA.  Now, Desert Roots Farm can't very well deliver arugula to us just strewn at the bottom of a bag; that arugula has to be contained.  I completely understand that.  And thus far, I have been too lazy not been able to return the bags to the farm so they may reuse them another week (I'm not even sure that they would be able to, to be honest - I know there are regulations about things).  So I've been saving those weekly bags and have made, for your viewing pleasure, a bag made out of bags:

The handles are another remnant yarn - reducing my purchasing.
Hanging with my assortment of reusable bags
Close-up - a simple stocking stitch
I also took three of the brown paper bags that we get each week, stapled them together, and then sealed them with duct tape in order to make a bottom for the bag:

I had a student write a fascinating essay last year regarding "paper or plastic" that culminated in the argument "neither."  While the paper bags won't choke a seal when tossed into the ocean, the energy, water, and (obviously) trees that it takes to continue to make these bags is staggering (the student's argument was amazing and well-researched, and he truly earned an A).  I can recycle these bags, of course, but I am also trying to reuse them when I can't reduce them personally, although.... I think only having one per week is nothing to sneeze at, reduction-wise.
It's got amazing tensile strength, so although I would not recommend taking to out to buy a bagful of bricks, you can most certainly get many goods in there.  It WILL stretch to a point (I did reinforce it with fishing line, so it won't stretch infinitely).

Here's where the knitting, sustainability, and giveaway aspects come together.
I am giving away this handmade bag to one lucky follower.  
In addition to this bag, I'm also offering some reusable, mesh produce bags that I love.  These are fantastic for produce, like these tomatoes (we actually got them from our CSA, but I transferred them into the mesh bag so I could use the plastic one), and they are also great when shopping in the bulk foods aisle, like when you need to buy chickpeas.

They can also be utilized for when the local 2YO needs a bag in which to put her "friendship bracelets" in order to help Dora and Swiper get all the friendship bracelets to everyone around the world (don't let your child watch this episode if you hope to have him or her have a true understanding of geopgraphy; apparently Paris is on the Atlantic coast).

"Oh, no, Mommy - we have to return the friendship bracelets!"
To enter into this contest, all you need to do is leave a comment here telling me what you try to do in order to either reduce or reuse.  It doesn't have to be in the kitchen - it can be any aspect of your home or work.  I hope that everyone who comments (and me, too) can get some great ideas for further reducing and reusing items!
Comments will be open through Sunday, August 28.  The winner will be selected via random number generator on Monday, August 29.
Good luck - can't wait to see how you reduce and reuse!
Hmmm... who knew I could run AND knit in order to save the world...


  1. YOu wanna know what we do? We use cloth diapers...gasp!! I know, there is a huge dichotomy of opinions about cloth diapers, but they are quickly gaining popularity among trend-setters who are not afraid to touch pee, spray poop into the toilet, and do a little extra laundry. But we're totally awesome, because not only do we reuse our diapers each week, I make all of Sadie's diapers on my own sewing machine...from fabric from the discount fabric store. Where a cloth diaper from the store might cost me anywhere from $12-$30, mine probably cost me closer to $3.50. Not only are we reusing, but we're saving money doing it!!

  2. What an awesome idea!! I knit and crochet and would have never have thought of somthing like that! :) We use the reusable bags that sooooo many stores have now. I love that last year some of the stores carried holiday designs to add into our collection! :)

  3. As a local business owner we have gone to great lengths to provide earth friendly, environmentally responsible packaging solutions for our products. Everything we offer comes in post consumer recycled tin tie coffee bags, post consumer recycled cardboard tubes, or wooden boxes. We use unbleached kraft paper labels and soy ink to print them. Our wooden gift boxes are hand crafted by a company that employs disabled people that the state will not provide work or an income for. Therefore, this particular aspect of our packaging is both environmentally and socially responsible. Post consumer products are reused, recycled and therefore a respectable approach to being more earth friendly. We are currently looking at adding tamper evident shrink bands to our cardboard tube packaging and are working with a company who will provide corn based plastic bands. The entire package from tube to label to shrink band will be fully biodegradable in 47 days. Is it the most cost effective solution for the end purchaser, absolutely not if you consider only the immediate purchase price! However, recycling and reusing is about the big, long term picture. And, it's nice to know that each of us in the process of providing something both delicious and unique is interested in doing our part to make the world a better place!

  4. Hmmm, what do I do to reduce my waste? Well...sadly it doesn't seem like much.
    I recycle when I can and there's a recycle bin present. I reuse as much paper I can before tossing (recycling). Recycle the usual bottles, plastics, etc. I store up my plastic bags and take them back to the grocery to their recycle bins and I grow as much of my own stuff as possible at home. Herbs that I could have otherwise bought at the store that would be stored in plastic tubs, or glass jars.
    I can also so I'm not throwing away foods.

    I want to do more - this bag would surely help!! :) ~Megan Pence
    aka Country Cleaver

    WHat a great giveaway - how industrious!

  5. I, like a previous commenter, have quite a collection of reusable bags (sometimes the trick is remembering to leave them in the car). I also like to think I reducing "waste" among other things by buying locally - less packaging, less transportation costs, etc.

  6. I definitely use my own grocery bags and don't get a bag at retail stores either, and on the rare occasion that I do get one, I use it as a garbage bag so it at least gets a short second life. I also compost all my veg waste from the kitchen and plan to use the compost in the garden I will plant when going outside isn't a death sentence (it was 117 degrees yesterday). I try my best to follow the old mantra of reduce/reuse/recycle, but I think the first poster who makes her own cloth diapers has me beat by a mile, I'm pretty sure one of the inlets on the garbage island in the Pacific should be named after my daughter.

  7. Having raised my kids in the seventies, and being a retired "hippie", I have done many of these things. My kids sported fancy, hourglass shaped flannel diapers that I made. Not only for eco-friendlieness, but for frugality. I compost, grow my own food, can, recycle, reuse and repurpose every day. Even our 40 year old mobile home is recycled, remodeled, re-piped, and rewired (by my hubby and I). I have even made one of these bags, but I no longer can work with plarn (plastic bag yarn)because of my arthritic hands. I love,love,love your bag, but please give it to another. I just really wanted you to know that you have another avid reader!

    BTW: if you want to read my blog, it is

  8. That bag is just darned awesome! So impressed! I try to use my re-useable shopping bags at the grocery store, but when I do have plastic shopping bags I use them in all my wastebaskets. Also we are fortunate enough that our town has curbside recycling for glass, aluminum, plastic, etc...Every week our bin is OVER FLOWING. Good luck with your contest. I love your blog and your coon hound =)