Sunday, June 22, 2008

5 Ways to Use Craig's List to Conserve

  1. Get rid of your old stuff instead of throwing it away. Sometimes it is just too much effort to drive your old things to the thrift shop or good will. The dumpster looms temptingly and conveniently right outside your door. If you put things in the free section of craigslist though people will often come and pick them up right from your home.
  2. Get used things for free or cheap instead of buying new. My boyfriend and I outfitted almost our whole apartment from the free section of craigslist. With a few key purchases like a couch cover and some nice art your apartment wont even look shabby. We have a lot of art from our travels but I think investing in a couple pieces of art from local art fares can make your place look really classy. Also when you think of a new gadget that you don't think you can live
  3. Find someone to carpool with. This requires little explanation. On a related note google maps now has a feature "get there using public transportation". So cool.
  4. Find someone to share cooking with. This is an idea I've been toying with for a long time. I have a long commute on the train to work so I often don't get home until 8:00. Its always tempting just to cook convenience foods like frozen pizza over and over again. But if you could find a reasonable person near by to share cooking duties with you could cut down your weakly cooking duties drastically. And its usually not hard to make dinner for four or six rather than two.
  5. Find house/pet sitting gigs. As a law student I have a summer internship that is about an hour and a half away from where I live. I can't afford to rent an apartment nearby for the summer so I mostly have to commute. However, I am trying to find a house/pet sitting job for part of the summer nearby so that I will not have to commute. I am offering to work for free or very cheaply as long as I get to stay in a house that is nearer to my work. I could see this strategy being helpful in several situations.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Composting with Worms

This is a great weekend project that will make you feel you have really accomplished something. I made mine with a friend and we chatted while shredding and fluffing newspaper (you’ll see where that comes in). It’s a perfect project for doing in front of the TV too.

Where did I get my information from? My university gives quarterly workshops on building worm bins. It’s a big agricultural school and people know what they’re talking about. They actually provided all of the materials for us as well.

Why should you have a worm bin?

· Worms are cute.

· You will put less trash in the landfills.

· You will get great potting soil.

· It will encourage you to grow exciting things like herbs.

· What do you do with all those credit card applications and letters with sensitive personal data? Tear them up and put them in the worm bin!

· You can stop feeling guilty when bread goes moldy in the fridge.

· You can do it in your apartment.

· There’s no unpleasant smell.

How to build the worm bin:

1. Collect your materials

a. Worms. You don’t want regular earth worms you want red wrigglers. I suggest contacting any community extension agent or community center that does composting to see if they sell worms. If not you can order them on-line. You might have to order a larger quantity but you can split the worms with some friends. To find the best deal or the worms closest to you search for “eisenia foetida for sale” on Google. I found one website where you can buy 500 red wrigglers for $16.95 plus shipping and handling.

b. Plastic bin with lid. Mine is rubber storage tote that is about 13”T x 13”W x 17”L. That is roughly the size you want for an apartment bin. The important thing is that the container is longer than it is tall. You don’t want a tall, narrow container.

c. Drill or pocket knife.

d. Old newspaper.

e. Large pair of tongs (optional)

2. Drill some holes (about 1/8” or 3mm) along the top length of your bin for aeration. I have 9 along each side. The holes don’t have to be fancy so if you don’t have a drill just bore some holes with a pocket knife or whatever you have.

3. Prepare the bedding. Worms breathe through their skin so they need an airy moist place to live. But if the bedding is too wet you will get anaerobic areas that will start to smell bad.

a. Shred the newspaper into long strips.

b. Wet it thoroughly clump by clump in a bucket of water.

c. Wring out the wet paper so you can’t get any more water out of it. The bedding should be about as wet as a wrung out sponge.

d. Now fluff the wet newspaper. The strips should have as much space between them as if you had crumpled dry paper.

e. Fill the bin about ¾ full of paper.

4. Introduce your worms to their new home.

Maintaining your bin

· What not to put in your bin

o Meet or dairy including bones

o Garlic and onions

o Spicy or oily foods

o Fruit pits like peach or avocado

o Limit citrus

· Good things to put in

o Fruit and vegetable scraps

o Eggshells add calcium but are best if ground or crumbled

o Moldy food

· Its best to burry food in the pile not just put it on top. I use a big pair of grilling tongs for this.

· Start adding food slowly until the worms get adjusted. You will get a sense of how much food you can add.

· If you have hard food or want your worms to eat faster chop food up before putting it in. Some people even blend their waste but that’s too much effort for me.

· Remember your bin is a mini ecosystem; so don’t worry if you have some mold or other critters. If you get fruit flies that bother you see troubleshooting below.

· You will need to continue adding paper over time. When you see water starting to condense on the top, add some shreds of dry paper or cardboard.

· The food you add will give your bin all of the extra water it needs. I’ve seen some sites say to water your bin but this necessitates a fancy draining system. My bin has always been plenty wet from the food I add and I generally need to add new dry paper every few days.

· Your bin should be kept at temperature between 50 and 80 degrees F. Just keep the bin inside. If it’s properly maintained it shouldn’t smell.

· If you are having issues with your bin here is a good troubleshooting site.


After several months you will notice a thick layer of castings (worm dirt) collecting on the bottom. This means you can harvest. Take the whole bin outside and dump onto tarp or trash bag. Brush away the non-decomposed matter. When you have just a pile of castings you can start brushing away the top layers. The worms will avoid sunlight so should be moving to the bottom of the pile. Make new bedding for your bin as described above. Return non-decomposed matter (and worms) to the new bin.

Worm tea can be a great natural fertilizer to use on plants. Put some of your castings in an old sock and tie it off. Soak the sock in a 5 gallon bucket of water for a day or so.

My Introduction

As a law student, I constantly read opinions by judges going on about all of the balancing tests they must apply. They balance efficiency against justice and autonomy against social stability. Judges aren’t the only enlightened beings who must pit one lofty ideal against another though. We too must play the balancing game when our time, money, and motivational resources are limited. And when aren’t they limited? How can I succeed at my job/school, live a green life, stay in budget, eat decent meals, maintain relationships, promote social justice, and not sell out all at the same time? This is what my blog is all about.

I do plan to emphasize some aspects of this admittedly broad topic. I’m a law student specializing in environmental law; so that obviously colors my perspective. I also lived in sub-Saharan Africa for a year which got me interested in (and outraged by) African politics and development. But basically I’m very practical. Many of my posts will be how-to articles and recipes. Most of my articles will apply to people living a frugal lifestyle. However, since there are already a lot of great frugal blogs out there I am going to focus more on the social responsibility niche. I can’t promise to exclude all eccentric rants. But what’s the point of a blog if you can’t rant about something now and then?