Eco Tip Roundup


Every two weeks, the Martlet offers an Eco Tip for saving some bucks and the environment. Because this week’s issue is environment-themed, we’ve dedicated two whole pages to Eco Tips. From how to manage your cables with reused material to planning a whole green wedding, we’ve got you covered.

Use these tips as a starting point to rethink your consumer behaviour. Ask yourself before you take out the credit card: do I really need to buy that? Many things can be shared with friends or neighbours, such as lawn mowers or kitchen equipment that you use just once a year, or they can be swapped if not needed anymore. And some things can be reused in a totally different way, as you’ll see in the Eco Tips. So, before throwing stuff away — even twist-ties, grocery bags and orange peels — ask yourself whether you might be able to reuse them to save some money and to do Mother Nature a favour.

If you try any of these tips out, send us a photo. Better yet, if you have a 200-word Eco Tip of your own that you’re dying to share, email to have it published in a future issue of the Martlet.

Happy greening, everyone!


Shoe deodorizer: a cheap and Earth-friendly fix
by Kevin Underhill

I don’t see the appeal in buying expensive shoe deodorizers. As an athlete, every pair of my shoes, cleats and skates smells terrible, and I don’t have the means to buy a fancy-smelling ball to drop in each one.

Not only are deodorizing balls and sprays pricey to buy, they can harm the environment as well with their excessive packaging and chemical content. My solution: a lime.

Hit up your local grocery on your way home from practice this week and grab a couple of limes for a few bucks. I cut the limes in half and pop them in my funky-smelling cleats. The citric acid neutralizes the bad smell and keeps your hallway fresh.

The “lime-odorizer” doesn’t overpower the room either; it simply eliminates the smell of foul feet. Trust me: your roommates will be thanking you for keeping your gear from stinking up the apartment.

Another cheap and effective alternative to the expensive, over-packaged deodorizer is to go with the classic baking soda trick. If it works in your fridge, it will work in your kicks. Instead of spraying your front closet with Axe, sprinkle a dusting of baking soda in your shoes and check out the results.

Whether you are looking to save a few bucks or save the environment, lime and baking soda do the job. Easy on the Earth and even easier on your wallet, these household items can neutralize any scent you bring in.


Throw a green wedding
by Erin Ball

It happened. That special someone decided that you are “the one,” got down on one knee and popped the question. Joy! Now that you two lovebirds have decided on a date to celebrate your everlasting love and devotion, the fun part starts: wedding planning!

Most people recently betrothed, unless they elope, are pretty keen on planning their special day. But coming up with a guest list, finding a venue, picking a wedding party and getting quotes from caterers can quickly start looking like an upcoming bio-chem midterm: stressful — with the added bonus of being expensive.

It’s no secret that weddings can be pricey. And all those streamers, flowers, invitations and tulle can add up to a big ol’ carbon footprint. Fortunately, at the risk of being called hipster, you can take a few steps to reduce the cost and impact on the environment.

For example, my cousin Sarah recently married her dream man, Charlie. Sarah and Charlie wanted to keep their invitations inexpensive and eco-friendly, but being fans of the traditional, they wanted to send something in the mail rather than those online invites.

So they gathered up a few Thrifty’s brown paper grocery bags, cut them into letter-sized sheets of paper, mocked up their invites on the computer (no need to be a whiz; they did it in Microsoft Word) and printed them out. They carefully cut out the invites, stamped them with homemade stamps, and voilà! Sarah had managed to trick Charlie into doing crafts, and the two of them had some memorable invites at a low cost. They did something similar with the thank-you notes as well.

To save on other aspects of the big day, Sarah rented the dishes for her wedding from someone she found on Craigslist. This recently wedded individual had visited thrift stores to put together an eclectic collection of dishes to use at his wedding. To cover the cost, he now rents those dishes out for events like other weddings. Sarah and Charlie also eschewed a florist. Since their wedding was in October, a friend had an abundance of dahlias blooming in her backyard. The venue was decorated at an extremely low cost with gorgeous bundles of multi-coloured dahlias. And they chose a caterer who uses locally sourced ingredients where possible.

This craftiness and innovation can be applied to all aspects of wedding planning. All it takes is a little brainstorming with your honey.


Open your mind to Christmas open house ideas
by Vanessa Annand

If you want to host a Christmas open house for all of your scholarly friends, you’ll have to get on it soon. After all, 70 per cent of UVic students come from outside of Victoria, so most will likely head home shortly after that last exam (and some don’t even have exams, lucky devils).

With little time to prepare, you’re probably looking around your home and realizing that there are a whole host of little décor items that you’ve somehow failed to take care of since you moved in at the beginning of the semester. You never did get a wastebasket for the bathroom; instead, you’ve just hung a flaccid little grocery bag on a cupboard handle, and it occasionally spills dirty Kleenex on the bath mat. Your shoes are strewn all over your foyer, no shoe rack in sight. And you have no nice dishware for serving appetizers — just some tacky, ’70s plates you inherited from your Grandma in first year.

There are plenty of receptacles that work as wastebaskets, so why get a new, plastic one? Try standing an old mailbox on its end (as long as it’s not still in use on, say, your neighbour’s lawn). Plant urns work well, too.

Thrift stores usually have no shortage of wine racks, and even if you have no plans to dig out a wine cellar in your rental apartment (it’s tricky if you live anywhere but the first floor), you should stock up on them: they are great shoe organizers. And instead of investing in a whole new dish set, get some second-hand stemware. Everyone loves drinking out of fancy glasses at soirées, and you can use the extra glasses to transform your bland dishes into multi-tiered serving trays: just place a short-stemmed sherry glass in the middle of a dinner plate and stack a smaller plate on top. Presto! You’ve got a home for your fruitcake slices.


Clean green
by Kimberley Veness

Most people know vinegar is a great substitute for chemical household cleaners, but did you know you can spice it up with fruit peelings? Instead of inhaling the artificial lavender breeze or the fake fresh linen scent of regular cleaners, you could breathe in the real citrus scent of your orange peels. It’s easy! And if you don’t have access to a compost, this is an environmentally savvy way to get the most out of your orange. Follow these simple steps to make your own naturally scented cleaner.

Did I mention it’s cheap, too? I used an old pickle jar and an empty spray bottle I had lying around from an old household cleaner. You can also pick up a spray bottle at any dollar store, but any kind of spray bottle that you might have at home should be good enough. Apart from that, you need vinegar and orange or grapefruit peels (whichever you have or prefer to smell).

1. Peel enough orange/grapefruit to fill your jar.

2. Pour the vinegar into the jar to cover the peels.

3. Cover the jar tightly and store in a cool place for seven to 10 days.

4. Strain out the peels and pour the liquid into your spray bottle.


Cable management, eco style
by Glen O’Neill

We’ve all encountered a rat’s nest of cables. You know — that one behind your TV, home computer or nightstand? I’ve always struggled with cable management for my electronic devices, and despite all the advancements in wireless technologies, there doesn’t seem to be a reduction in the number of things that need to be plugged in. Cable management is key in preventing electronics-related fires and avoiding detangle rage. It can also help extend the life of your electronics by keeping the cables protected. Using some recycled items from around your house, you can perform some simple and effective cable-management tricks that can save your gear and protect your sanity.

The two main goals of cable management are cable tidiness (no tangles) and cable sorting (no confusion).

Have you ever accidentally kicked the power bar off and reset your alarm clock, making you late for that important interview for that job you never got? Keeping your cables tidy will protect them from flailing feet and dangerous baseboard heaters.

Have you ever unplugged the wrong thing, shutting down the computer with that unsaved term paper you were working on? Cable sorting means labeling all your cables to prevent this from happening.

There are some items you will need to collect over time: twist-ties, bread clips and cardboard tubes (from tinfoil, toilet paper, plastic wrap, wrapping paper, etc.). You’ll want a variety of colours for the bread clips; preferably two of each color. You’ll also want a couple of different sizes of cardboard tubes based on the sizes and lengths of the cables.

Start off by shutting down and unplugging all your devices (yes, these are two separate steps). Figure out where things need to be plugged in and line up your cables in the most direct route to the power source. Allow for some slack. Gently attach bread clips to both ends of each cable. Use the same colour of clip on both ends of a given cable so it is easy to identify which cable it is next time you need to unplug the device.

Next, you will want to group your cables by device and run them through a tube. Try to find a tube that covers most of the cable that’s exposed on the floor. Once all your cables are sorted and through the tube, twist tie them together at both entrances to the tube and plug them back into their respective devices. If a table leg is available, twist-tie or tape the tube to the table leg to steady all your cables.

Now you don’t have to worry about your desk catching on fire while you sleep through it because you accidentally unplugged your alarm clock when you couldn’t tell which plug it was.

You’re welcome.


Eco-friendly hair styling
by Shandi Shiach

Ask your hair stylist or barber how their establishment disposes of waste, including compounds and trimmings. An eco-friendly firm, with the mission to make beauty sustainable, is gaining a foothold in Victoria offering weekly pick-up of leftover foils, tubes and colour goop, which then get recycled instead of ending up in landfills or the ocean. Green Circle Salons has 24 Vancouver Island clients so far (with many more in Vancouver and Toronto).

Green Circle encourages participating businesses to charge a $1.50 eco-fee per appointment to pay for the recycling program and other environmentally conscious upgrades to the salons, like efficient lighting. The collected hair trimmings are used in booms for oil spills. This is just one way hairdressers can try to make the change towards sustainability.

A number of coif shops in Victoria also advertise local, eco-friendly and sustainable services. It might not hurt to ask your favourite stylist what’s in that bottle. Also, let them know if you’d be willing to pay more for responsible recycling.

Or do it yourself. That way you know exactly what materials are dealt with and how. Those who handle hair care at home alone or with friends might also consider adopting some eco-friendly practices. Natural waxes are a good routine swap-in for the chemical-based styling products that get washed down drains at day’s end. And henna, especially in a cocoa butter base, adds some neat, semi-permanent colour effects that build off natural highlights (just maintain different temperatures and air exposure levels during the process to alter the outcome).


Environmentalism for beer-pong players
by Geoffrey Line

Plastics are bad. This is nothing revelatory. The university has already taken steps to reduce plastic bottle products on campus. Personalized, ceramic travel mugs are everywhere. Discounts given at coffee houses to customers who supply their own mugs are gaining popularity. What’s new? These eco-tips are addressed largely to undergraduate university students, and let’s be frank: undergrads drink, some even heavily. When essays aren’t being churned out and mid-terms aren’t being crunched through, many — not all — undergraduate students are partying: at pubs, bars, nightclubs and at home, where drinking games are prime. Consider how many plastic cups are purchased from supermarkets on Saturday nights only to be lobbed into the garbage on Sunday mornings. Flip cup. Beer pong. These games are unshakeable components of post-secondary culture, and their environmental footprint is a big and nasty one. Even if you’re less mindful on the weekend, it doesn’t mean you have to be environmentally mindless. Your eco-practices can extend past Monday to Friday. As a coffee drinker, you should reuse your mug. As a house-party host, provide your guests with reusable cups, or at the very least, use your sink or dishwasher for the red plastic ones and please refrain from buying a new jumbo pack of them every weekend.


The carton collection
by Nina Neissl

Fruit juice, milk, cream, soup, pudding . . . all can be found in cartons. Most cartons consist of thin layers of cardboard, plastic and aluminum. Technically they can be recycled, but it’s not a very efficient process. As with any food packaging, avoiding is the best choice, reusing the second-best choice and recycling the last resort. Here are a few suggestions for how cartons can be transformed into useful things that will not only reduce your garbage but also save you some bucks.

First, cut out the pictures on the front of the cartons into equal squares to make yourself some coasters for your next party. Cut the rest of the boxes into thin strips and weave them into pads that are around one-and-a-half inches in diameter. Finish the edges of the pads with tape or sew around them and you have a second set of fun coasters.

Another great way of reusing a carton is to transform it into a take-out box for food. Just cut off the top part of the carton and fold it into the shape of a box.

Apart from that, you can use the cartons as pots for plants and herbs or as a pot for painting utensils — again, just cut off the top. Browse the Internet for more ideas and you’ll find tons of tutorials for all kinds of nifty ways to reuse a carton, from purses to lamps to birdhouses.