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Tag Archives: recycle
I am obsessed with purging.
No, I don’t mean I’m bulimic, but thank you for your concern.
Actually, I love purging stuff. I have since I was a five years old, when my mom discovered if she casually said, “Wow, that cabinet is so disorganized!” within earshot, I would chirp, “I’ll clean it!” and immediately start emptying its contents so I could put it back together in neat little rows.
When I’m feeling unhappy or bored or out of control, a good clean-out always lifts my spirits. Doesn’t matter what: jewelry box, clothing closet, box of ribbons, seeing everything neatly folded and knowing that I’ve banished some meaningless clutter from my life makes me feel good. I don’t mind, this must be the most productive addiction ever, without tipping into full-blown OCD land.
I’ve even considered, out loud, signing up for Task Rabbit just for the pleasure of getting to clean out other people’s stuff. I don’t really need the money. OK, my addiction to designer green clothing can get expensive. But really, I just like purging!
So believe me when I say I’ve got getting rid of stuff down to an art. And when you combine fifteen practice rounds of purging in the last three years alone, with an obsession with all things sustainable, you know that nothing is going in the dumpster.
Oh, how I wish there was a fourth recycling bin called, “Shit other people could use.” But there is not. So behold: Where to take every single thing you could possible get rid of, and avoid the dumpster completely:
(Oh, and a note: I don’t sell on eBay. Yeah, I know, you can make so much money. But I find the whole process of communicating with buyers and taking stuff to the post office annoying. Therefore I’m not an expert and can’t speak to that, and will stick to NYC-centric solutions here.)
1. Preppy and Designer Clothing
I remember clearly the day I first went shopping in SoHo, and I chose to wear a lavender Milly sundress. It quickly became clear that I was I was wearing the wrong exact thing. I was so mortified that I marched into an edgy boutique and chose the nuclear option: “I’m completely lost. What should I wear?” I walked away with a lot of stuff, including my favorite leather jacket that I still wear. And I realized then that I needed to purge my closet of fifteen sundresses, three pastel polos, two khakis, one quilted jacket, three sunhats and one Ralph Lauren braid knit sweater. Bye bye Virginia, hello, Manhattan.
What to know: Call and make an appointment ahead of time. Bring as many items as possible at once. They don’t want hangers, so iron/steam everything and then carefully fold it into a bag right before you leave the apartment. Once you’re there, a haughty shop keeper will look through everything. She will give you the option of coming back later, but I’ve found it’s best to be there so you can call out helpful tidbits like, “That’s real rabbit fur!” and “I got that one from a designer boutique in Paris. It’s one of a kind.”
Once she decides what she wants, she’ll write it all down and give you a date when you should come back and pick up whatever didn’t sell and the payment for what did. If you have a higher-end item that doesn’t start with Lily and end with Pulitzer, you can also consider some of the high-end consignment shops downtown, like INA or What Goes Around Comes Around.
The payoff: Cash, one to three months later. And you’ll get good money for nice items.
The drawback: You have to make an appointment ahead of time, you have to remember to go back to collect your cash, and they take a hefty commission–up to 50% of the selling price.
2. Wearable but Un-Fancy Clothing
What to know: You don’t need an appointment, just an hour or two free. The clerks will rummage through your items, decide how much everything is worth, and then give you cash or store credit on the spot. If you take cash, you’ll get a lower value than store credit. If you don’t feel like dealing with whatever they don’t take, they will kindly donate it for you.
The payoff: Immediate cash.
The drawback: Lower prices, especially for designer or more uptown-girl items ($20 for a Brooks Brothers Coat? Yes, that happened.), and the sinking feeling of realizing the clothing they don’t take isn’t even cool enough to sell for $5.
3. Wearable but Worthless Clothing and Accessories
If you’re not going to one of the above consignment stores and have clothing that you can’t imagine anyone paying more than $3 for, take it to Salvation Army or Goodwill.
What to know: It takes only two minutes to fling a bag of what-was-I-thinking clothing and accessories into a pile in the back.
The payoff: Good karma and jobs for the those who need them.
The drawback: They are usually not open before or after work or on Sundays and discourage you from leaving stuff at the front door. I’ve done it anyway, because I have better things to do then wait around for the privilege of giving my stuff away. (Are you listening Goodwill and Salvation Army? Get a drop off bin.)
4. Unwearable Clothing
Paint and sweat-stained wife beaters, shredded sweaters, unmatched socks and anything else made of cloth that no one would even take for free will find a home at the textile collections held by Greenmarket, where it is sent to textile recycling programs. You can also drop off wearable clothing–it will be donated.
What to know: Just stuff your bag of grody old clothing in the hamper in front of the textile table while you’re picking up organic apples. Find a list of Greenmarkets that collect textiles here.
The payoff: Good karma and the knowledge that you’re doing your part to reduce the 5.7% of NYC’s waste stream that is clothing.
The drawback: As you might know, farmer’s markets don’t keep the most convenient hours or locations ever.
5. Home Goods That Still Have Value
Got a printer that still prints or an IKEA table that can still support dancing on top? Sell it on Craigslist.
What to know: Bring all your writing skillz, because you need to be a salesman. Put your item’s condition in the title, along with how much you would like for it (You can choose to add OBO, which means “Or Best Offer.”) Include a cute story of why you’re getting rid of said item, to inspire confidence that you’re not purging because of bedbugs. Include pictures of the item, preferably taken with natural light coming through the window with a real digital camera–Instagram is not cute when it comes to the condition of your couch.
The payoff: Cash.
The drawbacks: People will haggle with you no matter what price you set, and you will feel dumb that you ever paid full price. (Next time you are totally using Craigslist to buy your furniture, right?) People will flake out at the last second when you actually blocked out a perfectly beautiful Saturday afternoon for them to come get the stupid IKEA shelf.
6. Random Stuff That No One Would Pay For
Half a roll of carpet tape? Plastic cups from old Broadway shows? Broken computer tower? I’ve not only gotten rid of these things, but had people show up to take them off my hands. It’s called Freecycle.
What to know: You’ll need a Yahoo account so you can join the Freecycle group. When you are offering, make the subject line, “OFFER: Item, neighborhood.” So for example, “OFFER: Zebra print shower curtain, Lower East Side.” It helps to ask them to prove they are not spammers by requesting a haiku on the merits of shower curtains, or asking their favorite flavor of cupcake. If not, you might get emails like, “I’ll take it. Thanks.” That is most likely spam. Plus, people love composing haikus. I’ve gotten haikus from people who don’t even want my stuff.
If you have a whole lot of random crap, tell people you’re more likely to give it to them if they take the whole lot. Let them figure out what to do with the carpet tape, it is no longer your problem.
The payoff: Warm fuzzies from knowing the hot Norwegian dude is enjoying your ex-boyfriend’s artwork more than you ever would, and an apartment free of random crap.
The drawback: Again, people will flake out at the last minute, though I find this happens more rarely than with Craigslist. Also, some people are a little bit crazy. I suggest avoiding anyone with bad spelling or who likes to format their emails in pink, cursive font.
PS. In case you’re wondering, that is a CD rack in the picture. Seriously, people will take anything.
6. Broken Electronics
So you can’t sell your printer on Craiglist because it doesn’t work. No big deal. That’s what e-waste events are for.
No before you get lazy and decide to just chuck your stuff in the trashcan, I would like to take this moment to point out how ridiculously bad for our water supply that is. I’ll let the NRDC do the talking:
Some of the materials in personal electronics, such as lead, mercury and cadmium, are hazardous and can release dangerous toxins into our air and water when burned or deposited in landfills improperly. And throwing away metal components, like the copper, gold, silver and palladium in cell phones and other electronics, leads to needless mining for new metals.
What to know: The Lower East Side Ecology Center, bless their hearts, holds a couple e-waste events every weekend. Chances are there will be one convenient to you in the next month or so. See a schedule on their website.
The payoff: Knowing you haven’t poisoned some 7-year-old in a developing country with your old smart phone.
The drawback: You’ll have to plan a couple weeks in advance, and it’s not fun schlepping a printer or other heavy electronics across town.
It’s not often I develop such an intimate relationship with a green app. Usually I think it’s a really cool idea and then forget all about it. (Sorry, iRecycle.)
But this app couldn’t have come at a better time.
I’ve been living in my current apartment for six months, and the catalogues are coming in. I made one crucial mistake, and I bet you can guess what it is.
Yup, I ordered from Pottery Barn. In my defense, I ordered organic linens, but I think the amount of dead trees that’s come in because of that puts my karma in the negative.
So the magazines come, and they come in droves. Up until a few weeks ago, I would make a point to sit down and call the number on the catalogue to curtly tell the service representative to take me off the list. That is a lot of work. OK, it’s not like it’s a huge chore, but it is annoying. Honestly, would you want to call up every catalogue that comes to your mailbox? I didn’t think so. And they count on that.
And then Paper Karma showed up, and it made my life so much better. All you do is:
1. Open the app.
2. Take a picture of the offending catalogue.
3. Press send.
That’s it! Really, that’s all it takes. So far, I’ve said goodbye to Aerosoles, J. Jill, Frontgate, J. Crew, Spanx, The Container Store, Boston Proper, TravelSmith, Sundance, Soft Surroundings, Touch of Class (WTF are these magazines?) and Home Decorators Collection. PEACE, MAGAZINES.
I’m still waiting for Home Trends, Madewell, Linen Source and Seeds of Change to go through. But that’s a pretty awesome success rate. With any luck, I’ll be free of magazines in about 7.5 years!
In summary: Get this app; it’s immensely satisfying.
It’s available for Apple, Android and Windows devices.
One of the biggest source of angst for urban greenies? The do-I-recycle-this problem.
Confronted with an odd item whose recyclability is questioned, a responsible citizen will do one of three things:
- Err on the side of sending less to the landfill, and put it in the recycling
- Err on the side of not messing up the recycling process, and put it in the trash
- Know, either from a quick look up on her phone/laptop, or from memorization, where it goes, and treat it appropriately
Do you do the third option? I know I don’t. And I hardly feel guilty about it. I mean, come on, the system is too damn complicated. But I’m going to try to break it down a bit.
This guide I’m about to put up is blatantly lifted from the little paper pamphlets the city distributes. However, having it online is twice as nice, right? I’ve simplified it here for easy memorization, but you can find more details at the NYC.gov website.
Recyclables in NYC come in two categories:
1. Paper and cardboard
2. Containers, metal, glass, plastic, and beverage cartons (Take note! That milk/orange juice carton goes HERE, not in the paper/cardboard pile! Misconception #1 cleared up.)
How to Put it Out
Rinse your containers before you put them in the recycling.
Paper/cardboard goes in green bins
Containers, etc. go in blue bins
If you are not lucky enough to live in a building where your super or maintenance crew take care of it for you, you need to put it all out in clear bags. I still haven’t figured out where to buy those. If you do, could you let me know? (@PoppyNYC says Costco. I know that I couldn’t find them at Duane Reade.)
You can totally crush up anything you want to save space. It doesn’t matter.
What’s OK, and What is Not
OK: White paper, colored paper, glossy paper, staples that are in that paper, mail and envelopes, wrapping paper (Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday!), boxes, tubes from paper towel and toilet paper rolls, cardboard from product packaging, paper bags, cardboard egg cartons, newspapers, magazines and catalogs, phone books and softcover books
Not OK: Spiral binding on paper notebooks (annoying, but true), soiled paper (including your greasy pizza boxes), waxed or plastic-coated paper, hardcover books, napkins, paper towels, tissues
OK: Cans, pet food, empty aerosol cans, dried out paint cans, aluminum foil and aluminum trays, metal furniture, bottles, jars, jugs, milk and juice cartons, appliances with more than 50% metal
Not OK: Deli and yogurt containers, plastic toys, cups (I’m going to say, “Oops” on all those), plastic bags, plastic wrap, styrofoam, mirrors, lightbulbs ceramics, glassware, anything that is not a bottle or jug, batteries, caps and lids
Bonus: What to Do With Stuff
This can include books, clothing, computers, electronics, furniture, housewares and kitchen items. Go to nyc.gov/stuffexchange and look it up. Or just stick it on Freecycle and watch it get claimed in a matter of five seconds. Seriously, those people will take anything.
There! I know that cleared some things up for me, and I hope it did for you too.
But guess what? If you don’t live in NYC, this is all useless for you, because it’s different everywhere! Oh, don’t you love our modern recycling system?
I found out about the wonderful group Freecycle in an article in the Washington Post Magazine a few months back. I wrote down the name in preparation for my move to New York, and as soon as I got here I looked it up.
Freecycle is a simple Yahoo group that lets you offer and ask for items that otherwise might end up in the landfill, and as you can guess from the name, it’s all free. I’ve seen several postings for TVs, shelves, pots and pans, broken Xboxes, in fact, broken everythings, old old Ipods, nylon stockings, bags stuffed with baby clothes, and shoes, and women’s clothing, lots of Ikea furniture, a dog leash, and everything else under the sun.
I suspect competition is fierce. I usually email back right away, but I’ve only successfully been contacted back a couple times, and once was after the original person backed out. But now, I am the proud owner of curtain rods. I went to the owner’s apartment right after work, wandering up a foreign neighborhood street with her address in hand. She buzzed me in, we introduced ourselves, and she told me their backstory of the curtains with a kind of devotion, but I told her I was grateful to have them, and she handed them to me. These curtain rods have a history, which makes my like them so much better than what I could get at Home Depot.
The thing about Freecycle is that you have to be open to the chances the universe hands you, not picky. You have to accept that the curtain rods don’t quite match, or the coffee table has cat scratches on it. But if you are patient, you could probably accumulate all the trappings of a normal apartment over the course of a few months: clothing, furniture, appliances that are only “mediocre.”
I too have offered up an old orange plastic trashcan. The new owner sent me a thank you email. She seemed happy with what I had discarded. And that made me happy.
I’m absolutely smitten.