Over the past couple of decades, recycling has become the right thing to do. It is both fashionable and responsible to reduce our consumption and waste. In areas where there is less cash for consumer goods, recycling has always been a way of life. Raised in southeast Kentucky by parents born during the Great Depression, I know a thing or two about recycling. I've never gone as far as to keep an overstuffed sofa on the front porch or swim in a truck bed, but I never buy something new if I can use something I already have.
Years ago, a local group offered me a yard sign for a referendum vote that I would never support, but hey, free sign! Good quality, too, made of plastic and metal. So I painted over the political message and used electrical tape for my own message. It's visible and effective if not artistic. I've used it over and over.
After a recent room remodel, I saved the good long planks and pieces of old paneling from the scrap heap before the workers hauled it off. Along with leftover siding and various other things I'd stashed over the years, I had enough material to build my kids a playhouse. The story of how I did it is in this post.
The containers that paint or roof tar comes in become buckets. A bucket without a handle becomes a bin. A leaky bucket becomes an irrigation aid or a sieve. A leaky bucket without a handle becomes a flower pot. A worn-out broom becomes a porch broom -not good enough for the floors anymore, but fine for the porch, sidewalk, or for reaching cobwebs and insect nests. When it's no longer good enough for even that, it becomes a garden stake.
Not too long ago, the legs on my coffee table gave out. A relative had an extra coffee table in storage, but the laminated top was in bad shape. So I removed the top, took the legs off my table, and glued the two together. The process was documented in this post. I never buy new furniture. Vintage or antique furniture is much sturdier at the same price, and leaves less of an environmental footprint.
Large coffee cans became a set of custom canisters that match the kitchen color. A canning jar is great for canning, but when the food is gone, it's a container for leftovers or a drinking glass. Large jars are good for storing beans, rice, popcorn, or anything else that's clumsy in its original bag. Jars keep insects out, too. There's the joke about the matching set of bowls that say "Cool Whip" on them... believe me, I don't do that, since I have heirloom china (which is also recycling, ya know), but I do keep plastic food containers instead of buying new ones. Pint size cottage cheese cups are great for food storage in the refrigerator or freezer. I use others as scoops for cat litter, cat food, and liquid fertilizer (great for measuring the amount). In the spring, I cut the old ones apart. The top part becomes a collar for tomato plants to discourage bugs and act as a funnel for water. The bottom part becomes a seed tray.
Most years, I set out 60-80 tomato plants and almost as many pepper plants. Tomato vines need trellises. I make mine from just about anything long and strong -tree limbs, tool handles, leftover trim, pipes, or slats. The horizontal bars are three pieces of 15-foot rebar and some L-shaped bracing leftover from some house construction. Shorter sticks are used for pepper stakes. I don't have time to hoe weeds all summer, so I use plastic sheeting that was leftover from my in-laws basement lining project for garden mulch. It's much stronger than the plastic mulch sold for garden use, enabling me to use the same sheets year after year. It doesn't last forever. I have to go back to the old newspaper mulch method for part of the garden now. The early garden isn't great to look at (flowerscan be a distraction), but it will grow on you. Literally.
I don't buy newspapers, but I put them to good use after someone else does. First, I read them. Some are kept for the fireplace, since wadded newsprint is good for tinder and rolled up whole editions can be used for kindling. Newspapers are also used for garden mulch. You lay down entire sections at a time and cover them with pine needles (because it looks better and it keeps them from blowing away). I don't use the colored sections for the garden because of the toxic dyes, but those are good for the bottoms of our birdcages. At the end of the garden season, I rake up what's left and throw it in the compost pile. It's pretty well shredded by then.
The compost pile is the ultimate in recycling. Almost anything organic goes into it. In this picture, you see one bin is overflowing with grass clippings because it's May. I was emptying out finished compost from the other bin to use in the garden. Grass clippings are the biggest component in the compost, but I also add autumn leaves, trimmings, peelings and food scraps (lots of coffee grounds), rotted wood, and fireplace ashes. Since I have room for two big bins and only remove compost once a year, I don't turn it often. The addition of compost has changed my garden from almost pure clay to fine topsoil over a few years. You may have noticed the compost bin itself was made from scrap lumber. It's in an area of my property not easily seen.
These examples barely scratch the surface of my recycling habits. Call it redneck engineering or southern ingenuity (there are worse terms), but habits like these save money, or allow me to do things I otherwise couldn't afford. And it reduces waste, which is the right and fashionable thing to do.
Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida closed in mid-March due to the COVID-19 crisis, and it's unclear when the parks will reopen. Spending time in a crowded place with thousands of strangers from around the world is the last thing you should want to do right now, but if you're craving some Disney magic at home, there's a way to experience the rides while social distancing.
Even though the virtual ride-throughs aren't official Disney productions, many of them document the ride experience in impressively high quality. This recording of Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway at Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios in Orlando was filmed with a 360-degree camera.
You can also use YouTube to explore exclusive attractions at Disney parks outside the U.S. The video below shows a ride-through of Mystic Manor, Hong Kong Disneyland's version of The Haunted Mansion, in 4K resolution.
Transporting yourself to Disney for 10 minutes at a time is a great way to escape while you're quarantined at home. For more ways to combat boredom, check out these online classes and activities, as well as other virtual tours you can take from the comfort of your couch.
A good workout is just one way to pass the time while socially isolating.
jacoblund/iStock via Getty Images
Staying home as much as possible is the best way to stop the spread of novel coronavirus, according to health experts. If you’ve already taken this step to protect yourself and your community, you may be faced with a different problem: the crushing boredom that comes with spending all your time indoors. Fortunately, there have never been more ways to keep busy on the internet. In an effort to lift spirits and stimulate minds in isolation, businesses, artists, and institutions have found new ways to keep people connected from afar. From virtual field trips to free workout classes, here are the best boredom-busting activities to check out.
1. Take a free workout class with the YMCA.
Your local gym may be closed, but that doesn’t mean you have to postpone your workout routine for the foreseeable future. The YMCA has launched a new series of free, online fitness classes for people stuck at home. The on-demand videos include barre, bootcamp, yoga, tai chi, and weightlifting. After breaking a sweat for 30 minutes, you may even forget you’re not at the gym.
2. Meditate with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s jellyfish.
Taking care of your mental health is as important as maintaining your physical health while social distancing. If you want to start your day in a good head space, tune into the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s morning “MeditOceans” on YouTube. After closing to the public, the California aquarium started uploading 10- to 15-minute guided meditations set to soothing footage of marine life or scenes from nature. We recommend starting with their video of undulating jellyfish.
3. Take a virtual field trip to a National Park.
Combat claustrophobia by taking a virtual tour of some of the country’s most majestic national parks. The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks project from Google Arts & Culture offers virtual, 360-degree tours of five National Park System sites, all guided by real park rangers. The diverse destinations include the Kenai Fjords in Alaska; Hawai’i Volcanoes in Hawai’i; Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico; Bryce Canyon in Utah; and Dry Tortugas in Florida. You can view all the properties from your phone or computer, and if you have a virtual reality headset, you can transport yourself out of your home with an immersive experience.
4. Take an Improv Class from Second City.
Improv comedy is difficult to do alone. With Second City, you can take a class with other students and master instructors from the comfort of your home. Second City has helped launch the careers of such comedy heavyweights as Steve Carell, Bill Murray, Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey. Even though its physical theaters in Chicago, Toronto, and Los Angeles are closed during the coronavirus crisis, comedy classes will continue online. In addition to improv, students can take virtual lessons in comedic songwriting, pitching TV shows, stand-up, sketch comedy, and more from Second City’s pro teachers. If you’re not willing to pay $195 to $295 for a four- to eight-week online course, you can take a one-time drop-in improv or stand-up class for $25.
5. Learn about Women’s History with The New-York Historical Society.
Whether you’re teaching someone home from school or looking to educate yourself in your spare time, there are plenty of remote resources online. The New-York Historical Society is sharing its expertise in the form of a free digital curriculum on women’s history in America. The online course materials cover the period from 1920 to 1948, starting with the flappers of the Jazz Age and ending with women in the postwar era. You can view the entire unit, which includes archival photos and documents, on the NYHS’s website.
6. Join the D.C. Library’s quarantine book club.
If you already plan on reading a ton of books in isolation, you can turn the solitary activity into a social one by joining a quarantine book club. The D.C. Public Library recently announced its book club D.C. Reads is going digital, and now anyone can participate from home. This month’s pick is With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. If you have a Washington, D.C. library card, you can use it to download the e-book for free. Book club discussions will take place on March 28 and April 4 at 2 p.m. through the library’s Twitter account.
Whether you consider yourself a novice or a Picasso, you can benefit from making art with others. Every weekday at 10 a.m. PST, Wendy Macnaughton (illustrator of the cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat) hosts drawing classes in her Instagram Stories. All participants need is paper and a pencil. Artists of all ages can draw along, though Macnaughton states classes are just long enough to keep kids occupied for parents “to get a little work done or take a shower and take a couple deep breathes.”
8. Tour the American Museum of Natural History.
As long as you have an internet connection, the impressive halls of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City are just a few clicks away. Every day at 2 p.m. EST, the institution is sharing tours of its exhibits and collections as Facebook Lives. Some special sneak peeks published to the AMNH Facebook page so far include a tour of the Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians and a look at its trilobite collection led by curator and trilobite paleontologist Melanie Hopkins.
9. Take a cooking class with Milk Street.
Not sure what to do with your quarantine food supply? Taking a cooking class is a great place to start. Through the end of April, Milk Street (from America’s Test Kitchen co-founder Christopher Kimball) is making its online culinary lessons free to everyone. Topics include baking, cooking without a recipe, and using certain kitchen tools. After a few weeks of classes, you’ll know your way around everything from a chef’s knife to an Instant Pot.
10. Get Creative with the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.
While it’s closed, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is using its social media to keep followers engaged with their creative sides. Every Tuesday on Instagram, the institution will post a new challenge to its Stories. This week’s challenge is finding something to read and posting about it to Instagram to help the museum compile the ultimate reading list. Past challenges have included setting aside 30 minutes to make art and sharing photos of pets wearing wigs.
11. Learn guitar with Fender.
At the risk of driving your quarantine-mates crazy, you can use isolation as an opportunity to get in touch with your inner rockstar. Fender is giving the first 100,000 users who create a new account on Fender Play three months of free online lessons. The instructional videos led by talented musicians are high-quality, and you can access them from your phone, tablet, or computer. And if you don't have a guitar at home, the program also includes lessons for bass guitars and ukuleles.