Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Planning and Doing a bathroom rehab

The GreenUP Challenge Blogger has been very busy doing a bathroom model rehab, and still trying to plan it at the same time!

Too much caulk to stop the leaksWe need to remodel the surround in the shower because the surround is old, cracked and leaks. There is a enough caulking to plug a Dutch dam. The really sad part is that the surround covers up Vitrolite tile, which can be seen surrounding the rest of our bathroom. Vitrolite is a glass tile that was popular in the 20's and 30's, when our house was constructed. It is a tile that can be waterproof, so my guess was that the shower was leaking when someone installed this atrocious tub surround.

Vitrolite is durable and can be waterproofed is maintained
When we removed the surround, we found that the tub was only tiled with Vitrolite half the way up. Back in 1928, it was just a bath tub, with no shower. I was extremely disappointed, for two reasons. One, my rehab would not be able to reuse old material, and two, this was going to affect my pocketbook.

**see the beautiful white and blue Vitrolite on the side, and covered with nasty old glue. Luckily, the glue scrapped off without a problem and without leaving any scratches.**

We called in the Vitrolite Specialist, Tim Dunn. This is the only guy I know that is an expert in restoring Vitrolite tiling. He travels the country restoring and salvaging this tile (as it is no longer manufactured). I am fortunate, because he happens to live in St. Louis! He is going to add Vitrolite from his 'stash' and regrout our bathroom so that it is not only beautiful but also waterproof again! So, my bath tub will be a green remodel, because we will be using salvaged Vitrolite.

I am happy with reusing salvaged tile, an my wallet is not completely empty, so I still have some money to put into the fixtures, toilet and vanity and countertop.... I am still searching for a toilet that will work in our space and a 'green' integrated sink and vanity options. I have found a decent shower plumbing set and several counter options... details in another post!



Sunday, October 12, 2008

Planning a bathroom rehab

The GreenUP Challenge Blogger has been very busy planning a bathroom rehab.

We have a small bathroom that has quite a few problems. The toilet uses a large amount of water and sometimes runs, the sink is damaged and rusty, and the shower surround leaks into the basement.

I hope to do a 'green' remodel job. The first component of this is trying to save and restore the vitrolite tile that makes up the original tub surround. Vitrolite is a semi-opaque glass tile that was popular before the Depression. It was used both inside homes and on the outsides of business. Our neighborhood here in St Louis is full of examples of both uses. Originally, the vitrolite above the tub was waterproof, however, without proper maintenance, it began to leak and was covered by a plastic surround many years ago. We are lucky to live in St Louis, as the man (who I believe) is the only one in the country who still works with vitrolite happens to live here. After we remove the surround and repair the sure-to-be-rotten boards behind the wall, he will come in and relay the vitrolite- waterproofed so that it can be exposed in the shower.

The 80-year-old tile floor needs scrubbed up while we have the vanity and toilet removed. The tub itself needs no repair, just new fiztures. Reusing old components in a rehab is an enivronmentally- friendly choice: reusing keeps the old materials out of the landfill and decreases the demand for new materials.

I am also busy shopping for a dual-flush toilet, a vanity made of renewable materials without organic adhesives, and a countertop with an integrated sink that is not made of plastic. I have found a few (very few) sources, and once I've decided I will write more detailed posts about these items.

Wish me luck in finding componenets and patience while our bathroom is all torn up!



Thursday, October 2, 2008

Challenge #24: Use old computer peripherals

Not as cool as the next galE-waste has proven to be large in volume, toxic, and its disposal is rife with corrupt practices. Computer tend to be like automobiles - a new one is 'needed' every few years. I hope to diffuse the idea that an average consumer of computer power needs the latest and greatest.

I retired my old PC about five years ago. Neither the hardware nor the software was performing well, and I started to use my husband's laptop in the evenings. After awhile though, we had to start scheduling evening computer time so that he could work and I could take care of the household management or surf the net.

I had the opportunity to buy a Mac G4 from the Mac support technician at my work site (his personal computer from home- he upgraded to a G5). I paid $100 for the tower, monitor, and keyboard. My 'new-to-me' computer is at least 8 or 9 years old now. Since the previous owner was a trained Mac repairman, he had updated the memory, some other hardware and had installed Mac OS 10.4. I have been using this computer for two or three years now. I rarely have any problems. Safari doesn't work well anymore, so I just installed FireFox, and I love it. I can surf high bandwidth sites with flash, music players, really anything. My computer has Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, ITunes, 1000s of pictures in IPhoto, and a couple of email clients. I work full-time at this computer.

The monitor was beginning to flicker, and I scored an old monitor when someone I knew updated their new computer (because, of course, new computers come together with new monitors, whether the old monitor is malfunctioning or not). Basically, I saved myself a ton of money and saved lots of perfectly good equipment from going into the landfill. Would a brand-new computer be faster? Probably, but would I even notice? The only complaint I have is that the new IPhoto is too new for my OS and the old one doesn't easily export to some web-based programs for printing photos. I can work around it though.

When I got this 'new' computer, I went down to the basement and dug out a few of my old PC peripherals. My old printer wouldn't connect to the Mac, so I bought an old printer from a friend who was moving for $40- along with an extra set of cartridges (score!). Currently, I am using 10-year-old computer speakers. One doesn't work anymore, so really I am using A 10-year-old computer speaker. Sounds okay to me. There is only one song in my ITunes that is really 'in stereo', and half of the instrumentation is lacking when it plays. I can only laugh when the song comes up.

Truth be told, new speakers are on my list for Santa this year. But before I can buy new ones, I have to find out how to properly dispose of these old speakers. I don't want them to end up in Africa where some kid will be exposed to toxic fumes as he burns away the plastic to recover a fraction of an ounce of precious metals.

That is E-ethics.

Dispose of e-waste responsiblyKeep up with software updates in order to extend the life of your computer and updates parts instead of systems.

Electronic waste pollutes the environment with heavy metals and toxic fumesfor anyone who properly e-recycles their old computers. I've got an old computer, two monitors, and two printers in my basement awaiting proper disposal. I have to find a trustworthy company to recycle these on-shore.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Challenge #23: Paint and Save

REuse Painting SuppliesAfter five years, I have finally painted over the juvenile stencils, leftover from the former residents, on my office ceiling! This is one of our last painting projects- we just have the kitchen to go.

For our first project, all those years ago, we bought a disposable paint tray, thinking clean up would be quick and easy-we'd just pitch it. We ended up washing the tray, and have used it for every painting project since. It doesn't matter if there is a little paint left in the tray (as you can see in the photo). The same goes for the brushes and rollers. We've reused them until the bristles or nap no longer leaves a smooth surface. We routinely use the old roller for the primer or base coat and then choose a new one for the final top coats.

All of our paints have been latex, or water-based. We wipe excess paint out of the tray or brushes and then wash them out in the basement sink. Be sure NOT to wash these paints into a storm sewer, where they will enter a creek or stream directly, without any processing or time to break down.

Additionally, we've saved leftover paint, in case we need to touch up a wall. We have also used up extra paint for smaller projects, like giving a bit of color to the basement. This is a far better alternative than throwing the leftover paint into the landfill. Be sure to label your cans with the room, the surface, and the painting date.

Now, I know these chemicals are not the greenest choice available, but using them responsibly and reusing materials as you can, goes a long way.

Save Remodeling ToolsJust because a tool is used or dirty doesn't mean it needs to be thrown away. Ask yourself if you can REuse it.

Green PaintTo anyone who paints around their house with a nontoxic, low volatile organics or other green paint. Also be sure to repair walls before painting, to extend the life of thsi paint job.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Challenge #22: Revisit Old Assumptions

Quite awhile ago, one of my favorite periodical, the National Geographic Magazine, switched from its class Kraft paper mailing envelope to a clear plastic one. I wasn't really too happy about that, since Kraft paper is recyclable. I started removing those plastic covers and throwing them in my trash can.
Check EVERYTHING to see it is recyclable
This week, I was removing the plastic cover from the October issue, I noticed that it had a recycling symbol on it! I don't know if they have changed the plastic or if it has always been there. Perhaps my overall attitude of challenging myself to be more green has made me more aware! I guess it never hurts to periodically check to see if a product or its packaging has changed.

Now, I will happily throw that plastic cover into my recycling bin!

Companies DO ChangeBe mindful of which objects you are throwing away and which you are recycling!

Recycle when you canREvisit old assumptions and see if you've over looked anything or if something has changed.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Challenge #21: The Digital Age

Digital film is reusableIn Challenge #14, I mentioned how many of you may have laughed at my late entry into the age of digital cameras. I was a slow adopter of this technology because I really liked my 35 mm film camera.

Since going digital, however, I have found out that a digital camera is convenient and environmentally friendly.

Before getting my digital camera, I often debated taking each shot. This internal hesitation developed as the price of film and processing began to increase as consumers abandoned film cameras. Now that I have a digital camera, I take every shot without reservation and throw out any sub-par images later. All, virtually, for free.

I don't have to worry about the plastics in the film, the chemicals used in making or processing the film, or the paper and ink used in printing the photos.

I store most of the pictures on my computer. Memory is cheap and plentiful, so I don't worry about filling my hard drive up. When I do want prints (or need to send something to Grandma), I select the few that are good, upload the order to a local store that develops film, and pick up the prints. I am not wasting any chemicals on out-of-focus photographs or on shots in which everyone's eyes are closed. I am printing just the worthy photos.

To share photos, I can email them, upload to a website, or make a slide show that I can show on my TV. All for the energy to read a few bytes, or more than likely, megabytes.

green photographyDigital memory is REusable, and alas, film is not!

photographic development chemicalsTo anyone who can 'green-up' their photography hobby or snapshots.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Challenge #20: Avoid Plastic Wrap and Foil

This post tags along with Challenge #18, about reheating your dinner plate with a reusable, plastic cover instead of disposable plastic wrap.

At my house, we store out leftovers in plastic microwavable containers, which we also use to take leftovers for lunch. We don't store leftovers on a plate under plastic wrap or wrapped in foil, neither of which are recyclable materials. However, we have been using our same plastic containers for several years: store, heat, wash, repeat.

Reuse plastic containersDon't make waste when you can REUSE!

Avoid Plastic WrapIt's just a green idea to avoid using foil and plastic wrap as much as possible!