Change the World Wednesday, A Recap

When I noticed this week’s challenge at Reduce Footprints, I knew  I would  have to find the time to post and share my story.  Many of you have been here long enough to know how I furnished my apartment but I thought a recap would be helpful for the new readers.


I try to find uses for everything I find.

If you haven’t already done so, replace at least one incandescent light bulb with a CFL or LED bulb.


OR … If you have switched all your bulbs to Eco-friendly varieties, please conduct a brief analysis of your home furnishings. Are items sustainable and Eco-friendly, made from materials like bamboo, cork, or recycled content? Were they made locally? How many pieces are second hand? Do any items contain foam (cushions, pads, etc.) which typically are treated with fire retardants (toxic chemicals)? Has anything been varnished or finished with lacquers (both contain harmful pollutants)? Do you have wood furniture? If so, do you know where the wood came from and whether or not the trees were sustainably grown? The idea, here, is to start thinking about the sustainability of our furnishings and raise our awareness on the types of items we should both support and avoid.


OR …If you are thinking about buying new furnishings for your home, please consider “green” options and share your research. Have you been able to find Eco-friendly, locally-made furniture? If so, how did the prices compare to other varieties? What questions did you ask? Were answers easy to obtain? We’d like to benefit from your research.

As you can see this week’s challenge is about taking a closer look at our homes.  It’s not enough, in my opinion, to only switch to green cleaners we also need to think about what we are sitting on, eating off of and what the cost was to make and transport those items to our local stores.


A discarded glass drink container with a bit of paint became a lovely vase.

I have the first part of the challenge down.

A while back, year and a half ago? I invested in a combination of CFL and LED bulbs and switched out every bulb in my apartment.  This past weekend, while on my trip I found LED bulbs for $4.99 at Ikea.  At that price it was low enough to switch out the remaining CFLs in my home. The bulbs I removed I passed on to my son who has been replacing his bulbs.  Should one break (hopefully not) he will have a couple of back up bulbs to replace them with.

Discarded microwave cart became a bookcase/storage in my home

Discarded microwave cart became a bookcase/storage in my home

part two: Home furnishings

This one is harder, one  I am still striving to meet.  There are things I can’t change about my home as I rent such as the carpeting, or the types of windows used in the building, there are many more areas that are under my control.

Where I have fallen short include the following:

  • Purchased a new futon for guests. This has foam padding and will be one project down the road I will reupholster to make greener.
  • While I have eliminated most plastic there are a few items I have not been able to find a substitute for.  These include my sewing machine and my vacuum.

It’s hard for me to spend money to replace items that are still functional for an item that was made more sustainably.   I keep things forever, such as my vacuum which was a gift to me ten years ago.  The handle being plastic broke recently, but being either thrifty or a tightwad, which ever label fits is fine by me :-)  I  glued it together.


Does it make sense to make a vacuum with plastic?

Where I have done better:

  • My mattress, while new, was made before the recent changes which included more chemicals being required for sale.
  • My nightstand was a desk which was going to be tossed in the dumpster, I had it cut down and repurposed it.
  • My bookcase/storage was a microwave cart the maintenance man for my building found for me, again set out for trash. Two wheels were broken, I simply removed the remaining two.  Those two wheels are sitting here waiting for a project I promised my grandson we would make for him.
  • My loveseat was another trashed item. It currently has foam cushions but those will be replaced now that I have found wool materials to replace them with.
  • My lamps are all used. One came from a thrift shop, one from my son’s basement, and the other was found in the dumpster.
  • To see more of my found items including a chair, basket, my loveseat, and more see this post.
  • I thought shutters would look nice on either side of my window and found two the exact length of my window sitting out for trash.
  • My bed frame, which is nearly finished and I will show to you soon, was tossed out when the students left last summer.  It is an antique wooden frame, a lucky find.
  • I have two small tables for guests, both were found in the trash. One is metal the other wood.
  • I have an antique upholstered chair I saved from being tossed in the dumpster as well.
Glass container my grandmother bought corned beef in years ago are now drinking glasses in my and my son's homes.

Glass container my grandmother bought corned beef in years ago are now drinking glasses in my and my son’s homes.

Other items in my home include:

  • A small set of shelves saved from the trash that fit under my counter for kitchen storage.
  • a coat rack left behind in my son’s home.
  • A coat rack for the children I made from a piece of wood found in the trash and glued twigs on for hooks.
  • My blender and many small kitchen items previously belonged to my grandmother
  • A metal pot to heat water for tea was $1 at a yard sale.
  • My dishes are a combination of handmade by a local potter, and flea market pieces.  By adding the flea market pieces I have enough for holidays when I have guests and can loan them out to family to avoid the use of disposable plates.
discarded loveseat provides extra seating.  The foam cushions will be replaced soon.

discarded loveseat provides extra seating. The foam cushions will be replaced soon.

These older appliances were all made in the USA rather than abroad which feels better than wondering who made my appliances and if they had decent working conditions.

  • I made curtains from an unbleached drop cloth
  • my door drafter was made with a discarded pair of jeans and an old towel.
  • my freezer was used and is holding up well.  I was able to live solely from my freezer and pantry items from November to present. As I remove food I fill the empty space with bottles I’ve collected filled with water to save on energy costs.
  • My artwork is mostly handmade and framed in cheap thrift shop frames I’ve painted the same color to tie them in.
found in the trash this table makes guests more comfortable.

found in the trash this table makes guests more comfortable.

part three: buying new

  • This past weekend I purchased the first new piece of bedding in more than 10 years.  It wasn’t made locally but it is sustainable.  I found a down and feather comforter for my bed that will get plenty of use.
  • The LED bulbs I purchased were made in Mexico, a bit closer than China but I still wish I could have found ones made in US.
  • As I mentioned above my dishes were made by a local potter.  I purchased his seconds, which are simply ones that ended up with flaws during the firing process.  This reduced the price by half and by purchasing only a piece at a time and only enough to serve four I was able to keep the costs low.  Each bowl cost me $5 each plate $7.  A bit pricey but I like the designs and I am supporting a local business who also supports other artists in their store.
Repairing comes before replacing items.

Repairing comes before replacing items.

Final Thought

When I took a look at how easily I was able to furnish my home with found items I realized I could save even more money by discontinuing my renters insurance.  Two years worth of insurance was enough money to completely furnish a new home.  Why should I give my money to an insurance company instead? I do have a few pieces of pressed board shelves but have avoided all lacquered items so I’m good there.  For a sealer I use a water based polycrylic.

A basket found in a gully became a planter to grow salad in during the winter months.

A basket found in a gully became a planter to grow salad in during the winter months.

Thanks Small Footprints for a wonderful challenge!

Does your home meet your desire for sustainable furnishings?

11 thoughts on “Change the World Wednesday, A Recap

  1. Lois, I loved reading and remembering those items you have shared with us in the past you have made.. You are a true inspiration of living simply and eco friendly..

    I have to share this with you today.. Hubby has transferred some plants into the green house from sprouting in our window sills and he has set up the candle heater you posted about with the terracotta plant pot, remember? The one I told you his Dad used to do, but he’d never done it.. Your post and my reminder jogged him along… You are really making a difference as you pass on your knowledge and inspiration… Thank you Lois.. Hugs Sue xox


    • Sue, I remember the little heater and am glad my sharing it led to your husband telling you his father had done this in the past. How is it working in your green house?

      Thank you for sharing your story, it’s great to hear information I learn helps others.


  2. I love this post. I was looking around my house the other day and came to the conclusion that the only piece of furniture I have purchased new is a particle board entertainment center… and the only reason I got it new was because it came disassembled in pieces so I could get it home – the used ones were already put together and wouldn’t fit in my car! Oh wait… that’s not entirely true, there is a wooden apple crate that I use as an end table that I bought new when I was in college – does that count?

    Other than that my furniture is all dumpster dives, thrift store finds or cast offs from various family members.

    LIke you, I’m not perfect – I did recently buy a futon mattress new – I thought it had foam in it but I was wrong – it’s one layer of cotton and 2 layers of poly-fill – but the covering is polyester. BUT – I did use some old sheets to make a cover for it so it will hopefully not get stained and last longer, does that count? And while I did cave and buy new slipcovers for my couch and love seat – at least I didn’t have to replace the furniture with something new, and I am making the throw pillows from stuff I had lying around.


    • Cat, I enjoyed your post on how you finally decided to purchase slipcovers and knew we were kindred spirits when it comes to avoiding new purchases, although it would have been nice if you hadn’t tried to knock yourself out in the process.

      I do have two pieces of furniture I bought new, the futon and a wood and glass cabinet. The cabinet I had to buy new when I couldn’t find one narrow enough for the space it needed to fit into…down side of a small apartment.

      Making a cover for your futon mattress was a good idea. What are you making your pillows out of?


      • The pillows are a funny story – I’ll probably write a post on it when I get done. But many years ago, when I first got enamored with the whole “simplicity movement” I decided that I wanted to make a quilt. It seemed like the quintessential simple project. Problem was, a) I hate the sewing machine, and b) I didn’t need a quilt! Long story short, the pieces are all still sitting in a bag in my basement.

        BUT – I realized that I’d already sewed them together into 15 inch squares, which is just the right size for a throw pillow. So the panels are getting used to make pillows. The colors will add enough chaos to blend with the cacophony of the rest of the room.

        For the stuffing, I’m using stuff I pulled out of a pillow that I bought a few years ago to try to deal with a neck problem I was having at the time. The pillow was a crazy design and it totally didn’t work for me, but you can’t return a pillow after you’ve tried it out, so I tried to modify it, but eventually gave up. I’ve since found a pillow that works perfectly for my neck, and was left with a big garbage sack full of nice clean stuffing that’s never been used.

        Stay tuned for a crazy throw pillow post!


        • Cat, you sound like me. I love quilts but find they aren’t as easy to make as it would seem. I have so many projects I’ve started and never finished that your squares would fit in with the rest of my projects.

          Like you I save the stuffing from old pillows and reuse them. That’s where I’ve come up with the stuffing for the throw pillows in my home and the one I made for my granddaughter from her t-shirt.

          I look forward to seeing your pillows, partly because I’m curious which quilting design you started. :-)


  3. Those chipped beef jars take me back to my childhood. We had the same thing. Everything old is new again, so to speak.

    Nice summary of what you have done. It’s a good list to start with as we each evaluate if we have what we want in our house. Just one comment. When buying old dishes, we need to be careful about the glaze that was used on them. Some glazes from the past are not good to eat off of even if they were approved at the time.


  4. I am the same way. We buy used before new. Our projects this March Break is the switch up my makeup table for a smaller dresser in my daughters room. She can paint it the color she wants and I need the smaller one since I have the smaller room. We only buy new as a last resort. I go to local stores before big chain stores. Thanks to you I have found some online eco friendly stores we will be making some purchases from–


    • Carolin, I am pleased to hear you found sources for eco products from my blog. There are alternatives out there but it can take time to find.

      hearing you have a smaller bedroom than your daughter made me smile, I did the same when my boys were home and friends thought I was out of my mind. The trend is to have a huge master with on suite, but I figured my bedroom was for sleeping whereas my children played and entertained friends as well in their rooms.


  5. Hooray! Repairing before replacement… always! Your grandson is eating off a table exactly like we have and use everyday. Imagine someone throwing it out? I have a friend who furnished her entire adorable place with alley cast-off’s. And how wonderful that your repurposed drinking glasses have such a long history. Love it. Thanks for all these inspiring ideas Lois. :) Gina


    • Gina, that TV table gets a lot of use here. Besides using it for meals I also sew on it, use it to play games, and extra space to set out a buffet when entertaining.

      I would love to see your friends home. Home filled with cast offs have so much personality!


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