blog, Less Waste Is A Bright Idea

Confronting Composting Challenges

April is our get-back-on-track-with-composting month!!

We have the outside bin, we have the food waste, but we need a restart. So this is the perfect April #wastefreecurious challenge for us! Thanks to everyone who gave us suggestions on Instagram a few weeks ago! This was one of them and my husband and I both knew this had to be the one!

At the end of last summer, our bin became home to a bee colony. We ended up avoiding the thing because every time we (my husband) went near the bin, we (my husband) got stung. And we’re super Pavlovian like that. We tried to get a few bee people to our house to relocate the bees, but that didn’t work out. And our local farm CSA has composting so we had an alternative for the rest of the summer and fall, but we just sort of ended up out of the habit and stopped. Not for the first time.

We're addressing past issues we've had with composting. 1) Fruit flies, 2) Smell, 3) Waste not decomposing, 4) Making composting a habit

OUR Compost Plan

We’ll check that the bees are gone, dump the contents of the bin in our yard debris pile, and start all over. Patrick feels pretty sure the bees are gone. So fingers crossed.

Past Compost Challenges

We haven’t done a very good job with composting in the past, to be honest. It has looked like a lot of starts and stops. But this will be our month to sort it all out. This month, we’ll be addressing these issues we’ve had in the past:

  1. Fruit flies attracted to the compost bucket in the kitchen. We’re going to try a new bucket or just make peace with fruit flies.
  2. Fragrant smell of food waste on the kitchen counter. Again, we’re trying a new bucket, but if that fails we will have to reframe that smell. “The sweet smell of waste reduction!”
  3. Our compost hasn’t really decomposed well in the past. We inherited our outside compost bin when we moved into our house 3 years ago. We assumed it was as simple as throwing food waste into the bin. It is NEARLY that simple, but in preparation for this challenge I did some research and learned there is more to it.
    • Our outside bin should be in the sun, not the completely shaded location it’s in now.
    • We need to stir it up once in a while.
    • The previous bin owners put a bunch of large sticks in there and they just won’t break down like leaves and food, so that’s why we’re dumping and starting over with a bottom layer of already decomposing leaves (yay yard clean-up!)
  4. We need to make it a system/habit. Like our previous paper towel and grocery bag challenges, for us the most important part of this challenge is just taking this month to focus our attention to make new habits and systems for composting.
We're addressing past issues we've had with composting. 1) Fruit flies, 2) Smell, 3) Waste not decomposing, 4) Making composting a habit
Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash

Our Composting Tools

  1. Compost Bin Outside
  2. Kitchen Compost Bucket
  3. Shovel To Stir Compost Down The Line

Backyard Composting Alternatives

You don’t need to have a big yard to better dispose of your own food waste. You don’t even need a yard at all!

  1. Vermicomposting – You can compost in an apartment kitchen or balcony or outside with worms and a bin.
  2. Many waste management companies collect food waste and compost in addition to trash and recycling.
  3. If you live near a farm, they may be happy to collect your compost. Something to look into!
  4. Meal plan so that you waste less food. I make a curry the same week I make quiche to make sure I use up all of our heavy cream and it doesn’t end up being dumped out!

Let’s Break It Down Together — The Food Waste, I Mean

Who composts already? Who is ready to try? Who is composting curious? Let me know! What could be more fun than talking about decomposing food garbage all month?

Shameless pen&thimble product PLug

And when it comes to wasting less when snacking is involved. Don’t forget to skip the plastic baggies and grab a reusable snack bag or a bundle and save! Eat it all or compost anything that remains and simply wash the bag when you’re finished! That’s easy no-waste snacking!

Are You Waste Free Curious Too?

If producing less waste is something you might be into this year, I’d love if you’d join me! Follow my personal and business waste-free journey from the comfort of your inbox. Sign up to so you don’t miss a thing: Click here to sign up! You’ll get a plastic-free produce storage cheat sheet just for signing up. And you’ll get pen&thimble exclusive coupon codes — yay waste free products for less!

Also, I’m using the hashtag #wastefreecurious on Instagram to share our waste free journey. I’ve just started the hashtag and I’m sharing our waste free wins and fails and tough spots with a mix of posts and Stories. So come on over!

We're addressing past issues we've had with composting. 1) Fruit flies, 2) Smell, 3) Waste not decomposing, 4) Making composting a habit
blog, Less Waste Is A Bright Idea

Ask Small and Handmade Businesses: Where Does All That Fabric Waste Go?

I don’t create for the sake of adding more things to a thing-filled world, but to encourage eco-friendly alternatives to single-use plastics and disposable culture. I think of what I do as making tools — bright, fun, and durable tools. But the creating is only part of the story. As creating inevitably leaves me with leftover fabric… a.k.a. textile waste.

Did you know that 16 million tons of textiles was generated in 2015? 2.5 million tons were recycled and 10.5 million tons of textiles ended up in US landfills in 2015. (EPA.gov) Stop and think about that. That’s a lot of clothes, linens, curtains, shoes, old teddy bears, and accessories hanging out in garbage mounds.

Ask Small and Handmade Businesses: Where Does All That Fabric Waste Go?

It’s not lost on me that my own business — that’s all about creating eco-friendly products for the whole family — is simultaneously creating textile waste. But did you know pen&thimble fabric scraps have a more sustainable path?

First of all, I make very efficient cuts to eliminate fabric waste. My scraps are small so I can use more of the fabric to create useful items. I think less waste is a bright idea behind the scenes too! Secondly, my fabric scraps don’t end up in the trash bin.

10.5 million tons of textiles ended up in US landfills in 2015, according to epa.com. Ask Small and Handmade Businesses: Where Does All That Fabric Waste Go?

So Where Does All That Fabric Waste Go?

Did you know that you can recycle your clothing, shoes, linens, old stuffies, and fabric scraps? I don’t mean just dropping off your clothes to your local thrift shop. Those socks that you just can’t mend anymore don’t have to be thrown away!

Locally, I take our textiles and my fabric scraps to a collection box that goes to baystatetextiles.com. Bay State Textiles sorts their textile donations into categories including: 1) reusable clothing for export, 2) fabric that can be cut into wiping rags to be resold to companies in the US to keep machinery and plants clean, and 3) small fabric scraps (like mine) are sent to US fiber mills to be ground down and made into new material.

How cool is that? Find out where you can donate your textiles the next time you are KonMari’ing your life or wondering what to do with the tiny scraps from your own hand making business or craft project. It’s as easy as googling “textile donation bins near me.”

10.5 million tons of textiles ended up in US landfills in 2015, according to epa.com. Ask Small and Handmade Businesses: Where Does All That Fabric Waste Go?
That was easy!

Waste-free! Sustainable! Reusable! Green! Are buzzwords these days, but make sure the businesses using them are taking steps behind the scenes to live up to those words too. I know first hand that many small and handmade businesses don’t have the overhead to do it all 100% green. But this is one important step that costs nothing and is doable.

10.5 million tons of textiles ended up in US landfills in 2015, according to epa.com. Ask Small and Handmade Businesses: Where Does All That Fabric Waste Go?

Are You Waste Free Curious Too?

If producing less waste is something you might be into this year, I’d love if you’d join me! Follow my personal and business waste-free journey from the comfort of your inbox. Sign up to so you don’t miss a thing: Click here to sign up! You’ll get a plastic-free produce storage cheat sheet just for signing up! Also, I’m using the hashtag #wastefreecurious on Instagram to share our waste free journey. I’ve just started the hashtag and I’m sharing our waste free wins and fails and tough spots with a mix of posts and Stories. So come on over!

blog, Less Waste Is A Bright Idea

Our Month of No Paper No Plastic No Matter What: How It Went

Going paper towel free in January was struggle city. So we expected this February challenge to use only reusable shopping bags NO MATTER WHAT to be tough and full of missteps. But we were determined to succeed. And I’m thrilled to announce that WE DID IT! Yayyyy!

Our Month of No Paper No Plastic No Matter What: How It Went
A #wastefreecurious blog post at penandthimble.com
A very deceptive photo making it look like I do the shopping. I don’t usually. According to social media, I may be one of the only people who isn’t super into Target.

We Made Reusable Bags A Habit

Okay, so I say WE did it, but my husband does most of the shopping so he really embraced this challenge and DID IT! The trick was just making sure to get those bags back in the car after we put the groceries away. But after a month of making sure, I’m happy to say this is a habit now and we aren’t going back!

We had one near-oopsie that I shared on Instagram. I sent Patrick on an unexpected after-work stop to our local farmer’s market to grab some homemade soup (and potato chips) for me because I had a super bad cold. He didn’t have bags in the car this time but he still refused the bag and carried two hot soups and a bag of chips in his hands (and under his arm). A true hero to a sick wife and the Earth!

Our Month of No Paper No Plastic No Matter What: How It Went
A #wastefreecurious blog post at penandthimble.com
And while you’re at it, don’t forget your reusable produce bags or just skip those plastic produce bags. You can still weigh a good number of loose apples! I’ve tested it for you!

So that’s that. This month was easy thanks to dedicated focus and accountability to you! We will continue to have our no excuses stance when it comes to shopping bags.

Waste-less E-Commerce

Next month, I’m focusing on how to waste less in my primarily e-commerce business. This one will be about balance, goals, and highlighting some of the steps I already take to reduce waste in pen&thimble.

Are You Waste Free Curious Too?

If producing less waste is something you might be into this year, I’d love if you’d join me! Follow my personal and business waste-free journey from the comfort of your inbox. Sign up to so you don’t miss a thing: Click here to sign up! You’ll get a plastic-free produce storage cheat sheet just for signing up! Also, I’m using the hashtag #wastefreecurious on Instagram to share our waste free journey. I’ve just started the hashtag and I’m sharing our waste free wins and fails and tough spots with a mix of posts and Stories. So come on over!

Our Month of No Paper No Plastic No Matter What: How It Went
A #wastefreecurious blog post at penandthimble.com
blog, Less Waste Is A Bright Idea

Convenience vs. Waste Free

I rely on convenience, schedules, and habits to carry me through exhausting days and busy weeks. And as I’m making more of an effort to reduce my waste, I find that even the smallest waste-free step can challenge convenience, my habits, and my schedule.⠀

When I come up against the battle between convenience and my waste reduction goals I could just say, “I don’t have time for this!” And I would be right. But I also want to make time for this. So I’m starting to turn each defeated “what can I do” moment into a better question…⠀

How can I make less waste more convenient?⠀

I can put paper towels under the sink in the cabinet with the baby lock, so the only time I use them is mindfully. I can have my cloth towels and kitchen rags handy so it’s a no-brainer to use them. I can put our reusable grocery bags in the trunks of both of our cars right after we put the groceries away. I can have enough reusable sandwich and snack baggies available for the week. I can make quality handmade products that encourage less waste for other families on a similar journey. ⠀

Truth: Convenience makes waste. I want convenience and less waste. So the question is: How can I make less waste more convenient?

Making the decision to waste less has meant taking the time up front to create new systems, new habits, and to research the best waste-free methods or tools for my family. But from that initial convenience-disrupting work has come a new convenience that keeps me going through those tired, busy, brain fatigued days… while I make less waste!

What is your biggest convenience vs waste challenge? How can you make less waste more convenient?