How to Make an Upcycled Bottle Cap Table!

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My husband has been saving bottle caps for as long as I’ve known him, saying that someday he planned to make something out of them. He wasn’t sure what it would be, and the bottle caps kept accumulating. Inspired by the colorful collection, I decided to turn them into a practical gift for him. And given the volume of caps, I thought it would be good to make something that used A LOT of them!

In combing through Pinterest, I found lots of bottle cap craft inspiration. The ones that used the most were tables, so that’s what I set off to make for him.

Here is a list of the items I needed to cover a 2’x3′ table:

  • 1 small table
  • Lots of bottle caps (I used 486 for a 2′ x 3′ table)
  • 1″x2″ wood strips for trim
  • 2″ wood nails
  • Wood filler
  • Aluminum foil
  • 16oz Gorilla Glue
  • 2 quarts ready-mixed grout
  • 2 quarts of pre-mixed epoxy resin
  • Sandpaper
  • Large grout sponge
  • Grout float
  • Bucket filled with warm water
  • Newspaper to catch the drips
  • A well-ventilated, minimally dusty room in which to work
  • At least 3 days to allow for curing time (in other words, don’t start this on Christmas Eve!)

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I found a sturdy, basic little table at a local thrift shop. It had a cluster of tiny princess and heart stickers stuck to the top, which I decided to just leave since I didn’t require a perfectly smooth surface.

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I started by separating the caps by color, then laying them out to see what type of pattern I could make given the colors and quantities I had. Once I figured it out, I removed the caps, placing them in cups by color.

IMG_8308In order to make the grouting and lacquering easier, I added a rim to the edge of the table by nailing on some 1″x2″s that I had cut to size.

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Because the table had rounded edges, and I am not skilled or patient enough to cut the trim to fit, there was a gap that had to be filled.

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I improvised by stuffing in some tightly wadded aluminum foil into the corner to fill in the space.

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Then I filled in all of the gaps with wood filler to prevent any grout or lacquer from seeping through. Once the wood filler was dry, I sanded it and removed any loose pieces.

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Next, I glued the caps into place starting from the outside. I used Gorilla Glue, which worked well. It provides a strong hold, but doesn’t dry instantly, so you can adjust the caps as you work. You don’t need to use a lot per cap, just a few drops. Once I had glued down all of the caps, I let it dry overnight. The instructions say it is 80% dry in 2 hours, but fully cured in 24.

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Next, I grouted the caps to give it a tiled effect. Using a grout float, I carefully worked the grout in and around the bottle caps, making sure there were no gaps. I then used the float to smooth the top to make it even and to the point where the caps were just visible. I then used the dampened sponge to wipe across the grout until the bottle caps were visible and the grout was even. It took a lot longer, and required more patience than I had anticipated! I then let it sit for 24 hours.

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Finally, I covered the entire surface with epoxy resin, making sure to fill in all gaps. I again let it sit overnight. While not perfect, I was very happy with the results!

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Artist of the Month: Paige Mattson of Sprout Bottle

IMG_6104The following was written by Paige Mattson of Sprout Bottle.

Sprout Bottle is a handcrafted, reclaimed beer bottle, garden kit.  Each 4-pack is uniquely blended with organic soil, fertilizer and seeds and packaged with recycled materials to lighten our impact on the planet.  All of our ingredients are sourced in the US and distributed from Virginia.

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Sprout Bottle strives to provide a high quality, unique product that is sustainable and affordable. As part of our commitment to be sustainable, Sprout Bottle has partnered with 1% for the Planet.  This means that 1% of all Sprout Bottle sales goes to save land, protect forests, rivers and oceans, make agricultural and energy production more sustainable, getting toxics out of the environment, plastics out of the oceans and more.

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You can find more about Sprout Bottle on their website, Facebook Page and Twitter Feed.

How to Make Gift Tags from Repurposed Cardboard

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I like to offer tea to anyone who visits my studio, so I keep a box filled with a variety of herbal and black teas. Last week,  I refilled my tea box with the two most popular flavors, which happen to be made by Tazo.

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As I broke down the boxes to put in the recycling bin, I noticed the beautiful pattern on the inside of them, and realized they would make wonderful gift tags. You can do the same with any other lightweight cardboard. Whenever I come across packaging that has an interesting pattern or a colorful solid side, I make it into tags.

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A while ago, I purchased a hole puncher designed specifically for making gift tags. While this is a super-convenient way to make them, you can also just cut out your tags freehand.

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I like the classic tag shape of this particular punch. You can find a similar one by Uchida on Amazon.

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I then used a small-sized round hole punch to create a hole for a string or ribbon.

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Finally, I threaded a 14″ piece of twine through the hole. And, voila, a lovely repurposed cardboard gift tag. I was able to make 10 tags from a single box. You can have fun experimenting with different packaging. Happy crafting!

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CARBON Hosts Eco-style Event to Benefit Fairfax Non-profit

On Saturday, November 19 CARBON, DC’s eco-boutique, will host a fun event to help raise money and awareness for FACETS, a Fairfax-based non-profit serving homeless families and individuals. We will be collecting toiletries and food for the families – bring a donation and receive a coupon good for 10% off at Carbon. There will be food, drinks, giveaways, and a portion of proceeds from the sale of both Herban Lifestyle products and Melissa Lew will go to FACETS.

image copyright Melissa Lew

On the 19th, I will be offering a special day of pampering, with free demos of my line of natural and organic certified cruelty-free bath and body products for men and women. The day will also feature a special collection by eco-friendly jewelry designer, Melissa Lew.  The Virginia-based designer combines elements of nature and architecture to inform her collection of refined recycled silver necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and Vitality, a unisex series of necklaces featuring Chinese symbols such as Peace, Trust, and Happiness.

November 19, 2011

Noon to 6 p.m.

CARBON

2643 Connecticut Ave., NW

Washington, DC  20008

(Woodley Park-Zoo Metro Station)

CARBON is committed to reducing your carbon-footprint by offering fashion-forward sustainable clothing, shoes, accessories, and handbags.  We carry small, independent designers and companies both locally and internationally who operate from a corporate social responsibility mission.  Several of our designers create hand-crafted and fair trade products.  CARBON is generated by 100% local wind turbines, implements the 3 Rs religiously – reduce, reuse, recycle – and supports local environmental and human rights initiatives.  CARBON also offers wardrobe consultation and personal shopping.

How to Make Your Own All-Natural Pesticide

This year, we planted a vegetable garden and have been in constant amazement at the miracle of life happening in our back yard. I was so enthralled with my first full-grown snow pea, that I had to take a picture of it to share with you. However, in addition to the life that is our plants, there is other not-as-welcome life: the inevitable garden pests. Critters with teeth have been nibbling and insects have added decorative holes to our greens.

creatures are camouflaged, yet evident, on the leaves of my broccoli

Wanting to keep to our commitment of maintaining a natural garden, we refuse to buy pesticides, and have planted thing like marigolds and hot peppers, which are supposed to deter interlopers. However, it became apparent that we had to take a bit more aggressive action, so I pulled out the neem oil, which I keep in stock for the production of some of my bath and body products. Neem oil is extracted from the tropical neem tree. I had read a while ago that it is a very effective insecticide, miticide and fungicide, and is listed as okay for use in organic production.

According to Plant-care.com, neem oil has the following features:

• Broad spectrum insecticide/fungicide/miticide

• Controls insects and mites including whitefly, aphid and scale

• Controls fungal diseases including black spot, rust, mildew and scab

• For indoor/outdoor use on ornamental plants, flowers, vegetables, trees, shrubs and fruit and nut crops.

Mountain Rose Herbs says that neem biodegrades rapidly in sunlight and within a few weeks in the soil. Neem oil has very low toxicity to humans and pets, but it is not recommended for internal use.

I had also read that rosemary and lavender are effective pesticides, plus they smell better than neem, so I decided to include the in my natural pesticide.

Here is my recipe: Mix 1 gallon of water with 2 tablespoons of neem, and ½ teaspoon each rosemary and lavender essential oils (I used organic version of all the oils). You can also add a couple of tablespoons of phosphate-free liquid dishwashing soap. Mix thoroughly and pour into a spray bottle. Spray over every part of your plants, mixing frequently to keep the oils and water from separating.

By the way, these Sprayco spray bottles, which I buy at my local family-owned hardware store, are made in the US from recycled materials and provide jobs for handicapped individuals.

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Team EcoEtsy’s Handmade for Earth Day Auction!

The details have been announced for Team EcoEtsy’s Handmade for Earth Day Silent Auction. The auction, which runs from April 19th to May 3rd, will feature t-shirt bags filled with eco-goodies that the talented Team EcoEtsy members have donated. There are six bags up for auction, each filled with over $100 worth of eco-goodies, representing the following themes: Baby, Health and Beauty, Home, Paper Goods, Fashion and Jewelry.

The proceeds from the auction will be donated to the World Wildlife Fund. For a full list of the items being auctioned and auction details, please visit the Team EcoEtsy website.

The auction will begin on Monday, April 19, 2010 and end on Monday, May 2, 2010. Winners will be announced on Monday, May 3, 2010.

How to Green Your Packing and Shipping

As an online retailer, shipping is an integral part of my business. And as a sustainable company, I am acutely aware of the impact that shipping (and the accompanying packaging) can have on the environment. I have struggled with this issue from the beginning, trying to find the best way to keep my impact to a minimum. So, in order to make my shipping as green as possible, I have implemented a few different tactics.

Packing
First, I reuse packing materials whenever I can (the exception is those horrible Styrofoam packing peanuts, which I pass along to a neighbor who uses them for shipping his products), as it is always best to reuse existing materials whenever possible. However, during busy times, such as the holiday shopping season, I find that I run out of materials and need to purchase them.

I have always made it a priority to purchase recyclable and recycled packing materials for my business. Plastic bubble wrap, non-post-consumer boxes, and any kind of plastic materials were out. Staples has a decent selection of recycled shipping products, and I had been using their recycled mailers, boxes and shredded paper fill.

However, I was thrilled to discover Salazar Packaging, which offers a huge range of very green packing supplies through their company Globe Guard Products. I am a huge fan of their corrugated boxes. Most corrugated boxes contain 25% to 35% recycled material, but Salazar offers boxes all made with 100% post consumer waste, and they have just about any size you need. Their boxes are very well made, and feel sturdier to me than any other boxes I’ve used. And more recently, I have become devoted to Salazar’s new bubble wrap. It is recyclable as a #4 PE (polyethylene) material and it is oxo biodegradable as well. It has the advantaged of being lighter than paper wrap, so has cut down on my shipping weights, and consequently, my carbon footprint. For the full story on Global Guard’s biodegradable bubble wrap, see their blog post on it.

Globe Guard biodegradable bubble wrap - photo copyright Salazar Packaging

Dennis Salazar, owner of Salazar Packaging and Globe Guard Products, is committed to sustainability and is an active member of the Green America community. And they are members of 1% For the Planet.

In a recent conversation, Salazar offered his thoughts on the state of green packaging. “The world of packaging materials is evolving very rapidly and fortunately changing for the better, in terms of their short term and long term environmental impact,” he said.

However, he pointed out the current reality that “Almost any shipping container, regardless of style and construction is very likely to exist only for a few months before it is used and, in most cases, discarded. That container is very likely to last for years or decades if it happens to wind up in a landfill.”

Companies have started to recognize the impact of this reality, and “that is why today in 2010 we see plastic- and paper-based products that are 100% recycled content, which also happen to be much lighter in weight compared to comparable 2004 products. There is also a whole new field of bio-plastics that are designed to breakdown in a matter of a few months, even in landfill conditions.”

Unfortunately, as Salazar points out, the use of such materials is not necessarily the norm yet. “The majority of people, even those with the best intentions, are not using the best or most economical product for what they do. They buy what they use out of habit or convenience, based on price rather than cost, and rarely consider the long term impact of their choices.”

However, once you have made the concerted decision to go with the most environmentally sound and economical packing options, the choices still aren’t always so straightforward. Salazar says that “the ‘best’ product for any specific application or customer will vary, based on what you ship, how many you ship, where you ship it and even how you ship it.”

Since there is no one right answer to all shipping situations, Salazar recommends the following simple steps companies can take to minimize their environmental impact:

• Use as little packaging as possible by weight and volume
• Assume most of what you use (60% or more) will unfortunately wind up in a land fill
• In most cases, paper is still better than plastic (but not all)
• Use recycled content products because they encourage recycling by creating a market for the waste
• Reuse everything you possibly can

Shipping
As far as shipping services go, I exclusively use the U. S. Postal Service (USPS). For one, it’s very convenient since I can use Click-n-Ship and ask for pick-up, or easily drop off my packages at my local station.

In addition, they are the greenest option I know of for shipping. USPS is the only mailing or shipping company in the nation to achieve “Cradle to Cradle” Certification at the Silver level from MBDC (McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry) for human and environmental health. They achieved this certification in 2007, but I feel they haven’t done a lot to tout it.

Anyway, in order to achieve certification, all 200 suppliers contributing to the manufacture of Postal Service envelopes and packages completed a demanding series assessments of materials for human and environmental health. All materials were examined using 39 criteria for human and environmental health, including toxicity, renewable energy, water stewardship, recyclability and other manufacturing attributes. You can read the original press release to learn more about what their certification entailed.

Besides it being green I find USPS to be an economical and convenient way to ship my customers’ orders, both within the US and overseas. If you sign up for their Click-n-Ship service, you not only have the convenience of printing postage and shipping labels from your computer and printer (which also looks professional), but you also receive a discount of up to 14% by creating your postage online.

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