Monday, December 28, 2009

Umbrella Repair

At Replayground, our favorite activity is turning old stuff into amazing new stuff. But we also like to remind folks that it's a great, green idea to keep and maintain the things you already own.

Discarded umbrellas in trash cans or gutters always look so sad, especially when you know they probably only need a little time and attention to look - and function - just like new!

With some more blustery weather expected in our neck of the woods in the near future, I thought it was worth sharing a great umbrella repair tutorial I came across on Instructables. And of course, if you've got an umbrella that just can't be resuscitated, consider turning the frame, or beautiful waterproof fabric, into something new and exciting.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

DIY Transit-card Christmas ornament

All you need is six metrocards to make this sturdy, geometric ornament that's sure to impress your Christmas guests!

1. Start by folding one metrocard in half, in both directions. Make all your folds in both directions to deepen the creases.

2. Now that you've got your center line, fold both edges of the card in toward the center. This will make two intersection triangle creases

3. This part is a little tricky: unfold your creases and you'll see that there are four triangles created between the folds (an X shape). Pinch the two side triangles in toward the center, and press down the new triangle forming on the end

repeat step 2 for the other side, so your metrocard now looks like a diamond with frog legs!

3. Repeat steps 1, 2, and 3 for all six metrocards

4. The next step is locking all the cards together. Although this seems difficult, it's based on a simple idea: locking the two different triangles made by the folded flaps.

Once the first few snap into place, it's like a light-switch turning on: you'll get it.

Use a safety pin to punch a hole in one of the geometric sides and string fishing line though, then hang on the tree!

For more photos, check out the metrocard ornament on my favorite craft site, instructables

Monday, December 21, 2009

DIY Coathanger Poinsettia Wreath

Our lighted poinsettia wreath made from old wire coat hangers got such a warm reception at our holiday party this weekend, I thought I'd post a little how-to. It's actually a product of a fruit-bowl-attempt-gone-bad which I'd like to look at as a happy holiday lesson. Never be afraid to play with your garbage - you never know what you'll come up with!

For our design, we used 8 wire coat hangers (you can use 6 if you like). It's really simple to do, and you don't need to worry too much about precision as any inconsistencies seem to even out nicely in the end.

1. First, bend the neck of the coat hanger so the hook is perpendicular to the rest of the hanger body.

2. Then bend the hanger at this center point, into two halves. Bend again (on top and bottom) at the middle of each half. Join the hanger tips with wire or clear tape.

3. Finally, arrange all your hanger petals, tips pointing out, into a poinsettia formation, and tape together at the top and bottom seams where they meet. (I tried using wire for this, but it slipped around too much - packing tape seemed to be the way to go.)

For added holiday cheer, wrap a string of lights around the wreath body, and hang in a place where everyone can marvel at your eco-craftiness!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Re-Make your holiday decorating!

This year, make your holiday decorations trashy!
Here at RePlayGround we are getting ready for our holiday trash-tacular party, and we've come up with some great decorations to inspire you to re-make your waste.

Instead of using paper or plastic plates that will fill your garbage and landfill, re-make your cardboard boxes into plates. Cut your cardboard into 6"x6" squares (adjust to fit the size of your hours d'vours) and cover the surface with wax paper. Instead of tossing them away, just peel off the wax paper and re-use! You'll never be a square with this eco-friendly party plate.

Check out our other cardboard creation, panel Christmas trees for decorating your party table. Circling the tree is a recycled paper chain, made by RePlayGround design junkie Abby Kelly.

Our next trash-tacular project is a wire-hanger wreathe to light up your holiday spirit! This project evolved from a fruit-bowl-experiment turned wrong, transformed into a Christmas-lit wreath by Abby Kelly

go Abby go!

Finished and lit! Can you believe this beauty used to be a bunch of wire hangers?

NY Times "Year In Ideas": Trash Tracking

One of the items in this year's New York Times "Year in Ideas" feature caught my eye: a piece on smart garbage.

The problem: curbside recycling programs are still fairly primitive compared to today's trash output. Highly recyclable (and often toxic) items, like computer parts and cellphones, are mixed in with regular garbage because there's no easy curbside pickup. (ed. note: Though if you're currently faced with disposing of this type of item, I highly encourage you to look into donating or recycling it - lots of major electronics retailers, among other places, offer free E-waste recycling prgrams these days.)

Read about Valerie Thomas, a Georgia Tech professor working to change that - she wants to create special smart trash cans that will be able to scan, and eventually help sort, our trash. Imagine if our 'disposal' process actually helped everyone pick treasure out of the trash! (In the meantime, there's always Talkin' Trash.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Upcycle Broken Christmas Lights into Sparkly Holiday Accessories

Have last year’s Christmas lights run out of their shining holiday cheer? Turn them into these cheap and easy earrings and necklaces. Cheap and easy - just how we like our trash.

We wrote up the complete DIY for those lovely folks. Get upcycling on your holiday accessories this year! Make it green and save some green at the same time.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

DIY Bird Feeders

It's getting to be that time of year when our fine feathered friends need a little extra sustenance. Here in Brooklyn, I get pretty excited about being able to attract local wildlife to my yard and having rare sightings of "exotic" birds like cardinals among all the pigeons and sparrows. Depending on where you live, you might be surprised at the variety of birds who'll visit you once you put a feeder out. Here's an easy way to do that and keep a few beverage containers out of the garbage at the same time. You might have even done this project in elementary school art class!

Plastic bottles make excellent bird feeders. Birds like to be able to see their surroundings, so clear containers are appealing feeding stations. Soda bottles are easy to cut up with scissors, and I found that a cheap serrated kitchen knife is the easiest way to make holes in heavier plastic, like large juice bottles.

Use a permanent marker to mark out your feeding hole(s)- I just cut big "windows" close to the bottom of the containers but you could also add smaller holes up and down the length of the bottle, like this tube bird feeder. Just be sure to add a perch anywhere the birds will need to sit. Used wooden BBQ skewers and chopsticks make great perches and the plastic is really easy to drill through. You can add extra perches - the birds like to hang out around the feeder while they're waiting for others to finish eating. Finally, insert a skewer near the top and tie some ribbon or yarn to each end for hanging.

These simple plastic feeders might not be the prettiest, but the birds don't seem to care, and they tend to blend in with winter scenery anyway. You could also dress them up by choosing a series of matching bottles or playing with color-coordination: painting the perches and bottlecaps a bright color to match.

Milk cartons are even easier to work with, and a great project for kids. I dressed mine up with some contact paper (the waxed milk carton will probably hold up in the elements OK, but a little extra protection can't hurt, and it looks nicer).

It's a fun, basically free fall project - and with a little extra care and creativity, might even make a nice holiday gift for the bird lover on your list.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Uncommon Goods

Looking for upcycled, uncommon holiday gifts? As the name implies, Uncommon Goods is a great place to get, well, uncommon goods. And best of all they're now carrying our very own bottle lamp and bottle cap magnets. Be sure to check out their other upcycled stock, too!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Gettin' Crafty at Sustainable NYC

Photo courtesy of Gabby Manrique

The November installation of RePlayGround's monthly recycled craft series at Sustainable NYC, was especially exciting for us because we had RePlay's design-whiz Abby Kelly adding her skills and cheer to the group.

Crafty Cardboard is a fun workshop for us because we get to bring our popular Cereal Box Wallet to the table, and show people how easy it can be to re-purpose commonly trashed boxes. Images on cereal boxes or beer boxes are often cultural icons, and re-using them takes a playful spin on consumerism.

The Cereal Box Wallet is an inspiring project because of the ingenuity and simplicity of it's design, and that's really what we're all about at RePlayGround - using design to make upcycling a part of our every day lives!

Hurray for garbage!

Look out for our next FREE workshop Upcycled Holiday Ornaments, coming up on December 9th, from 6-7:30pm.

Your faithful Garbage Outreach Coordinator,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Have a nice day!

image by Diana Sonis via Time Out NY

The how-to on these easy DIY placemats from plastic bags can be found in this week's Time Out NY. Grab some bags and an iron and make a set for yourself. They're a great, free entertaining idea for this holiday season. No sewing involved. Just melting and cutting!

We're definitely on a plastic bag re-kick after the Halloween bag lady dress. What should we make next from those ubiquitous plastic bags? There's certainly no shortage out there.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Casting call for trash...

At Replayground, we love coming up with new ways to use old things. It's always an exciting day when we get some new trash in the mail. (See this page for guidelines if you'd like to send us something.)

Sometimes we're on the lookout for particular types of garbage. Right now we've got a project crying out for used plastic caps and pull tabs (like the kind you'll find on milk gallons, drinkable yogurts, and other assorted beverages). If you happen to have a few sitting around the house, won't you send your garbage our way and give it a new life?

Email us at moreinfo [at] replayground [dot] com for specifics before sending anything along. Thanks, and happy recycling!

Friday, November 13, 2009

the TerraCycle website gets a makeover

There's a fancy new website over at Tom does a great job explaining how the garbage gets upcycled. Plus you can finally buy TerraCycle products online and it'll link you straight to the store - Shop Only Green. Check it out. Send in your trash. Buy some stuff made from trash. You'll be products-made-from-trash-deprived no more!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Talkin' Trash: November 3, 2009

Talkin' (Recycling)

On Tuesday, a Korean film crew joined me and Carly for a mini Talkin' Trash expedition.

The tools: recycled cardboard signs with speech bubbles and Replayground stamps; markers; tape; and a little creativity. Just like last time, our goal was to help the trash "talk" about its potential for a new, upcycled life.

It wasn't a bulk trash night and we didn't travel too far, but we still found lots of potential in just one pile of garbage.

This discarded exercise equipment (not even post- New Year's Resolution!) was in great shape. An ambitious trashpicker could use these raw materials for all sorts of things: put the seat on a milk crate for a storage stool, use the tubing for an umbrella stand or coat rack.

Six-pack caddies make great organizers for art, office or kitchen supplies. (You can cover them with wrapping or contact paper if the beer logo doesn't match your decor.)

Simple containers have such great overlooked potential!

Check out our Flickr set for more pictures and inspiration!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Happy after Halloween!

Looking for something to do with all of those candy wrappers leftover from Halloween? Try this trick from your Halloween treats – turn the wrappers into wearable gems. You can find the complete DIY over at the eco-fancy eco-fashion site Ecouterre.

Below is a pic of my own upcycled Halloween costume. I'm a Designer Bag Lady - the dress, purse, bracelet, and headband are all made from plastic bags. The dress turned out to be way more comfortable than I expected. Who new plastic bags could be so wearable? Any guesses as to how many plastic bags do you think it took to make my dress? I'll give you a hint - it's 3 bags thick all over.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Design challenge : shower curtains in Time Out

image by Caroline Voagen Nelson via Time Out NY

Who knows when a friend's old shower curtain will come in handy? We were recently challenged by Lisa Freedman of Time Out NY to come up with a design solution for an old shower curtain. You can check out the results for yourself in this weeks issue of Time Out NY where we transform this often trashed bathroom scrap into tote-able treasures!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

DIY jewel case picture frames

Here's another jewel (case) of a recycling project by me over at Planet Green.
Turn those CD jewel cases into picture frames.

And you can always turn the CDs into suncatchers.
This will certainly help your old music play a different tune!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

RePlayGround in TONY Kids!

image by Caroline Voagen Nelson via Time Out NY Kids

Hot off the presses!
RePlayGround's FREE Recycle Craft Workshop series at Sustainable NYC is really taking off, and people are starting to take notice.

Last month for Bottle Cap Jewelry we had a crowd of adults and kids gather around the craft table together for a common goal: using our creativity to create something unique and beautiful from our trash. Check out the Time Out NY Kids article for the full story.
Each workshop we feature a different recycled item, like cardboard, plastic, bottle caps, and magazine pages.

We'd love to see you at our next workshop, and help you turn your garbage into decor!
RSVP by emailing

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

FREE Recycled Craft Workshop at Sustainable NYC

Join Garbage Outreach Coordinator Carly Miller at Sustainable NYC on Wednesday, October 14th for Pop Art: Soda Bottle Projects. The plastic soda bottle makes a perfect structure and surface to both hold and highlight all kinds of objects!

What: Recycled Craft Event: Soda Bottle Pop Art
When: October 14th 6-7:30pm Pop Art! Soda bottle soap dish, picture frame, vase, and more.
Where: SustainableNYC
Who: Carly, Garbage Outreach Coordinator at RePlayGround

You bring: your recycled soda or plastic bottles, your creative genius!
We bring: lots of materials, instruction, a great space, our fabulous company.

RSVP is a must, 10 person limit per workshop: please email
can't wait to see you there !

Sunday, October 11, 2009

repair as art

Once again, the New York Times gives us another interesting look at repurposing and reusing instead of throwing things away. This time it's an article about the Fixers Collective, a weekly meeting of people at a Brooklyn gallery who repair and upcycle broken items. I especially love that the collective grew from an exhibition that ended in June, but "the Fixers kept meeting". Upcycling can be addictive!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

easy DIY wine charms

Some friends stopped by RePlayGround for tasty brunch. We had plenty of sangria, but were lacking cute little wine charms. One friend, who claims herself uncrafty (but has been seen making a clock and shrinky dinks) quickly came up with this easy colored paperclip solution. Just unbend a paperclip and place around the bottom of your glass. It's not exactly recycled, but it is repurposed and is rethinking something rather than buying something. Just look around. Maybe you're craftier than you think.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Times for trash!

We've had a great month of some fabulous news articles here at our RePlayGround.

Rob Walker from the New York Times wrote a great article called Trash Talk in today's Sunday Times magazine. You can read all about RePlayGround's upcycling adventures and our philosophy of giving garbage another go. Plus super-design website Core77 already picked this and posted about this article.

And be sure to check out the October issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray to see our ReMake It wine cork trivet in the faves section.

We're all about rethinking your garbage and teaching you how to upcycle on your own. It's really not that hard. RePlayGround is here to help show you how you can do-it-yourself!

Good times!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Confessions of a Radical Industrialist

Last week a couple of us Replaygrounders had the privilege of going to see a talk by Ray Anderson, who's on tour promoting his new book.

For those unfamiliar, he is the CEO of Interface, a Georgia carpet tile manufacturer. He's well known in the design community, having been profiled in magazines like Metropolis and received recognition and awards for his efforts over the last several years. "Confessions of a Radical Industrialist" is a followup to his book "Mid-Course Correction: Toward a Sustainable Enterprise: The Interface Model".

Ray's story is fascinating. As he will tell you himself, he worked in his extremely polluting and petroleum-based industry for decades without giving the environment a second thought. It wasn't until 1994, when an employee sent him a copy of Paul Hawken's "Ecology of Commerce", that he had what some describe as an "eco-epiphany" - all of a sudden, he decided that protecting the environment was not just important for our future and the future of the planet, but also made great business sense.

From then on he made it his mission to transform his company and the way it did business - "doing well by doing good" - and become a leader by example. Interface now champions a cause called "Mission Zero" - zero environmental footprint by 2020. Interface is committed to its goal, and this commitment has yielded a number of happy accidents and innovations. We heard quite a few anecdotes about the interesting (and profitable) surprises that came about as Interface began to change the way it did business. It was truly inspiring to hear what Interface has achieved - just by setting out to try something new. (And as long as you're not a competitor in the carpet business, Interface will be happy to share its expertise!)

Mission Zero is ambitious and admirable, and Ray is doing a tireless job of promoting his ideals. I especially appreciate that he's putting a sensible, businesslike face on eco-friendliness: when something makes financial sense, it's a lot easier to win over eco-skeptics!

If you ever get the chance to see him speak, I highly recommend it. In the meantime, add his book to your reading list.

"Never underestimate the power of a good question" - Ray Anderson

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Everybody's doing it!

Here at Replayground we love to hear about others' adventures in upcycling. Check out this post over at New American Dream about some inspiring recycling projects - including more recycled homes, and an artist who won a $15,000 grant with work made from found materials.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rethink | Refuse | Reuse: Newspaper

Another Rethink - Refuse - Reuse, this time for all you gardeners out there.

Mulch is great. Mulch helps keep down moisture - reducing the need for watering. Mulch suppresses weeds - reducing the need for weeding and/or herbicides. You can mulch your garden with a myriad of natural and artificial materials, many of them extremely eco-friendly and available at a shop near you.

But what's eco-friendlier than not buying new stuff in the first place? It's temptingly easy to spend your energy shopping for the "greenest" solution to a problem, but it's even greener to use what you already have. Before you head to the garden center for a big bag of shredded mulch bark, take a look at that stack of old newspapers.

Shredded newspaper is fantastic at keeping moisture in and weeds at bay. It's more realistic for those of us with smaller gardens, and it's not the most decorative option, but it works wonders in vegetable gardens and around newly-established plants that need lots of water and TLC. Newspaper mulch is recommended by many gardeners, including the folks at Organic Gardening. Shredded or torn, it makes a nice airy mulch around plants. Or, if you're trying to eradicate stubborn weeds, put down a few layers of intact newspaper as a barrier.

Most newspapers today are printed with soy ink, but if you're unsure about what your local paper uses, don't hesitate to ask. (And if they're still using petroleum-based inks, encourage them to switch!)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Get your PhotoJoJo!

Our friends at PhotoJoJo sent us an advance copy of their sweet new book - PhotoJoJo: insanely great photo projects and DIY ideas. It'll be hitting stores and their website on September 15, or you can order your own advance copy here.

Just as the title implies, the book includes oodles of insanely great photo projects including my own recycled contribution - spectacular eyeglass frames - a new take on this project. Get a copy of the book for yourself and learn how to bake photo cupcakes, turn an old fork into a photo stand, and bunches of other projects that will make you fall in love with photography all over again. What are you waiting for?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Green your wedding at Mother Nature Network

I sat down with my friend Danielle Venokur to share some eco-friendly wedding project ideas. You can view the segment over at Mother Nature Network and whip up a few of these projects for that special day. Reusing materials isn't only green in eco-friendliness, but it can also save you some green in your wallet.

The cereal box butterflies are great for any party and you can download the DIY template here (PDF download).

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Recycled Houses in Texas

Great read in the New York Times about a man in Texas who builds houses completely from salvaged and reclaimed materials. The slideshow is chock full of inspiring images. I'm especially digging the ceiling made of frame samples and the osage orange wood countertops.

It's always nice to be reminded that serious re-use is possible on a large or small scale -- and ideas abound whether you're looking to reuse a plastic bottle or tons of construction waste! (For you NYC-based folks looking for sources of salvaged materials, check out Build It Green NYC - and if anyone knows of more, feel free to let us know in the comments.)

Monday, September 7, 2009


I recently returned from a summer vacation to Europe. One of my stops was Amsterdam and it really opened my eyes to bike riding as a real form of public transportation. Sorry New York, you don't have anything on Amsterdam quite yet. New York has done a great job in this past year putting in bike lanes and bike lights. Amsterdam is what New York can aspire to be like in 10 years. Pretty much every street had a bike lane and all bikers knew what direction to go in. Even the ATMs were bike accessible.

Whaddya think? Start replacing car parking garages with bike garages? You can certainly fit a lot more bikes. With a lot fewer emissions. That image below is an open air bike garage loaded with bikes. Not a car in sight.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rethink | Refuse | Reuse: Glass Jars, Take 2

Some of the ways I like to reuse things are so dead simple that it doesn't even occur to me to talk about it. But our new Rethink - Refuse - Reuse series reminded me to pass on a very easy, and very functional, way of keeping your glass out of a landfill.

(Yes, glass is recyclable, but people often overlook the fact that recycling something takes a pretty substantial amount of energy. It's almost always better to find a new use for existing items when we can. Reduce and Reuse should be the headliners in the way we deal with waste, with Recycle playing a small part when necessary.)

I store just about everything in my kitchen in glass jars leftover from groceries I've bought. (The process is pretty easy: soak the label off in some hot soapy water, and eliminate any lingering smells from, say, pasta sauce, by letting some white vinegar sit in it for a few hours.) Glass is easy to clean and doesn't pick up smells the way plastic does. It's great at preserving dry goods, pasta, spices, and snacks, and looks beautiful besides. And I've never understood the allure of buying an expensive set of matching glass containers when I get lovely ones for free pretty much every time I go to the store. (Personally, I think the mismatched jars can look charming, and if you're like me and buy the same brand of peanut butter all the time, you'll probably have a matching set sooner than you think!)

Of course you can't save every single glass jar that comes your way. But a little goes a long way, and keeping even 5% of your waste out of that fossil-fuel-using recycling truck is a big move. You might be surprised at how much use you get out of that old olive jar!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Low tech - and recycled! - houseplant watering system

I was cutting up some soda bottles for another Replayground project and wondering what to do with the top half I was about to discard, when I remembered that it would make a great drip irrigation system for my thirsty houseplants.

I've been using this technique ever since I first read about it on You Grow Girl a few years ago. Cut the bottom off your soda bottle and drill a couple of very small holes in the cap. After the bottle's wedged into the soil and filled with water, these small holes will allow water to drip slowly down to the plant's roots.

It's a gentle watering system for more delicate plants or seedlings, and does a great job of getting water down to roots where it's needed (especially in summer when water just evaporates off the top of the soil).

It felt great to avoid throwing more plastic in the trash and give my plants a little TLC at the same time!