Posts belonging to Category Uncategorized

Post-Halloween blues?

Did you do do a little too well this year on your Halloween candy haul, and you’ve backed yourself into a sweet, delectable corner? Consider the Halloween Candy BuyBack program, which buys Halloween candy for $1/pound and sends it to overseas troops.  They have a handy search field on their front page to find a dropoff location near you. Most likely a dentist!

Just added — Ipods!

You can now donate used ipods to Music & Memory, which provides personalized playlists for the elderly and infirm. You know you’ll want someone to bust out some Duran Duran/Britney Spears/Nickelback for you when your time comes, so help them out if you can! Please include relevant chargers, etc.

Honey Love promotes urban beekeeping

Western_honeybeeThe earth has a serious bee problem. Since 2005-2006 between 20-35% of all bees have been dying off every winter in what has been termed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Though bees have inherent value unrelated to their impact on humans, obviously, it is worth noting that bees are responsible for pollinating much of our food, and play a crucial role in the earth’s ecosystem. Unfortunately, evidence is mounting that the main cause of CCD is use of neonicotinoid pesticides, so it’s kind of on us to fix this. What can you do to help? Keep a pesticide-free garden, offer water sources to passing bees, and embark on a path of urban beekeeping! If you live in L.A., you can get hands-on assistance from Chelsea and Rob McFarland, founders of HoneyLove, who provide resources and a community of like-minded people. Chelsea kindly took the time to answer a few of my bee-related questions:

1. What kind of physical set up does an L.A. resident need to keep a Chelsea_Mcfarlandbeehive on their property?
There are no official rules. Here are some general guidelines:
(1)   Hives should be located at least five feet from all property lines.
(2)   Hive entrances should face away from or parallel to the nearest property line(s).
(3)   Hives must either be screened so that the bees fly over a six-foot barrier, which may be vegetative, before leaving the property, or be placed at least eight feet above the adjacent ground level.

2. What kind of financial and time commitment does beekeeping require?
Approximately $500 and 2+ hours every two to three weeks. More details are available on the HoneyLove site.

3. What is the current legal status of beekeeping in the city?
Beekeeping is legal in Santa Monica, Redondo Beach, and the county of Los Angeles. However, L.A. currently only allows beekeeping in manufacturing and commercial zones. The L.A. City Council is still studying our motion to allow beekeeping in residential zones and is scheduled to vote on it at some point in the next few months. (Fingers crossed!)

4. You note that HoneyLove encourages people to contact live bee removal services for stray unwanted hives. How much does this cost, and where do they take the bees?
It costs roughly the same as an exterminator. The live bee removal services take bees and give them a new home, while the exterminators simply kill them.

5. Do urban beekeepers ever run into issues with neighbors that may have bee allergies? Are there potential legal ramifications with this? The city of Seattle legalized beekeeping over 50 years ago and has rarely received complaints about it, categorizing beekeeping as a “non-issue.” That’s typical of cities which have legalized the practice. On average, there are already between nine and eleven colonies of bees in every square mile of Los Angeles. We are hoping to add a dedicated base of volunteers to expand on this already natural occurrence  — bees in the city!

6. A lot of concern about Colony Collapse Disorder centers around bees not being around to pollinate plants. Given their relatively short reach, what plants are bees likely to pollinate in an urban, non-agricultural, area?
Bees pollinate 80% of the world’s plants (including 100 different food crops), and cities actually provide more robust habitats than the farms and rural areas traditionally associated with beekeeping. That’s because the practice of monoculture — planting of a single crop over a large area — means that all the plants in a given area are either in bloom or not at any given time. When they’re not, these   vast plots are devoid of the pollen and nectar that hives require for survival. Cities, however, provide greater biodiversity for foraging bees throughout the year, because of the greater variety of plant life.
flower_for_bees City bees are also less likely to encounter pesticides when feeding than their rural counterparts, thus eliminating one more reason for their decline.

7. How many hives are being kept by urban beekeepers in L.A.? Is this trend also catching on nationally and internationally? There is no official registration for beekeepers, but we have nearly 500 members in our Meetup group. When I speak to the other cities around the nation who have legalized beekeeping, they report around one percent of their population registering as beekeepers. This is an international trend for sure.

Thanks so much, Chelsea! Be sure to contact HoneyLove if you want to pursue your urban beekeeping dream!

Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables

A French supermarket started selling unattractive fruits and vegetables at a 30% discount and it worked incredibly well! Previously, these items had been thrown away, though they were perfectly edible, but simply not up to supermarket standards in appearance. They also made some of these products into juices.

This followed a campaign from the EU Parliament to reduce food waste, which was estimated at 179 kg per capita per year.

For more info on wasted food overall, check out Jonathan Bloom’s site. He wrote an entire book on the topic.



Locks of Love controversy

A recent report from Nonprofit investor indicates there is some question about how well Locks of Love handles their hair donations, which are intended to be made into hairpieces for children that suffer from medical-related hair loss. Some of these donations are, doubtless, legitimately unusable, as they are too short, too grey, or otherwise compromised. However, it does seem clear that they are not very well-run at the very least, given that they claim they don’t even catalog the number of donations they receive, the number of wigs they make, or the hair they resell.

Here are some alternative organizations that will accept your hair:

Pantene Beautiful Lengths

Wigs for Kids

Children With Hair Loss

Wigs for Kids

The hair generally has to be at least ten inches long, clean and dry, and free of chemical processing — each organization lists its specific requirements. As always, I encourage anyone donating any product to consider also throwing in a cash donation to pay for the processing of the physical one.



Low Hanging Fruit

Feel like helping out your local food bank but never quite get around to it? Is your thumb a little too green? How about gathering up some of your bounty and hauling it off to the local food bank?

If you have a significant amount of fruit trees and live in southern California you can contact one of two volunteer-run organizations to pick your fruit and donate it for you: SoCal Harvest or Fast Forward. Because of our incredible good fortune when it comes to local produce, you have to contact them months in advance for an appointment.

Toss it? No Way! — Take it to Repair Cafe!

fixing_toaster_croppedIf you live on the west side of L.A. and you have a bike, household appliances, jewelry, or other items in need of repair, I urge you to attend a Repair Cafe, which is sponsored locally by Our Time Bank in west L.A.. If you live anywhere else, don’t despair; there are 400 locations worldwide! The one I attended on Saturday in the Camera Obscura building in Santa Monica at 1450 Ocean Avenue featured a jewelry repair station, a bike repair area, six people operating sewing machines, and someone fixing household appliances, computers, and smartphones. You simply fill out a form a week before the cafe with your repair needs, show up with the damaged item, and staff is on hand to fix it if they can in return for a donation. (You can also show up with a random item and take your chances.) Some volunteers were taking parts of unusable appliances and computers and creating kinetic art. IMG_20140531_133730578

I have often lamented how frustrating it is to have an inexpensive household item break and not have a cost-effective means of repairing it, so I am very pleased about this incredible resource. If are a handy person and want to pitch in, I urge you to offer your services at the next event. Hope to see you there — I’ll be the one with the busted hairdryer. 



Repairing Vintage Jewelry

If you know me, you know I am a fan of vintage jewelry. And when you are a fan of rapidly aging jewelry, it behooves you to learn how to do some basic repair in this arena. While the majority of my collection doesn’t have enough monetary value to merit professional attention, I really enjoy it, and find great satisfaction in saving old necklaces and earrings from the trash. Just recently I ran across a youtube video explaining clearly and simply how to tighten loose clip-on earrings, a subject which has eluded me for many years.

While I realize this may not be of interest to a wide variety of readers, I hope it also serves as a reminder that just because something doesn’t have much monetary value doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your time.


LADWP customers — go green!

I found when I signed up for paperless bills for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power that I can request that between 20 – 100% of my power come from green sources for a mere three cents more per kilowatt hour. According to their 2011 report, 19% of LADWP is now generated from renewable sources such as biomass, geothermal, solar and wind. I urge you to sign up for this program. If you don’t live in L.A., check your local energy provider to see if this is an option. I had no idea!

A random check shows this is an option if you get power from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and you can also do it if you live in Baltimore. Or use Mass Megawatts if you’re in New England. Apparently, the market has been deregulated and you can actually shop around for potentially cheaper and greener energy options. So what’s stopping you?


Non-thrifty thrifting: what not to buy at a thrift store

I am a big believer in providing economic incentives for socially beneficial behavior. Charging a dime for one-time use bags? Great idea. Subsidizing solar? I’m all for it. The fact is, very few people are going to be willing to take it on the chin for the greater good, even if their hearts are in the right place, and you certainly can’t depend on pure goodwill for widespread change. So while I think buying used provides a social and environmental benefit to society, it’s unrealistic to expect most people to do it if they aren’t also getting something out of it, i.e., a good deal. And friends, some items in thrift stores are not good deals.

I know thrift store shopping varies considerably throughout the U.S., so please note this advice is based on the shopping available in very upscale Santa Monica, California. Extrapolate as you will to your local market.

Worst thrift store deals:

1. T-shirts

At my local Goodwill, all short-sleeved shirts, including t-shirts, are priced identically, at $4.99. While you might get lucky and find a fancyish short-sleeved shirt from a well-known designer on the rack (never out of the question in a wealthy zip code like this one,) the majority of shirts are more like this worn-out pink number originally from Old Navy. If I may anthropomorphize for a moment, it looks sad, ike it lost its job or is going through a bad breakup.













Meanwhile, a few blocks away at TJ Maxx, this fetching little shirt awaits you for a mere dollar more. Sassy!











2. Drinking Glasses

I have seen the occasional high-quality houseware item to be had at a good price. For the most part, though, thrift stores are reselling ordinary items that were cheaply made in the first place. These mundane glasses are priced at  $1.99 apiece.






Meanwhile, at my local TJ Maxx, you can get six similar glasses for $7.99, or only $1.25 each!








3. Shoes

Even I, a person who is not squeamish about purchasing a gently-worn item, have only successfully bought two pairs of used shoes in my entire life, and they were both vintage pairs in very good condition that would paralyze you with envy if you saw them. Given that the majority of the world shares or exceeds my disgust at the process of slipping on someone’s castoff footwear, how can any reasonable person be expected to purchase a pair at my local Goodwill, considering the outrageous cost? The average pair of shoes I found — mostly from fairly generic mall stores, like Steve Madden, were $14.99 used.


Only two blocks away, at my local discount shoe store, you can buy a brand new pair of Steve Madden shoes for 60% off of 109.99, or about $44.00. Sure, that’s three times as much as the used ones, but given that (a) shoe styles change a lot more than drinking glasses or t-shirts, and (b) used shoes are at least a bit off-putting, it’s not nearly enough of a bargain for the average person. Especially since, if you take a dip down in quality, you can easily get a used pair of shoes in the discount rack for $15.00 — a far preferable option for most people.






Next up: what you should buy at the thrift store.