HOW JACQUIE OTTMAN LIVES TRASH-FREE IN NYC
Prevent waste before it’s created
I carry a Chico bag at all times. It’s so easy to whip out of my purse whenever I need a bag for shopping.
Happy in a school uniform for 12 years when I was growing up, I now usually wear the same thing to work every day: black pants and white tee shirt or turtleneck.
I try to read as much online as possible, preventing paper waste (though I have to admit to still enjoying the New York Times in print — old eyes? old habits?)
I save veggies, chicken bones, cheese rinds in the freezer until I make them all into stock. I started an organics collection program in my NYC apartment building so all of our food scraps can find their way into compost.
I take plastic bag and other film waste to my local grocery store for recycling.
I order my coffee ‘to stay’, and I take a reusable coffee cup for the times when I’m on the go.
Take care of things
Preventive maintenance keep my things new looking longer and lasting a long time. I make sure to regularly polish my shoes and other leather goods to make them last a long time. As soon as I drop something on a white blouse or the carpet, I blot up the mess to make sure stains don’t set.
I reuse Ziploc bags and store my veggies in those Mrs. Meyers Green bags so they will last longer. Just bought one of those Rubbermaid Produce Savers, and am enjoying trying it out.
I use a refillable water bottle, bring my own bag and coffee mug. I carry a reusable spork and napkin.
I mend clothes, sheets, socks, etc. so they last as long as possible. (Do you love to hear the words ‘mend’ and ‘darn’ as much as I do?)
I’ve got a collection of glues in a specially marked Ziploc bag ready to repair anything from wood and metal, to fancy plates and tea cups.
Whatever I can’t repair myself, I take to the folks at the FixersCollective. They’ve fixed tea cups, wooden salad bowls, gave me back my iHome when I thought it was beyond repair, and upgraded my iPhone battery. (Yes, you read that correctly.)
Use things up
I proudly admit to taking the half-used bars of soap from the hotel shower, along with partially used little bottles of lotion. Have rarely bought a bar of soap in years!
I attack my antiperspirant container with a pencil and get an additional inch of product that would otherwise go to waste.
I scrape the sides of mixing bowls and inside the mayo jar with some extra flexible spatulas. It’s amazing what you can get if you know how to scrape!
I get out every last drop from the dishwashing liquid bottle, the olive oil jar, and the lotion bottles by turning them upside down overnight. (A lady who works at the Clinique counter once told me over a Chinese lunch near Bloomingdale’s that customers actually slice their tubes to get out every last drop of the precious potions, but I haven’t tried that one yet. — Maybe because I don’t buy expensive makeup?)
I use the reverse side of paper in my home office.
I keep pens around until the ink has really dried up, and sharpen those pencils down to the nub.
We reuse envelopes in my office — and have extra large mailing address labels so we can cover up the old address.
Repurpose the leftovers
I make stale bread into bread crumbs with my Cuisinart. (Here’s an article on new uses for old bread from one of our Waste Watchers, Jocelyn Deprez. If she hadn’t written it first, I would have!)
I make overripe tomatoes into tomato soup or pasta sauce. (See my post, Recipe for Truly Satisfying Tomato Soup.), and banana bread from the over-ripe bananas. (DYK that black bananas are the sweetest of all?)
I have a special canister in the cupboard where I store all those extra little soy sauce and duck sauce packets that come with Chinese take-out and I turn them into sauces for leftover meats (Check out my post, What To Do With All Those Duck Sauce Packets.)
I carry a zipper bag in my purse so I can take home uneaten food from restaurants. (I even like to rescue cheese cubes and crackers from an hors d’ouevres tray. A lover of fine bread, I’m not afraid to ask for the bread to be wrapped up. (Apparently so does Fredrica Rudell. Check out her post, Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli — and the Bread Basket).
Share stuff with others
I sell things on ebay, Craig’sList.org, and give things away on Freecycle.org.
I pool leftovers with neighbors into yummy shared meals.
I swap newspapers with neighbors (I give my neighbor Alison my NYTimes and Bill down the hall passes along his WSJ.)
I started a ‘Take a book, Leave a book’ library in my NYC apartment building. Read more here. I started a Free Box in my building’s laundry room. I even have a small one in my front hall.
I take things to thrift stores (and happily grab the tax deduction). I think previous owners of the things we find in thrift stores should leave a note. Read more here.
I love to prowl flea markets and antique malls, looking for bargains and just having fun looking.
I share my scanner, copier and printer with neighbors.
Use space efficiently
For 22 years I lived in a 280 square foot studio apartment; now I live and work in 636 sq ft. consolidated home and office, a 40% reduction that saves me one bathroom, one kitchen, one electricity bill, telephone bill, DSL line and heating.
I work from home, so I save time, money and anguish on the commute (Have you ever tried the #6 train in NYC during rush hour?); and I don’t waste space having an office part of the time, and an idle home the rest of the day.
I’ve never owned a car. I share cabs. I walk practically everywhere or take the subway, train or bus, and take advantage of opportunities to catch up on all those articles I cut out from the paper and my neighbors and I share our newspapers and magazines with each other.
Make instead of buy stuff
I make presents (or openly regift) rather than shop for new things. One thing that I’m especially proud of was the cookbook of recipes that I compiled from five generations of our family. I gave it to everyone in my family for Christmas in 2000 in lieu of regular gifts.
I take the water from the boiled egg and use it to water my plants. If I had a garden, I really would shower with a bucket and water my garden, I just know it. For now, I’ll speed things up in there with a little encouragement from my shower buddy (timer).
I spearhead recycling education and outreach as a member of my Upper East Side NYC co-op board. As founding chair, Residential Recycling and Reuse Committe of the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board, I am researching best practices for engaging residents of multi-family buildings in recycling, reuse and composting.