Upcycled: Wine Cork Garland

Upcycling is great. It diverts something from the waste stream and turns it into a new, useful object. I, however, find a lot of D.I.Y. upcycling projects to be kinda tacky. They take an extra crafty soul that isn’t, as much as I’d like for it to be, in me. I don’t have the patience, but if you do, and you can turn trash to treasure – I applaud you! I think upcycling is really, really important. There’s a lot of use left in the things we throw away. I’m in awe of people that can turn that into something new and amazing. Coolest upcycler I know is A Wool Story. Check her out. She unravels wool sweaters and uses the yarn to make beautiful new creations. 

Upcycling is cool! Make zero waste wine cork garland for Christmas from www.goingzerowaste.com

But, this is one project I’ve been wanting to make since college. I had been saving wine corks for years to make garland for my Christmas tree. I had almost 400 with the help of friends, relatives, and a really cool restaurant. Unfortunately I lost a lot of stuff in a house fire in 2013, the corks being part of it. So, I had to start my collection again. 

make wine cork garland with www.goingzerowaste.com

Recently, I’ve had both mom (Arkansas) and dad (Georgia) visit my little family in NoCal. We live about twenty minutes away from Napa; so, wine tasting is a no brainer. I collected several from our trips and now I get to commemorate them on my tree! 

wine tasting with the fan from www.goingzerowaste.com

Last post we talked about not having a tree, which my mother read – and she got *very* upset. I happened to be at the thrift store and found this little beauty for $3.00! How could I say no? I immediately knew exactly how I was going to make her garland. 

I pulled down my wine cork collection. At first I tried to string the entire cork, but my needles weren’t strong enough. You could probably use a drill bit to core them, but I really think full corks might have overwhelmed the small tree. (And, go back to that patience thing in paragraph 1) 

Step 1. Gather up your corks.

Step 2. Cut into five pieces with a sharp serrated knife. 

Step 3. Use scissors to core the middle. Do one side, then flip and do the other. 

Step 4. String with a large needle and twine. 

Step 5. Decorate your tree! 

You can add beads in between, but I didn’t have any. If you core the corks large enough, you could even do this without a needle. Just be careful coring – brittle corks are likely to break and could send scissors through your palm... not that I know from experience.... 

But, the absolute best thing about this project - if I get tired of it, it's fully compostable! No waste at all. The twine is 100% organic cotton and wine corks are made from the bark of cork trees. 

This is my first upcycling project, and I’m so excited! Do you have any upcycling projects you’re proud of or know any cool upcyclers?


If you're looking for eco friendly or zero waste gifts this holiday season, reference my holiday gift guide!


10 Steps to Reduce your Waste in the Workplace

Do you guys go to work? I spend roughly a 1/3 of my week in an office type setting. Then I spend about 1/4 of my time at the theatre, but I'm assuming most of you relate more to an office setting. I work at a print shop. There's lots of machinery, an office up front with a couple of desks, a bathroom, and a small kitchen area. 

Most of my time is spent out of the house. And, this is how I control my waste in the workplace. 

I know that printing is not a completely eco business, but people need things printed. We always push 100% recyclaeble materials and use recyclable ink. We also push products that can be used over and over again. 

10 steps to reduce your waste in the workplace from www.goinzerowaste.com

plant friends:

Not an entirely zero waste tip, but it's something I find really important. Get a plant friend. I love my plant friends at work. They freshen the air and brighten the room so much! On that same note, try to take a walk during the day. Take a break from the screen and soak up some vitamin D. 

pack your lunch:

Almost everyone I work with eats takeout for lunch. It involves so much packaging! There's so much styrofoam, and on top of the waste - it's expensive and unhealthy. I'm much more content eating homemade goodies.

I wrap sandwiches in cloth napkins, take mason jar salads, and occasionally pack treats in a tiffin. I probably eat lunch out 2-3 times a month. When I go out, I bring my own plates

Learn how to pack a zero waste lunch with 10 lunch ideas.

the water fountain: 

Some offices keep the fridge stocked with soda and water bottles. Forgo added sugar and head to the water fountain. I like to keep a 32 oz mason jar on my desk. I drink about 96oz of water or tea a day. If I used a regular sized glass, I would have to get up 8 times a day. I'm either too busy at my desk, or I'm too lazy. Invest in a larger cup, so you're still drinking lots of water. 

Keep a large water jug on your desk so you're encouraged to drink more water


Do you have someone who lives close to you? Can you carpool or ride your bike or walk? I carpool every morning. Some larger companies even have ride share programs. Maybe you could even set one up!

double sided prints: 

You knew this one was coming. If you have to print out lots of paper, and I'm sure you do. Try to make as much as you can double sided. 

real plates:

This. THIS. In our little kitchen area, I have a couple of plates, bowls, and some silverware. I bought the plates to live at work. I picked it all up at the thrift store for next to nothing. If we have cake, I'm covered. Neighbors having a BBQ, we're there with plates in hand. Food truck is down the road, BYOP. This avoids so much waste! When I see people tossing their paper plates, it makes me sad. It only takes 30 seconds to was a plate. Wash your dishes! 

coffee & tea: 

Please, please don't tell me you have a keurig. I'm so thankful my boss is really conscious about the environment. Our coffee machine will brew a single cup of coffee without a filter or pod. Plus we keep a stock of real mugs. We also have a nice selection of loose leaf tea that I buy in bulk, and a couple of strainers.

hand towels:

I have a hand towel hanging in the bathroom at work, and I have a couple of hand towels in the kitchen. We use them all over the shop for cleaning. So, I folded a couple and put them in other areas. This way I don't have to use paper towels to dry my hands or dishes. Sometimes I dry my hands on my pants - it's all in the name of zero waste, right!? 

recycle and compost: 

Try to get your workplace involved in recycling and composting! If your city offers either; it's typically inexpensive. We have designated recycle bins all around the workplace, but the city we work in doesn't have compost.

I save what's compostable in a small tupperware tub in the freezer. It holds about a months worth of compost. (mostly tea leaves) If it's something large my backyard compost bin can't handle, I put it in the freezer and bring it down to Berkeley or Oakland when I'm visiting friends. They have municipal compost. 

desk trash:

Convert your desk trash can into a recycle bin. The only thing that arrives at my desk is paper. Lots of paper. I turned my trash can into a recycle bin.

The boys that empty my can know it's recycling ONLY. They know not to line my bin. If you have something at your desk that isn't recyclable, I'm sure there's a trash can nearby - maybe in the hall? If you have to keep getting up to throw something away, it will encourage you to break the habit. 

Only keep recycling at your desk www.goingzerowaste.com

Do you have any tips for reducing the waste in your workplace? If your could change anything about your workplace, what would you change? I'd definitely get compost! 

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No Fail Vegetable Stock

Vegetable stock is so easy and inexpensive. Really. There's no excuse to ever, ever buy it in store ever again. You'll be able to avoid unnecessary preservatives and those awful tetrapaks. I use it in soups, enchilada sauce, risotto, pastas, dog treats and really almost everything. If you want to amp up rice, cook it in stock instead of water. It takes the dish from OK to amazing. 

Learn to make zero waste veggie stock with www.goingzerowaste.com

Also, before we go any further, I just want to get one thing straight:

Stock: Unseasoned

Broth: Seasoned (salt, pepper, herbs, etc.)

I don't like to season mine; because, I like to keep my options open. Now, that we have that settled. Let's continue.

How to make vegetable stock from www.goingzerowaste.com

Most regional cuisines are based on three very key ingredients. Carrots, onions, and celery are the base of the mirepoix which is commonly found in both French and Southern cuisines. The Italians have a soffrito which is a mix of tomatoes, garlic, and onion. And, in New Orleans they have the holy trinity of celery, onion, and green bell pepper. Depending on what you like to cook you can add any of these ingredients to your broth.

Learn to make zero waste veggie stock with www.goingzerowaste.com

You want to steer clear of the cruciferous family. They can impart a very bitter flavor to your broth. Potatoes are not cruciferous, but they will make your broth very cloudy, and don't impart much flavor. 

As you're prepping meals through out the week, you can cut off the odds and ends of onions, carrots, garlic peels and throw them all in a bowl in the freezer. Once it starts to fill up, you can use it to make stock! 



After six hours

After six hours


Roughly chop and wash your vegetables. You want to make sure you remove any dirt. Dump all of your veggie bits in a pot big enough to hold all of them. Cover them with water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Put on the lid and walk away. 

Make zero waste vegetable stock with www.goingzerowaste.com

That's it! So, easy right!? 

Now, you can let this simmer for an hour - two for a light flavor. But, I like mine to get very condensed and rich. I let it simmer for approximately six hours. I store mine in the freezer, so I always have it on hand. 

I made 15 cups of stock for $3.00! That much organic stock in store would cost me $21.50.