Thrift Score: My Funky New Old Dishes

A few years ago, I’d read that some of the cheaper dinnerware produced in China was turning up with lead in it. I looked at my inexpensive and chipped (but very pretty) dinnerware and got a little concerned. Rather than spend a couple hundred dollars on what I really wanted, which was a set of lead-free Fiestaware for eight, I decided that until I could find something made in the US that was also not ugly or overly expensive, I’d go with something simple and safe—glass.

I looked at a few department stores and didn’t find much in the way of glass and what I did find felt flimsy so I decided to check my local thrift stores. I didn’t find any complete sets but I did find tons of glass pieces in a variety of patterns and suddenly it hit me…I didn’t need a matching set at all! I would mix and match and have a funky, eclectic set of with everything I needed for a next to nothing. I picked out 8 dinner plates, 8 salad plates, 8 bowls and 8 saucers in a handful of patterns —bamboo, florals, vines, contemporary, lattice, and textured.

I brought everything home, washed it and unceremoniously trashed all the old, chipped stuff. I put my “new” dishes away and have used them ever since. In that time, not one piece has chipped or broken. Once I realized how durable my funky, mismatched dinnerware was, I gave up looking for anything else. Best of all, though, is that it cost me less than twenty dollars for peace of mind that my stuff is lead-free.

The takeaway? Things don’t have to be new OR expensive to be awesome 🙂

Photo by Nancy Bea Miller

Yoocaa Reusable Collapsible Straws

What: Yoocaa Collapsible Reusable Metal Straw

Features: Portable, collapsible, reusable, dishwasher-safe and made from food-grade stainless steel and reusable at least 1,000 times.

Green Factor: Billions of disposable plastic straws litter our oceans and cause great harm to marine life, as well as our oceans. Bringing your own portable straw and foregoing the plastic disposable ones is one way you can help stem the plastic straw pollution of our planet.

Bonus: The Yoocaa collapsible straw comes with a keychain style case that you can attach to your belt, bag or keys so you always have it with you, plus a brush to clean the inside of your straw.

Find It Here: Yoocaa Collapsible Reusable Metal Straw

Non-Toxic & PVC-Free Air Beds (Updated 2/22)

41rt0nikjlThese days, when you need an extra bed, you’re more likely to pull out an air mattress than open a sofa sleeper and for camping, the inflatable air mattress will be found on most packing lists.

The problem, however, is that these days they are almost universally made with PVC, which outgasses harmful chemical fumes called phthalates long after that telltale “new mattress smell” has dissipated. (Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors that can cause a variety of insidious health issues for unborn children, as well as adults. We strongly recommend avoiding them whenever possible)

A few years ago, those of us who objected to breathing in dangerous chemicals may have had little recourse other than to forgo the luxury of an air mattress and lump it—but thankfully, we now have many more options:

KingCamp 2-Person PVC-Free Ultra Light Airbed with Pump: Made of 100% polyester with TPU coating, this 2-Person PVC-Free airbed is only 6 lbs, damp-proof, comfortable, durable and very firm with 192 stabilizers between the top and bottom. The Boston valve air tap and battery operated pump provide rapid inflation and deflation. It is convenient to adjust the comfort level of this airbed. Includes compression straps, an oversized oxford carrying bag and repair kit.

ALPS Mountaineering Vertex 2 Person Air Bed (NEW!): Made with durable PVC-free fabric, this air bed is incredibly lightweight (the queen size weighs in at just over 4 lbs) which makes for easy transport. It utilizes a coil system for a more solid and comfortable sleeping area and comes with a carrying bag and state-of-the-art pump with multiple power options: wall outlet, car outlet or rechargeable battery. For indoor/outdoor use, it also inflates and deflates quickly and easily.

Lightspeed Outdoors Ultralight Flexform Curved Inflatable Single Air Bed (NEW!) This indoor/outdoor super lightweight air bed (under 3 lbs) is made of PVC-free durable 30D stretch FlexForm polyester with TPU coating. Features a curved baffle design that cradles and conforms to body shape, a thicker 4.3 inches of inflation, built in pillow, adjustable firmness and inflates with 5-10 full bag pumps. Pump included!

Sierra 2 Person Camping Air Bed Mattress: (NEW!) This budget-conscious queen size air mattress (Note: reviews say it’s more like a full) is made of phthalate-free TPU and is PVC-free. It features a built-in pillow, a free-flowing 2-part Boston Valve and includes an oversized storage bag and battery-operated pump.

Lightspeed Outdoors Warmth Series Self Inflating Single Sleep Pad (NEW!) R-Value of 4.87 to keep you warm. Lightweight (2.3 lbs) PVC-free materials eliminate harmful phthalates, plastic odors and crinkle plastic noises for a more peaceful rest. Oversized air valve for fast self inflation and quick deflation without the need for a pump. Includes integrated pillow for additional comfort, compression straps and oversize carry bag. Great for recreational backpacking or car camping. There is also a thicker option available if you prefer a bit more inflation.

Happy PVC-free sleeping!

Light Up Your Life

What: HybridLight Journey Flashlight

Features: SOLAR RECHARGEABLE  Charge using the built in solar panel outdoors OR indoors under incandescent lighting, OR by connecting via the included USB cable for rapid charge

CHARGE MOBILE DEVICES – Connect using the included USB cable to charge cell phones and other mobile devices while away from home or during power outages

EXTREMELY DURABLE AND WATERPROOF – Tested to 3 meters and it floats so you won’t lose it

DUAL MODE –  High or Low Beam. Super bright LED shines for up to 25 hours on low beam and 7 hours on high producing 160 lumens of bright white light

HOLDS A CHARGE FOR YEARS –  Always ready when you need it. Perfect for any emergency

Green Factor: You can avoid contributing to the hundreds of thousands batteries discarded into landfills by solar recharging instead of relying on the lithium ion battery that comes with the HybridLight Journey Flashlight

Bonus: The HL160 can be stored without sun for 7 years and still retain 90% of the original power. Also, guaranteed to work every time you turn it on!

Find It Here: HybridLight

Favorite Things: Traditional Safety Razors

I’ve always been kind of bothered by disposable razors. I mean, you use it a few times and then you just THROW IT AWAY. It’s absurd. What really pushed me over the edge, though, is when my husband tried the free Gillete Fusion we got in the mail and decided he really liked it. Yes, it worked nicely but the replacement cartridge heads? Cost a freaking fortune (around $25 for 8 heads). Shaving had suddenly become not only bad for the environment but ridiculously expensive, as well.

After succumbing to his pleas to buy the overpriced, ungreen foolishness a few times I decided there had to be a better alternative and I started looking at real razors like my dad used to use, also known as double edge safety razors. Usually made of stainless steel, chrome or nickel-plated brass, you use stainless steel blades that are generally inexpensive (and recyclable) and you DON’T need to replace the head or handle at all.

After much research, I settled on one and ordered it for my husband for $31 and change and guess what? HE LOVES IT. Even better? I love it! No more dull blades, no more throwing the whole thing away and no more buying new razor heads at exorbitant prices. And as an added bonus…my legs have never been smoother. Made in Germany with a polished chrome finish.

Find It Here: MERKUR Classic Double Edge Safety Razor 

Green Steel Reusable Straws

What: Green Steel Stainless Steel Straws

Features:  Billions of plastic straws are used and discarded every single day around the world and end up in landfills and in our oceans. These straws by Green Steel can be used over and over again — all you have to do is to clean them and they’re ready to use again. BPA-free, phthalate-free, lead & toxin-free, these straws are made from high quality 18/8 stainless steel. Available in medium and long sizes. (Editors Note: I use these in the medium size and love them)

Green Factor: Made from non-toxic, food-grade stainless steel and can be washed (with the free brush that comes with them) and used repeatedly with no plastic waste. Comes in eco-friendly packaging.

Bonus: Comes with 4 straws, a cleaning brush and a lifetime money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied.

Find It Here:  Amazon