Meeting a few of My Eco Heroes

Clockwise from top left: Lecture by Capt. Charles Moore, Plastic entangled knitted sea creatures by, Capt. Charles Moore with his new book, “Plastic Ocean”, plastic debris display by organizations 5 Gyres and Surf Rider Foundation

Last weekend I had the honor of attending the International Symposium on Marine Plastic Pollution: Toxic Chemicals and Biological Effects hosted by Dr. Hideshige Takada and the International Pellet Watch here in Tokyo. (Wow, I know) I found out about Dr. Takada’s work while researching citizen science projects last year to participate in with Electra and Isis. My husband was also interested, so this spring we contacted Dr. Takada to participate in his IPW project. Dr. Takada kindly invited us to attend his symposium on Sunday and it was a really fantastic experience.

For the last three years I have been reading and watching documentaries about plastics in our environment (Plastic: a Toxic Love Affair, Moby Duck, Bag it, Cheap, The Story of Bottled Water, My Plastic Free Life), and now I’m reading my newly signed copy of Plastic Ocean, by Captain Charles Moore.

Meeting and hearing from this round-up of plastic pollution All-Stars was a kind of  dream come true for me. One of the whole reasons I started The Cardboard Collective is that I wanted to provide families with alternatives to all of the plastic furniture, toys, and products that have become so ubiquitous in our day-to-day lives.

I cannot cover all of the things that I think you need to know about plastic here in the post so if you’re interested and want to learn more, go ahead and click on some of the links I’ve attached above.

I’m so grateful to the dedicated group of scientists, researchers and activists that I heard from at the symposium for providing the data and passion behind a movement that I hope will someday change our planet and our health for the better and three cheers from all of us here at The Cardboard Collective.

Urban Gardening with Cardboard Planters

I made the cardboard planters by cutting a pineapple box to the desired size through both layers and then inverting the inner box. I also used a few strips of washi tape to brighten things up a bit and make the planter more secure.

I used the same concept to make the cardboard steps. I had to cut a second box to fit inside the top step for more support, but it does the job for Electra’s small time guerrilla gardening project in our stair well.

I’ve learned after a few years of living in Japan that you can get away with anything that is super cute / Kawaii (rhymes with Hawaii).

……Like a little girl growing a morning-glory in cardboard pot.

Flip it over and it’s a custom sized box or planter…

The planter on the right is what sparked the idea for making cardboard planters in the first place. They’re called Wonderpots, and they’re made from 100% recycled material. I’ve used them for the last 4 years and they work great. They last about two years before decomposing to the point that they need replacing.

My recent discovery of the waxy cardboard fruit boxes has got me thinking in a million directions. And the cardboard planter experiment will be the ultimate test of their strength.

I didn’t even glue or tape this planter together. I just set it in the planter holder. The only thing I did was poke a few holes in the bottom of the planter to provide drainage.

So far we’ve got a young crop of edamame and edible-pod peas going strong. We’ll see how our cardboard planter experiment holds up after a summer of growth and watering.

What about you, have you ever tried planting your annuals in cardboard?

Cardboard Bookshelf Organizers

As Electra dives deeper into the world of (pre) reading and books, we’re trying to get a handle on our bookshelf.  I made this Maisy cardboard bookshelf divider for Electra as an experiment to see if it would help her understand that we can group books, and also guide her in putting her books away more easily. So far the divider has helped on both accounts, and I’m hoping to make some more dividers that correspond with our seasonal books, like a Christmas tree for Christmas, a heart for Valentine’s Day, and a jack-o-lantern for Halloween.

I traced the Maisy character onto computer paper, colored it, cut it out and glued it to the heavy duty wax treated cardboard I talked about in the Wheels on the Box post. I learned the hard way after hacking through a normal piece of corrugated cardboard that you really need the strength and rigidity of the waxy fruit box cardboard for this divider to hold up. (You can see my first and second tries below.)

I had to use quite a variety of tools to recreate Maisy’s chiseled features, including scissors, craft knife and mini cardboard saw, so I’ll have to get back to you on the quick and dirty way of getting through this tough cardboard. (If you have any suggestions I’d love to hear your ideas in the comment box.)

Maisy is a character from a series of books written and illustrated by Lucy Cousins. We especially love Maisy because we can get a bilingual version in English and Japanese that we check out from our local library. We have learned colors, shapes, textures and so much vocabulary from reading these books together. Maisy or Lucy, if you’re reading this, thank you for all the adventures!

The Wheels on the Box

Just add Wheels…

During our last trip to 0123 Harappa the girls really enjoyed the cardboard box sleds that they had. I kept thinking about how we could make an adaptation using castor wheels and some hardware from the local DIY home store. The real discovery however proved to be the strength and durability of a certain breed of fruit and vegetable boxes.

Dad’s old necktie makes a great and easy pull strap. Just thread it through the holes and tie a square knot.

By the way, we’ve been putting castor wheels on everything in our house.

Utilizing our cardboard hitch, Electra starts up her own tricycle transport for babies business. (Kitchen to tatami room connections offered daily.)

Besides the scary warning akin to those found underneath your mattress, I found out that this box is built to hold up to 55 kilos!! It also has a water-resistant and wipe-able waxy finish (mothers rejoice!) which I believe must help combat mold and mildew during transport of fruits and veggies.

Scour your local grocery store for one of these sturdy boxes. I’m sure your friends in the produce department would be happy to help you out!

I found the castor wheels for about $ 0.99 a piece and then looked for nuts and bolts to fit the castor wheels. The bolts are about 2 cm in length. Just enough to accommodate the castor wheels and the single walled box.

Using a leather punch, (but you could also use a small Phillips head screwdriver) I punched holes in the bottom of the box that corresponded with the holes on the bottom of the castor wheels.

I found out after a few days of play and finding lost nuts all over the place, that you should orient the bolts so that the nuts are attached on the inside of the box. (OK stop giggling!)

I cut an extra piece of cardboard to act as a liner and provide a little more strength and rigidity to the bottom of the box. It also provides some protection from the bolts sticking up when the girls are riding inside.

Of course don’t forget to decorate the box to look like your favorite fire truck, school bus or train car. (We haven’t gotten that far yet.)

A cardboard box with wheels is a wagon, a trailer, a wheelbarrow, a hangout spot, and all around super fun toddler toy.

Yay cardboard!

Getting Sorted with Cardboard Magnets…

This latest project began when I started shamelessly digging through someone’s recycling bin on the way to the train. It turned out that a neighbor was parting with a stainless steel file sorter with trays, as well as an over-sized rectangular tin. Hmm I thought, I know these are just what I need…

So after a wash, I realized that the tin was perfect for storing all of our cardboard letters and tinker toys. And since it’s a tin… it was perfect for magnetizing (/monetizing? I wish) our letters.

I also made a little lime green cardboard frame which has magnets on the back for doing letter and number sorts. I tell Electra, “Put all the numbers you can find in the square.” or “Which of these are from the Japanese hiragana alphabet?”

Spelling out “to-ma-to” in Japanese hiragana…

(Finding 5’s… (You can see the fan card for “Ran” from Electra’s first pony ride. ))

My luck continued when that night I received an early Mother’s Day gift, from MY mother! It was packaged in the perfect cardboard box. After applying some washi tape stripes to the side, reinforcing the inside and pasting a pretty picture on the top we were all set. A perfect fit, and a divider in the middle for our bilingual magnets.

Cardboard Playdate

(Cardboard Pull Toy at 0123 Harappa)

After a week of sewing my heart out for the Elsie Marley blog KCWC (Kids Clothing Week Challenge) I’m ready for a break and the opportunity to get back to my cardboard projects.  I had a great time sewing and even had a blouse that I made for Electra featured on Elsie Marley’s Blog. It was a great opportunity to engage in a Sew Along, and I’m hoping we can do something similar  here on The Cardboard Collective someday (of course with cardboard).

Today I took the girls to a favorite public indoor play place in Tokyo called 0123 Harappa. Harappa is a place for kids aged 0-3 and their parents to play with developmentally appropriate toys, socialize with other children and parents, and basically have fun.

Harappa has lots of activities for kids including a library area, an art area with clay, paper, crayons and glue, an are just for small babies who are not crawling yet, a house and dress up area, an open area for ride on toys, blocks, slides, small climbing gyms and so much more.

I wanted you to see some of the great ways that the staff at Harappa uses cardboard. They have made some incredible creations, and they’re always changing! Here are a few of the things that they’ve made that I hope will inspire those with young children.

I’ve got to find out how they are cutting Japanese cardboard letters with such precision!

Peek-a-boo Wall murals. Hand painted cardboard.

Animal ball toss. They’ve put a rounded piece of cardboard inside so the ball rolls back to you quickly and easily.

My favorite. An amazing “Where Do These Animals Live?” wall puzzle (The pieces are magnetized and everything is hand painted.)

Cardboard Cylinder Walls for hiding small objects in. I didn’t see too many kids playing with this, but I know if we had one of these in our home the girls would absolutely love it.

Even this adorable cardboard lion memo pad and pencil holder!

You can see why we love this place.