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Remark Glass: Raise Your Glass to Zero Waste

If you rinse every glass jar and bottle before placing it in your recycling bin, we have some bad news. Only 33% of that glass is actually recycled. The rest ends up in landfills. Now for the good news. Sister companies, Remark Glass and Bottle Underground, are determined to close the loop and make Philly a national leader in recycled glass.

Repurposing


Founded in 2016 by three talented glass artists, Remark Glass doesn’t just recycle glass, they repurpose it. In their studio in the Bok Building in South Philly, co-founders Danielle Ruttenberg, Rebecca Davies, and Mark Ellis, turn used bottles into stunning light fixtures, barware, dinnerware, and decorative bowls. “One of our top selling items is Keepsake Glass, commemorative bottles from a graduation, wedding, or anniversary that we turn into a serving bowl or a light fixture,” said Danielle who graduated from Tyler School of Art and previously operated a glass art business in Port Richmond. “We also work in our showroom with designers on light fixtures for homes and restaurants. Forin Café which is scheduled to open in June in Fishtown is buying recycled glassware from us,” she said. Their one-of-a-kind housewares also make a great housewarming gift for a new homeowner. Shop the available selection on their online shop or consider a custom project.

Recycling


As the first business in Philadelphia to be certified zero waste, Remark came up with a unique concept to bypass the shortcomings of the City’s glass recycling system. They created Bottle Underground, the non-profit arm of Remark, which offers an environmentally sustainable alternative to dumping used glass in landfills. “Bottle Underground offers pick-up service,” said Danielle. “We supply you with a bin to collect your glass. We just ask that you make sure all your glass is rinsed and there is no residue. You can leave the labels on. We take care of that. Once a month we will pick up your glass and return your empty bin.” There is a charge for the monthly pick-up service. “We are trying to make this as affordable as possible on a sliding scale for restaurants and corporations,” said Danielle. “We also welcome one-time drop-offs of clean, used, unbroken glass
bottles at our headquarters in the Bok Building. Just call in advance to schedule your delivery,” said Danielle.
“We accept any clean glass container and anything that has a reusable lid. We love Champagne bottles because the glass is thicker. We also look for blue glass and specialty colors,” she said.

A piece of glass being shaped into a new item. Image courtesy of Remark Glass.

Turning bottles into art


“Prepared pieces are placed in our kiln and heated to 1050 degrees Fahrenheit – this is considered warm in glass – the temperature is stable and the glass is still in its solid-state. From there, our team picks up the pieces, one at a time, on the end of a steel rod. The glass is rotated and heated in a 2000-degree reheating chamber, then tools are used at the bench to transform the material to its new shape,” explained Danielle. “Once the final shape is achieved, our team knocks the piece off the rod, stamps it with our logo, and carefully places it back into the kiln.” Co-founder Mark Ellis studied glass at the Tyler School of Art and worked in high-end glass and metal fabrication for over a decade. At Remark, he specializes in glass blowing and metal fabrication. Rebecca Davies, Mark’s wife, received an MFA at the University of the Arts, then worked at a blown glass lighting company. “We all pitch in,” said Danielle. “We have eight employees and everyone does their part to achieve our mutual goal. To build a better future and support the overall well-being of their community”. Remark Glass also strives to support the local economy by working with local businesses that share the same values.


Danielle Ruttenberg, Mark Ellis, and Rebecca Davies pose for a picture with glass bottles. Image courtesy of Remark Glass.

So, as Summer officially opens with coolers filled with beer and wine, think twice before tossing those bottles and consider dropping them off to Bottle Underground for reuse by Remark Glass instead. Reducing waste by composting food scraps, recycling what you can, and repurposing glass containers can help Philly achieve its zero-waste goal.

Interested. in learning other ways you can help reduce your environmental footprint? Check out our article on Four Ways to Minimize your Waste Footprint in Philadelphia or our list on 5 Things Philly Renters can do for the Environment.

Solo Tenant Launches Zero Waste Start-Up

When Solo Real Estate tenant Leslie Davidson first saw her apartment in the historic Rittenhouse area in 2018, she was struck by the quality of light. “It was one of five apartments Solo had shown me and I knew it was the one,” she said. “It was in a brownstone with large bay windows, hardwood floors, and a great layout,” she said.  Her cats also approved.

The year before, Leslie had received a breast cancer diagnosis and gone through a romantic breakup that left her yearning for a living space that would support her personal and professional goals.

“I grew up in Ambler and returned to Philadelphia after studying fashion design and merchandising in LA. Although I had been a stylist for Michael Kors on the West Coast, I was open to a career change,” she said. Leslie took several jobs, including working as an office manager for a gardening company and teaching dance to children. 

She was gearing up for another career move when the pandemic hit and the job market dried up. As a cancer survivor, Leslie had to shelter-in-place and return to what she knew best. Using her design skills, she launched Made by Lad, an accessories company, from her dining room. Even though her apartment is considered a one-bedroom, the inclusion of a dining room provided ample space to set up her sewing machine.  Her first product was facemasks for adults and children. 

Leslie Davidson from Made by LAD works on sewing a face mask in her dining room.

What distinguishes Made by LAD facemasks from all contenders is their fuller cut and elastic under the chin which allows the wearer to talk without the mask falling or moving. Unlike most facemasks which loop around the ears, Leslie’s loop around the head, so there is none of that uncomfortable tugging on the ears.

“I came up with the design after a lot of experimentation,” she said. “My grandfather was having a lot of trouble wearing his facemask, so I designed one that would be easier to wear.” Her face masks are two-ply with a filter for extra safety. They come in solid colors, two-tone and tie-dyed. (Kids love the tie-dye option.) Adjustable elastic toggles are sold separately.

A couple wears Made by LAD face masks in a park.

Made By LAD became official in May 2020 after Leslie received an overwhelmingly positive response to the masks she was making for friends and family who said they “fit perfectly” and “made them feel safe.” She initially started the business as a way to bring in extra income to pay off her medical bills acquired from her breast cancer diagnosis, but as orders kept rolling in with no end to the pandemic in sight, she was encouraged to pursue the venture full time, so she took a leap of faith and decided to self-fund her new business.

Leslie Davidson from Made by LAD works from her dining room table while her cat oversees.

Leslie’s products not only look good, they do good. Using locally sourced, 100% natural fibers that produce zero waste, Leslie tie-dyes them in her kitchen and sews them on her dining room table. With her background in business management and a passion for sustainability and helping others, she has developed a brand that aims to not only give back to the community but encourages customers to consider the environment by using almost all biodegradable materials, from the merchandise down to the packaging.

A child looks up while wearing a Made by LAD facemask.

“The face masks are made from undyed muslin which I buy at Fleishman’s on South Fourth Street,” she said. Her facemask motto? “Masks that don’t move when you talk!” She also offers customized facemasks with monograms and embroidered messages, including, “Black Lives Matter” and “6Ft Please.”

Relying solely on her Instagram account and Made by LAD website, Leslie expanded her product line to include hair and winter accessories: oversized scrunchies, men’s and women’s hats, headbands, ear-warmers, and scarves. Hats, scarves, headbands, and ear-warmers are made from soft, thick, reversible, dead-stock cotton knit. Her most timely accessory? An embroidered “Vaccinated” status badge, perfect to sew onto a denim jacket or the back pocket of jeans.

Leslie Davidson wears her "Vaccinated" badge.

Leslie hopes to continue to grow her business long after masks are needed. Her goal is to create a sustainable athleisure brand that is able to give back to the community by continuing to purchase materials from small, local businesses and donate proceeds to communities in need whenever possible. 

For a limited time, Leslie is offering a discount code on her website for Solo friends and family. Visit Madebylad.com and use code SOLO215 for 15% off your purchase!

Composting 101

Your food is natural and organic. You drive a hybrid car. So why is your garbage ending up in landfills, contributing to climate change? Perhaps you think composting is only for people who have yards large enough to grow veggies. Maybe your only plant is a cactus. Whatever your hesitation, we have tips on becoming part of Philly’s robust compost community and helping our City reach its zero waste goal.

The Basics

To start, you need a metal, plastic, or ceramic container to keep in your kitchen in which to collect organic waste. This includes eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, rice, pasta, bread, other grains, fruits, and vegetables without oil, butter, or salad dressing. It cannot contain meat, bones, grease, fats, oils, dairy products, ashes from charcoal barbeques or fireplaces, pet waste.

You will also need a compost bin system to keep outdoors. The City of Philadelphia provides a Backyard Composting Guide which explains the three types of bins available. They all work the same way, turning organic waste into compost through a chemical process. 

Composting is about layering “green” materials and “brown” materials. Green material includes Food scraps, fresh leaves, plant cuttings, weeds, grass clippings fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, and tea bags. Brown material includes Dead weeds, dry leaves, clipped brush, wood chips, eggshells, and paper products.  Each time you add new green material to your bin, cover it with a layer of fresh brown materials to avoid odors and pests

Compost needs airflow. If you’re using a two or three bin system, use a pitchfork to turn the compost every 3-5 days. Turn the pile frequently during the initial three to four weeks and once or twice during the remainder of the composting period. Once the compost is mostly broken down, it can be moved to your second bin and you can start over in the first. If using a tumbler, just turn it once every few days. 

A typical compost pile will take approximately three to four months to decompose. It’s “done” when it is no longer hot in the center, crumbles when squeezed, and smells like fresh dirt.

Community Garden Composting

Philadelphia has 400 community gardens, always looking for new members to get involved in composting. You don’t even need to live in the neighborhood. An affiliate of Neighborhood Gardens Trust, Old Tennis Court Farm, at 5407 Wissahickon Avenue in Germantown, has 63 members, several coming from as far away as Center City and South Philly. 

Margaret Lea at Old Tennis Court Farm. Photo: Rob Smith

“We do a lot of onsite composting and have constructed eleven composting stations,” said Mark Kearney who has been an active member since 2013. “Initially, we used household waste, but soon found it was attracting groundhogs, raccoons, and rats. We now only use material that is generated in the garden.”

With 49 gardening plots measuring 12 x 12 feet, managing the compost at this community garden takes a lot of manpower. “It’s a constant process of turning and moving the materials until they are ready to be mixed with the soil,” said Kearney. But it’s worth it. This one community garden yields abundant fresh vegetables to its members and those in need. “We take between 35 and 75 pounds of fresh organic vegetables per week to the Whosoever Gospel Mission in Germantown and to SHARE,” Kearney said.

Be a good neighbor

Philly residents without access to backyards or community gardens can have their compost recycled by Bennett Compost. They pick up compost from nearly 4,000 Philadelphia households and businesses every week, keeping over 70 tons of material out of the landfill every month. Once a year, they offer up to 10 gallons of free compost to customers. 

Bennett Compost provides five-gallon compost buckets with air-tight lids and picks them up on a weekly basis, leaving you with a fresh bucket.  In keeping with Solo Real Estate’s commitment to sustainability, we recently partnered with Bennett Compost to offer tenants and owners in over 400 properties a trial offer with two free months of compost pick-up service. Not a Solo tenant? You can still take advantage of Bennett’s free one month trial by signing up on their website.

Other residential compost services in Philly and nearby include Circle Compost (Philadelphia), Mother Compost (Main Line), and Kona Compost (Bucks County).

Additional Resources

Interested. in learning other ways you can help reduce your environmental footprint? Check out our article on Four Ways to Minimize your Waste Footprint in Philadelphia or our list on 5 Things Philly Renters can do for the Environment. If you’re a Solo tenant or owner and want to sign up for the trial offer from Bennett Compost, please e-mail us!