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10 Household Items You Can Reuse Before Tossing

by Tiffany in A Green Home, Recycle

10-household-items-you-can-reuse-before-tossingA big part of green living that gets overlooked in favor of recycling is the simple concept of reusing. Yet the slogan is Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The first step in greener living is to reduce the amount of stuff we buy and consume in the first place. The second is to find clever ways to make those initial items last longer or find new uses for them.. aka reusing them. Then AFTER those first two steps we try to find a way to recycle the things we can’t use any longer. Here are ten things you can reuse or recycle on a small scale before you toss them out:

1. Junk mail – Instead of tossing the junk mail in the recycling bin see if you can use it first. Envelopes can be used as paper for grocery lists and to-do lists. They can also be cut up and used for notes (in lieu of post-its) or for children’s craft projects. My oldest son loves to collect junk mail to make homemade recycled paper. We also use empty envelopes as bookmarks.

2. Cardboard egg cartons – These can be saved to plant seedlings in during the spring or to grow herbs in your kitchen any time of year. You can also buy wooden play eggs for your kids and use a real carton to store them in. Plastic, wool, or wood Easter eggs can be stored in egg cartons to keep them neat and organized. They can also be used as fire starters for camping… just fill the holes in with dry brush or dryer lint and use to get your campfire going.

3. Foam packing peanuts and bubble wrap – Whenever you get these in the mail add them to your Christmas/holiday storage boxes to protect breakables. Bubble wrap can also be used to insulate windows in the winter.

4. Newspaper – Save for messy craft projects, painting, lining kitty litter boxes and trash cans, or even donating to local pet stores or animal shelters who use them for bedding.

5. Plastic milk jugs – These can be cut and used for scooping pet food quite well. We used to use them for scooping grain for horses each night. They are also excellent for draining fish tanks and then using the water to feed plants (who LOVE fishy water). Cut the top off and use to collect kitchen scraps that you will eventually take out to the compost pile. Use them as cloches to protect seedlings in the spring.

6. Worn sheets/Towels – Cut them up and use for cleaning rags and for craft projects. A sheet and towel combo is perfect for making a homemade dish drying mat like this one I made this year from a project I saw in Handmade Home.

Dish Rack Towel inspired by Handmade Home

7. Used gift wrapping paper – Instead of tossing the paper see what you can salvage for scrapbooking and crafting. You may even have some pieces large enough to reuse for smaller gifts. You can also glue pieces to card stock and make your own greeting cards and thank you cards. Using the paper that was used to wrap your gift in the card you send to say thank you, is a nice touch.

8. Reuse glass jars – Your spaghetti sauce or jam jar has more than one use from Vodoo jars at Halloween to a hanging lantern for summer nights. See 10 Ways to Reuse a Glass Jar and 10 MORE Ways to Reuse Glass Jars.

9. Beer bottle caps – If your laundry is anything like mine, then you find a steady supply of these in the husband’s jeans. Glue and magnets from the craft store will turn these into magnets for your refrigerator. For plastic bottle caps check out Bottle Cap Activities : Recycled Crafts for All Ages.

10. Plastic bottles – If you buy plastic shampoo or lotion bottles these can be kept to hold homemade cleaner such as vinegar and water. Most have tops that allow for accurate squirting so why buy new spray bottles when you can reuse your shampoo bottles?

What creative ways have you found to reuse what might otherwise get tossed in the garbage?

  • We reuse scoops from coffee and laundry detergent. While I hate that we have that waste and we buy as large packaging as we’re able, we have them. I try to buy detergent in cardboard boxes (powder) rather than plastic containers, and then we keep those scoops for birdseed, bath toys etc. Coffee scoops are handy in countless other containers around the house (sugar, flour etc.)

    We also use mason jars for just about everything – we buy a pasta sauce that comes in a mason jar, and then reuse them everywhere – drinking glasses, storage for pens and pencils, spare change and tools like pliers, garden shears and scissors etc. If needed, we can even buy just mason jar lids to use to repackage food in them.

    Great blog post!

  • We reuse our egg cartons for their original purpose. They get handed down to my sister who has backyard chickens. We give her more cartons than we get back filled with eggs because we don’t see her much, but it makes it easy for her to give eggs away to those she lives closer to who don’t return cartons.

  • Using mason jars reminded me of something I do.

    I am notorious for losing rubbermaid container tops, especially the round ones for some reason (mystery!). I use the tall, round ones as big drinking cups. Like at bedtime to keep a ‘Big Gulp’ of water with me! :D

    Also, buying the meat that comes in the Glad containers keeps me from having to buy more containers!

    Use the empty paper towel and toilet paper rolls for their myriad of uses from crafts to planting as well.

  • cry

    Will be buying that book and thanks for all the ideas.
    We always have wine bottles and I HATE THROWING then away.
    Any suggestions?

  • andiscandis

    We have a rag bag for all of our worn-out clothing and linens (stuff too bad for Goodwill). Sheets get used as painting drop-cloths, towels get used for car washing, and clothes are used on the rare occasions when I clean the house. You can dust quite a bit of furniture with an old, holey sock. When the sock is completely covered in dust, THEN I’ll throw it away. :-)

  • Joanne

    I never thought to use the beer bottle tops for magnets. I think that is an awesome idea. My kids always have something to put on the fridge and I get tired of wasting money on magnets for them :) Great post!

  • Katherine

    Egg cartons make great paint-pots for fingerpaints, too! i LOVE them!!

  • Heidi

    Great idea with the junk mail. I throw away so much junk mail in a week it’s ridiculous. My kids will love making these into a craft.

  • Organic Janet

    Great post! So true that the Reuse notion doesn’t get its fair share of the limelight. I re-use clear plastic containers that food comes in and sturdy junk mail (for scooping and holding over the top of the container) to create a house-wide “Bug Rescue” program. (We try to avoid killing any insects). And with clear containers, you get to observe the fascinating creatures up close before they’re released into the wild.

  • I use a plastic milk jug to water plants with.
    Thanks for the great ideas.

  • We use sale papers that come as junk mail as wrapping paper.

    We have just begun to cut the corners off of junk mail envelopes (and other envelopes, actually) to make corner bookmarks. They are AWESOME! If you do a search on corner bookmarks you’ll find all kinds of fun ideas! It’s always fun to send a decorated one to a friend or grandparent, etc., as a pick-me-up with a letter of love. ~smile~ I like useful! (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  • Wendy

    I love these ideas.
    Our old blankets and towels either get used for our own pets or they go to the local shelter.

    I used to get so many free AOL CD’s and we also had neighbors that never wanted theirs so…I drilled holes in over 200 of them. I then sewed them on a large mans long sleeve black shirt. We wrapped 2 pillows around my daughter, put glitter in her hair and face, then put the shirt on her. Yes, she was a disco ball for Halloween. We then passed the shirt to a friend and they passed the next year. I have no idea how long it lasted or how many disco balls have went trick or treating.

    My MIL uses old CD’s to hang in her garden to help keep birds and deer away.

  • Jaimee

    I also use my egg cartons for tree ornaments. They work great for the small glass balls or all the little one’s that aren’t perfectly shaped but we don’t want tangled. This way, I can also leave the hooks right in them.

  • Lydia Ramos

    I resuse box cheese boxes (velvetta ect.) to organize clutter drawers, they fit nice side by side works great! I also use shoe boxes to organize clothes drawers, for underwear, socks and such this works very well.

  • jem

    Well, I won’t be collecting any beer bottle caps.

    Great ideas, one more to add for the newspaper, egg cartons and junk mail, and dryer lint……..make your own fire starters.   Chop up newspapers with a scissors.  Put some dryer line and paper shreds into egg cartons and drizzle with old candle wax.   Tear off each section to start a fire……..

  • I am going to reuse the clear, square shampoo bottles from bath and body works for salad dressing. I know, sounds gross, but the labels come off – and you clean them really really well, put vinegar in for a bit to remove the smell, then use for home made salad dressing.