A 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.
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?