Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Reuse Ideas

February 16, 2009 at 9:55 pm 2 comments

Last week, we talked about how “REDUCE” fits into the lives of “Practically Green” people. This week, let’s look at REUSE. REUSE is both the easiest and the hardest for those of us in the “practically green” lifestyle. We all get the concept of reusing things instead of throwing them away. BUT, so many of the ideas I’ve seen out there are either ridiculous in terms of time to remake the item (crocheting old shopping bags into a new shopping bag comes to mind – I tried it…) OR they are not items we actually WANT to have in our homes or on our persons (using old CD’s as coasters? – or converting a keg into a side table – a little too college dorm for my 50 year old tastes). This entry in my blog is going to be a simple list of great REUSE ideas that you can pick and choose from. I’m going to try to limit myself to items that require NO crafting skills, and insignificant amounts of time or instruction. More complicate ideas will be their own entries.

Reusing things? In OUR throwaway society? WOW! What a concept! How does this work? I touched on one easy idea last week as a part of REDUCING consumption. Shopping bags! In fact, these two concepts (REDUCE and REUSE) can be quite linked together. By reusing things, we are essentially reducing consumption of stuff. I try to think about REUSE as I’ve purchased something to perform some specific task, but instead of throwing it away afterward, I find another use for that thing. It’s all about reducing the amount of stuff getting sent to the landfill.

My mother was a small girl in Oklahoma during the depression. She remembers not having enough to eat every day and having to wear hand-me-downs from her older sister until almost the start of World War II. When I was growing up, she would make my lunch every day, I was expected to bring home the tin foil, and the paper bag for reuse until they were just too nasty. I was frequently picked on for this habit. Little did we know that my mom was just WAY ahead of her time when it comes to conserving resources. It turns out those little money saving tricks ALSO conserve precious resources.

Here’s my list. Feel free to add your own in the comments:

  • Margarine, sour cream or cottage cheese tubs for food storage. Need I say more? Do check the seal for the lid and make sure the plastic is microware safe before reheating your soup.
  • Water bottles refilled from the tap With Caution, most of those bottles are not intended to be refilled. I suggest only doing this for ONE day. Toss the bottle at the end of the day. BETTER IDEA: buy those bottles for your bike and fill them with filtered water. They can be washed and reused 100’s of times.
  • Shopping bags bad idea – except as small trash can liners or when you go to the grocery store. Frankly, almost all of the ideas I’ve seen look like you’re trying to use up shopping bags. If you’ve accumulated too many, take them to your nearest megamart, they almost always have a recycle bin for these. PLEASE don’t just throw them away. Bad for all kinds of wildlife when they start blowing around at the landfill.
  • Coffee mug I have so many coffee mugs. While I can give them to a second hand store, I suspect they don’t sell well. I think it’s better to find uses around the house. Let’s see: As a pencil holder on my desk (both at work and at home), as a small vase – especially the interesting ones. As a candy holder – potentially for a cute gift for those silly occasions where a small gift is needed.
  • Old tote bags and purses I’m talking about the ones that are a little too frayed for office or travel use here, not the ones the dog ate. One bag has become my garden equipment stash. Makes it easier to have all those little tools handy. Another is my mobile “to-do” paper stash. Has recipes, magazines, print-outs, etc that I need to look over and think about. Keep one in the car with car stuff that doesn’t fit in the glove box.
  • Print on BOTH sides of the paper We were astounded to discover that our run of the mill laser-jet printer could actually print on BOTH sides of the paper as a default. Turns out that many of them can. Look for “duplex” in the settings. 99% of the time, we can print stuff on both sides.
  • Paper towel cores – OK, I do have one or two uses that don’t entail turning these into Christmas decorations. I keep my silicone baking mat rolled up inside one these and stashed with my baking stuff. Also, during my big baking season (Christmas cookies, anyone?) I’ll stash parchment paper in a paper towel tube. (see the next entry)
  • Parchment paper – It can be reused 3-4 times before it gets too brittle and tears. Stumbled across this when I ran out and didn’t want to run to the store in the middle of my baking spree.
  • Shredded paper. Packing material. Skip the styro peanuts. It also works as mulch, but looks a bit strange on the plants…
  • Styro peanuts – Speaking of which… Most mailing and shipping places will take them from you instead of sending them to the landfill. OR, use them instead of rocks in the bottoms of your planters. They weigh a lot less and make the plant easier to move. Do test if your peanuts are Styrofoam or the new cornstarch based babies. Just run one under some water. If it disintegrates, you have cornstarch peanuts – put them in your compost pile or out in your garden and they’ll melt away.
  • Newspaper. Yes, it is recyclable, but far better to reuse it instead. Save newspapers if you are anticipating moving or storing breakables. The stuff the moving companies use is just “virgin” newsprint. Polish glass windows with it. Mom used to make me do this as a kid. Still works today.

Got some more ideas? Add a comment. We’ll test it and if it works well, add it!


Entry filed under: Basics, Uncategorized. Tags: , .

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  • 1. Kippy  |  June 15, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    I work in a school, and our art teacher takes all the newspapers and flattened cardboard box covers I give her. Our local animal shelter also likes to get old newspapers (and usable old towels).

    • 2. margaretharding  |  June 15, 2009 at 9:09 pm

      Great ideas! I love helping out dogs and cats in need.

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