“Reduce, reuse, recycle.”
It’s a mantra instilled in most people from a young age. So long as the right bins are around us recycling is easy, and we all like to THINK we do a great job of not giving in to our every consumerist desire. However, for most people the hardest part of this slogan to follow is the ‘reuse’ part. We live in a throwaway culture that glorifies the Starbucks takeaway cup and the single-use shopping bag. We like our commodities cheap, easily accessible, and effortless to dispose of.
This lifestyle may be convenient, but it’s killing our planet.
The Crisis of a Disposable Lifestyle For Our Planet
The trash you toss in your garbage can every day makes a bigger difference than you know. Your tiny bin might not seem like much, but multiplied by the world’s population it makes for a hefty amount of garbage that all needs to go somewhere; usually a landfill. The cost of hauling garbage away from your home in the city to a local landfill is perpetually getting more expensive, and the available land itself is becoming scarcer. Not only is this an enormous waste of time, fossil fuel energy and limited natural resources, the world is truly running out of raw materials. In fact, the U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that the world has fewer than 20 years left for extracting lead tin, and copper, and less than 75 for iron ore. In the face of such dire resource shortages, it’s becoming more important than ever to find ways to keep the goods you already have within the cycle of production.
What Difference Does Reusing Make?
When you choose to reuse what you already own, you help conserve both the materials and fossil fuels it takes to make it as well as the expense of disposing it. Reusing your possessions is a smart step to keep the world’s landfills manageable and combat global warming at the individual level, and it makes you aware of what you already have. Once you get in the habit of reusing some of your daily possessions more than once, you’ll be amazed how much less you actually need to buy.
17 Everyday Items You Can Use More Than Once
There’s a lot you can do to make your daily possessions stretch farther. Below are some tips for reusing common household items you might otherwise toss in the trash.
1. Newspapers, Magazines, and Paper Bags: It’s easy to dump your old paper straight into the recycling, but with a little creativity there are plenty of good uses you can put it to. Paper bags are easy to prop up in cars for use as a trash bag, and can make a handy movable trash can if you’re feeling sick and need a place to stick your tissues. Got some magazines lying around? Turn them into cute woven baskets like these. Newspapers can also work as easy-compostable seed pots for your next backyard gardening project. You can also use newspapers as a cheap form of insulation that work well to keep food frozen while defrosting in the fridge. If you have stack of Christmas cards and no real use for them, you can make dozens of cute holiday themed crafts like the ones pictured here
2. Bottles: Too many pretty wine bottles you don’t know what to do with? You can make cute Bohemian candle holders by letting the wax drip around the sides to create interesting patterns. For another idea, cut the bottoms off the bottles and place candles inside for a neat effect like this. Have a collection of bottle caps instead? Turn them into cute tea lights by filling them with wax. For an extra boost of sustainability, you can fill them with melted crayon wax like the instructions show here.
3. Terracotta Garden Pots: If your pots turn a little worse for wear after a busy gardening season, you can give them new life by breaking them into small shards and using them as decorative garden markers. Use them to label the different vegetables you plant or to outline permanent garden beds; in either case the terracotta accent is sure to add a pleasant appearance to your beds.
4. Buttons: Two cute buttons without a use can make pretty earrings, and a collection of buttons can look cute when glued along the edge of a picture frame or mirror.
5. Cans: The uses for tin cans are limited only by your imagination. An easy way to keep ants and other crawling insects off your table in the summer is to place one can on each table to keep them from crawling up. Art projects for kids are easy when you have cans on hand, as they can be used to keep each paint color separate. You can also make your space in your oven for cooking multiple pies if you stack some of them on clean, empty cans.
6. Coat Hangers: There are lots you can do with old coat hangers, both metal and plastic ones alike. Not only do metal ones provide you with an endlessly useful supply of stiff wire, they also can be used to hang magazines, sunglasses, and even earrings if you add some hooks along the bottom.
7. Door Knobs: When thoroughly washed, old door knobs make perfect pestles for grinding up herbs and spices for your next cooking project.
8. Broken Flip Flops: If you break the straps on your favorite pair of shoes there’s no reason to toss them in the trash. All it takes is a bit of fabric to make your shoes completely cute and useful again. For an extra touch of sustainability, you can use fabric from old t-shirts headed to the dump anyways.
9. Cereal Liner Bags: There are lots of uses that cereal liner bags can be put to if you take the time to clean them out. You can use them as disposable icing bags if you cut a small hole in the corner. They also work well for stacking meat patties or storing homemade bread for freezing. The tough material of cereal bags also makes them great for crushing nuts and crackers with a rolling pin because they are unlikely to poke through the material.
10. Nylon Mesh Vegetable Bags: It turns out there are uses for the netted bags your citrus comes in. You can ball them up for use as scrubbies for all your household items, or fill them with soft items like pieces of yarn and dryer lint. When hung outside, this material is sought after by birds for fluffing up their nests.
11. Toothbrush: When properly sanitized, old toothbrushes have lots of uses for cleaning small, hard to reach spaces like the keys in your keyboard. Mixing one with ammonia and soap is useful for making your silverware sparkle again and polish glass surfaces. Toothbrushes also work great for removing built up crud from the burners on your stove and the mud on your boots.
12. Butter Wrappers: Once the butter has been used up, keep the greased wrappers in a plastic container in the refrigerator and pull them out to grease baking pans before baking.
13. Used Envelopes: If you keep losing your place in your book, cut a corner off a used envelope and slide it over your current page in order to make it keep yourself from getting lost again. Envelopes can also be used to keep seeds safe before your winter planting or for writing lists before you go grocery shopping or run other errands. Because they are slightly thicker than regular paper, many people find them harder to lose.
14. Tissue Boxes: Need a place to keep your plastic grocery bags contained? Empty tissue boxes are superb. These tiny boxes also make great bathroom counter sized trash cans for your old cotton swabs and other used beauty products.
15. Aluminum Foil: Foil doesn’t wear out after just one use, so you can be sure to get several uses about of each piece you tear off. Old foil works great for lining roasting pans and stopping grime from saturating the bottom of your oven. Used foil also works well when wadded up in the toes of boots to help them keep their shape. If you struggle with having too much food stuck on your pots and pans use foil as a scouring pad to clean them off.
16. Plastic Grocery Bags: Endlessly useful for lining small garbage cans, covering paint trays and picking up after your pets, plastic grocery bags are also great for keeping your clothes separate when packing a suitcase or keeping pillows from getting dirty when not in use. For the extra creative, you can cut your bags into small strips and make a plastic yarn (plarn). The process couldn’t be simpler, and it typically yields some surprisingly useful results like purses or welcome mats.
17. Paper Towel Tubes: Tired of your extension cords getting tangled every time you try to take them out of their container? A smarter way to store them is to fold them back and forth carefully before stuffing them into a paper towel tube. This technique also works great for holiday lights and ensures you’ll find them in the exact same condition a year later. Another use for these handy containers is to flatten them out into a sheath for a knife. This is especially useful if you need to travel with it, like for a picnic or camping.
The everyday items in your life are far more useful than you know. With a little creativity, you can find second, third or even infinite uses for the common household objects you normally toss in the trash. Not only will you enjoy the satisfaction of getting to be creative with what’s around, you’ll also help to keep reusable goods out of the world’s already overflowing landfills. It’s a win-win for you and the planet.