- Before sending something to a landfill ... or even before recycling ... can it's life be extended by using it again or in another way?
- Before buying something new, is there something that we already have that can be used?
- If we decide to purchase something, is there a "pre-owned" version available.
I've gotten in the habit of looking at everything before tossing it, either in the trash or the recycle bin. The recycle bin? Yep ... reusing products, when possible, is even better than recycling because the item does not need to be reprocessed before it can be used again. Here are some ideas:
- Cans are perfect for holding all sorts of things. They can be used as pencil holders, vases, art supply containers, and planters.
- Plastic cups and utensils can be washed and reused for picnics, camping or eating around the pool.
- Plastic coffee containers make great planters ... just punch a few holes in the bottom and plant. The containers with a handle are perfect for hanging plants. We're growing habanero peppers in a blue Maxwell House container and it looks great ... and the peppers are thriving.
- Many restaurants use Tupperware-like containers to send food home with patrons. These containers are great for storing leftovers or filling and taking on a picnic or potluck.
- Aluminum foil can be washed and reused.
- Plastic non-dairy creamer containers also make great planters. Hang them upside down, poke holes in the sides and plant things like potatoes or beans ... the vines hang down and become beautiful patio plants with the added benefit of providing something good to eat.
- Plastic lids make great table top protectors for house plants.
- Jars are great for storing homemade sauces or salad dressings. They're also great for storing nuts, bolts and buttons.
- Spice bottles work wonderful for making up your own spice blends or storing summer herbs that have been dried.
- Pill bottles, once thoroughly cleaned, can do double duty holding seeds or small items.
- And talk about extending a life ... cars can be fixed up to run thousands of miles longer. Consider this ... for the price of a new car and the associated insurance, license tabs and emission checks, how many times could an existing car be fixed to extend it's life? In my opinion ... many times.
We keep a container full of things that I just can't toss (surely there's a use for it that I'm not seeing). Later, when I need something, I go to that box in search of something that will work. Nine times out of ten, I find it. For example, in the spring I wanted to get some herbs started in the house. I looked in my box and found containers that originally held store-bought mushrooms. I put a few holes in the bottom and they worked perfectly as herb nurseries.
When we decide to buy something new, we consider "pre-owned" versions before buying "brand new". This works for cars, computers, books, clothing, furniture ... pretty much everything except perishable items. Here are a few places to consider when making your next purchase:
- Thrift stores ... today's thrift stores are stocked with almost new items. With an open mind and a little patience, one can find all kinds of bargains.
- Flea Markets and Garage Sales ... one person's trash is another person's treasure.
- Computer Recycling Stores ... amazing discounts on computers and accessories. They'll also take any computer stuff you want to get rid of, refurbish it and resell it.
- Online ... check out Freecycle, Craigslist, Amazon or Ebay for used items.
- Bulletin boards ... at church, school, the library or your community center.
- Trading parties ... I've read about trading parties cropping up around the country. Basically, a group of friends get together with items that they are tired of and ... they trade. This has especially worked well with clothing (remember trading clothes with your best friend as a kid?).
- The Classifieds ... all kinds of used stuff for sale
- And while it's not "owning" a book, consider the library the next time you want to read something.
I hope that this post got you thinking creatively about how to reuse items in your home. Be watching for part three of this series ... Recycle.As always, I would love to hear your ideas for reducing, reusing and recycling. Just click on the comments link, located at the bottom of each post, and let me know what you think and how you conserve.