In North America we have a very loose concept of what happens to our waste once it leaves our curb. We are lucky to have waste collection, but it also disconnects us from the truth behind the full impact of our wasteful habits. The current generation is growing up learning the importance of recycling and composting, while the focus should be on waste REDUCTION.
Did you know that less than 11 per cent of all plastics are recycled in Canada ? We have to get away from thinking that just because you put something in a special box, that it will be given a second life. The only one who has the power to do that is YOU!
The first step is to really evaluate what we bring into our homes in the first place. The item in its entirety will have to be disposed of later, and what will that look like?
The second step is to breathe a second life into items that we already have around the place, and diverting them from the waste stream. Which is the creative bit that we have some ideas for:
While we are aiming to go plastic free, many of those with a zero waste mindset still end up buying some grocery essentials that are difficult to get container-less. Items like yogurt or cream cheese come in tubs that can easily be reused for storing foods, crafts, etc. We've used them to store leftovers or store little items like paper clips or safety pins. As you see, there's no need to buy specific organizational tubs when you have them already! In light of spring coming, save your plastic "clam shells" after fruits like berries for starting seeds. They make a natural "greenhouse" environment!
Towels do have a usable lifespan in your washroom, before they start looking worn, tired, and stained. However, they are never to be thrown out! From use as cleaning rags, to backseat covers after a muddy game of soccer, or even your own reusable Swiffer cover, towels' absorbency and durability make them a treasure in the field of repurposing.
Here's a bigger spring project for those who don't mind bring out their tool belt. Rather than buy new planters or spend money on a greenhouse, repurpose old windows into cold frames. These are "mini greenhouses" that were traditionally used to help start cool weather crops while protecting them from those fringe frosts and freezes. You can find a tutorial here.
Toilet Paper Rolls
While you might have replaced your papertowels with old cut up towels or maybe UnPaperTowels, you likely have not found an alternative to toilet paper. No fears, however, because the residual roll can be used for all kinds of projects, from organizing cords, protecting garden stems from insects, to making biodegradable pots.
Orange Juice Jugs
Those large plastic jugs can be used in so many different ways. Repurpose them into watering cans for house or outdoor plants, or better yet, turn them into a bird feeder for native species in your backyard. While they are recyclable, the longer you can keep them out of the waste system, the better.
Remember how you used to play with sock puppets as a kid? Well who says that your kids or grand kids can't enjoy them now! Sew on some button eyes, use some fabric scraps to add some pizzazz, or just use fabric markers! You don't even need to sew if you have a glue gun! If you don't have any kids around that would appreciate a puppet, use your lonely socks as dusters! Just slip one on your hand and start wiping away!
Rather than recycle them and just buy new ones, save your current spray bottles for your own DIY uses, be that making your homemade cleaner, an essential oil-based bug spray, misting your plants, or making a natural pesticide for your garden. Why go to the Dollar store and buy one there if you already have a bunch at home? Just remember to take extra precaution when reusing a container that had harsh chemicals in it. Rinse it out repeatedly to ensure that you don't have any traces left that could cause harm.
Cosmetic and Personal Care Containers
Save your containers from old lip balms, face creams, deodorants, and shampoo. These can easily be used for your own DIY projects or refilled at refill stations at some eco shops. They are also great for traveling and filling with just the right amount needed for your adventures, be that a morning at the gym or a week-long trip away.
If you make your cup of joe at home, there's the odd chance that you might be keeping a couple of those big Folgers containers or other coffee tins. While, again recyclable, it's more fun and ecofriendly to give them a new use within your home, from being a "hankie dispenser", to a toy drum for a little one, all it takes is some imagination and a coat of paint. These are big, air tight containers that can have infinite uses at home.
Which project are you most excited to try? Don't forget to comment and share your go-to repurposing projects around the home!