Gallon-size plastic jugs are recyclable, but reusing them as many times as possible before consigning them to the recycling bin further reduces the amount of energy and raw materials needed to produce new jugs and containers. Reuse gallon jugs that contained milk, juice or other safe, nontoxic liquids, but discard containers that held motor oil, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer or other toxic ingredients. Always ...
From takeout food to office parties, plastic utensils are everywhere. Like many plastics, however, they're easier to use than they are to recycle. It's tempting to wash and reuse your plastic utensils at home, but it's not recommended: They're designed to be used once only and may degrade with repeated washing and reuse. Ultimately, replacing disposable plastic cutlery with reusable utensils is a better option.
Most pots and pans are made to last for years, but every once in a while, a pot may develop a hole, a baking pan may become rusty or a lid may be missing a pot. Because it is likely that such quality issues will happen to only one pot or pan at a time, it is very tempting to just toss it out. Rather than add to overflowing landfills, reuse pots and pans for home decor items.
Restaurant workers regularly filter and reuse the oil in the deep fryer, and home cooks can recycle cooking oil, too. After its initial use, cooking oil can be refrigerated or frozen and reused for another six hours of cooking (see References 2). Don't reuse cooking oil if it smells rancid or you can't heat it without smoke developing, as this indicates significant deterioration (see References 1 and 4).
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Plastic bags are everywhere: In 2002 alone, nearly five trillion of them were produced worldwide. They're so common, it almost seems like they grow on trees. However, the truth is that most of them are actually refined from crude oil and natural gas. They aren't biodegradable, and if they should escape from custody on the way to the landfill, it's all too easy for the wind to blow them somewhere they shouldn't be. For instance, plastic bags clog waterways and can choke wildlife. (See References 1, page 25) With that in mind, it's a good idea to find ways to reuse them.
Water is considered a renewable resource, not because we are able to make more, but because in most cases we can clean it for reuse. Depending on how the contaminated water is processed, it might not be pure enough for drinking, but there are several other ways in which it is reused.
Widespread and severe drought conditions may become a fact of life in the United States and in many other heavily populated regions of the world within 30 years, according to a study sponsored by the National Science Foundation (see References 1). Faced with the possibility of limited freshwater supplies, many organizations and individuals are making changes now. Wastewater reuse is one way to reduce consumption of fresh, potable water.
Plastic soap containers are sturdy and the squirt tops or pumps make them convenient to use around your home. Rather than tossing the container into a recycle bin, consider other ways to reuse the container in your home. Once emptied, refill liquid soap containers with soap or other liquids. Make it a personal goal to keep plastic out of the landfill.
It's a shame when a good candle burns out --- especially when there's plenty of wax left behind. Fortunately, you don't have to throw out the candle just because the wick is gone. The candle wax itself is completely reusable, and will burn just as well after being melted and re-formed. Making candles can be a fun and creative project for kids and grown-ups, and it's an environmentally friendly craft that helps you make more with less.
At first glance, burlap might seem like dull and scratchy fabric, but its durability makes it useful for a variety of projects. To eliminate the coffee smell, wash burlap coffee bean bags in warm water and air-dry before use. Turn the bags inside out for a blank decorating canvas, or display the product label as an element of your finished craft.
One of the easiest plastic containers to reuse, 5-gallon buckets are made with high-density polyethylene for strength and durability. Some come with airtight lids, metal bails, reinforced plastic rims or pour spouts to transfer liquids. All of these features are desirable for storing, organizing, cleaning, gardening and composting. Reusing the buckets ensures that fewer solid wastes pile up in a landfill. In 2009, Americans recycled and composted 82 million tons of municipal solid waste, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This saved 178 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere (see References 3). Both reusing items and composting are simple ways to reduce residential solid waste generation for your household.
Passing a sweater down the line among siblings effectively reuses it, but there comes a time when no one wants to wear it anymore. The easy process of felting transforms old wool sweaters into a material to use for projects ranging from appliques to placemats. If you're wondering what to do with a themed sweater, give an old pillow a new look for the holidays.
Although many plastics are safe to reuse, some contain components that may be harmful to humans and the environment. Certain plastics can leach harmful chemicals over time, especially if the user exposes the materials to heat (see References 1). These plastics are easy to pick out by their resin identification codes, the numbers that appear in the middle of the recycling symbol -- three arrows that form a triangle -- imprinted on most plastic containers.
Old window frames with the glass intact can be bulky and take up lots of storage space, so you may be tempted to throw them out. However, they can be useful as cold frames for protecting and nurturing young seedlings by capturing solar energy or for preserving your garden harvest as a solar dehydrator. Reusing old window frames to create passive solar collectors is an easy task for the handy homeowner.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, over 6 million tons of wood waste was created in 2003, accounting for the largest portion of the residential waste stream into the nation's landfills. You can help reduce this amount by reusing wood instead of disposing of it. Since hardwood flooring is basically boards of lumber, the wood can be reused in all kinds of projects once it is pulled from its location. If you have a wood floor that is old or partially damaged, or you simply want something else, don't cover it up or throw it away.
Pasta sauce is a common pantry item; if you frequently buy it, you may have quite a large collection of glass jars. Before you find new uses for all of your jars, you should consider recycling some of them. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 90 percent of the glass that is sent to recycling centers is used to make new containers, and overall, there is a large market for postconsumer glass (see References 3). Whatever you don't recycle you can easily repurpose, as pasta jars can serve as versatile containers.
Finding ways to reuse items in your home is one way to keep waste out of landfills and save energy. The Reuse Development Organization (ReDO) says that reusing items rather than throwing them away or even recycling them is beneficial to the environment because it requires less energy than collecting and processing recyclables and trash (see References 1). Make it a family project to see how many items in your home you can keep out of the landfill.
Plastic mesh bath puffs may be great at exfoliating and cleansing your skin, but they also create a lot of waste when thrown in the garbage. Since many bath puffs are cheaply made, they begin to unravel after a short period of time or when put in the laundry. Instead of tossing that bath puff, you can come up with crafty and creative ways to give it a new life. Wash and dry the puff before turning it into a project.
Soil may not be the most exciting part of one's gardening endeavors; however, well-tended soil ensures healthier plants and fewer weeds. Garden pests such as harmful nematodes, insects, weed seeds and seedlings often lurk in soil from season to season. Home gardeners can take advantage of the sun's natural energy to keep these challenges in check. Soil solarization is a non-chemical means of controlling these pests both in container gardens and standard garden beds. Solarization is accomplished by covering soil with clear plastic sheeting which capture's the sun's radiant energy. This, in turn, brings the soil to a high enough temperature to kill pests. (See Reference 1, Page 3)
Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (SMART) classifies used clothing that's discarded as post-consumer waste (see Reference 1). While proponents of sustainable or green living urge consumers to repurpose their unwanted clothing, you might wonder how to do that with something like an old flower girl dress. Rather than adding to the 13.1 million tons of textiles dumped in landfills, you can turn your old flower girl dress into a keepsake and doll clothing (see Reference 3).
Of the 13.1 million tons of textiles generated in 2010, only 15 percent, or 2 million tons, were recovered for reuse, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (See Reference 1) Those old dance tights you're about to throw away can be repurposed into other useful household items. Recycling dance tights for other uses extends their lifecycle, allowing them to become a part of your efforts toward green living instead of harming the environment. (See Reference 2)
Removing the baseboard that sits along the bottom of the wall can be useful for painting the baseboard or performing maintenance on the floor. Removing baseboard is also a necessary task when you're installing new floors. Unless the baseboard is cracked or otherwise damaged, you can reuse the boards once the maintenance is complete. But to do this, the baseboard and the wall must not be damaged during the removal process. Carefully removing baseboard will allow you to reuse the undamaged boards.
Activities using substances that can be manipulated help prepare small fingers for tasks such as holding a pencil and writing a name. Children can play with dough to help strengthen the fine-motor muscles of the fingers and hands (see Reference 1). But you should select the type of clay or play dough your child uses with care. Safe choices are homemade recipes, those made with beeswax, and those that do not contain polyvinyl chloride or polymers to keep the dough pliable. When safe-to-use play dough hardens, you can revive it or turn it into decorative paperweights instead of throwing it away.
When canning and pickling at home, safety should always be your first concern. Using well-tested recipes, the proper processing type and time and sterile equipment means your finished product can sit on your pantry shelf safely for a long time. The initial start-up costs for canning and pickling may seem pretty high, and you may be tempted to cut costs by reusing lids. However, not all lids are reusable, and reusing the wrong type of lid can lead to bacterial growth and spoilage.
Satellite dishes are common in the modern landscape, so with technological advances requiring frequent equipment updates, the numbers of older dishes taking up valuable landfill space rises. Recycling is critical, and in some states, like Connecticut, it is even the law. (See References 1) You can recycle your satellite dish for scrap metal, return it to the maker for refurbishment, or keep it out of the landfill by "upcycling" the dish in creative ways. (See References 2)
Using a wall anchor requires you to drill a pilot hole in the wall, tap the wall anchor into the hole with a light hammer and then drive a screw into the anchor. Driving the screw into the anchor stretches the plastic so it can't be reused. However, if you purchase reusable anchors or take certain steps during your project, you might be able to salvage the anchors (see Reference 1). In some areas, old plastic wall anchors can be recycled (see Reference 2).
Crock-Pots and other slow cookers are great time savers for harried cooks. Most recipes involve minimal preparation, just a few minutes spent cutting and peeling the meats or vegetables. After that the meal can be left to gently cook for hours, filling the kitchen with savory aromas. The cookers often consume less power than other appliances, making them an environmentally sound choice. This is especially true if you reduce food waste by reusing the remnants from the pot.
An old comforter that has a stain or a tear on it does not need to head to the landfill. With a pair of scissors and some creativity, you can re-use or repurpose that comforter into another useful household object or even into several objects. Make use of the filling inside the comforter as well as the exterior fabric.
The US Environmental Protection Agency states that Americans produced nearly 250 million tons of municipal solid waste over the course of 2010 and recycled merely 34.1 percent of it, or 85 million tons (See Reference 1). If your old chairs are no longer useful to you, consider repurposing them as a greener alternative to throwing them away (See Reference 2). Use your creative ingenuity to give old chairs a new use or purpose. In doing so you can spare the environment the additional municipal solid waste.
When you’re on the go, a piping-hot coffee cup can really detract from the enjoyment of your daily brew. Enter the coffee sleeve, which is traditionally a piece of corrugated cardboard that absorbs your coffee’s heat, protecting your fingers from feeling the burn. Before you throw away your coffee sleeve, however, consider saving it and giving it a new life. From a new wreath to a gift tag for the next gift you give, your coffee sleeve has a place beyond your trash.
You've logged many lap miles in your faithful bathing suit, and spent hours lounging by the lake, soaking up the sun. Perhaps its material is too faded or worn, or it has a few holes, making donation as a wearable swimsuit an unattractive option. This doesn't mean it's time to dump your old suit. Reuse your bathing suit fabric in creative ways, giving new life to the old material and keeping it out of the landfill.
Old hubcaps sometimes find a home on the wheels of vintage cars. But creative recyclers also transform them into decorative garden accessories, holiday decorations, sculptures and "metal canvases." The first hubcaps were tiny cups that fit over wheel hubs, protecting lubricants from dirt. Over time they became as large as plates and served a primarily decorative purpose. Notorious for popping off wheels unexpectedly, hubcaps often are found on roadsides, where they rust until reclaimed for a new life.
Crockpots are kitchen time-savers that often contain heavy ceramic inserts. When they quit working, however, those interior pots often get thrown out along with the faulty wiring and useless plastic bits. Not only does this practice add more refuse to the landfill, it wastes a sturdy and often lovely pot that can be reused in numerous ways.
The kimono -- a traditional Japanese garment -- is made from one single bolt containing 12 1/2 yards of silk fabric (see Reference 1). These high-quality fabrics are made with colorful designs and intricately stitched patterns. In 2010, Americans discarded 21 million tons of textiles (see Reference 2). Rather than toss out unused kimono fabric or throw away a kimono that's never been worn, you can reuse the fabric to give it new life and purpose.
In 2010, the disposal of items containing fabric, rubber or leather contributed to more than 20 million tons of solid waste in America, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (See Reference 1) Items such as dyed satin shoes often have limited use because the shoe color is made to match attire for specific occasion. Because the satin shoe dye contains chemical components such as fixatives made from heavy metals, it can affect wildlife as it is washed into the soil and water systems. (See Reference 2) Rather than throw away your unwanted dyed satin shoes you can recycle them by giving them a new use.
Americans throw away 49 million tons of durable goods annually, including furniture, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (See Reference 1, Page 6) This represents about one-fifth of municipal solid waste generated across the country. Instead of tossing old furniture in the trash, repurpose it for another function. Maybe you recently bought a flat-screen TV, and no longer need a bulky piece of furniture to store your entertainment set-up; the top section of an armoire can be remodeled for other uses in your home.
The Environmental Protection Agency reports that in 2010, Americans discarded 2.7 million tons of aluminum, mostly in the form of beverage containers like beer cans. (See Reference 1) A home draft pouring system can reduce your beer can consumption, but you'll need to replace parts for the home draft regularly to get the most use from the device.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 16 million tons of the solid waste produced by Americans in 2010 was created by the disposal of wood items (See Reference 1). Wood naturally decomposes, making it biodegradable. But the problem with tossing out your wood items, such as vegetable crates, is that many are treated with chemical-based stains, paints and preservatives before they're made available to consumers. You can do your part to prevent these chemicals from being introduced into the soil by reusing vegetable crates for storage throughout the house.
Unraveling knitted sweaters and reusing yarn was common during the Great Depression. But this frugal practice is as old as the craft of knitting, which was invented some time before the 11th century. Until the Industrial Revolution, the time-consuming work of hand spinning was the only way to create yarn. Out of necessity, knitters repeatedly unraveled and reworked knit clothing. (See References 1) Now yarn recycling is becoming a popular, ecofriendly hobby.
Granite's attractive appearance and relative hardness make it a versatile building material, suitable for both structural and decorative use. It can readily be cut to almost any size and shape, and it's available in a wide range of colors to suit most homeowners' requirements. However, buying granite can be very costly. Reusing granite scavenged from demolitions, or repurposing scrap pieces from your local stonecutter, can substantially reduce your costs. It also limits the need for new stone, reducing quarrying and its associated environmental impact (see References 1, page 8).
The concept that humanity is responsible for the stewardship of the planet goes back to the beginnings of Judaism. To accompany the first book of the Torah, Genesis, there is a rabbinic parable, or midrash, which relates how God led Adam around the Garden of Eden and warned him not to spoil or destroy the world, for there would be no one to repair it. The idea that God further commanded Adam to work the soil and be a steward of the earth is also a deeply rooted part of Jewish ideology.
Bombyx mori -- insects coveted for their gossamer thin cocoon filaments -- were first domesticated over 5,000 years ago for the production of silk textiles like religious robes, burial shrouds, carpets, and even documents (see References 5). Their modern day caterpillar counterparts are equally as busy, yielding the raw material for a dizzying array of decorative upholstery options, fashionable formal wear, luxury vehicle “silk leather,” and healthcare materials such as bandages, surgical thread and replacement tendons (see References 6). Although typically a costly material, budget-friendly silk gleaned from neckties can morph into inventive post-consumer items (see References 7) by exercising a dash of creative flair.
Don't throw the carton away when you finish the eggs. Whether it's made of Styrofoam or paper, you can reuse an egg carton in myriad ways around the house. Paper cartons can also be recycled, or shredded and added to your compost bin. However, if an egg has cracked in the carton, discard it; there is a risk the carton has become contaminated with salmonella. (See Reference 4)
Plaster of Paris, or hemihydrate gypsum plaster, is produced by heating gypsum to remove water and grinding the resulting material into powder (See References 1). This material is used in a number of applications from construction products to casts used for setting broken bones to arts and crafts. Recycling craft items made from plaster of Paris and unused plaster that has set helps reduce landfill toxicity and preserves limited landfill space.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, approximately 96 billion tons of food goes to waste each year -- more than one quarter of the nation’s food supply. Additionally, the U.S. spends a total cost of $1 billion annually to dispose of this excess food. (See Reference 3) In its "Waste Not, Want Not” program, the EPA suggests mitigating food waste by donating food items to homeless shelters, soup kitchens and community food banks. By repurposing leftover items from a buffet, you can avoid food waste and fill empty plates at the same time. (See Reference 1)
Wet disposable cleaning pads created by Proctor and Gamble for the wet Swiffer are both effective and convenient. However, they're not recyclable or reusable. The disposable pads can create financial concerns on households that have to repurchase new pads. To ease the financial and environmental burdens, some households have tried washing and reusing the wet Swiffer pads. The results are never successful due to the chemicals, fabrics and other components that make the wet Swiffer pads work as a single-use cleaning device.
If you're replacing an old toilet and it's still in good working condition, a local salvage organization or nonprofit like Habitat for Humanity may be able to find it a brand-new home. However, if you have even the slightest bit of a quirky side, you may want to keep your used toilet and give it a new role instead.
The naturally muted earth tones of terra cotta make it a perennial favorite around the garden and home, for planters, flowerpots and various other functional and decorative items. Because terra cotta is created without potentially toxic glazes, even old and broken terra cotta planters can be reused in a number of ways around the yard and garden.
Postcards aren't the kind of paper product that most people feel comfortable tossing in a recycling box. They're sturdy, colorful and often contain messages from friends and family. If postcards don't linger among family files, they're likely to migrate to antique shops, thrift stores and yard sales. Some are acquired by serious collectors. Others are purchased for a broad range of purposes, including arts and crafts, historical research and classroom use.
There are many materials contributing to municipal solid waste that could readily be repurposed or reused by consumers and businesses. One large category is packing materials; that brief description covers everything from commercial foam peanuts to the box from your new cellular phone. Many items can be diverted from landfill with a modest amount of ingenuity.
High-quality plastic barrels are widely used in the wholesale food industry. Bulk quantities of food items including pickles, olives, olive oil and feta cheese are shipped around the world in these containers, then processed into consumer-sized packages when they reach their destination. The empty barrels will last for years, and wholesalers often make them available to earth-conscious consumers for repurposing. For example, these used 55-gallon drums make excellent compost bins or rain barrels.
Impending motherhood is as much a time of celebration and eager anticipation as it is one of careful preparation, particularly with regard to the clothing items necessary to accommodate an increasingly burgeoning figure. While some mothers-to-be wear amorphous duds plucked from their husbands’ closets, others are fortunate enough to purchase their pregnancy fashions brand new. In the latter case, specially designed maternity apparel is typically worn for a relatively brief time period before being put into early retirement, but it can be given new purpose by thinking beyond the closet and even exercising a bit of creative flair.
Glass bottles made up 11.5 million tons of American waste in 2010, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (see References 1). Having so much glass in the landfills is unnecessary, because glass is durable and easy to reuse. Beer bottles made up the largest part of that glass-waste tonnage, alongside soda bottles, wine bottles and other glass food packages. Home brewers have long reused beer bottles, but you don't have to be a microbrew enthusiast to find uses for your leftovers. Before you can reuse the bottles, however, they must be thoroughly cleaned and stripped of all labels.
It's easy to reuse thin cardboard tubes, such as those found in rolls of wrapping paper, paper towels and toilet paper. Paper tubes are useful for making party favors, creating construction and pet toys, and providing teachers with materials for classroom projects from art to science. They also are good additions to compost heaps where they rot quickly and turn into a soil amendment instead of occupying landfills where materials decay slowly.
Each time a toilet is flushed in the United States, gallons of drinkable water are wasted. Toilet flushing alone accounts for around 35 percent of household water usage (See Reference 1), so any reductions to this can amount to personal savings and greater resource conservation. Gray water flushing systems reuse wastewater from sinks, showers and clothes washers to replace toilets' freshwater usage (See Reference 2). The plumbing behind these systems can be simple enough for an ambitious do-it-yourselfer, but there are some practical considerations to note before embarking on a gray water flushing project.
Summer barbecues are often fueled by gas grills operating on portable propane tanks. Propane tanks are designed to be refilled with propane and reused numerous times before they degrade to the point where safe disposal is required (See Reference 2). You can reuse your propane tank either by exchanging it for a full one, or by refilling it at a propane refill station.
When you update the doors to your patio, your old patio door set can still add plenty of value to your home. Glass patio doors provide a unique set of water-tight panels that are ideal for use in bath, shower and pool areas -- indoors or out. In addition, patio doors offer both acoustic and thermal insulation values that far exceed the performance of plexiglass or single pane glass shower doors.