Green Lifestyle

Published on July 23rd, 2019 | by Sarah Dephillips


Creative Ways to Reuse: 7 Things to Stop Trashing

In our zero waste series so far, we’ve focused on the first and most effective of the famous “3 Rs” – reduce. The best way to deal with waste is not to make it in the first place. But the second R has an important role to play, too. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to generate some waste, the next best thing is to find creative ways to reuse it instead of trashing it. Here are some creative ideas for stuff that you might have laying around.

  1. Tires

Tires are built in as a critical (and unfortunately disposable) part of our transportation system. Thankfully there are methods of recycling tires, but they involve a lot of machinery and energy. Arguably the best way to deal with old tires at home is to find creative ways to reuse them. 

  • Tires make great bumpers on docks to keep boats from getting scuffed. If you live on the water with a dock, consider using tires as bumpers instead of buying them.
  • When filled with hard-packed dirt or sand, tires make an incredibly solid wall. You can build tire retaining walls, or even walls of buildings like Earthships. 
  • Tires make great raised bed planters! They’re better for large vegetables (like tomatoes) than pots because they allow the roots to reach into the ground. But they save you from having to dig and till the ground like a conventional garden. In the spring time, cover the grass with a layer of corrugated cardboard in your tire planter area. Set the tire on top of the cardboard, slightly over fill with 50% organic soil and 50% organic compost, let settle a few days, then plant right in the tire. The tire helps regulate soil temperature and moisture. This method is recommended for annual vegetables and herbs, but not for perennial shrubs and trees.
  1. Branches and logs

I know, something that comes from nature shouldn’t be waste. But sadly in my suburban neighborhood, I see perfectly good organic matter on the curb for trash pickup all the time. 

  • Rather than putting those branches and logs on the curb, put them to work in your yard. 2-4” diameter branches make great rustic edging for walkways, flower beds, and gardens. Larger logs can be used for making raised beds. Yes, they will eventually break down, but they’re a renewable resource!
  • If you’re crafty, use sections of branches and logs to make coasters, Christmas tree ornaments, or outdoor seats.

  1. Paper products

Paper products take a lot of energy and water to recycle. They have a lot of great uses around your yard and garden, though! And don’t forget the arts and crafts.

  • Use cardboard or newsprint as a biodegradable weed block. It isn’t permanent, but it lasts long enough to kill weeds and grass beneath as well as destroying the seeds. Top with soil or mulch. This is a technique called sheet mulching.
  • Put shredded paper or corrugated cardboard in your worm composting bin as bedding for the worms. They’ll love it!
  • Get your origami on and fold some paper pots for seed starting. When your seedlings are big enough, plant the pot directly in the ground for a zero waste solution! Here’s a tutorial video.
  • Make fun wrapping paper from newsprint or paper bags. Usually paper bags can gently be disassembled at the seams for a nice flat, sturdy, plain paper. Use pains, stencils, stamps, or markers to decorate. 
  • Magazines and cards have tons of craft applications. Fun pictures, words, and phrases can be cut out and used for decoupage (bonus points if you decoupage onto something else reused!), scrapbooking, wrapping paper decor, or DIY greeting cards. 

  1. Old t-shirts

Too ragged for the thrift store? Don’t worry, they’ve still got some life in them!

  • Cut them into different sizes for cleaning rags. T-shirts are especially good for this, because they don’t fray when you cut them up.
  • Make t-shirt yarn with them and have fun with all types of crafts!
  • Cut them into strands and make ties for staking up plants.
  • Make these DIY reusable produce bags
  1. Jars, cans, and other food containers

Zero waste grocery shopping is ideal, but when you end up with food packaging like aluminum and steel cans and glass or plastic jars, make the best out of them!

  • Decorate with glass jars by putting sand, seashells, candles, marbles, or small light strings inside.
  • Decorate cans with paper or fabric and use to keep pens, pencils, and crayons in.
  • Use plastic containers (like peanut butter jars) for mixing paint, washing brushes, or storing smaller quantities of paint for projects so you don’t have to open and stir the can each time.
  • Reuse bottles and jars for your zero waste grocery shopping.

  1. Old pillows or cushion forms

Putting the couch on the curb? Pull those foam forms out of the cushions first! Cushion foam can easily be cut with a box knife into any shape, size, and thickness.

  • Make a new pet bed from your old cushion forms. You can customize the size and shape, then sew or tie a washable cover over it. Get creative – you can use an old t-shirt, sheet, or towel for the cover. For bigger pets, you can sew or even glue multiple cushions together to make a larger bed.
  • Cut them into knee padding for gardening or floor scrubbing. Again, use some other old fabric to make a washable cover. This really applies to anywhere you need some extra padding.
  1. Old linens

Got sheets, curtains, table cloths, or other old linens? The possibilities are nearly endless.

  • Keep them in the car for spontaneous beach or picnic blankets, or use as drop cloths for painting.
  • Use to cover old foam forms to make new cushions, pet beds, or pillows.
  • Cut or tear into long strips. These can be knitted, crocheted, woven, or braided into area rugs or other fun crafts.
  • If you know how to sew, the possibilities are endless! Depending on the fabric, old linens can make great bags, totes, aprons, skirts or dresses, pillows, quilt pieces… anything you can imagine!

Attribution-free images courtesy of Pixabay.

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