Did you know there are a lot of items people throw in the garbage that can serve more than their original, intended purpose? A lot of food scraps, packaging and old or damaged items can have a new life, if you just think outside of the box!
Below are just a few of the many items in your house that you can re-purpose and reuse!
Raw fruit & vegetable scraps, bruised produce and egg shells – These items are the foundation of a healthy compost pile! I compost all of my raw scraps, slightly turned produce and all of our egg shells (from cracked to the peeled remains after making hard-boiled eggs!), using the rich compost in our garden each spring. Not sure how to get started composting? Check out my DIY Compost post here for all the details! It’s super easy, doesn’t require much space, and can be a major aid in replenishing nutrients and vitamins to your soil after a busy gardening year.
Bones/carcasses – I save all the bones from our meat – raw or cooked – in a ziploc bag in my freezer. When the bag is full, these can be used to make stock or bouillon cubes. I usually can pint-sized jars full of stock for using in soups, stews and sauces, and freeze any remaining stock in ice cube trays for an easy, go-to flavor boost in stir fries or rices. Never made your own stock or bouillon before? It’s yet another simple task that will save you money, and uses up every bit of the produce and meats you raise/purchase. Check out my post on Making Your Own Broth here!
Bread ends, crusts, stale bread – Another simple thing to make at home is your own croutons and breadcrumbs. Save the ends and crusts from bread loaves and rolls to make your own!Check out my tips in our Cooking Basics: DIY Croutons post!
Newspapers & Junk Mail – Save black-and-white, non-glossy sheets of newspaper, mailers or flyers from your mail to use for starting fires. You can also shred the newspaper, soak it with water and use it to make your own fire-starting bricks!
Another great use is to make paper-mache planting cups to get seedlings started indoors. I roll the newspaper into cups, and then brush them with a sticky mix of flour and water, and allow them to dry fully before use. I was very impressed with how well these held up, and of course they are safe to allow to biodegrade in your garden or compost once you are done with them!
Egg Cartons, Coated cardboard milk/orange juice containers – Egg cartons can have a multitude of purposes. The cardboard ones can be used for fire starting, planting seedlings (I start vegetables and flowers in these like sunflowers, squash or corn – plants that don’t need to be in the planter for long, but I want to give a jump start to), or for crafts with young ones. A plastic egg carton is great for holding paints for kids, used as a “nibbling tray” with various toddler snacks, or even as a fun play tool, where they can sort different items and toys.
We drink a lot of almond milk in my house, and I have found that the coated cardboard containers make one of the best planters I’ve used for starting vegetables. I transplant all my peppers and tomatoes from the germination tray into these containers, usually putting 4-6 plants per container. Their deep size is great for establishing roots, they are lightweight and easy to move around, easy to mark and write the plant varieties on, and because they are coated in wax, they hold wet soil and water with zero leaks. I love using them, as well as knowing they will be composted &/or recycled when I am done with them.
Plain cardboard boxes – Cardboard boxes can really be transformed into something beautiful. I save the all brown-ones and wrap them with burlap on the outside to give them a nicer look. For my daughter’s toys, I made a quick little liner with leftover fabric I had from her curtains, which I secured to the tops and corners with a little hot glue. They look really cute holding her blocks and toys, and only took me about an hour to make. I love that I was able to use items I already had on hand, so they didn’t cost me anything but time!
Old towels & linens – Stained and damaged dish towels, bath towels or even old bed sheets can be revived as cleaning rags around the house and garage. I like to cut dish towels into 3″ x 5″ pieces for cleaning in the kitchen, and cut them in half for rags around the house. Old sheets often get re-purposed into painting drop cloths, or if the fabric is still in decent shape, a “new” cleaning apron, or even pieced out for patches and trims.
Plastic fruit containers -I always wash out and re-use the plastic containers that most berries and some organic fruits come in. These can be used for storing harvests from the garden – the size is great for my toddler’s hands while she picks green beans or hot peppers! I have also used them for storing miscellaneous items in my pantry or laundry area, like clothespins, canning lids and rings, etc. They are also great for storing sidewalk chalk, or making an on-the-go coloring case for crayons and mini notepad!
The options are really endless when you stop and think about how easily something can be recycled. While some items are beyond reuse and should be recycled or disposed of formally, so many things can be repurposed and upcycled to continue to be of use. Repurposing the items we already have helps us cut down on our waste, as well as reduces our costs spent on buying all new things. So take a look around your house today and see what items you can start to reuse!
Are you excited about repurposing and reusing what you have? Check out my post for 10 Ways to Be More Sustainable for more tips and ideas! Did you have an idea or do you repurpose something that I haven’t mentioned? Share your green tip below!