Re-Use and Recycling tips

Ideas for recycling paper:

  • After children's drawings and paintings have been displayed for a while they can be used to wrap presents - this also makes the present special.
  • Discarded 8.5x11” paper can be cut and stapled together to make notepads. Alternatively, if you save five reams, it will cost you about $5 to get a print company to convert this paper into 'proper' notepads.
  • Use the envelopes, especially the large ones, you receive in the mail a second time by placing a new address label over the last address and another over the stamp/cancelled corner.
  • Old calendars, colorful pictures, etc. can be used to make your own envelopes. You can unstick a used envelope and use it as a template for making envelopes.  How fun to receive!!
  • Scarves and nice napkins make great dual purpose wrapping paper.
  • SPCA and pet shops appreciate old newspapers.
  • To fill in a rainy day, get a paper making kit and get the kids to rip up old used paper to make homemade paper. Then you’ll all have a new appreciation for the paper we use so lightly every day.

Ideas for recycling household waste in the garden:

  • Aluminum trays from pies and cakes make ideal 'drip saucers' to put under potted plants.
  • Lawn clippings can be used to cover weeds and keep from growing in the garden through winter.
  • Broken crockery can be used as drainage at the bottom of pot plants.
  • Tin cans can be used as:
  • Water reservoirs for new plants and trees. Tape a piece of hose pipe in a can and fill the can with scoria or pumice. Then, when you plant a new tree or plant, bury the can below the root level and leave enough hose poking out of the ground. You can water the plant in summer by pouring the water into hose pipe. If the hose is short enough it can be mowed over on a lawn and does not look obtrusive.
  • Plant holders. Decorate the outside of the can to your liking, put some soil in it and plant away. (Make sure you put some drainage holes in the bottom of the tin before you start potting the plants.)
  • Old newspapers can be used to mulch and do weed control in the garden. Wet newspaper and place thickly on the garden. Cover with bark or stones.
  • Several layers of cardboard do great for knocking down weeds and grass; put rice hay over it soil on top, plant away.
  • Don’t use poison in your soil or around pets and other vital life. Place pennies around plants to keep slugs away, or wrap copper wire at the base of a nail.
  • Old nylons can be used to tie up plants in the garden.
  • Stiff plastic containers can be cut into strips for seed labels.
  • Avoid using a waste disposal for food scraps – it puts too much unnecessary organic matter into the treatment system. Compost food scraps instead in your backyard or find out what is permitted in your green yard waste can.
  • Re-visioning – I made my old ski boots into planters; keeps them in service, the ivy’s growing down over the boots and it’s… novel.
  • Use an old ironing board with a narrow piece of wood over it for a planting table. It’s just the right height. (We’ve ironed longer than we’ve had “planting tables!”)
  • The following waste items can be modified and used for planting seedlings:
  • Egg cartons
  • Tetra-pak cartons
  • Plastic bottles
  • Plastic containers for cherry tomatoes
  • Old boots and shoes

Making use of your mountain of plastic bags:

Er – stop using them, but for those leftover ones, here’s some uses:

  • Place them in the bottom of plant pots and hanging baskets - they act as great drainage systems.
  • Scrunch them up to surround items when you're packaging as an alternative to bubble wrap.
  • Use them in the garden to hold your grass cuttings and hedge trimmings before transfer to a compost bin.
  • Use them when packing for a vacation or ski trip to keep dirty/wet clothes and shoes away from dry clothing.
  • Re-use washed zip lock bags for sandwiches and snacks rather than using plastic wrap.

General tips for avoiding making garbage:

  • Visit the Berkeley Ecology Center’s site Plastics Task Force for details on plastics and health, what plastics are made of, recycling news and more.
  • Buy a smaller trash container for the kitchen. This helps to reduce and recycle. Don’t have one in every room, then you think about not making garbage when you have to walk to get rid of it.
  • Reorganize the kitchen so it has an efficient recycling area with good sized bins to help with sorting and holding. This will encourage other members of the household to contribute and help share the work instead of the system relying on one person.
  • Always try to reuse your plastic grocery bags, recycle them when there’s no other use for them and reuse your bulk bags.
  • Always try to do no harm - be sure to snip plastic soda six pack holders – birds and other sea life really do get tangled up in them and die due to them. Even if you’re sure that yours is going to be buried ad infinitum in a landfill, you can model the behavior and ponder the reasons behind the action as you tear up a six-pack can carrier.

Today’s action - Set aside an afternoon this week to save time, energy and resources.  This month, I made curtains with a girlfriend instead of buying them, thick to keep the windows covered in the colder winter months, super-personalized.  Set some fun goals, be rewarded when garbage or household supply bills go down, save some money while re-gifting gifts in homemade wrapping paper. The planet with a ribbon around it is our collective reward.