There’s a reason why “Reduce” and “Reuse” come before “Recycle”. And that’s because recycling almost always uses more energy than the former two.
One of the easiest things to do when you’re done with something is just throwing it away to the trash or recycling bin.
But sometimes there is a better option for the environment... because there is still energy involved in the recycling process. This is likely to produce emissions, so reusing is a far better option for the planet.
Not only that, but reusing can also save you money spent on new products, time spent in choosing them and it can even help you reduce clutter since you’re finding new uses for the things you already own.
So we’ve put together a list of what we consider to be the most common household items that just about anyone can reuse in multiple ways.
1. Bags, Bags & More Bags
Even as it has become more and more widespread that plastic bags are a hazard to the environment (they never biodegrade and may harm animals) it’s still very likely that you may end up with some bags after shopping for anything from clothing to electronics.
But instead of just recycling them, you can find alternate uses that extend their lifespan. The classics are lining trash cans with them, taking them as doggy poop bags when out for a walk, or containing messy foods that might spill.
Other uses we have seen are wrapping a bag around sacks of flour, sugar and other baking ingredients, or giving them away to local businesses, thrift stores or even charity. That way they won’t need to buy brand new ones.
Of course, the best option would be to eradicate or deeply minimize the use of plastic bags at all. For that, you need to bring your own bags, and that certainly comes with benefits such as less carrying to and fro and sending a green message to your children and friends.
That’s why we created the Reusable Grocery Bag Set, which is a complete grocery shopping set. It includes 4 large bags and 3 mesh produce bags, all machine washable and conveniently packed in a zippered pouch.
We also have a leak-proof car trash bag which provides a way of disposing of all the trash within your vehicle without promoting the use of more plastic bags.
2. Clothes, Towels & Curtains
For the last few years, the fashion industry has been exposed as one of the most damaging to the environment and that is only due to one thing: the mass production and improper handling of textiles as waste.
But there are many things you can do to reuse any textiles you might have around the house before recycling them. For example, just about any cloth can be cut up and turned into a wash rag for the kitchen, the house or your car.
Other ideas include turning old t-shirts into a braided rug, making your own duster or just about anything from this Pinterest board about upcycling old clothes.
Among some of our favorites to watch out for are candle holders, homemade pillows, and DIY pet toys.
Also, remember that it’s always a good idea to donate clothes, towels, curtains, blankets, and sheets to goodwill before recycling them.
3. Glass Jars, Cans & Containers
Image via designsponge.com
Mason jar oil lamp:
Image via raisedincotton.typed.com
Jar soap dispensers:
Image via shelterness.com
Image via lifehacker.com
Other ideas with jars and cans are to use them to sprout seeds or even as pots for flowers or herbs. They can also be DIY gift packages or desk supply containers.
4. CD’s & DVD’s
Now that most of us are living in the digital age, maybe you have a bunch of old CDs and DVD's that you no longer need or wish to keep.
Don’t throw them away! They take ages to decompose, and even if you take the responsible route, they’re not as easy to recycle as plastic bottles and aluminum cans.
Thankfully Hubpages has put together a whole list of possible uses for discardable CDs. Some of our favorites are making coasters with them, putting them above a lamp to magnify the light output, making lampshades out of them:
Or cutting them up to decorate whatever you want:
To cut them safely, you can place them in a pan with nearly boiling water (in a well-ventilated area) and just use scissors once they have cooled off.
5. Bottles, Bottle Caps & Corks
If you frequently have parties or small get-togethers, or even if you’re just accustomed to stocking soft and alcoholic drinks, chances are you have tons of bottles, caps, and corks to recycle.
Before throwing them away, consider making bohemian candle holders or flower vases out of wine bottles, a shoe scraper out of bottle caps, or the many things you can do with corks.
Corks are amazing because they’re practically raw material that is given to you with every bottle of wine or champagne. They're also easy to cut and make stuff with.
You can make a non-slip mat for the bathroom...
… or glue pieces of cork to the bottom of your furniture to prevent scratching on the floor.
Also, glass bottles from certain brands of water (Evian, Perrier or other sparkling waters) can be used as your refillable water bottle for quite some time. Glass doesn’t release unwanted toxins into the water when exposed to sunlight, as with plastic.
6. Coffee Grounds & Tea Bags
Coffee grounds can also absorb food odors when washed down the sink or placed in the back of the fridge. They can also exfoliate skin and even restore the natural shine of your hair. Just fill one of those reused jars with a couple week’s worth of coffee grounds and keep it by your shower.
Don’t Throw It Away!
So there you have it! There are many items we use in our daily lives that tend to get thrown in the trash or recycle bin without any second thoughts. Hopefully, those will be less and less for you now.
As honorary mentions for reusing, we suggest using a cleaned-out toothpaste tube as a funnel, or our insulated grocery bag.