15 Things You’re Throwing Away—But Shouldn’t
Plastic bottles, glass jars, cardboard, old clothing, and more are filling up our landfills. Do your part and help reduce your carbon footprint by repurposing common household trash into something useful.
Upcycling is the new recycling
The average American produces about 4.40 pounds of garbage per day, according to the EPA. Recycling is a great way to reduce some of the waste heading to landfills, but an even better way is to upcycle. Before you toss your trash, try one of these ideas to repurpose it into a useful or decorative item. Reusing and repurposing items is one step toward helping the planet.
One million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute. The next time you finish a bottle of water or soda, keep it and turn it into a dried pasta holder. Skinny noodles work best with the narrow opening, but small pasta like orzo and even rice will fit easily into the bottles. Then, invest in a smart water bottle and stop using plastic water bottles for good.
Another way to upcycle a plastic bottle is to transform it into a change pouch. Start with two plastic bottles that are the same shape and size. Cut the bottom portion off of each bottle. Buy a zipper that is long enough to wrap around the bottle. Punch holes in both halves of the bottle so you can sew through them. (You can make the holes with a 1/16″ craft punch or just a heated needle.) Then stitch through the holes to secure the zipper.
Who knew a plastic 2-liter bottle could be so helpful? Susan from Organized 31 has a super simple solution to help keep boots upright and protects them from creasing when stored away: Simply insert a plastic bottle. It’s easy, frugal, and environmentally friendly.
Garden art treasure jars
Americans dispose of some 10 million metric tons of glass annually—that’s a lot of glass that ends up in landfills. Melissa at the Empress of Dirt has an adorable and useful way to reuse glass jars. With the help of Dollar Store glass gems and solar votive lights, her upcycled luminaries will make your garden sparkle at night.
Pool storage box
Got a kitty? Then you are familiar with the large plastic kitty litter pails that you inevitably collect. Plastic kitty litter bins are made of sturdy number #2 or #5 HDPE. Instead of sending them all to the recycler, you may want to keep a couple when you see how easy it is to make this genius pool storage box made by Susan from Organized 31.
Got mismatched chairs from an old kitchen and dining sets? Hang on to them and transform them into a quirky bench. You will need to purchase or repurpose a piece of wood that is long enough and wide enough to fit across the chairs, side by side. Secure the piece of wood to the chairs from underneath with wood screws. Tip: paint the new bench with exterior paint so that it’s weatherproof; that way, you can use the bench outdoors and in your garden.
Fabric gift wrap
According to the EPA, landfills in the United States received 10.5 million tons of textiles in 2015; that includes discarded clothing, sheets, and other home textiles. Instead of adding new gift wrap and decorations to that pile, try the Japanese art of Furoshiki. Furoshiki wrapping involves a single rectangular or square piece of fabric that is decoratively wrapped around gifts. Use pinking shears to cut apart old clothing into squares. Fabric is also great for reusable shopping bags, but there is a downside to reusable bags.
Another way to repurpose glass jars is to turn them into candle holders. Use beeswax or soy wax and wicks to create homemade candles; you can use prepackaged scents and wax coloring kits to customize them. Mix and match glass jars to create a variety of styles. Homemade candles are a wonderful DIY holiday gift, too.
Washi tape organizer
If you love washi tape and cookies, then you are in luck. Susan from Organized 31 discovered a super simple and inexpensive solution to get her washi tape collection under control. By using a discarded cookie package tray, she organized her entire cache of washi tape in no time.
Almost anything can be a planter! Old teapots, cups, bowls, pans, boots—really any vessel that’s deep enough to hold soil can get a second life as a planter. One caveat: Most of these items lack drainage holes, which is a must for plants. If you can not drill holes into the item, simply add an even layer of rocks at the bottom before you add soil. Monitor the moisture in the soil once you pot your plant to make sure you are not overwatering. Arrange your upcycled planters in groupings for a whimsical look.
A pillow box is an excellent way to wrap a small item. Create one out of a toilet or paper towel roll. Gently press the roll flat with the palm of your hand. Place a drinking glass at one end of the roll. Carefully trace around it with a craft knife to create a curve. You are not trying to cut through the cardboard, the goal is to score it. Repeat on the other side. Bend the ends of the roll in along the score lines to form the sides of your pillow box. Fill with a small gift and finish it off with ribbon. Need some frugal gift ideas? Check out these 25 holiday gifts that don’t cost a dime.
Recycling a single run of the Sunday New York Times would save 75,000 trees. If you have a stockpile of newspaper, consider using them in the garden. Paper is a wonderful medium to use in the garden because it’s compostable and it’s also perfect for making seeding pots. These origami newspaper pots are made with a single piece of newspaper and can be customized to any size seedling. Get the full step-by-step how-to and many other garden-related projects in Do-It-Yourself Garden Projects and Crafts.
Milk jug plant labels
Milk jug plastic is the perfect medium for making plant labels and it’s even easier if you have a ready-to-go arrow craft punch. Simply cut open a clean, dry milk jug and punch out as many plant labels you need. Grab the full tutorial on The Prudent Garden.
Old sweaters make the perfect bed for your fur baby. Melissa over at The Empress of Dirt will show you step-by-step how to create an easy, cozy sweater bed for your beloved pet. Your fur baby will especially love this bed because it’s like sitting on your lap 24/7.
If you can crochet a circle then you can make this super functional rag rug. Cut old t-shirts and other fabric into strips to make fabric yarn. Then, with an extra-large crochet hook, crochet a large flat circle. Rag rugs are machine washable and are a great way to keep textiles out of landfills. Spruce up any room with your upcycled rug, then try these 52 things that can make your home look more expensive.