Waste Not, Want Not - Smart ways to repurpose everyday items.

A huge focus of late has been on reduce, reuse and recycle. We are all doing our part and we all want to make the world a better place for future generations, but there are a multitude of everyday items that we dispose of without conscious thought. Simple items that are conceived as single use. Beverage and food 'scraps', packaging, and the ever present plastic containers. They accumulate despite our best efforts to shop and cook in an eco-conscious way and they are filling up our landfills at an alarming rate. Hopefully some of the ideas listed here will prompt you to get creative and find new ways to repurpose them or eliminate them all together.

 

When we end up purchasing common household items, they inevitably come in containers that are expected to be single use. And trust me, for some, they are! However, there are many that can be repurposed into new items. Perhaps the best example of this is the dome containers that "live" lettuce is now commonly sold in. Hello pre-made mini "greenhouses"! Another great example are buckets. If you have a farm/animals, then you know one can never have too many buckets. One thing to note about this, is that the majority of plastic containers are not meant to be heated so don't use them as food storage containers for your leftovers. You can however, reuse them for things like a mold to press you homemade bird suet into before freezing, scoops in your grain bins, or storage bins for nails/screws in the shed. Avoid saving containers that hold cleaners or chemicals (avoid these...period!) as chances are it has leached into the plastic and they should not be used for anything except perhaps maybe more of the same. Single use plastics (ie: bags transporting produce to household, plastic food wrap or even zippered baggies) can be minimized in your household by incorporating reusable items like breathable fabric/mesh produce bags, mason jars and beeswax wraps (see related blog to make your own - super easy!). 


 

Packaging is another very useful, and debatably excessive, product that ends up in our landfills (if it makes it that far). Think fast-food packaging. We've all seen it in the ditches, blowing across streets and overflowing nearby garbage cans. The truth is there are better options, and many restaurants have already made the switch. From cardboard straws (was not a fan at first admittedly!) to compostable & biodegradable wrappers. When ordering take out, specify you don't require utensils or napkins (if eating at home). You already have them and they will just end up in the garbage unnecessarily. Gift Packaging...reuse paper gift bags, tissue paper and other materials to save yourself money and time. If you mail anything, save that bubble wrap! And perhaps the greatest example in this world of repurposing...boxes! Oh my! As a mom, small business owner and homeowner...one can never have to many boxes. (I'm not kidding...wish I was, but nope!). Big boxes can become box forts or used for crafts; medium boxes are great for storage, taking old items to thrift stores and making smaller boxes if needed; and small boxes are perfect for those little "just thinking of you" gifts. The thing to remember about boxes is they are ultimately paper. My end of life goal for every box that is past it prime in our home is that it be used to start a fire (indoor fireplace or bonfire outside), laid down as 'matting' under my newest landscaping project to eliminate weeds, or upcycled into another useful item.


 

One of my favorite never-ending "repurpose" projects is beverage or food scraps. We have a compost & farm animals on our homestead, but this goes beyond that. Everyday beverages such as coffee, for example, can be re-used from the grounds to the leftovers (if you have any after sucking back your daily bean-water quota!). The used grounds can be dried out and lightly sprinkled on top of the soil in your flower gardens to prevent the cats from "digging". It sticks in their paws and they don't like the taste when cleaning themselves. The left over coffee can be saved in a resealable jar in the refrigerator, later to be served over ice as a chilly treat. Iced coffee is all the rage right now and perfect on a warm afternoon. Alternatively, you can save some for baking recipes. Coffee cake anyone? Banana peels or egg shells placed into the bottom of planters before potting, add valuable nutrients to your soil. Orange peels make a fragrant addition when dehydrated and added to an oat bath which can be extremely soothing for sensitive skin. The cleaned "rind" left over from your next pineapple can be boiled with water to create tea. This is especially beneficial during cold season as pineapple contains high amounts of Vitamin C as well as bromelain which has been known to reduce pain and swelling and can minimize the discomfort of a sore throat due to cough. Add a bit of honey (rich in antioxidants) and citrus fruits and you've got a delicious & nutritious drink...made from your food scraps! One of the greatest "repurpose" examples in the food & beverage area is leftovers. Some dread them, others look at it as an exciting way to create an entirely new dish utilizing what they have on hand and effectively saving the costs associated with a trip to the grocers. We live in a time when most everyone has access to the internet, a library or a fairly extensive friend network (hello social media) so the options are truly limited only by your imagination. 


 

A few easy repurpose tips: •old t-shirts make good rags if you wrench on vehicles/equipment. •used coffee tins are excellent storage bins in the shop. •scrap lumber can be cut down for another project or worst case scenario...used as fire starter. •croutons are essentially crusty bread - cube up old half loaves and bake lightly, and seal in air-tight container until used. •if you have broken terracotta pots in the greenhouse, place in bottom of new pots before potting flowers to create "drainage". •Roasted/Cooked meat with dinner? Save the bones to make broth/stock. Repurpose with intent and you can never go wrong! Regards, Tina Marie

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