Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Creative Ways to Re-Use Your Recycling

Incandescent Flower Vase
In fourth grade I was thrilled to learn that the school play we would be performing that year was called Planet Earth and that my friends and I would be singing songs about reducing, reusing and recycling. I was an eco-geek even as a child! My dad can tell you how annoying I was, hassling him about not using every last scrap of 2 x 4 from his construction jobs. When I looked at the overflowing dumpster I was upset to know that it was all just going to the landfill to sit in perpetuity  But the lessons I learned in the fourth grade have stuck with me, and I still try to prioritize Reducing first, Reusing second, and Recycling third.

The City of Durango implemented a Single-Stream Recycling program on February 4th, and now city residents can recycle a much wider variety of plastics, paperboard, and egg & milk cartons. Make sure you sign up to receive a new recycling bin! I appreciate the City taking the steps to make recycling more efficient and comprehensive for our community. Don’t forget you can still reduce and reuse before the products eventually make it into the recycling bin.

To reduce your consumption of high energy fossil fuel products, such as plastics, consider bringing re-usable bags to the grocery store (yeah, we all know we should be doing this!), but are you bringing old shampoo bottles to one of our great natural food groceries to fill up on bulk shampoo?

Now let’s explore some of the fun and creative ways of re-using all kinds of products. Click on some of the links for Do It Yourself (DIY) guides.

I miss having a garden in the winter time, but a great way to have fresh, local greens in the winter and reuse plastic lettuce containers is to grow microgreens on your windowsill. Microgreens are packed full of nutrients and make the perfect addition to sandwiches, salads and soups! Key components are having a growing material, holes for drainage, plenty of sunlight and covering the seeds with a wet paper towel until they sprout.

Here’s a clever glass jar photo frame idea. Clean the label off a glass jar, stick a photo in it and turn the jar upside down. I think it adds a neat fish-eye effect to the photos too!

Have some old incandescent light bulbs? You may if you read our blog post from December comparing light bulbs. Use an old incandescent bulb as a flower vase. Be careful since you’re dealing with fragile glass! See instructions in the link, using a stronger wire if you want the vase to stand instead of hang.

Consider this nifty cork mat either for the front door or bathroom. Since these projects take a lot of corks, you’ll need to start throwing lots of dinner parties this winter or encourage your friends to start collecting their corks for you! Or if you only have a few, you can make a cork pot trivet instead.

I love this Jet Pack idea! I might use this for a future Halloween costume, even though I’m no longer in the fourth grade! Just take a couple two liter soda bottles, silver spray paint, red felt for flames, and some webbing or cardboard to use as backpack straps  and VIOLA, you’ll have Buzz Lightyear rocketing around the house in no time!

I’m not sure if you've ever shopped for cookie cutters at Williams-Sonoma before, but they can be very pricey! Here’s a simple way to make cookie cutters from soda cans. Heavy duty scissors for cutting and needle nosed pliers for bending should work quite well.

Now what to do with the extra shampoo bottles besides filling up at the co-op? Sailboats that will easily float in the bathtub! Make a sail out of straws and lightweight fabric, stick one end into half a cork with superglue, and secure the sail to the boat with rubber bands. Rubber Ducky watch out!

There are millions of inventive ways to reuse items before eventually recycling them. I hope this gets some of your creative juices going. Now get out there and make something! And fourth grade Sandhya wants to remind you to: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

About the Author
Sandhya Tillotson provides intake and outreach for clients in the weatherization program and performs coordination of weatherization projects. Originally from California, Sandhya earned her Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science from Colorado College in Colorado Springs. After moving to Durango in 2010, Sandhya is thrilled to be working for a local environmental non-profit and spending her free time volunteering, running, biking, climbing and exploring the vast wilderness that makes up Durango's backyard.
I forgot to include the link for the cookie cutters:

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