Do you ever get to the usual end of the use of an item and hate to throw it away? Maybe your eco conscience whispers to you and says you can probably find another use for that or even find a way to continue using it. Or maybe it’s something that’s a little hard to recycle or find a way to dispose of, such as tires.
Whatever the root of your search to reduce, reuse or recycle common household items, I applaud you and join you! I’m not exactly a hoarder of items that aren’t useful, but I do try to look for ways to extend the life of items before they’re finally recycles or sent to the landfill. Here are a few of the ways we’ve recently been able to do just that!
Pencils. I’m talking about the old-school wooden pencils. I stopped buying mechanical pencils a couple of years ago and invested in a pencil sharpener. These pencils are so cheap during back to school sales, and you can use them up almost completely so there’s very little waste, unlike the plastic mechanical pencils. (I make my daughters buy their own pencils if they insist on anything other than the plain wooden ones.)
I also keep the large pink erasers on hand since we all know the erasers on pencils often wear out long before the pencil is used up. With the big erasers, also found cheaply at back to school sales in multi-packs, I can continue using the pencil even after the eraser is gone.
Another way I repurpose the pencils without erasers is to give them to my husband for his projects. He’s a carpenter by trade and is often building something, either for work or for around our home. Since he’s just making marks on wood for cutting, he never erases so doesn’t need the eraser! It’s a match made in heaven.
Gift Cards. Have a stack of plastic gift cards or even old debit or credit cards laying around? These work so well as scrapers for dirty jobs. And if you’re anything like me, it will save your fingernails because that’s what I use for scraping if I don’t have something handy!
I save all the gift cards I get and my mom even gives me her old cards. I have some of these stuck over the washer in a cleaning bucket and some are tucked under the kitchen sink next to the blue scrubbies I buy. One is always sitting on the edge of the kitchen sink.
When I’m washing dishes and have some stuck on food, I just grab it and run it against the pan to get underneath the stuck on gunk and it usually just lifts right off. This works beautifully because it doesn’t scratch the pans or dishes.
I also use these for other cleaning jobs besides washing dishes. To remove sticker residue off of glass, I apply a drop of lemon or orange essential oil, let it sit for a minute or two, and then scrape gently with the card and it usually comes off the first time. Occasionally I do have to apply it a second time.
Save those cards from the landfill and use on any project that can benefit from scraping or prying off of gunk with something other than your nails.
Boxes. Last winter we had done some household bulk shopping online and ended up with quite a few boxes from stores like Chewy, Walmart and Amazon. I seriously have a hard time tossing out perfectly useful things like boxes, but we also have a small home and they were starting to take over!
And then, in all of my reading for homekeeping and money-saving ideas, I came across an idea to put these boxes to good use (other than the obvious uses of storing items and reusing to ship stuff). I can’t remember where I read it so I can’t give credit, but the suggestion was to cut or tear the boxes into smaller pieces and use as firestarters. We heat our home with a wood stove so this was a perfect solution to the box overwhelm.
I spent an hour watching TV with my husband and using a utility knife with a new blade to wack all those boxes into smaller pieces that were the size my husband suggested for our stove. I saved one of the boxes to store all of the smaller pieces. So we went from about 15 boxes to 1 box filled with firestarters. This allowed us to stop buying the box of firestarters we were previously getting at Walmart, which resulted in a $10 per month savings during winter.
**Just a note that we don’t have recycling in our area. We are very rural and would have to drive a minimum of 40 minutes one way and pay a fee in order to recycle, as we do not live inside a local municipality. Otherwise I would normally support recycling! I do feel good that we are using something up instead of it sitting in a landfill, although at least cardboard breaks down!
One last thought on boxes is something I accidentally discovered this spring when we were putting in our first garden here. We had used some boxes to put underneath the raised beds we put in and when we decided to move some of the beds a couple of weeks after first laying down the cardboard, we discovered loads of earthworms were making homes underneath the cardboard. So we had lots of free worms in our garden soil already! I thought this could be an easy and free way to encourage good worms in a garden without purchasing them.
Tires. If you have a car, then you eventually get new tires. We live very rural and drive a long ways to do anything, go to a job site, get groceries, go to the library, etc. so we put a lot of miles on vehicles. We have a car and a truck so we have 2 vehicles that get a complete set of new tires about every 18-24 months. The truck is a dually so it actually has 6 tires. That adds up to 10 tires every couple of years.
In our area, there is a $4.00 per tire fee for the tire shop to keep the used tires and recycle them. While this is what we used to do, the last time we got new tires, we kept the tires with the idea of using them as raised beds in our garden. So that’s what we are doing this year with our first garden at this location.
We cut around the top of the tire on one side to make the opening larger. This is the opening that is up. For the side of the tire that lays on the ground we just left it as is. This makes an adequate container to hold soil and with enough depth required per the Square Foot Gardening method. As this is our first time gardening, we’ll see how it goes.
While it not be the most aesthetically pleasing look to a garden for some people, we don’t mind. We live in the middle of the woods with our only neighbors within ¼-mile being my husband’s parents, and they don’t care what our garden looks like! (And in full disclosure, we also have the tub out of an old dishwasher as a compost bin in our garden, too, so we could possibly win the award on ugly gardens!)
What are ways you extend the life of or reuse items?