Upcycling is a great way to help the environment by reducing the amount of items that end up in landfills and also save energy by reducing wasteful production of new items. Unlike other forms of recycling which turn trashed goods into materials that have a lower quality than the original product (i.e. “downcycling” – think recycled plastic!), upcycling turns things you can recycle yourself into valuable, high-quality goods.
Reusing household items is not only good for the environment, it’s a great way to save money! According to the EPA, “Recycling one ton of paper would save enough energy to power the average American home for six months.” Paper isn’t the only thing that can be reused, however! One look at the popular social networking site Pinterest shows that DIY projects are all the rage these days.
If you’re looking for a fun project that will turn your trash into treasure, look no further than your own home for supplies. There are many things you can recycle that you probably have already to use in your eco-friendly projects.
Upcycling in the Kitchen
Food Containers – Coffee cans, plastic food containers and jars can all be reused to store food more than once! Stop throwing these out and you’ll never have to buy food storage containers again. Food containers can also be used to store other items, and glass jars can be repurposed as vases, gift jars or even drinking glasses.
Egg Cartons – Save up egg cartons and use them to start your seeds in the spring. You can also use them as paint holders to keep the colors separate.
Bones and Vegetable Scraps – Stop buying premade soup stock and make your own out of food scraps you might already being throwing away! Keep a container in your freezer for storing up chicken bones and vegetable scraps like carrot tops, onion peels, etc. When the container is full, place the scraps in a large pot and cover with water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 7-8 hours. Use a colander to strain the bones and chunks from your freshly made soup stock.
Kids’ Items You Can Re-purpose
Baby Wipe Tubs – The plastic tubs that baby wipes come in are handy for storing all kinds of things:
- school supplies
- small toys
- craft supplies
Broken Crayons – Don’t throw out those busted crayons! Melt them down in muffin tins or candy molds. When they cool and harden, you’ll have a new set of crayons your kids will love.
Baby Food Jars – Baby food jars are the perfect size for storing dried herbs and spices! Gather the lids to several jars and paint them however you’d like – matching or with coordinating colors – for a set of spice containers that look great on your spice rack.
Old Clothes – Clothes that are ripped or stained beyond repair still probably have some value. Salvage buttons and clean sections for fabric scraps you can use for repairs or other DIY projects. For example, you can turn your t-shirts into a memory quilt! Cut logos off of old shirts to make equal squares, sew them together, add fleece backing and you have a comfy, sentimental blanket to cozy up in. This idea can also be applied to baby clothes – use outgrown onesies and receiving blankets to create a keepsake that will be treasured beyond the baby years.
Orphaned Socks – Stuff orphaned socks with catnip or batting for upcycled pet toys your furry friend will love.
Towels – Turn your old towels into cleaning rags and washcloths by cutting them up and sewing up the edges. Save money on paper towels by using your “new” cleaning cloths instead.
By reusing these 9 simple items, you and your family can reduce your waste and lower your carbon footprint. Based on average use of these items in the U.S., you’ll save up to $700 per year by reducing or even eliminating the need to buy food containers, school storage supply containers, paper towels, soup stock, pet toys, seed starters and fabric for small projects these items new. To reduce waste and save money even more, never stop looking for more things you can recycle at home.