One way you can be good to the environment is by reusing items rather than getting something new. When you reuse something, you reduce waste, first by not disposing of the thing you are reusing, second by not creating or paying someone else to create a replacement item, and third by not needing to dispose of the replacement after it's used.
Sometimes you may select an item that can be reused. For instance, you can use ceramic plates rather than paper plates. Or buy an item that is better designed or sturdier, so it will last for more uses.
An item can be reused in the same way. For example, when you continue to use dishes. Or something can continue to be useful, but in a different way. A towel that's so worn that you don't want to continue using it as a bath or kitchen towel can still be used as household rags, a towel or bedding for pets.
What other things do you know of to reduce waste by reusing?
- Buying food items in recyclable containers (such as a cool whip container) and then reusing them. When they become too old to reuse, recycle them.
- Plasticware, even though it is generally considered disposable, can be reused.
- Reuse newspapers for just about anything - put them inside wet shoes overnight or under shoes to keep the dribbles to a minimum; to wrap presents; to wrap materials for moving. More ideas here on Real Simple.
- Produce bags from the grocery store - If you must use them, take them home and use them for the plant scraps that come from peeling and cleaning your fresh produce, you could compost those scraps or take them to the trash to make your big kitchen trash fresher for longer and to avoid throwing out the trash every week (avoid bad smells/decay).
- According to wikianswers, you can toss coffee grinds into the garbage disposal, but there are better uses for them.
- Rags or cloth scraps can be reused, unlike paper towels, which are usually disposed of after one use.
- One traditional use for rags was to make rag rugs.
- Rags make good cleaning cloths. Especially old, cotton cloth can be soft and clean glass without scratching.
- Rags are also useful for wiping up messes, drying wet pets.
- Clean rags can provide padding for a pet's bed, stuffing for a costume or a rag doll.
- Old toothbrushs are useful for cleaning around kitchen and bathroom fixtures. They can also be used to clean window screens or to get mud off the bottom of textured shoe soles. Toothbrushes can clean small things and in tight corners -- jewelry, computer keyboards and corners where floors and walls meet.
- Wrapping paper
- Re-use to wrap other presents.
- Cut into pieces to use (on the undecorated side) as note paper.
- Decoupage to add color to a jar or can to use to hold things like pencils.
- Cut into squares to use for origami
- Use strips as bookmarks
- Napkin holders can be used to
- Hold cutting boards.
- Organize bills.
Another term that's sometimes used is repurposing.
There are multiple organizations that will help you find a new home to donate or sell items you no longer want. See the "external links" section below for some of them. These sites can also be used to get items you need instead of buying new items (reducing resource use).
- Recycle Ann Arbor (Michigan) runs a ReUse Center shop. It stocks building supplies, furniture, office supplies, books, fixtures, appliances and electronics.
- On families.com's frugal section, there's a summary of reuse by item: Reuse Review: Common Household Items. Some of the items are tennis balls, clothespins and toothbrushes.
- Reuse on ConsumersUnion.org
- 50 All-Time Favorite New Uses for Old Things in Real Simple
- Wikipedia's article on reuse
- Freecycle helps to link up people who have things to give to people who can use them.
- The Guardian has an online article on Fed up with Freecycle? Try these top 10 alternatives (mostly UK based?)
- AARP has an article on the Freecycle Network that also lists some other sites and organizations: The Freecycle Network: Good for the Planet (and Your Wallet)