It’s surprising how much we can recycle, upcycle and re-use items that are often just tossed in the rubbish without a second thought.
When that second thought occurs though, it triggers all sorts of benefits:
- generally feeling good
- creativity and imagination
- projects, possibly family centred to enjoy and learn from
- New and unique items for your home
And if those benefits weren’t enough, how about the benefits to the environment:
- Less land-fill, generally
- Less driving to the shops for a ‘new’ whatever
So, what could you recycle, upcycle or re-use?
It really does depend on your own lifestyle, family and needs but here are a few ideas that could help save the planet and the health of your bank account perhaps!
Toilet or Kitchen roll tubes serve as small pots and are usually in abundance in a busy household. Cut them in half and place in a tray with sides then a waterproof one. Here, I didn’t have a tray with sides so I made a shallow tray from an old cardboard box to hold the pots in place then put it on a tray I wasn’t using for anything else. It works!
And many yogurt and dessert pots are now being manufactured with less plastic. Punch a hole in the bottom (be careful) and wash thoroughly before filling with compost.
I’ve been gradually buying canvas pots and they have been recently coming down in price. As long as they are emptied and dried out after use, they will last a fair amount of time – and I’ve found the slugs are not so keen on them, although my battle with slugs continues…. 🙂
When I lived in France, I found that a couple of crops – nasturtiums and parsnips come to mind – would re-seed themselves. But we did have mild winters so I wouldn’t recommend relying on that system.
Let one or two plants go to seed and collect carefully. With broad beans for example, leave the first couple of pods on the plant and they will eventually dry naturally, allowing you to save the seeds to plant next year.
Do a little research for your crops in your region. Parsley in the UK is biennial. It produces leaf in the first year then flowers and seeds in the second year. Let the plant do its thing if you can spare the space, then collect the seed and sow!
A leaky bucket may not be any good for cleaning or holding water, but it could be an excellent garden accessory. If you’re weeding a patch of ground, pop the weeds in the bucket and you won’t be going back and forth to the compost bin or trailing soil across the lawn!
Fruit boxes, wooden or cardboard can be really helpful too, especially if you have lots of stuff to harvest at once.
Netting Bags may be useful to protect your fruit bushes. Be careful with this one though. You don’t want birds caught up in it. The holes would need to be fairly small to avoid wildlife damage.
However, I’ve used regular netting bags to stretch low between plants to deter cats from ‘visiting’.
Although this is a plastic product, it’s sometimes the only choice. But they can be recycled in the garden. I sometimes use them for watering ‘cans’. Punch a few holes in the lid and water away! Also, cutting the bottom off (again be careful here) will create a mini-cloche you can pop over more delicate plants until the weather warms up. Push into the earth quite firmly or a gust of wind could blow it away and also damage your plant.
Save old spoons and forks to transplant seedlings. They are less likely to damage the roots of your small plants than a trowel.
The upcycle market has been flooded with upcycled furniture over the past few years and it’s often quite expensive. I am totally with these prices even if I can’t afford them myself! It takes time and resources to re-create an old piece of furniture and the designs and ideas some come up with are amazing!
So, are you artistically minded or maybe a little challenged in that area of life skills?! It really doesn’t matter which. Work with what you have, in skills and resources. If you want to upcycle an old chest of drawers and it’s the first time you’ve attempted anything like it, think it through before you start slapping paint on.
Have a look at images online to get some ideas.
Make a list of what you’ll need and some notes on how to do it. Have you got space somewhere you can work and leave it when you’re needed elsewhere? Can you use eco-friendly products? How much is it going to cost?
Upholstery crosses over with furniture really. Is your sofa really too saggy to be comfortable anymore? Check out whether it’s possible to refurbish it. – Sometimes it’s not so be realistic here!
But maybe it’s fine but could do with recovering. Professional recovering, again can be quite costly but there are other ways.
Blankets and throws can be super decorative and hide a multitude of sins – read ‘stains’! – I made this throw with only 3 colours because that’s what I had in my yarn stash. It got so popular that I eventually got around to creating a super simple pattern. It’s listed here if you’d like a cool project you can pick up and put down anytime. And the throw is unique – 100%. Make it in random colours or stick to a few blending colours.
And even dining room chairs can be upholstered at home. You’d have to do a little research into the tools you need and whether or not to take an evening class, but this is a satisfying hobby according to my daughter and could even turn into a local business. You never know 🙂
Collect large and small pieces of cloth for making new cushion linings and/or covers. Curtains, quilt covers and even blankets can often be found in charity shops if you’ve nothing available and want to refresh your furnishings.
Even old curtains could be used to line other curtains for winter months. Keeping out the drafts will help keep your fuel costs down and keep cosy anyway.
Also, clothes that are really too small, too stained or too holey could be harnessed into your recycling activities. Cut the good parts out and save in a ‘cloth box or bag’ and use later to make patchwork covers or even new clothes. I made a patchwork skirt when I was a lot younger (and slimmer!) It’s looking a little sad now but it’s been hanging around for over 40 years and I can’t bring myself to throw it out 🙂
A sewing machine comes in handy and can be bought fairly cheaply these days. They used to be almost a ‘luxury’ but a regular non-fancy machine could cost less than £100 and could save you a lot more. This is a Brother machine that comes in at around the £100 mark but there are cheaper options. Please research thoroughly as I haven’t used this one myself.
Kids grow out of their clothes almost before they’ve been washed! When that happens, either pass down to a younger sibling or give away to a friend or charity. There are apps you can sell them on too. But if they really aren’t saleable and not really worth passing on, do the same as before; cut the good parts out and save them for other things. Keep buttons and working zips as well.
Some of these pieces of cloth and general haberdashery can be siphoned off to a craft box for the children…
Cereal boxes, egg boxes and all sorts of containers can be used to create models and games and will encourage children to enjoy crafts and make the best use of their imagination.
Often parents say ‘but they’ll play with the box more than the gift inside’ and from my own experience, I would say that’s pretty much true a lot of the time!
So, how about getting one step ahead and creating something out of a box in the first place (and put your credit card away!)
Medium sized boxes can be used to make:
dolls houses, castles, model villages, cars and boats and even puppet shows – This article will give you some ideas- Boxland
If none of these ideas resonate, try googling or youtube-ing – for example ‘how to upcycle my washing machine’ – I’ve known a few friends who have recycled the drum of an old washing machine into a barbecue or garden waste burner. The rest of the machine is normally taken away by a metal scrap merchant although if you’re handy with tools and like messing around with bits of metal, maybe a sculpture or a practical set of shelves may be possible?
Whatever it is you’re getting rid of or perhaps been hoarding for ‘later’ allow yourself a moment of creative imagination before you declutter and throw everything out. Think Recycle, Upcycle, Re-use.
Here’s to a Happy Planet!
P.S. If you are de-cluttering your home and it’s all got a bit too much, there’s a handy download I put together to help you get through the task step by step. It’s listed here (at the At Home page)