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REUSE Comes Before Recycle

Recycling is not the only answer to some of our waste issues. Maybe even better is reducing what we use…. but that said, reusing some things can be an excellent option, too. It’s really important now to explore these other two “R”s in the triple R’s for environmentalism (reduce, reuse, recycle)… …especially because recycling today (especially of our plastics) is not all we thought it would be! Turns out a lot of the reusable materials we turn in are not getting recycled and reused by companies like we have been told. (If this is new to you, read about it here.) In the meantime, we can take the proper reuse of some recyclable materials into our own hands.

Of all the recyclable materials out there, here are some of the top reusable things for your home! But keep in mind: this certainly isn’t the entire list of things you can reuse. Research other options and get creative!

  • Glass jars

Whether from pickles, jams, hot sauces, or other foods, you can save these jars instead of taking them in for recycling.

Peel off the labels and reuse them as drinking glasses. Use them as pen holders, label them for holding spices, or start a change jar (or multiple ones) to start scrimping and saving a little.

  • Plastic containers (yogurt, bulk dry goods, water bottles, etc.)

If there are those few foods you love, but it kills you to buy them in plastic containers… stress no more.

You can also reuse these easily. One of their most popular reuses is as small plant pots!

Just puncture a few holes in the bottom, add soil, and you can even grow some of your favorite flowers and decorative plants with nothing more needed besides a sunny window. (And you can decorate, paint, and design over the container any way you want, too - this is a great project for kids to teach them about respecting resources).

  • Plastic grocery bags

A lot of people have turned to cloth grocery bags to reduce plastic production and consumption while shopping.

That said, are you one of these people who still purchases plastic small trash bags, ziplocs, and other plastic baggies for various purposes? Think twice about that.

If you can’t afford or access biodegradable trash bags and other alternatives, make sure you save any plastic bags from the store, and repurpose them for small trash cans.

Your money then won’t end up going to a plastic-producing company. You also cut down on your excess plastic use and waste— though if you can ever find biodegradable non-plastic alternatives, always choose those first!

This type of thin plastic, called "film plastic" can now be recycled at most Target stores in the US. Check the front by the registers and you can put your clean plastic bags right in there to be properly recycled. :)

  • Newspapers and paper junk mail

Every week we watch that paper junk mail pile up! What a waste.

That said, you can save them up and use them for all sorts of purposes. Newspaper can be excellent paper mulch for a garden, or in a pinch used for cleaning glass, windows, and wiping up messes (so you reduce the use of paper towels).

If you have a backyard and a fire ring or fire pit, keep these around (along with cardboard) as useful fire starters.

  • Old clothes, towels, etc.

Using fresh paper towels can be very wasteful. They do a lot of damage to pristine forests all over the world. So instead of tossing old, torn, or stained clothes that otherwise couldn’t be donated, rip these up and make them into kitchen rags for cleaning, wiping up messes, etc. I take old white t-shirts and rip into 4 or 5 little rags that I use in place of paper towels for dusting and wiping down surfaces. They go right in the laundry with everything else. If you feel creative, you can sew or stitch these up into incredibly beautiful creations for your kitchen and dining room. There are tons of other things you can reuse in your home, instead of recycling them. It's all about creativity, and prioritizing resource sustainability over the instant gratification of buying something all shiny and new.

What are some other great ideas for reusing or "upcycling" that you've tried??


Shari Coia
Shari Coia
Jul 23, 2022

I keep my own reusable containers and silverware in a kit in the car for take out food or leftovers at a restaurant. Great idea from a friend. Keep my own stainless steel travel mug in the car too for coffee. Hate seeing all the plastic cups coming out of coffee shops😥


Fraser Liscumb
Fraser Liscumb
Aug 09, 2021

Retired but a Recorded history of being part of actual change sense HS. Spent a career fixing what the experts could not with money. By using innovation and community collaboration to change not what people do but how they do it . Using sustainablity thinking. With a lot of hands on experience with enviormental vision and used my talent to help a under funded government job creation program removing illegal road side dumps or build parks during college. Removing 1million tons and suggesting to the government too capture the gas from the dumps in the 70ths to produce electricity and A few other suggestion that allowed me to help introduce sustainable change. So learned two realities, if you what sustainable…


Delia Lopez
Delia Lopez
Aug 07, 2021

I have been doing all your shared hacks for re use and proudly share to my friends.Here's one more...make pillows, throws,head ,body or even inside a duvet cover those old comforters.


Jillian Boone
Jillian Boone
Aug 03, 2021

Don't buy pajamas.. use stained dress shirts or another thing I like are promotional beer shirts to sleep in.


Fraser Liscumb
Fraser Liscumb
Aug 01, 2021

It’s a complex issue, first you have to understand the problem, then put people financial reality in the picture, why they are doing what they are doing, than figure out how to offer them a solution that needs to have short term benefits and hope the system or those using money to their financial benefit do not use the legal influence to put up barrier if they are not the one in the driver seat looking like they what to be part of the solution,but creative enough to limit the benefit to a privilged few or get “WE” or Nortel ending by simply not fixing the problem but making anyone attached look so bad the only one that loses is…

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