With trillions of pieces of plastic in the ocean and tons — literally — of trash generated daily, environmentalists are sounding the alarm. One way that the public can help curb the problem and cut household costs is to rethink our use of disposables and learn ways to reuse items that we’re accustomed to tossing into the trash.
Once you’ve found how useful these items can be, you won’t throw anything out without considering other ways you can reuse the many once-discardable objects around your home.
Among the best reusables available, glass jars with lids have infinite uses. Store pantry staples like flour, sugar, dried beans, and pasta noodles. Some manufacturers are now creating interesting vintage-looking or decorated jars for their consumable products. That makes reusing these jars a decor statement as well as environmentally savvy. You can even use them for utensils, to add a rustic vibe to your decor.
There are endless ways to use those plastic bags that you get every time you buy anything at a store. They make great liners for small garbage bins or litter boxes. In the winter, wrap them around your windshield wipers and side mirrors to keep them from freezing over.
If you’re in a crafty mood, create DIY bows for wrapped gifts. Cut plastic bags into strips, bind them together in the middle with a wire kitchen tie, then fluff and separate the strips until you get the desired shape.
Don’t waste the foil that lined your baking sheet. Rinse off any debris left behind, then wad it up and use it as a scrubber for stubborn kitchenware or your outdoor grill.
Out of dryer sheets and hate static cling? Create compact balls from used aluminum foil — that didn't get too greasy, of course — and toss two or three into your dryer with your wet clothes. The balls discharge static buildup and prevent fabrics from sticking together.
Crushed eggshells are a cheap and easy way to add calcium to garden soil. They also deter cutworms, slugs, and snails.
Another handy hack? Prevent wandering neighborhood cats from using your garden as a litter box by scattering eggshells around the places you want to keep them out of. The cat won’t like the feel of the shells on their feet and will avoid the area.
Gardeners know that adding coffee grounds to their garden soil attracts beneficial worms, repels pests, and improves drainage and aeration. Create a rich compost using coffee grounds and non-meat kitchen waste like vegetable trimmings.
Coffee grounds also absorb odors in your refrigerator. Just place a bowl inside to get rid of the aromas from spoiled or fragrant foods.
Once bar soap becomes a sliver, it’s hard to use and most of us toss it in the garbage bin. But avoid the temptation to chuck it. Add a few dry pieces to the inside of smelly sneakers and leave them overnight to get rid of unpleasant odors. Pick up some mesh bags at a local dollar store, place leftover slivers of soap inside, and create an inexpensive loofah sponge.
Don’t get rid of those used tea bags just yet. They can lead to new levels of flavor in foods. Add used chamomile or jasmine tea bags to the water when you're cooking rice or pasta. Try chai or cinnamon tea bags in the water you use to make oatmeal. After a long day, soothe tired eyes with used tea bags that have cooled in the refrigerator.
Reduce the condensation buildup in your toilet by lining the inside of the tank with bubble wrap. This miracle product is also great for lining fruit and vegetable drawers in your refrigerator.
Keep out winter drafts using double-sided tape and bubble wrap to cover windows. The clear plastic still allows light in and saves money on costly heating in the winter.
Sure, you could use one of the glass jars you’ve saved to store bacon grease you’ve accumulated until it cools and you can toss it. Or, you can refrigerate it, and use it to add flavor to eggs, sautéed meat or veggies, or create a bacon vinaigrette.
If you truly love the smell of bacon as it’s cooking, you can even create a candle from the bacon grease. Glue a candle wick to the bottom of a jar, and once your bacon is ready, pour the grease into the jar, avoiding the top of the wick. Store in the fridge to solidify.
If you spend hours untangling holiday string lights each year, this paper towel hack is the perfect solution. Once the season is over, wrap the lights around an empty paper towel holder to prevent tangles.
Stop the pant creases you get when you place slacks or jeans on hangers by taping an empty paper towel roll around the hanger. And if you need a way to store those plastic bags you’re saving, stuffing them into cardboard tubes is an excellent solution.
Do your shoes need a quick shine before you go out? Rub a banana peel across them to remove scuffs and add some sheen. Afterward, wipe the shoe with a soft cloth to remove any residue.
Banana peels have multiple uses in the kitchen, as well. Line the bottom of the pan with them before roasting meat to keep it moist and flavorful. Or, add sliced peels to leftover pickle juice, chill for two days, and you’ve created banana pickles.
Bread can dry out and become stale, but that doesn’t mean you need to throw it out. Toast batches of cubed, stale bread to keep on hand for making meatballs, topping casseroles, dolloping into mushroom caps, and breading meats. Store in slide-lock bags and freeze for up to six months. Day-old bread also makes tasty stuffing.
Stop tossing out those wine corks and start saving them because there are tons of uses for them. Create a DIY bulletin board or wall display. If you like the look of a bamboo bath mat, create something similar by using shelf liner, glue, and lots of wine corks.
Create custom plant markers for your garden, or grind up the corks in a blender and spread them over the soil to help retain moisture.
Devise non-slip hangers using rubber bands. This simple hack will end the problem of your clothes turning up on the floor. Wrap rubber bands around each end of the hanger, looping them securely, but not stretching them too tightly.
If you struggle with opening jars, try wrapping a thick rubber around the lid. The rubber band allows you to easily grip the lid, twist, and open it without your hand slipping.
Old CDs make great decorative coasters, and you can even add artistic touches to personalize them. Glue a piece of felt to the bottom to prevent scratches on furniture.
If you’re trying to draw a perfect circle for an art project, use a CD as a template. You can also create shiny holiday ornaments by cutting them into shapes, drilling a small hole, and stringing them with thread or a piece of yarn.
One of the handiest things to keep around the house, silica gel is an undervalued reusable. The absorbent pebbles can soak up 40% of their weight in water. Add packets to a toolbox to protect metal tools from moisture damage.
If your shoes get wet, place silica gel packets inside them overnight to get rid of moisture by morning. Deal with a foggy windshield by positioning packets on your dashboard to help absorb condensation.
There are dozens of uses for orange peel around the home, including an effective cleaning solution. The citric acid in the peel removes limescale stains in the bathroom and kitchen, neutralizes odors, and can be used as a substitute for a dishwasher rinse aid.
If you feel you need a boost of vitamin C, pulverize dried peels in a food processor and sprinkle over your favorite cereal.
Printers use a specific paper to create newspapers. It has fewer fibers than paper towels, making newspapers a better alternative for cleaning windows that leaves no streaks or fuzz behind on the glass.
Some gardeners use newspapers to line flower and vegetable beds as a barrier against weeds. And, remember to bring along a few newspapers if you go camping. Roll them up into tight tubes and use them as kindling for a fire.
Most hacks begin as an experiment, often out of necessity. Egg cartons have such a history. If you need to make more ice for guests and don’t have enough ice trays, try substituting foam egg cartons. Home workers and creators who need a quieter space but can’t afford expensive sound insulation panels may want to try tacking egg cartons to the wall to help absorb distracting sounds.
Little did you know that by throwing away all those empty toilet roll tubes that you were tossing away such multi-functional items. Use them as packing material instead of bubble wrap or styrofoam peanuts.
With so many electronic devices found in today’s homes, most people have a drawer full of tangled cords. Tidy them up by wrapping each cord around your hand, then placing them inside a toilet roll tube. Label the tube, so you can easily match up the cord with the electronic.