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Sustainable Life: 10 Fresh ideas for reusing household items

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Most stuff that we own is designed with one purpose in mind.

Ceramic plates are for eating food. Toothbrushes are for cleaning teeth. Socks are for slipping over your feet. Stop right there! With a little creativity, all of these items can be reinvented.

Here are 10 fresh ideas for reusing common household items.

Toothbrushes

When the bristles are all turned out, it’s time for a career change. Time to switch from tooth brushing to kitchen scrubbing. Toothbrushes are great at getting into small spaces for cleaning specialty kitchen items. They’re also great for cleaning around the house, for getting into small and hard-to-reach places.

From bath towel to hand cloth

I thought we used our towels until the very end, until I read Tammy Logan’s zero waste blog, Gippsland Unwrapped. When one of Tammy’s bath towels gets tatty, it’s not time to throw it in the bin. It’s time to get out the sewing machine and scissors.

Tammy creates hand towels from the ‘good’ fabric that’s still contained in an old bath towel. When her hand towels get tatty, time to get the sewing machine and scissors out again. Hand towels become kitchen rags. The off-cuts from 100% cotton towels can be put into the compost or worm farm, as can the kitchen rags – when they finally become tatty too. Now, that’s really using a towel to the very end.

Every kind of plastic bag

Ziplock bags, bread bags, shopping bags… they all go into our bespoke calico bag holder. Plastic bags are at a premium in our home – they’re a commodity. We reuse them when packing whole fruit for outings, taking dirty clothes or shoes home from sports training and for lining our rubbish bin.

Baking paper

No one else will tell you this, but baking paper can be washed and reused again, and again. We’ve found that in a very hot, bread making oven, baking paper can be reused three times before it turns brown and flakes apart.

Packaging

I am guilty of the occasional burst of online shopping, mostly for children’s Christmas gifts. I love the convenience, but I don’t love the packaging. However, I recently discovered that my local post office appreciates spare packaging (bubble wrap). So, instead of recycling it with RedCycle, I take it down for reuse. You can also reuse packaging yourself by keeping the parcel packaging and re-labelling it for any parcels you might need to send.

Children’s craft

Where to start? There are so many options here! Here are four favourites:

BOX CONSTRUCTION

Take some cardboard packages, clean plastic bottles, add some sticky tape and you have perfect ingredients for box construction. This craft brings joy to many small children. Many a family has suffered the box construction invasion.

BOTTLE TOP ART

The ingredients for this are coloured bottle tops and glue. Stick the bottle tops onto paper, to make a design. Bottle tops also make great ‘necklaces’ if a hole is drilled/ punctured in the middle and they are threaded on a string.

SCRAPBOOKING

Only old magazines, scissors, glue and a scrapbook are needed to create works of art. Great for developing children’s coordination and learning to use scissors.

MOSAICS

Older children and adults that are young and creative at heart will love this one. Take chipped crockery and smash it (inside a tough bag) to create mosaic tiles. Plan your design, put your mortar down and then your tiles on top of the mortar. Grout in-between the tiles for a smooth finish.

Ice cream bucket

Family sized ice cream comes in large plastic tubs. Perfect for feeding a crowd, and when it’s finished the plastic tubs make a great storage bucket. We use ours to store food scraps in the kitchen, ready for the chickens or the worms. If there’s extra, the kids use the tubs to store small toys or ‘treasures’ from nature walks.

Electrical cord labels

Some people are ultra-organised around their homes. There are labels in the pantry, the shed and for each electrical cord. I don’t happen to be one of those ultra-organised people. However, if labelling is your thing, consider reusing bread ties to label your electrical cords.

Bread tags are those tiny pieces of hard plastic that seal a plastic bread bag and keep in the freshness. The ‘hole’ in the tag is the perfect size to fit snugly around most electrical cords.

Wine bottles

Remember a fabulous bottle of wine by turning it into a decorative interior piece. Place a candle in the bottle’s neck as a rustic, romantic table piece. Fill the wine bottle with water and pop some cut flowers or plants that grow in water on the window sill.

Odd socks

Is there a place where all of the world’s odd socks congregate? I don’t know how we lose so many single socks, but we do. On a rainy day, we go through the odd sock pile and make sock puppets.

A simple puppet needs just some heavy duty markers. Use the marker to draw on some eyes and nose to the ‘sock’. If you’re feeling fancy, stick on some craft materials to create hair, jewellery or even insect antennae.

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