Choosing to Reuse

Choosing to Reuse

One of the better “green” books to come on the market is Choose to Reuse by Nikki & David Goldbeck. A little dated, since it was first published in 1995, the content remains useful largely because the book’s central premise is that reusing is better than recycling.

What’s the difference, you might ask? As the Goldbecks explain it, reusing is any activity that lengthens the life of an item. Recycling is remanufacture of an item into a new raw material.

Because reusing escapes the production cycle, which puts more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, it is clearly better, but rather than quoting directly from the book, we at Green Home want to offer some highly relevant examples.

The first, and one of the most obvious, is reusing bathroom towels. When the hems on your towels begin to fray, and the center is thin enough to see light through, it may be time to replace old towels with new, organic cotton towels.

One tried-and-true method is taking the best sections of an old towel and turning them into kitchen, or cleaning, cloths. Of course not everyone has a sewing machine to hem those raw edges, which begin to fray almost immediately. Fortunately, technology has given us fabric glues that bond very quickly and lasts through many washings. You can choose from durable fabric glues like Aleens, or glues applied with a glue gun, or even heat-activated glues that iron on.

The same can be done with cotton t-shirts, sweatshirts and other soft fabrics. Because they are naturally nonabrasive, and have been washed and washed until they are as soft as velvet, they are ideal for washing or cleaning delicate surfaces like the lenses of glasses. That softness also means they won’t leave smears or scratches on your valuable silver and crystal.

When even these repurposed cottons reach the end of their useful life, cut them into scraps with scissors and use for pet bedding. Your hamster, fancy mice or guinea pigs will love you for it, because nothing else makes better nesting material and small rodents are, by definition, nesters or burrowers.

We’ve already discussed reusing plastic coffee cans (in a vertical garden), but what about plastic milk jugs? I cut the bottoms off and use the jug – “fat” end up – as a planter in flower borders. The small end already has a drain hole (almost perfectly sized to maintain optimum moisture conditions for healthy roots), and the fat end prevents grass or creeping ground covers from taking over around the base of delicate plants. As a result, you can easily plant-and-forget, and never worry about weeds strangling your delicate and expensive perennials and annuals.

If you’re renovating and plan to put in new carpet, remember that the old carpet may end up as a smelly lump in your local landfill, along with the other five billion pounds discarded by other homeowners. Shrink that statistic; cut off the edges (which seldom see foot traffic) and use these scraps as entry, hall or mudroom rugs. You will save a bundle on area rugs and keep your new carpet newer longer. And, of course, you have already sealed your new carpet with Safechoice Lock Out carpet protector, which prevents outgassing (of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs) and helps keep it looking clean and new longer.

There are literally hundreds of salvage techniques like the ones described above. Get your children in on the project by offering a reward for every idea they come up with. You will be amazed how many ways there are to reuse, and those busy little brains will have something to keep them occupied.

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