You don’t have to be a bin-diving hipster to be an expert at recycling. If you look around your house, you might be surprised by how many repurpose-able items you might normally throw away or toss into a recycling bin.
This is probably one of the most important of the 3 eco-friendly commandments—if you have less stuff, to begin with, then you won’t have as big of a problem in figuring out what to do with it when it’s reached the end of its life. And of course, buying less stuff means spending less of your hard-earned money.
How can you keep yourself from buying things you don’t really need?
- For starters, be sure to reuse and recycle what you already have (see below).
- When you go shopping, always carry a well thought out list, so you don’t end up buying something just because it’s on “sale” or because your stomach told you to.
- If you need to get rid of appliances or furniture, donate the items, put them on the sidewalk, post a Craigslist ad. No need to pay anyone to haul your old couch away—those in dire need of furniture will gladly take it off your hands for free.
- The next time you need to buy AA batteries, go for the rechargeable kind. These days, you can get a 4 pack of rechargeable batteries with the charger for about $20. Not only is this the eco-friendly thing to do, but it’s also unbelievable how many years they can last—and how much money you can save by not buying regular batteries.
Reuse and Recycle
If you’re crafty by nature, then you already have the upper hand when it comes to reusing and recycling old or worn household items. For ideas and inspiration, check out crafty sites like Etsy or green living sites like Eco Salon.
Here are some more ideas to transform your trash into treasures:
- Instead of tossing those yogurt or pudding cups into the recycling bin, use them to plant your very own kitchen herb garden.
- When you buy glass jars of food products like jam, mayonnaise or olives, wash the pots and save them. Jars can be used to store your own homemade jam, but are generally useful for the storage of many a thing, including spices, buttons, coins, receipts, pencil/pen holder, rubber bands, etc. Keep your household items organized in this way, and you won’t be spending money on storage containers—or having to rummage through the clutter to find what you’re looking for.
- Speaking of glass jars, how about all those wine and/or beer bottles you’ve been collecting?
These kinds of glass bottles make excellent candle holders and flower vases—and don’t forget about creating a gorgeous glass bottle wall if you’re in the middle of building or renovating your home.
- Plastic bags from the store can become a myriad of useful things, including garbage bags for smaller trash bins,
- Old t-shirts and socks can be used as a cleaning or dusting rags—just as good as any fancy store-bought cloths.
- Make your own cosmetic products! Use the coffee grounds from your morning dose to create an excellent face scrub. Just mix together with yogurt and honey or olive oil and slather it all over your face for a truly refreshing morning! You’ll save a ton of money by not buying expensive cosmetics, which usually have dozens of unknown ingredients. Other ways to avoid purchasing cosmetic products: honey and sugar as a lip scrub, pure organic coconut or olive oil as a moisturizer.
- Scrap paper can be used for notes, grocery and to-do lists, playing Pictionary, sketching out your future garden plot—whatever you want. Make a dedicated space for your scrap paper pile, so you get out of the habit of throwing used papers away. With plenty of scrap paper around, you’re saving trees and saving money by not purchasing notepads or notebooks.
- Bored with your wardrobe and accessories? No need to max out a credit card to update your look–try clothes swapping party with friends, family, or post the idea on Craigslist. This way, you can exchange dresses that you’re tired of for entirely new outfits.
Once you get into the habit of breathing new life into your used household items and objects that you’d usually discard, you’ll feel like a superhero for helping to save the planet—and save yourself a nice chunk of money.
Suchi Rudra is an avid traveler and freelance writer from Texas who covers personal finance, travel, green building, tech, and entrepreneurship. Her work can be found in VICE, The Guardian, Vice, American Way, BBC Travel, Fodor’s, Transitions Abroad, PlanetEye.com, TravelStart.com, Expats.cz, The Writer and India Currents and many other publications.