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March 23, 2018  |  Login
Lengthen the Life of Your Possessions
By Yvonne Jeffery, Liz Barclay, Michael Grosvenor
Cutting back on consumption is an important part of waste reduction, and if you're able to hold on longer to the possessions you already have, you reduce even further your need to buy new items and get rid of the old ones. Not only does this practice reduce your waste, but it also saves you money, which is always a good thing! In this section, we take a look at how reusing and repurposing items can give them a new and longer life at very little environmental cost.

If you can't reuse something directly, recycling is your next best option because it turns the item into something that's once again usable. This conversion costs energy, but it's still better than throwing out the item.

Reusing and Repurposing

Sometimes you can't reuse items in the same way you've been using them because they're too worn out for that purpose; in these situations, find a new purpose for that item, adapting it however you need to.

Reusing sits above recycling in the hierarchy of the three Rs because it doesn't require any extra energy for reprocessing and because it cuts down on the need to buy new. The aim is to use items for as long as possible, for as many different uses as possible, or by as many people as possible, before they have to be recycled or disposed of in the trash.

Most things have more than one use. Here are some ideas to get you thinking creatively about how to reuse or repurpose things that you own:

  • Reuse paper that has been used only on one side. Put the other side through your printer again for rough drafts, use it for notepaper, or give it to your children to use as drawing paper.

  • Wash plastic food storage bags instead of discarding them. Use hot soapy water to get them clean, but don't reuse bags that have been in contact with raw or cooked meat.

  • Use empty glass jars as containers in your workshop or as organizers at your desk or elsewhere. If you drill holes in the lids and screw them to the underside of a shelf, you can attach the jars to the lids to reduce clutter on your work surface.

  • Use wrapping paper and gift bags again and cut down cards to make gift tags. Fold gift paper and bags carefully so that they store easily and live to wrap again. Make a wonderful joke or legacy card among your family members and friends by reusing the same birthday card over and over and simply encouraging everyone to keep passing it on to the next person who has a birthday - no apologies, just cross out the last giver's name and add on your own best wishes for many happy returns . . . and returns and returns.

  • Alter clothes and cultivate your own vintage look by contributing to and shopping at secondhand clothing boutiques. Want more ideas for what to do with clothing? Check out Reconstructing Clothes For Dummies (Wiley), by Miranda Caroligne Burns.

  • Repair damaged items. Try repairing an item rather than throwing it away and buying a new one. If it's not worth repairing the item - especially with electrical items, where safety is an issue - decide whether it really needs replacing. Life may be too short to darn a sock, but a chair with a broken leg or ripped upholstery, a defunct kettle, or a temperamental toaster may have years of life left with a bit of tender loving repair.

TIP: If you can't repair things yourself, find someone who can: Furniture restoration businesses, clothing alteration and repair services, shoe repairers, upholsterers, electronic appliances repair firms, and even toy hospitals can give your items a new lease on life.

  • Turn small plastic containers into garden pest traps. Set the plastic container into the ground and fill it with beer to create a baited trap for harmful pests such as slugs.

  • Cut old, worn clothing into rags for cleaning, dusting, or washing vehicles. more



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