Your friends might think you’ve gone totally gonzo for green, but learning to put household items to surprising recycled uses saves you money and helps the environment.
Step 1: Save newspapers Don’t automatically discard your morning newspaper. Use it in place of paper towels to clean glass and mirrors (it doesn’t leave streaks!), shred it to make packing material, use it as a fire starter, and wrap gifts with it.
Step 2: Save plastic produce bags Save plastic produce bags to pick up dog poop, use them as trash bags in your car, and wrap your clothes in them when you travel to protect against dirty shoes and leaking toiletries.
TIP: A neat way to store plastic produce bags is to stuff them in an empty cardboard tissue box.
Step 3: Hold onto greeting cards Hold onto greeting cards. Even the craft-challenged can cut up old cards to make gift tags and postcards. Or tear off the cover and use the blank side to write out your to-do list instead of wasting note paper.
Step 4: Don’t ditch mousepads Don’t throw out old mousepads. Instead, use them as knee pads when you garden or clean the tub, put them under hot dishes, or cut them into pieces and glue under furniture legs to protect wood floors.
TIP: Prepare file folders for reuse in advance by putting a piece of clear tape over the tab before you add a label. When it’s time to store something else in the folder, the old label will peel off easily.
Step 5: Reuse junk-mail envelopes Reuse junk-mail envelopes for your own mail. Just slap a label over the see-through window or pre-printed address. If the envelope has a bar code at the bottom, run a black marker through it.
Step 6: Don’t dump cooking water Don’t dump the water you use to cook vegetables—water your plants with it. Bonus—it’s filled with nutrients!
FACT: Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Americans generate an extra five million tons of trash.