Think the only place for last week’s water bottles is the trash can or recycling bin at the corner? What about former pickle and pasta sauce jars, old boxes, cans from fruits and vegetables or simple brown paper bags?
Repackaging our packaging can multiply the uses and extend the life of household items that include giftwrap, jars, bottles, brown paper bags, cans, bedding bags, and more. And whether you have a knack for crafting, organizing, or are simply looking to up your conservation contribution, these ideas can inspire you and your family to think infinitely about reconstituting common items.
As super organizers, unlike opaque products glass allows you to see exactly what’s stored inside and even be creative in the way you do it. Instead of using an empty mason jar to showcase a box of bath salts, think about layering different bath salt colors almost like ribbons of pretty sand. Or fill with multicolored layers of dried beans or grains. Want to create a one-of-a-kind lamp? Fill the jar with smooth pebbles and stones or shells from your family vacation. Many DIY websites can show you how to complete the process, and building supply stores sell lamp kits for this purpose.
If you like to paint, decoupage, or even if you don’t, yesterday’s can of peas or fruit cocktail makes a great little make-up brush or pen and pencil holder, planter, vase, etc. Records show that recycling just one can saves 95 percent of the energy used to produce a new can, so why not repurpose it where possible? As untreated aluminum doesn’t hold paint well, you’ll want to prep the surface by sanding first and using a spray-on metal primer. Or, simply decorate with a little glue and some favorite magazine images, photographs, or apply the festive wrapping paper you saved from the last holiday party.
Brown Paper Bags
Great for camouflaging plain cans (see above), and with a little ingenuity these items can also double as larger mailing envelopes. Paper bags and wrapping paper have also been used by students as makeshift book jackets for years, and personalizing them if desired with markers, paint, stickers, fabric, etc. ups the creative quotient. Paper bags can also be utilized to organize and store complete sheet sets (which can become separated from themselves and pillow cases). In humid areas, bread stays fresher when stored inside paper bags rather than plastic. Paper’s quality allows it to breathe, therefore the crust stays crisp while the center remains soft. Finally, brown paper bags are known compost magnets as they contain less ink than newspaper and are said to attract earthworms. Sources say it is best to shred and wet the bags first, however.
Zippered Bedding/Comforter Bags
Great for storing toys (be sure to keep out of babies’ and young children’s reach as they are plastic), these items are also a good idea for extra cords and smaller electronic items. If you shop in bulk at wholesale clubs, these bags can efficiently store and organize toiletries, paper goods, and much more.
Plastic Gallon Jugs
If you buy gallon-size water. milk, or cider, cut the top off, leaving the handle, and repeatedly fill with water as a rinsing tool when bathing the dog in the tub. Large plastic water bottles (tops cut off) can be used effectively to store children’s arts and crafts supplies, maybe painted and individualized first (be sure to sand for paint to adhere well, and/or purchase paints made especially for plastic surfaces) as an art project in itself. Kept intact with a slot cut out, and of course decorated by a child, a gallon-size bottle becomes a fun piggy bank that can be carried around by the handle (to be cut open when full).
To repurpose smaller water bottles, when cut they can be used as bird feeders, terrarium tops, hanging vases, etc. Check Pinterest for ideas. Using only the very bottoms, they become perfect storage containers for paper clips, thumb tacks, rubber bands, eye shadow and more.
Beth Herman is a freelance writer with interests in healthy living and food, family, animal welfare, architecture and design, religion, and yoga. She writes for a variety of national and regional publications, institutions, and websites.