You try your best to live a sustainable lifestyle, using as few resources and producing as little waste as possible. But it doesn’t always happen, and you do end up producing some waste. And that’s okay; it is complicated to go for zero waste in today’s world.
However, it is important to manage the waste you are producing, which involves reducing, reusing, and recycling. Considering you are using only the resources you need, the next step is reusing your old products as much as possible before sending them for recycling.
Why is reusing important?
In theory, most materials can be recycled and used for a long time. But the real-world scenario is that only a small fraction of the waste you generate is recycled, and most of the time, it is recycled into products of lower quality. Thus the material can only be recycled a few times before it becomes useless if it is recycled at all.
This is where reusing comes in. When you reuse, you give the product an extra life before it meets its fate in the recycling station (or landfill). This means less production, which leads to less pollution and more sustainability.
The purpose – where I start – is the idea of use. It is not recycling, it’s reuse.Issey Miyake
In the following sections, you will learn how to reuse most household containers easily.
How to Reuse Glass Containers
Many products, especially food items, come in glass containers. While Glass is completely recyclable, much waste glass actually ends up in landfills. The production of that Glass costs energy and resources, and by reusing, you are essentially conserving that energy and resources.
Storing and Making Fermented Foods
While a fermentation crock is best suited for this purpose, glass jars work just as well for smaller batches.
Reuse glass containers, especially jars having lids, for making sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, or to ferment vegetables such as carrot, radish, beet, asparagus, jalapenos- the list is endless.
Fermented foods are a great source of probiotic bacteria that help keep the gut healthy. Fermentation is also said to enhance the availability of nutrients in food and also help improve immunity.
Storing Spices and Herbs
You can reuse old glass containers to store spices and other dried herbs in your kitchen.
This can help organize your kitchen and cabinet space. You can also print and stick papers with spice names onto the respective containers to make it even more organized.
Storing spices in reused glass jars has another added benefit. Glass does not absorb any chemicals and is easy to clean. So you can store something else in that glass container without worrying about any lingering smells.
If you like stocking up on grocery items, consider using reused glass containers to store your supplies.
Not only will it look dapper in your kitchen, but glass jars are also much safer than plastic containers and easy to clean and disinfect in situations like, say, a bug infestation.
Lard and Tallow
Used for centuries to cook food in lard, made from pig fat, and tallow, made from the fat of sheep and cattle, fell out of use after the advent of hydrogenated vegetable oils.
However, this granddaddy of cooking oils is making a comeback. It contains no trans fats and primarily monounsaturated fatty acids, making it a healthier option than hydrogenated fats.
Glass jars can be reused to hold and store lard and tallow. In fact, glass containers are probably the ones best suited for this purpose.
You see, lard and tallow are made by rendering, which involves slowly cooking the fattiest parts of the meat to melt away the fat. Glass is best for catching this hot melted fat as it gives off no chemicals and is heat resistant.
Storing Cooked Food
Cooked up a lot of food? Don’t throw it away. Store it.
Use glass containers to store cooked food, as they won’t absorb or release anything into your food and will also be able to handle hot food.
Jar salads are a handy and easy way to pack a snack.
Put the salad ingredients into a reused glass jar that you can carry to work or an outing and have for lunch. Arrange the jar salad by placing the dressing at the bottom and other ingredients on top, and mix it together when you eat.
Jams and Jellies
Reused glass containers are an excellent way to store homemade jams and jellies. Your grandma did it like this.
Cut out the pricey mason jars. Reused glass jars will do just as well for serving drinks.
Just make sure there are no chips or breaks in the jar, and you have a chic way to serve drinks.
Storing Frozen Broth
Cooked a lot of extra broth or stock? Please put them in glass containers and store them in a freezer.
Melt and use!
Cookies in a Jar
The cookie in a jar is a very popular gifting option, especially around the holidays.
It involves packing the dry ingredients needed to make a cookie layer by layer into a mason or glass jar. The layers are packed together by pressing down to ensure no intermixing, and a recipe card usually tells the recipient how to make the cookies.
The cookie in a jar is a personal and thrifty gift, but it’s also insanely cute. You can make such gifts by using reused glass jars instead of buying new ones.
Old glass containers can be easily reused to make homemade candles.
Just melt wax beads available at home stores or craft supply stores, pour the molten wax into a reused glass jar, preferably a smaller one, and add a wick.
Once the candle is used up, repeat the process. Use wax of different colors, and add scents or even glitter to make your own customized candles.
Check out our other post to learn how to reuse candle jars.
Reused Glass Bottle Lamps
Reused glass bottle lamps are a great and cheap way to liven up your living room. Or porch. Or any part of the house.
Take any old glass bottle, clean thoroughly and dry properly. Then put a length of a led string light in it. Cut a portion of the cork to pass the wire through.
You can put the string light in one bottle if you want one lamp, or you can pass a long string light through multiple bottles to make a necklace of lights that will look cool on a wall.
Whether you have a green thumb or not, you should try making a terrarium sometime in your life.
A terrarium is a mini garden inside a container, most commonly made of Glass. It can have some big effects on your life, helping you to calm down and relieve stress. They are easy to take care of, grow all year round, and can look beautiful.
It’s better to reuse an old glass container or jar to make your terrarium. It really sets the naturalist vibe, you know!
Old glass bottles can be reused and upcycled to make soap dispensers.
A large portion of the price you pay for buying soap goes to the packaging and the container. Using a soap dispenser will help cut costs for you while helping the environment by cutting plastic packaging. Double sustainability!
You can buy soap dispenser heads online or at home supply stores attached to the bottle to turn it into a soap dispenser.
Storing Homemade Cosmetics
The use of plastics by the beauty and self-care industry harms our planet, and the chemicals in their products harm your body.
You might consider making your own cosmetics using natural ingredients if you think so. And while you are at it, why not store your homemade organic cosmetics in reused glass containers?
A vase is one of the easiest things you can make out of your old glass containers.
You can use a glass container as it is if you like the looks, or you can paint it with acrylic paint. Vases can be of any shape and size, so it will do as a vase as long as the container is taller than it is wide.
And you can add some stunning decor at no (or minimal) extra cost.
Storage from old Glass Containers
Finally, old glass containers can be used to store any number of things: spare change, nuts and bolts, candies, toiletries, and so on.
You only need to look around to find ways to reuse glass containers around your home and workplace.
How to Reuse Cardboard Containers
Cardboard is the most commonly used packaging material in the world. And no matter how sustainably you live and how few purchases you make, you are bound to end up with some cardboard boxes.
The nice thing about cardboard is that it is not so much of a threat to the environment and is easily recyclable. If nothing works, you can throw the cardboard into your compost bin or use it as weed-killing mulch in your garden.
But reusing cardboard containers and boxes means using fewer resources of some kind. Some companies accept their packaging, and for others, you can do the following reuse cardboard containers.
You can make your own DIY desktop organizer from reused cardboard boxes. A desktop organizer can help keep your desk clean and uncluttered, so you get your work done faster.
You can find a lot of designs for making desktop organizers out of reused cardboard on websites such as Pinterest. How you decorate or color your organizer is up to you.
Old cardboard boxes can be reused to make beautiful tissue dispensers.
Just cut out a slit or an opening on the top of the box to pull the tissues out, paint and decorate as you want to, and you’re done.
Why use boring night lamps when you can make an elegant cardboard lantern out of reused cardboard boxes?
These lanterns really up the beauty of any room. A cardboard lantern will make visitors go wow, and fill you with happiness every time you light it!
Always losing your socks in the mess of your drawers? Arrange your drawers using old cardboard boxes.
You can use small boxes as they are or cut up bigger ones to make these dividers. Your life will get so much easier when you have everything in order. Let’s start with your socks.
Storage From Old Cardboard Boxes
You can reuse cardboard boxes directly for the purpose they are made for storing stuff.
Your old clothes, your children’s toys, garage spares- almost everything that needs to be stored can go to a reused cardboard container.
When you are using old cardboard boxes to store stuff around the house, you can use them as they are, or if you are going to place the boxes somewhere guests can see them, we highly recommend you color and decorate them.
Cereal boxes are great for storing magazines. This will help keep your magazines organized so that you can have them at hand but not spread everywhere.
Turning a cereal box into magazine storage is simple: just cut the sides of the cardboard box diagonally so you can grab your magazines easily.
How to Reuse Plastic Containers
Considering our society’s obsession with plastic, you are most likely to have more plastic containers than containers of any other material. While they are the most abundant, plastic containers are also the most damaging to the environment if you throw them away.
But don’t worry. We have a whole list of ways you can reuse any plastic containers you have lying around.
You can convert your old plastic containers into planters for growing plants.
Or for making a herb garden.
Or for growing cuttings before you plant them in your garden.
Old plastic water bottles can be reused to make DIY sprinklers for your garden.
Make a few holes on one side of the bottle and attach a garden hose to the mouth of the bottle.
Drip irrigation system
Another way you can use plastic water bottles in your garden is by making a simple but effective drip irrigation system for your plants.
Plastic containers and bottles can be reused to make simple bird feeders. Climate change is hurting those little peeps a lot, and they need all the help they can get.
Milk Jug Ice Packs
Milk jugs can be reused in various ways: you can cut them and make them into dustpans, sprinklers, and many things.
But making ice packs out of milk jugs is probably the easiest way to reuse them. Just fill a milk jug with water (leave some space for the water to expand) and put it in the freezer.
Once it freezes, you have a no-hassle ice pack that you put in a cooler to cool your drinks on a picnic or drive.
Milk jugs filled with water actually make for great dumbbells.
You can reuse pill bottles to store shampoo and conditioner for trips. Or to store small items such as bobby pins. Check out our other blog on how to recycle pill bottles in details.
Sprinklers out of parmesan cheese shakers
Parmesan cheese shakers can be reused as sprinklers for salt, pepper, or other condiments.
Ice Cream tubs
Ice cream tubs can be reused to store toys, tissues, cleaning items, and various other stuff.
Also, feel free to check out my other post on how to reuse ice cream containers.
You can reuse mint containers to store sewing supplies like needles, bobby pins, etc.
You can reuse yogurt containers to make measuring cups for your kitchen.
Storage from Old Plastic Containers
Plastic containers can be reused to store almost anything, toys, sewing supplies, craft supplies, odds, and ends. Give it a thought before you throw them away.
Reusing containers that you would otherwise throw away increases their lifetime, and it also keeps them from polluting the environment and reduces the use of resources to make new products.
Here are a bunch of ways you can reuse containers that will hopefully help you lead a greener and more sustainable life.