Material contributed by Hayden Seder
Cardboard is one of the most prevalent materials around due to its being used to ship virtually everything in the U.S. Recycling just one ton of this cardboard saves 9 cubic yards of landfill space and 46 gallons of oil. Before sending cardboard to the recycling though, consider reusing it. While the easiest way to reuse cardboard is to simply use them for storage around the house, many people across the country are getting creative and coming up with new ways to use the material. There are companies making lamps, people making art and sculptures, and furniture, all by re-using cardboard. The links provided are just one of many different companies and people re-utilizing cardboard in sustainable and innovative ways. Check out more companies or even look at DIY (do-it-yourself) sites and videos to learn how to make your own cardboard creations!
Newspaper can be reused in many forms: shredded, it can become bedding for a pet’s cage or mulch in your garden, or even cat litter! A layer of six to 10 sheets of newspaper at the beginning of the season in an area that has weeds can control your weeds up to two seasons. Over the newspaper goes compost and soil. Or save work by starting a “lasagna garden”. Newspapers can be beneficial in the garden in a few other ways as well. Use it to make cups for starting seeds.
Crumpled newspaper also works better than paper towels at cleaning windows and glass surfaces. Simply dilute two tbsp of white vinegar in a gallon of water and use this to clean your surfaces. Save paper towels for when it’s really necessary or switch to cloth entirely!
Before tossing magazines in the recycling, consider if there’s someone else who might enjoy reading them first. You can ask local organizations like your local gym, doctor’s office, or school and leave them for others to enjoy first. If you only have one or two magazines at a time places like the YMCA and Wrap City have racks where they accept magazines for others to use. So when you finish your magazine at the gym next time consider leaving it instead of throwing it out! Schools and camps may be able to use old magazines for crafts so enquire about the possibilities of donating old magazines. If you aren’t ready to part with your magazines yet, do a quick search on the internet for how to reuse magazines. There’s a plethora of crafts and other unique ways to reuse magazine pages that are both practical and beautiful. People have made handbags, picture frames, coasters, jewelry, origami boxes, and even a bookshelf! Additionally, consider getting an electronic subscription to your magazines so that you don’t have to worry about recycling those pages anyway!
Every year the U.S. throws out enough paper to make a 12 foot wall from New York to California, yikes! Before simply recycling this paper in an effort to be earth-friendly, consider if you really need that paper form in the first place. Bills can often be converted into electronic versions that will save paper. Catalogchoice.org is a great website that assists you in getting yourself off of lists to receive junk mail in your mail box. You can also control which phone books you receive, and how many.
Consider cutting office paper into small squares to use for taking notes instead of spending money on brand new post-its.
Printing on both sides of the paper can also be a paper saver. Either use pieces that have only been printed on one side or consider buying a printer that has two-sided printing. Paper egg cartons are in the category of mixed paper and can be reused in a few ways. As an organizer, egg cartons can hold jewelry, desk supplies, golf balls, small Christmas ornaments, and can even be used to start seeds for your garden. Perhaps best: give them back to an egg farmer (ask at the farmer’s market).
Aluminum and tin cans:
Did you know that by recycling one single can saves enough energy to run a computer for three hours? Consider the energy that would be saved if that can didn’t have to be recycled at all! While there are some obvious uses for cans (pencil or plant holder, storage, or candle holders) there are also many unique uses that people have come up with. This link gives instructions on how to make a belt out of soda tabs, a wallet out of two cans, Christmas ornaments, earrings, a tote bag, and even a fully functioning stove just from a few cans!
Water bottles are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to taking up room in the recycling bin. Americans buy an estimated 29.8 billion plastic water bottles every year. By using a reusable water bottle one can not only save approximately 365 bottles a year going into the landfill, but the money that would be spent on those bottles as well. If you find that you do have a few water bottles laying around you can make those into new crafts or products. People have made lamps and juicers, coin purses and terrariums, even a house!
Your plastic grocery bags can be recycled as well at all of your local grocery stores but why use the bags in the first place? The U.S. goes through 100 billion single-use plastic bags every year. These end up in landfills where it can take up to 1,000 years for a single bag to degrade. More and more reusable grocery bags are on the market every day so finding one that fits your needs and is also aesthetically pleasing has become very easy. Simply putting a few bags in your car so that you remember to take them in the grocery store can make a difference. Atkinsons’, Albertsons, Kings and LL Green’s Hardware have also set up bins where you can recycle these plastic grocery bags, so try to put them back into the stores you get them from! If you would like to get creative, you can make yarn or a messenger bag by ironing bags together.
The bags used for produce are not accepted for recycling. If you can’t find or afford to buy reusable produce bags, simply save your produce bags from a previous trip and use them again rather than throwing them out. Reusable bags can also be purchased to be used for bulk grains rather than buying grains packaged in plastic bags. The internet and local stores offer many versions of reusable and eco-friendly bags!
Sure, glass can be completely recycled over and over, but it’s heavy and transporting it to a factory doesn’t pencil out financially for us in central Idaho. Neither does putting it in the garbage, and thus paying to transport glass to the landfill in Burley. Blaine County has come up with a fantastic solution: glass that we put in our recycling bin is crushed and buried at Ohio Gulch, as inert fill. Even better, think up some new ways to reuse this great material.
Everyone knows that glass bottles can be used to store food items, bathroom products and as cups, but have you considered making a soap dispenser? Or make a glass bottle wall? This site has some beautiful inspiration walls and instructions can be found online here.
Save jars to be used for Christmas gifts. You can package homemade soap and scrubs, candied nuts, and other goodies in jars to give to friends and family. Another idea is “do-it-yourself-cookie” jars where you fill the jars with all the dry ingredients needed for cookies. Simply attach the instructions with a cute bow and you have a yummy present. If you’re feeling creative, take a look at the beautiful “trees” that can be made from bottles!
Building Materials: The Building Material Thrift store located in Hailey accepts furniture, appliances, framing lumber, doors, windows, kitchen/bathroom cabinets, flooring, trim, tile, sinks, toilets, tubs, hardware, electrical supplies, and appliances if in good condition. Sales benefit the Wood River Land Trust.
Clothing, Furniture etc: Four other charity-supporting thrift shops, The Gold Mine (The Community Library) in Ketchum, The Advocates’ Attic (Women’s Shelter), Barkin’ Basement (Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley) and the St. Thomas Episcopal Thrift in Hailey, also appreciate donations. Call to find out what they do and don’t accept.
Eyeglasses: Four million pairs of unwanted eyeglasses enter landfills each year! Sun Valley Eyeworks in Ketchum gathers glasses for Doctors Without Borders, primarily for Mexico. The Lions Club sponsors a similar program in developing countries; local drop-offs are the Eye Centers in Ketchum and Hailey, and Sears Optical in the Magic Valley Mall in Twin Falls. Mail-in options to other medical missions can be easily found online. All these organizations can use prescription or reading glasses and sunglasses, in any frames, and are in particular need of kids’ sizes.
Cell phones: Working phones, chargers etc are needed at The Advocates’ Attic in Hailey.