Recycling's great -- reusing is better
Purchasing with reuse in mind is important, too. Cloth napkins, cloth diapers, dish cloths, quality tools and appliances, and refillable items all fit the bill. And don't underestimate the environmental impact of discarding broken items either. Can they be repaired and then reused?
As for clothing, practicality rules with reuse. While buying something made of organic fabric may seem the best environmental choice, it's actually not if you wind up wearing the item only once and tossing it, notes Grose. Better to wear every item you buy again and again, repairing as necessary.
Take a yellow retro dress Grose owns that she often wears to weddings. Rather than retire it after she discovered a strawberry stain, she embroidered over the stain the names of the friends married that day.
2. Give it away -- to someone who can reuse it.
Many household items could easily be used
again for another purpose, including empty
glass and plastic jars, milk jugs, coffee
cans and similar containers for storing leftovers,
buttons, nails, etc. Just be sure to keep
practical safety in mind, the EPA reminds.
Don't reuse containers that originally held
products such as motor oil or pesticides,
don't store anything potentially harmful in
containers designed for food or beverages
and always label containers and store them
out of reach of children and pets.
Those willing to get creative have a host of other options, as well. Use extra lumber pieces for smaller projects, such as a birdhouse or mailbox.
Clothing could be put to use
in many ways. Grose, for instance, made a
curtain for her daughter's bedroom out of
an old striped shirt she had purchased secondhand
back when she was a student. And she took
a pair of favorite pajama pants that she'd
worn over 20 years ago and made a pillow for
her daughter's bed. "There are memories
in that pillow. It's not just a Pottery Barn
pillow," she says. (Not to mention, it
didn't come with a Pottery Barn price.)
|If just 1 percent of the 20 million computers discarded each year were replaced with refurbished machines, the waste saved could fill more than 1,700 garbage trucks; the water conserved could fill 73,000 backyard swimming pools, and the energy saved could power every personal computer owned in the U.S. for 55 straight hours.
"The X and Y generations have been schooled in dozens of do-it-yourself programs and literature to boost creative ways and ideas of how to reuse with style," says Terra Wellington, a wellness lifestyle expert who has spoken on television about environmental tips for families and is currently writing a book on eco-tips for moms. "Don't like the color? Change it. Don't like the shape? Cut it down to size. Don't enjoy an item? Turn it into something else of use."
Creative solutions aren't limited to reuse of tangible
items. "Think about how you run your
house," says Mihelcic, who converted
his own home, an old farmhouse, into an environmentally
friendly structure, with solar hot water heating
and other green features.
Waste water collected from clothes
washers, bathtubs, showers, and laundry or
bathroom sinks, for example, is known as gray
water and can be safely reused (where not
prohibited) for household gardening, composting,
and lawn and landscape irrigation. (Advice
and tips for using gray water can be found
on the Arizona Department of Environmental
Quality Web site.)