The Second R
The three big R's of conservation: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. All three of them are important, and I'm going to start a three-part series on them, starting with number two (of course!).
Really, I think that reusing is the easiest method of conservation. Unlike reducing, which takes habit changes, and unlike recycling, which can be tough if you don't have curbside pickup -- all you need to reuse things is a little creativity.
Take, for instance, my reluctance to buy a rolling pint o make my gingerbread cookies. You can read the whole story here, but the short story is: rolling pin was too pricey, so I used a wine bottle.
Another instance was when I had TheBoy's lunch all ready to go, but his lunch carry-bag was dirty. Instead of letting the box go unwrapped (and possibly spill all over my backpack), I used a dinner napkin as a temporary furoshiki, or Japanese lunchbox wrap. TheBoy was also able to use the napkin for its intended purpose of cleaning up untidy lunch messes.
Another, more fun creative reuse was the first time I did laundry in our new apartment. We hadn't bought a drying rack yet, but I hate drying clothes and wasting all that energy just to shorten the wearable lifetime of my clothing. So, I piled our clothes all over the house, including on an endtable in the living room. What a sight to see!
Even much simpler reuses can be really effective. I have a lot of little items in my kitchen -- mostly stuff that I use to pack our lunches. So, instead of letting the drawer become a horrible jumble of junk, I used a flatware organizer to keep all my lunchbox accessories tidy and accessible. This picture doesn't truly do the drawer, or its contents, justice -- you can barely see the pink jelly bean-shaped Easter egg that my mother gave me: I use it to put nuts and small candies into our lunches without them getting everywhere. You can see the reusable silicone baking cups, though -- I constantly use them in our lunches to organize small portions of foods that shouldn't touch other foods. Today, in fact, I'm using one to separate some vegetable stir fry from grapes in TheBoy's lunch. Of course, simply using reusable lunchboxes counts as reuse, too.
TheBoy wore an old pair of pants into unwearable rags. Instead of throwing them out, I'm giving them new life as a draft dodger -- I'll patch the holes (with rag patches, likely) and sew the legs and waist shut. Addition of some batting and maybe some baggies full of sand or kitty litter will make that old pair of pants into a charming way to keep cold air from seeping under our door.
Another of the very simple things we reuse is ziploc bags. TheBoy's mother gave us a huuuuge package of baggies when we moved into the new place and, instead of potentially insulting her and turning them down, we accepted them and use them very carefully. We use one gallon size bag to keep our worm compost scraps in the freezer (so they don't rot and make the worms sick). Instead of throwing out the bag at the end of the week when we feed our worms, I wash the bag with soapy water and reuse it until it no longer seals, and only then will I reluctantly pitch it our. We reuse bags like that frequently, just not with raw meats. If a bag holds strawberries in the fridge, it's eligible for a second life as a cookie bag or bag of toiletries for travel.
What interesting ways have you found to reuse things in your own household?