Tag Archives: reuse

Remember to Give to Charity

This is a great time of year to give to charity. Actually, any time is a great time, but this is the time of year many of us think about it. So do it.

It could be a gift to that relative who really doesn’t want anything more. If you know his or her favorite charity, make a donation in your relative’s name.

Take some time with your children and help out at a local charity. It’s a great way to show them that they can help out with a favorite cause. It may take some searching to find something age appropriate, depending on the age of your children. Many organizations have a minimum age limit for volunteers.

Then, for your own sake and to give to others, declutter your home and give the reusable items to charity. Help your children to do likewise.

It’s often hard to get kids to give up toys, even ones they no longer use, but it is possible. Here are some ways to go about it.

1. Talk about why you clean out the excess toys.

Many children these days have far more toys than they could possibly play with. Others have very few because their families can’t afford to give them much. Sending old toys to the thrift shop means that families with less money can afford to give their children something fun to play with.

That’s what works well on my kids most times. I don’t buy a lot of toys for them, but they get a lot of them as gifts.

2. Make two piles and have your child choose between them.

This works for getting rid of toys or just storing the excess away for a time. Be sure that you allow trades between the piles for particular favorites, and be very clear on what is happening to each pile. Try to keep trades even between the piles, so that the “stay” pile doesn’t keep growing.

3. Sort them out yourself.

I’m not too fond of this option personally – I like my kids to be involved in the decision. Sometimes it’s necessary when the piles of unused toys get too extreme and you aren’t getting any cooperation on getting rid of toys.

If you do this, be prepared for some anger when missing toys get noticed. Kids can come up with a reason why any toy, no matter how neglected, was important. It may help to discreetly store toys taken this way for a time before sending to your local thrift store. This allows for any serious mistakes to be corrected. Or you can be firm about the matter and point out how many other toys are still all over the house.

However you go about it, make sure your kids see you giving up things as well. Children shouldn’t feel as though they’re the only ones having to give things up for others.

Have You Added the 4th R to Your Thinking?

Anyone concerned about the environment knows the 3 Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. But there’s a 4th R, and it goes in front of the rest.  It’s related to Reducing, but may be a stronger reminder that you should be cutting back on what you buy.

It’s Refuse.

Refuse that plastic bag to carry your purchases. Refuse single use containers. Refuse unnecessary packaging whenever possible.

This isn’t easy to do in some ways. Packaging isn’t something you have much control over in some ways. Dodging that plastic bag when you shop by bringing your own reusable bags is easy, drinking water from a reusable bottle is easy once you build the habit, but actual product packaging you have only a little control over.

Even if you just do the easy things, you’re making a difference. Millions of water bottles are thrown out every year by Americans. Use your reusable bottle and help others to see how much fun it is to have your own bottle. It’s not all that inconvenient, after all, and the savings versus buying single serve, single use bottles comes quickly.

Pack your reusable bags in your trunk or someplace else where you’ll actually remember to bring them every time you go shopping, not just at the grocery store, but anywhere you shop.

The most challenging part is refusing to buy things that are overpackaged. It’s the area you have the least control over.

Some things you can buy online with less packaging, such as those products available with Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging. The selection is limited, but better than when it started. You can also seek out products locally that aren’t as heavily packaged, but you still face the challenge of getting something that isn’t heavily packaged.

When you’re stuck with packaging, think about what can be done to reuse it before you send it for recycling. Anything biodegradable can go in the compost pile. Some packaging materials can be used in crafts or to store other things you already own.

You can also avoid excess packaging by buying in bulk when possible. Buy concentrates and refills when they’re available. This is a habit that can save you money as well as reduce waste.

In general, we need to think when we shop. It’s not just what we buy, it’s how we buy it. Think about what you really need, consider the packaging, consider how you’re going to bring it home and try to make the best decision for your situation. You can make a difference by showing that you care how things are packaged and using less single use packaging whenever possible.

Are You Replacing Too Much in an Attempt to be Green?

Living an eco friendly life is complicated at times. There are usually a lot of things you want to buy that are more eco friendly than what you own now, but when is that the right choice? When does it make more sense environmentally speaking to buy new?

Appliances and Electronics – It’s Not All About Efficiency

Replacing appliances and electronics can be a tough decision, and much of it depends on just how bad the old version is. Really old refrigerators are likely good prospects for replacement when you’re ready. Newer models are much more efficient and you should quickly see a decrease in your power bills. Just make sure the old one is sent off to a good recycling program.

Laptop computers are much more efficient in terms of energy use than desktop models, but that’s not necessarily a good reason to change computers. Could you improve the energy use of your desktop by turning off more often, and even switching off the power to its surge suppressor so there’s no standby power use or power used by anything else plugged into the same strip such as the monitor and printer?

Electronics can be problematic in general due to recycling issues. When it comes time to replace some of your old electronics, make sure you think about how you’re disposing of the old. There are some pretty toxic metals inside them.


Getting rid of plastics is an environmental issue and possibly a health issue as well. People can argue about whether or not BPA is a problem, but there’s no denying that plastic is an environmental problem. Search for pictures of the Pacific Garbage Patch if you doubt that.

They’re incredibly hard to get rid of completely. Plastic comes into our homes in so many ways.

Plastic wraps some of the foods we buy from the grocery store. It’s used in the bags many stores use when you make a purchase. It’s used in water bottles and food storage containers. It’s used to make bottles that hold cleaning and personal care supplies. It’s all over the place.

Some areas it’s easy to say that you should buy something to replace the plastic you’d be using otherwise. A good quality reusable shopping bag – not one of the cheapies sold by the grocery store for a dollar, but a good one – should last a long time, be washable and keep you from having your purchases put into a plastic bag.

A stainless steel water bottle is a great replacement for buying disposable plastic water bottles. Pick good quality and it will last for years. You’ll even save money over time in comparison to buying water in disposable bottles. And I don’t mean all that much time if you’ve been buying a lot of water.

Invest in a good filter if you really aren’t used to the flavor of tap water. Plastic may be involved in at least the casing of the filter, but as I’ve said – it’s really hard to avoid plastics.


If you’re replacing perfectly good clothes with eco friendly versions, you may be doing it wrong. What you have has already done whatever environmental damage inherent in its creation. So long as you choose eco friendly laundry detergents, there’s nothing wrong with continuing to use what you have until it wears out.

When to Replace?

In general, save the eco friendly shopping for when something really needs replacement. Don’t go chasing after the latest, greatest eco friendly whatever. That’s called consumerism and it’s very easy to fall for.

When you’re replacing something, think about how you’re disposing of it. Could you or someone else reuse or repurpose it? Can it be recycled? Is it honestly just trash?

Use things until they really aren’t worth keeping, and then think if they need to be replaced. Sometimes reduce is the real answer. Buying just because it’s the latest eco item to catch your attention is not a good reason to buy anything.

How to be Eco Friendly When You Shop

I’m no fan of consumerism, even the “green” sort. I prefer building a habit of living more simply. But when it comes to shopping, there are a few ways you can keep things more eco friendly.

1. Buy Used.

This one tops the list because when you buy something that’s used, you’re not buying something that has required new resources to make. You’re not directly encouraging the manufacture of more of that item.

Garage sales, thrift stores, resale shops and even eBay can be great sources for used products of all kinds.

You may find that you almost never need new clothes again. Used ones can look great and still be fashionable.

You can buy furniture, clothes, kitchen gear, appliances, cars, toys, books and much more used. Check out the shops in your area to see what you can find.

2. Buy Products Made with Recycled Materials

Shopping for products that are made from recycled materials requires a bit of paying attention. You want post consumer waste as much as possible. Recycled paper products are fairly easy to find, but other things can be made from recycled materials as well.

One of the great things about using products made with recycled materials is that they may be recyclable themselves. Not always – paper can only be recycled so many times before the fibers get too short, and plastic quality degrades with recycling. But you’re extending the use of the resource when you use recycled materials.

3. Consider the Source.

There are many ways to be more eco friendly or at least fairer to the people who made the things you buy. You can buy locally. You can buy organic. You can buy fair trade. You can buy handcrafted products from home businesses.

While each of these can have more or less benefit to the environment, it’s important to realize that you can consider the people as well as the planet when you shop.

4. Is It Renewable?

Many products are made from non renewable resources. If there’s an alternative made from a renewable resource, in an eco friendly sense that’s probably your best choice.

Renewable resources aren’t a perfect answer in all cases, however. Many biofuels come from corn that might better be used as a source of food. Consider the source at all times.

5. Is It Needed?

This is the question you need to ask yourself before you buy, even if the results are otherwise eco friendly. Just because the clothes you’re buying come from a thrift store or garage sale doesn’t mean you need a gigantic wardrobe. You can of course keep sending the things you no longer need back to the thrift store, but then you’re wasting your own money, aren’t you?

6. Does It Replace Waste in Another Area?

Some things you should buy because they keep you from being wasteful in some other way. Reusable shopping bags, stainless steel bottles, reusable lunch bags, anything that keeps you from picking up the convenient but wasteful disposable versions are likely to be a good purchase.

Eco friendly shopping doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun shopping. It just means paying a bit more attention and not going for every quick solution that comes your way. There are amazing products you can buy out there that are beautiful, functional and made in a way that was kind to the environment.

10 Uses for Old Plastic Bread Bags

Bread is one of those products that is hard to buy outside of a plastic bag. You can sometimes get it in paper, or you can make it at home, but bread in plastic bags is by far the most common sort.

What to do with all those bags?

Plastic bread bags are highly reusable. They’re a great size for many things. Keep the little plastic fastener to have an easy way to reclose the bag when you’re reusing it.

1. Homemade bread storage.

If you sometimes buy bread at the store and other times make it at home, as I do, keep those bags and use them to store the homemade bread after it has cooled.

2. Short term freezer bag.

While bread bags aren’t ideal for preventing freezer burn, they are pretty good at holding some things in the freezer. Best is if it doesn’t matter too much if you get a touch of freezer burn, such as when you’re storing bones for making broth later on. They can also hold hamburger patties quite well. Just think of how they are packaged if you buy them at the store!

I wouldn’t recommend using them for long term storage as a general rule in the freezer simply because it’s too hard to keep them from letting air in. If you want to store something for longer, double bagging is probably a good choice to limit the chances for air to get into the bag and damage the food.

3. Taking the dog for a walk.

Yes, these bags work great for doggie doo. They’re easy to carry along and tie off when you’ve cleaned up after your pet.

4. Clean the cat’s litter box.

Yes, they’re a great size for what kitty does too.

5. Trash bag for the car.

Going on a road trip? Sometimes you know you’re going to be generating a bit of trash while on the road. Once again, the compact size of a bread bag makes it a fair choice for keeping in the car to keep the trash under control.

6. Taking food scraps to the compost pile.

Sometimes the compost pile isn’t as convenient as you might like. You can buy a kitchen compost bin, and dump that periodically into the outdoor compost bin, or you can use something like the old bread bag.

The advantage the bag has is that you can just shove it into the freezer if you like. It only uses up the space the scraps require, plus a tiny bit more. This means you don’t have to worry about food scraps stinking up the kitchen until you can get them outdoors.

7. Store other stuff.

Using plastic bags you already have can be a great choice for storing small parts around the house. This is especially true if otherwise you’d be using a bag you had to buy for storing things. While they’re not especially strong, they’re not going to tear at the drop of just any hat either.

8. Take them traveling.

You often have things you need to keep away from the rest of your stuff when you travel. While modern air travel restrictions can sharply limit how much liquid you carry, other ways of traveling can mean carrying many products you’d hate to have leak onto your clothes.

Drop makeup, sunscreen, toothpaste and so forth into a plastic bread bag and close it off before putting them into your suitcase, even if you use an outer pocket or a makeup bag for them. That extra bit of protection can save you a big cleanup if your bag gets banged around too much and something starts to leak.

9. Use as packing materials.

Sending a package somewhere? You can use a bunch of old bread bags as padding in the box rather than buying packing materials.

10. Recycle them.

Some, but not all bread bags can be recycled. They aren’t all numbered, so it can be a bit hard to tell. If there’s a number 7 with the recycling logo, it’s not recyclable. Otherwise you have a good chance, and you can put them in with the plastic grocery bags.