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Simple steps to produce less waste through reuse

written by: Steve Graham•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 3/1/2010

After reducing the amount of stuff in your house, learn how to reuse the stuff and create less waste

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    How to reuse

    You can read my tips on reducing “stuff” to cut waste here. The second step to cut waste is to reuse the reduced amount of stuff you bought.

    • Composting is becoming very popular, and is a great way to turn your kitchen scraps, newspaper, cardboard and leaf piles into useful, rich fertilizer and dirt for your garden. Here is a good article on dry composting and a primer on worm composting.

    • When shopping, focus on buying items in reusable containers, and reuse them. Yogurt tubs and other packaging can be reused over and over again. Putting leftovers and other items in these containers also save money on glass and plastic containers. You can put nails and other items in these kinds used containers as well. In fact, you can take them to the hardware store with you, and save a paper bag by putting your bulk nails straight into a yogurt cup.

    • Use canvas shopping bags instead of plastic or paper (in some places, you may not have much choice soon).

    • Reuse the thin, small bags in the produce and bulk sections of the supermarket. When you are done with them, just put them back in your canvas shopping bag. I also like to put produce in my newspaper bags (Yeah, I know what I said about newspapers, but I can’t break the habit).

    • Used clothing should never be in your trash can. You can cut up most of it for rags, then sell or donate the nicer stuff at thrift stores. While you’re at the thrift store, you can pick up some other gently used clothes instead of buying new.

    • Building materials can typically be reused for other purposes. Get creative with your rusty old gutters and shape them into planters or art pieces. Other materials can be given away or sold on Freecycle or Craigslist. You might be surprised what a handy electronics geek can do to bring your old, dead TV back to life and get a few more years out of it.

    • All that Styrofoam packaging can be reused to mail other items. If you don’t plan to mail much yourself, take the stuff to your local shipping store. They will gladly take and reuse the packing peanuts and other material.

    • Get creative with hard-to-recycle items. For example, start seeds in a waxy ice cream container or Styrofoam mushroom box (you don’t even have to wash it. The mushroom residue won’t hurt your plants).

    • Leave reusable cups in your car. You can like to find a good sturdy soda cup for a quick drink, then leave it in your car for refills whenever you're thirsty. No new cup or plastic bottle, and sometimes the clerk at the gas station gives me the soda for free in my reusable cup. Likewise, you can take a reusable coffee cup everywhere you go, get cheaper coffee and create less waste.

    • You can also take your reusable containers to restaurants and pop in your leftovers. No waiting for the waiter to bring you a flimsy Styrofoam container, and your leftovers can go straight into the microwave.

    • I promised myself I would put a note in each of these articles for beer drinkers. Your reuse tip: Use Craigslist to find a local home brewer, and give them your used beer bottles. Likewise, people in your community probably make their own wine. Pass on your used wine bottles to them.