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Archive for the ‘One Small Step’ Category

This post was originally published on February 27, 2009 at repurposeful.

 

Want to stretch the use of your dish soap? Looking to reuse an empty spray bottle? I have your answers.

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Fill an empty spray bottle (if using a recycled spray bottle, be sure to clean it thoroughly) half full with water. Fill the other half with liquid dish soap. Slowly turn it back and forth (don’t shake it) to mix the soap and water. The next time you need to wash a dirty pan, spray it a few times with your new money-saving soap mixture. You’ll find that you don’t need full strength soap to get your dishes clean and you’ll find that your soap lasts so much longer!

 

To save yourself even more time, money and to reduce packaging waste, buy dish soap in bulk-sized containers.

 

This trick also works in the foaming pump dishwashing soap dispensers. When the original mixture runs out, refill it using the instructions above.

 

Take this One Small Step one step further: If you want more control over the ingredients in your dish soap, consider making your own. It’s cheaper and you’ll reduce waste by not having to purchase new containers. Check out this simple recipe.

 

 Photo by Conor Lawless.

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No, I’m not going to tell you that you can repurpose old batteries. I’m sure that would be dangerous. But, as it turns out, you can’t even recycle standard alkaline batteries (unless you live in California). Which begs the question: what do you do with old batteries?

 

 After much research, all advice points to this: throw ’em in the trash. Yikes! But what about all the toxic chemicals that will be leaching into the landfills (the Earth’s soil, hello!)? Well, I don’t have an answer for that, but I do have an alternative suggestion.

 

Rechargeable batteries can be recycled. And now you might be thinking, “But the’re rechargeable, why would I need to recycle them?” Because rechargeable batteries do have a limited life span. But, of course, they still last way longer than the alkaline types. And here’s the best part: rechargeable batteries save you money! How could you go wrong with something that’s recyclable and frugal?

 

Want some info to help you make an informed rechargeable battery purchase? Check this out.

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Is your family bar-soap users? If so, then you’re oh-so familar with the annoying little sliver of soap that’s left at the end of a bar. Too small to easily wash with, yet big enough to make you feel wasteful if you toss it out. Here’s a sensible solution for your slivers of soap.

Homemade hand soap from soap slivers

1. Collect slivers of soap in a heat-proof jar.
2. When the jar is half full, add boiling water to just cover the soap slivers.
3. Let cool and shake well.
4. Refill a hand soap pump with your new solution!

 

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It’s been a while since I posted about turning a flannel receiving blanket into wash-up rags for kids, and so I thought it was time to revisit this idea and share some additional tips and tricks.

 

Bigger is better. When I made my first batch of rags, each one was cut to 6″x6″. Now that I’ve used them (againandagain), I’ve found that a larger size, like 8″x8″, works a lot better.

 

Forget folding. At first, when I laundered my rags, I would meticulously fold each one and stack them in my cupboard for use. Then I came up with the brilliant idea of using a repurposed plastic container (one with a wide mouth opening) to store all of the rags. No folding necessary — just toss in the clean rags as is!

 

Flannel vs. terry? I have a huge stash of reusable rags. Some are flannel cut ups and some are cut from old towels. The variety of fabrics serve me well for different uses. Flannel is perfect for washing up messy hands and faces… but not much else. The smooth fabric does not do well to clean up large messes or grimy counter tops. Terry cloth, however, because it is more abrasive, is better at scrubbing pots, sticky table tops and the like.

 

Stash your stash. I’ve found it easier to keep a mini stash of rags in a variety of places. Some near cleaning supplies, some in the garage, some in the bathrooms. That way, I’m never without!

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Despite the high today of only 70 degrees, I jumped the gun and brought out our kiddie pool. Since my boys are now exhausted and asleep, I can positively say that it was worth it! Without a doubt, the kiddie pool is a beloved summer pasttime — it’s cheap, simple and enduring entertainment (we were outside for nearly 3 hours today!).

 

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However, filling up the kiddie pool takes a lot of water over the course of a summer. With a few extra, simple steps, you can make the most of your use of water, as well as time, while entertaining the heck out of your kids.

 

How to “greenify” your kiddie pool

 

Cover it. If properly covered, your kiddie pool’s water can last nicely for 3 or 4 days. Using a cover, like a plastic tarp, old shower curtain or liner, vinyl table cloth or a sheet of plywood, helps keep out bugs and debris, and it prevents mosquitos from inhabiting and laying eggs in the water (eww!). A cover also helps insulate the water — children generally prefer nice, tepid water instead of the ice-cold stuff that comes straight out of the hose.

 

Strain it. After your kids are done playing for the day, and before you cover your kiddie pool, strain it to remove as much debris as possible. You can use a regular kitchen colander, a fish tank strainer or a mesh bag.

 

Don’t dump it! When it comes time to refill your pool with new water, don’t just dump the water out! Use it to water outdoor plants, indoor plants or your lawn. If your plants have recently been watered, find a way to save the pool water in another container (or two). Painters’ buckets work well, or add it to your rain barrel if you have one. Again, be sure the container has a lid to prevent mosquito farming.

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I’m guessing there are at least one or two of you out there who still haven’t put together your child’s Easter goodies. Don’t fret — you still have time. Here are some ideas for Easter baskets that are inexpensive, environmentally friendly and perfect for last-minute planning.

 

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Eco-friendly, last minute Easter baskets

The basket

If you don’t already, please reuse your child’s Easter basket from year to year. Just like a Christmas stocking, your child will appreciate the familiarity of his basket and look forward to seeing it filled on Easter morning.

 

If you’re in need of a basket this year, consider a few options:

  • ask a friend or neighbor if they have an extra basket lying around that isn’t being used; you can offer to return it, but they’ll probably just let you keep it
  • go “shopping” in your closets and attics for a basket you already own that’s collecting dust; even if it’s not in Easter colors, the goodies you put inside will make up for a dull looking basket
  • think outside the basket — a galvanized metal flower pot, a straw hat, a decorated milk jug or coffee can would all make for great Easter baskets
  • pop into a thrift store; I can’t tell you how many baskets I’ve seen in thrift stores and they’re almost always less than $1
  • if you purchase a basket new, spend a few extra dollars for a quality basket; the longer it lasts, the more use your children (and maybe their children) will get out of it

 

The “grass”

Personally, I can’t stand traditional plastic Easter grass. But opinions aside, it makes a mess, it’s harmful to landfills and it’s a choking hazard to small children and pets. Consider something different this year.

 

Shredded paper. To make it colorful, shred the comics section of the newspaper, colorful advertising circulars or colored-on pages of your child’s coloring book.

Clothing or cloth. If one of your gifts is a new t-shirt, beach towel or something made of cloth, use it to line the bottom of the basket.

Candy. Ok, so not the healthiest option, but a big bag of jelly beans would create a nice lining at the bottom of a basket. 

Nothing. This is my favorite. Let’s be honest, do kids really care about what lines their basket? Forget the filler altogether and just fill it with the good stuff.

 

The goods

When this time of year comes around, I can’t help but notice the over-abundance of cheapo plastic toys that line the shelves. And parents fall into the trap (I’ve been guilty of this too) of thinking more is better. Fill that basket up with as much candy and junk as it will fit! Instead, purchase just a few quality items (and yes, candy too) for your child’s basket. Again, the items will last longer and can be passed on to another child when they’re no longer of interest to yours.

 

As for candy, think about packaging when you purchase. I love a bag of mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups as much as the next person, but there is a lot of extra packaging waste as compared with a giant bag of jelly beans or Whoppers eggs.

 

Eggs: Plastic vs. Real

This is a tough one. To be honest, I’m not sure which one has a bigger environmental impact, but I have my guess. On the one hand, plastic eggs can be reused year after year, unless your dog chews one up or you inadvertently step on one (speaking from experience here). On the other hand, real eggs can be eaten (if they have only been out of the refrigerator for less than 2 hours) and they’re biodegradable. From a practical standpoint, both types of eggs require work. Real ones take time to decorate, plastic ones take time (and more money!) to fill them. If you plan to use plastic, here are a few economical ideas other than candy to fill them:

  • pennies — a big hit with younger kids
  • make coupons for getting out of a chore for a day or a special day with mom or dad
  • stickers — chances are your child already has oodles of stickers; grab a few from her collection to fill some of the eggs
  • dandelions or other treasures from nature (again, works well for younger kids)

 

 

Photo by daBinsi.

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I’m assuming that those of you reading this blog already print on both sides of your computer paper at home, so I didn’t bother with a post on that tip. (If you don’t, please start — it just makes sense!) That being said, once both sides are printed and done being used, what do you do with used up paper?

 

At my house, in which a freelance editor and a masters’ student both reside, we accumulate a good amount of double-side printed paper. I keep a box in my office where I stockpile used up paper. Sure, I could just recycle it, but that’s so un-repurposeful.

 

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8 ways to repurpose shredded paper

1. Compost it. Simple, easy and an excellent choice for documents with sensitive or financial information.

 

2. Packing material. Best only for paper that does not contain personal or financial information.

 

3. Kitty litter alternative. Cheaper, safer and better for your household environment. On the down side, you’ll probably have to change the box more often.

 

4. Animal bedding. For caged critters or, on a larger scale, farm animals.

 

5. Gift bag/gift basket liner. Nice alternative to store-bought tissue paper. Would also work well in place of Easter basket grass (I hate that stuff!). For a more colorful and decorative look, shred the newspaper comics section, colorful advertising circulars or repurpose your children’s artwork (I’m sure you can afford to sacrifice a few of the thousand pieces you’re saving).

 

6. Worm food. Perfect for your vermiculture project.

 

7. Make homemade paper. Here’s a cool tutorial.

 

8. Rainy day fun. Fill a kiddie pool or large box full of shredded paper and let your kids go to town. Yes, the result will be messy, but your kids will have a blast and you’ll get some extra time to check e-mail or put your feet up.

 

Photo by Joe Shlabotnik.

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