Reuse Common Household Items Before You Recycle

February 23, 2011 View all articles in Re-Use-It

The first thing that comes to mind when speaking of becoming eco-friendly is recycling. Recycling is a great thing to do for the planet, but reusing can be equally, or even more, effective. Where recycling requires additional energy to process the item so that it can be used again reusing bypasses much of this this wasted energy and puts the item to use more quickly.

Here is a sampling of common, household items being reused:


  • Reuse your garbage liners instead of throwing them out every time you empty the trash. This way, you consolidate your garbage into fewer bags.
  • Instead of bubble wrap or newspaper, blow up a bread bag like a balloon and seal the end for a homemade pillow pack that will keep your items safe during shipment.


  • As we mentioned in our article How to Re-use Your 2-liter Bottles there's no need to buy a piggy bank for your kids when you have empty, 2-liter plastic bottles lying around your house. All you have to do is cut a small slit somewhere on the bottle, paint it or cover it with some fabric, and fill it up with coins. And to get the coins out, you can either cut a three-sided opening in the bottom of the bottle before you fill it up, or you can just cut the bottle open once it's full.
  • Cut out the bottom of the bottle and put it over a sprout in your garden. This will protect the new plant while allowing it to get adequate sunlight and water through the opening (make sure you take the cap off!).


  • Sharpen a pair of dull scissors by folding used aluminum foil until it's about eight layers thick, and then cutting through it a few times.
  • Fold aluminum foil around things you don't want to get paint on, such as doorknobs.
  • Use aluminum foil to keep your cat or dog away from an area of the house, or to keep wild animals away from your garden: they can't stand it.
  • As mentioned earlier on ChasingGreen wadded up foil can be used as a scouring sponge to clean stubborn, stuck-on food from pots, pans, ovens, barbeques, grills, etc.


  • Make sure you don't lose your keys at the beach by threading some packing peanuts in your keychain; your keys will float in the water!
  • Place packing peanuts in the bottom of potted plants to provide lightweight drainage.
  • Place a Ziploc bag of packing peanuts in the top of an ice chest to keep the ice cold longer.
  • Stuff packing peanuts into a pillow or cushion for your pet.


  • Try reviving your stale bread by first dipping it in water, then baking it for 12 minutes at 370 degrees.
  • Sauté stale bread cubes in butter or olive oil and Parmesan cheese to make croutons.
  • If you have bread crusts or heels that have been sitting out for a while, consider giving them to your household plants to improve their soil. Just combine two cups of old bread, two cups of water, and a tablespoon of plant food in your blender, then pour the mixture around the base of all your plants. It will provide all the benefits of compost, but without the smell.
  • Use stale bread to make French toast (reusing stale bread was the motivation behind this dish).
  • Bread crumbs can be used to attract birds to your backyard, but bread is actually not that healthy for birds so it shouldn't be done too often.


Bonus: while this may not technically be reusing we found it interesting and decided to share.


  • Ketchup can be used to shine your copper; just massage it on and it will dissolve the tarnish away. Use the same trick on your cars!
  • Use ketchup as a replacement for tomato juice when fighting off skunk odors.
  • Washing your hair with ketchup and leaving it in for 20 minutes can correct chlorine discoloration.
  • Frozen ketchup can be used as an ice pack for younger children's owies.


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