The DIY Diva

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Practical How-to: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle in your house, be green AND thrifty!

The DIY Diva

Freelance writer, blogger, geek grrl and DIY diva!

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One of the things which irks me more than just about anything is seeing people waste and trash stuff which could and can be reused and recycled and kept out of landfills.

It's not that I'm particularly hippy crunchy or green: I don't live in a solar powered apartment, I do drive a car occasionally and I eat meat, joyfully... it's that I'm cheap.  I'm the girl who will add water to shampoo or dish soap to get every licking drop of the stuff out of the bottle before buying new products.  I tear up my old underwear and socks and use them as rags for cleaning.  (I wash first, of course.  Ew, dirty underwear and socks.)  I will use a teabag more than once.  I'm that girl.

I guess I do kind of believe that we should leave as small a carbon footprint behind us as we can manage... but, I don't go to extremes in making this happen.  I do get annoyed, however, at people who don't think about being thrifty or eco-responsible at all.
I guess what got me started on this little rant today was the arrival of the UPS guy at my door earlier this morning.  I got a package.  Usually something I'm really happy about, but when I opened the package, my glee was turned to annoyance.


M-fing Styrofoam packing peanuts.  Who still uses these?  Seriously, Styrofoam is one of the worst substances for planet Earth and we've known this for decades.  I'm shocked it's still legal to make this crap.

My annoyance compounded when I realized that it was now my responsibility to dispose of these damn peanuts in an eco-logically friendly and thrifty way.  Lemons into lemonade, etc. Which sent me to the Internet... which lead me to write this post... in which we'll discuss...

Five Things You Can Use More Than Once:
Basically this is a list of items you might readily dispose of without thinking too much about it.  But, in support of being thrifty and somewhat green, you should consider using these items multiple times or upcycling them into something new and useful.  Avoid creating more waste.

  1.  Styrofoam packing peanuts: You had to know that would be first on the list, yeah?  According to, a single Styrofoam cup takes FIFTY YEARS to break down in a landfill.  Gebus.  So a single peanut takes how long?  Too long.  So it's in your best interest to find some things to do with those dreaded peanuts instead.  This is a big REUSE right here, pals.  Firstly - the most common sense use for packing peanuts is to use them again for the purpose they were intended.  To pack stuff.  Personally, I've used peanuts to pack away holiday decorations and fragile stuff that's stored in my closet.  I don't use peanuts (by principle) to mail goods, but if you wanted to do that, you surely could.  Another smart re-use of the dreaded peanut is in potted plants.  Apparently, they work well in place of drainage rocks.  So basically, you throw a handful of peanuts at the bottom of the pot before you plant.  Load in dirt and plant on top and the Styrofoam takes place of rocks or a drainage dish, allowing water to sit at the bottom of the plant and be sucked up when needed.  A third option, which is quite innovative, if yet untested by me personally - is to dissolve the peanuts using an organic solvent like orange rind solution or d-Limonene and use the resulting sticky substance as a strong household glue.  I'll have to try that one out and report back.
  2. Dryer sheets: Whoever invented these little softy-cloths should be hugged and then smacked.  Yes, soft static free clothing is wonderful.  But, dryer sheets compose of a ton of yearly waste per household for those who use them.  (And, according to my fashion designer friend, Drue - they also wreck the fabric of your towels, sheets and clothing... albeit for a soft cause.)  So what to do with dryer sheets?  Uh -- use them again!  First of all, you can use a dryer sheet up to three times before there isn't enough soft drying stuff left on them to do clothing any good.  (Thanks, Mom for that bit of info.)  This reduces the amount of dryer sheets you're using - which is good for your budget and for the environment.  Next, dryer sheets are great to use to dust your furniture and wooden floors. The properties which make them add anti-static properties to clothing make them perfect for picking up lint, dust and other small debris.  You can even attach them to mops like the Swiffer and swipe them in corners to get cobwebs and on the floor to pick up kitty hair (this is a HUGE issue in my home.)  Point being, you can use them for a second purpose once you've used them out as actual dryer sheets.  When you're done, throw them into your compost pile (or bucket) instead of into the trash. Thankfully, most dryer sheets are made out of biodegradible material which will add fiber to your composting mixture.  (Which if you're using it for gardening, you need.)
  3. Plastic water bottles:  First off, stop buying water in plastic bottles and get a Britta Filter, for god's sake.  Come on, that's just common sense (if a little high hat and moralistic for me, but whatever.)  Supposing you do have empty water bottles lingering around your home and you don't have the inclination to recycle them (because apparently in Chicago recyling isn't mandatory?  I'm new here, but that shocks me.)  What to do with them?  Lots of options here: Use them again - I have an old Gatorade bottle that I wash out and refill with water every night before I go to bed.  Fill them with pennies.  This is actually a fun kid-reuse project.  (And, it's a great way to save a couple of bucks here or there.)  Every night, collect the pennies you've picked up througout the day and put them into a water bottle.  When you get 10 waterbottles full of pennies, you're ready to go to the bank and deposit them into your account.  Another great reuse of waterbottles is to make them into scoopers (for pet food, potting soil or for picking up pet poop in the backyard) or funnels (for motor oil or other things which need funneling.)  A final fun project for waterbottles: teach your kids about science with them by making a "wave machine" or a homemade lava lamp.  (You can check out my instructions on how to do this via eHow.)
  4. Greeting cards: Good lord, is there any greater waste of paper? BUT THEY'RE SO FUNNY AND CUTTTEEEEE!!! Okay, so greeting cards aren't going anywhere... but, why must they be trashed when the holiday or birthday or occasion is over?  They don't have to be - there are so many uses for old greeting cards it's insane.  First -- tear the fronts off the card (provided you aren't like me and write all over the dang card) and use it as a gift tag for someone else's present.  Next, (Alex Quigley, this one's for you) cut the designs out and use them to decoupage a gift box or memory box or picture frame or even a table top.  If you're like Alex and lost as to what "decoupaging" is, basically it's gluing paper cut outs to an object and then decorating it with other textures/items (glitter, gold leaf, paint) and slapping some varnish over the top to seal it all in.  While decoupage can be horrendiously hoaky, I actually have quite a few decoupaged items which are lovely or cool (including a punk rock bookshelf and a lovely gilded jewlery box that my good friend Rosie made for me.)  I think that decoupage could even be considered a "dude craft" as it involves varnish... we'll see, stay tuned.  Finally, if you've got a pascle of holiday cards to reuse or recycle - why not make some ornaments out of them and donate them to charity for sale or use?  Boys and Girls Clubs are always looking for cute ornaments to decorate their centers with around the holiday time... just sayin'...
  5. Motor oil:  I think that everyone gets that motor oil is icky and should be recycled, yes?  If you haven't gotten the message yet, the EPA says that if every motorist who changes their own oil recyled their oil and oil filters there would be enough recycled oil produced each year to fuel 50 million cars.  That's a pretty staggering statistic.  But, what are some other reuses for motor oil?  First -- try putting it into an airtight plastic container or squeeze bottle and using it in place of a household solvent like WD-40.  Next, mix it with garden sand and use it as an abrasive cleaner to get rust off of garden tools, patio furniture and other outdoor metal items.  Then when you're done with it, you can take it on down to the oil recycling center and they can extract the oil from the sand and recycle the oil.  Double score!
Got a favorite Reduce, Recycle and Reuse tip?  Email me at diydivakate[at]!



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