Did you know that Americans toss away nearly 5 pounds of garbage every day? Every day. And, collectively, the United States produces 254 million tons of waste every year, according to the EPA. That’s just bonkers!
Imagine, then, if we were just a tad bit more cognizant of the waste we’re disposing. And imagine what just a small amount of recycling and reusing per person can do collectively on a large scale. To work towards that goal, think twice about throwing out that empty shampoo bottle or rickety ladder. Instead, here are 10 cool projects you can tackle with everyday items you’d normally toss or recycle and, by doing so, you can shrink your carbon footprint—one less item in a landfill!
Now that’s something to feel good about.
- Crayon Candles
If your house looks anything like mine, there are broken crayons scatter under beds, in between sofa cushions, and stuffed into random kid purses. I tend to chuck them right into the garbage in a whirl of cleaning fury just before company arrives. But here’s a cool project that can give those broken crayons a second life. Simply melt the paperless crayons, color by color, in the oven at a low temp (aluminum cupcake liners in a cupcake tin work great). Next, place a candlewick in an old mason jar (or vessel of your choice). Hold the wick while you (carefully!) pour the melted crayons into the jar, letting each color cool and set before adding the next. And—voila!—you have a cool-looking crayon candle.
- Ladder Shelves
This project only works with wood ladders, but the finished product here is very aesthetically pleasing. First, remove the hardware hinges. Second, carefully split the ladder equally into two pieces using an electric hand saw (or tool of your choice). Sand down any rough edges and paint, if desired. Place the ladders side-by-side to create instant bookshelves.
- Kid Art Projects from Toilet Paper Rolls
Kids LOVE art projects. Problem is, buying craft supplies can get pricey. But here’s an easy way to ensure you always have supplies on hand: repurpose the empty toilet paper rolls that would otherwise accumulate in your trash. To make it fun for the kids, and to help them with their inspirations, fill an empty bin in their play room or bedroom (wherever they “do art”) with various supplies: markers, tape, cut pieces of string, stickers. Then, whenever you have an empty roll, simply toss it into the bin, or, to vary the pieces the kids can use, cut some rolls into rings or strips of cardboard. It’s a fun, low-cost way to add to your kids’ creative talents.
- Wine Cork Art
We consume quite a bit of wine in our house—don’t judge! So we always have quite a few wine corks lying around. Rather than tossing them in the garbage, I save them up (along with bottle caps—another fun art project idea!) and glue them together to make funky wall art, unique picture frames, and tabletops (just add glass over the corks). And you know what we use those tabletops for? Holding more wine…
- Wine Bottle Vases
Where there are corks, there are usually empty bottles… right? Some wine bottles have particularly beautiful shapes and colors. Make the use of them by turning them into flower vases. Simply rinse the bottle well, remove the label with warm, soapy water, and display the bare, beautiful vase with a bunch of fresh-cut flowers. They make for interesting conversation starters, too.
- Egg Carton Jewelry Boxes
This is a fun project to make with your kids, particularly if you have a daughter who is starting to collect pieces of kid jewelry (think beaded necklaces, plastic spider rings—that kind of thing). Simply spray paint the egg carton (outside and in) and allow your kid to bejewel it with stickers and jewel adhesives from the craft store. You can use puffy paint to write jewelry descriptions around each well—rings, necklaces, etc.—or even to write the kids’ name on the outside of the carton. The finished product will jazz up any little girl’s room and will be something she’ll want to show off to her friends.
- Tin Can Storage
Next time you use up a can of whole tomatoes, save the jar. Rinse it thoroughly, and remove the wrapping with warm, soapy water. Next, paint the jars, decorate as needed, and add a fun label. These make great holders for pens and office supplies.
- Soda Bottle Bird Feeders
Don’t recycle your two-liters just yet! Instead, consider the birds. Rinse and remove your bottle’s label with warm, soapy water. Drill a small hole in the top of the bottle cap and screw it onto the bottle. Next, lay the bottle on its side and carefully out a “door” in the middle of the bottle—think big enough for a small bird to get in. Drill two small holes on each opposite side (four holes total) of the bottle (towards the top), which will have twine fed through it and the top to hold the feeder upright. Paint and decorate the bottle as you’d like. Then feed some twine through the bottle top, out and then back in again through one side and then out and back in again through the other side, and then back up through the top of the bottle. Tie off with a loop. Then add in bird seed.
- Cereal Box Magazine and Book Holders
If only Jerry Seinfeld knew about these! Remove the top from an old cereal box. With a box cutter, slice a diagonal line from the top left corner to somewhere on the right edge of the box (leaving enough vertical box left to “hold” the magazines or books in). Next, on the far side of the box, cut a second vertical line parallel to the first. Connect the two cuts to fully remove those pieces. Now that your shape is cut, you can decorate the box, either with cool paper or spray paint or what have you. These look elegant when lined up in an office, fun an whimsical on the shelf in a kid’s bedroom, or like another piece of art when displayed in your living room.
- Picture Frame Trays
Repurpose that ugly old picture frame by making a serving tray from it! Remove the the “stand” at the back of the frame (leaving the glass and the back in place), leaving just the frame part (this project works best with chunkier picture frames with some decorative edges). Paint the frame or decorate it to your liking. Trace decorative wallpaper (or craft paper) with the outline of the frame’s paper insert. Cut out the wallpaper and fit it in the picture frame (where the picture would normally go), decorative side facing out. Now you have your tray!
Photo by Jordan Johnson/Flickr