Think Before You Toss It
Everyone knows we're supposed to reduce, reuse and recycle, but many Americans continue to purchase more than they need, resulting in more waste, both economically and environmentally. That's why Jeff Yeager, aka the Ultimate Cheapskate, wrote his latest book, Don't Throw That Away which focuses on creative ways to reuse or repurpose items that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Since the book is only available electronically, you won't have to wonder what to do with it after you finish reading.
"While Americans recycle more than we used to, the volume of stuff we throw away has exponentially increased," Yeager says. "I wanted the book to be practical, offering solutions for ways to reuse everyday items, but I also want it to resonate with people on a bigger level. It's not just about interesting, quirky ways of reusing pantyhose; it's about thinking of all the stuff you throw away and becoming mindful of that. If you decide to reuse a piece of aluminum foil, that won't make you rich or save the environment, but it will instill in you an ethic of thrift. It may make you stop and think."
For instance, one reader wrote to Yeager and told him that reading the book had led her to make a small but significant change in her morning routine. She used to use a plastic bag to clean up after her dog when she walked him every morning, and then, on her way back into the house, she'd pick up the morning paper, which was always delivered in a plastic bag. After reading Don't Throw That Away, the reader realized that by reversing her process, she could pick up the newspaper first and use its plastic bag to clean up after her dog, eliminating the use of one plastic bag each day.
"If you can build reuse into everyday practice like that, you can make a big difference," Yeager says. "This book is about making incremental changes that make you stop and think, and they can add up to big savings economically as well as environmentally."
The incremental changes Yeager recommends range from easy no-brainers to creative and quirky solutions. And since it's an e-book, you can easily search the index for an item you want to reuse (packing peanuts, masking tape, fireplace ashes), and one click will take you to the options for repurposing that item.
Here are eight everyday items and Yeager's interesting reuses -- try them at home or use as inspiration for your own repurposing ideas.
1. Cereal bags. Rather than throwing away the plastic bag inside the cereal box when the cereal is gone, Yeager recommends storing leftovers in it in the refrigerator or freezer.
2. Eggshells. These are perfect for starting seedling plants indoors, as are cardboard egg containers and empty toilet paper rolls, Yeager writes. When the seedlings are ready to be transplanted outdoors, these biodegradable items can be ground up and added to the soil as fertilizer.
[Related: 8 Tips for (Really) Frugal Living]
3. Onion bags. Don't throw away the plastic mesh bags that onions come in. Instead, "stuff them inside one another and use them as a handy scrubbing pad in the kitchen," Yeager says.
4. Plastic shopping bags. Savvy consumers can find endless ways to reuse these bags, which cost consumers about $4 million each year and take 500 years to decompose. One of the best reuses Yeager discovered was by a woman who crocheted a reusable plastic shopping bag out of dozens of the disposable ones.
5. Charcoal. Among other uses, leftover charcoal can be used in the bottom of a flower vase containing cut flowers to keep the water clean and clear and make the flowers last longer.
6. Pantyhose. The "queen of all repurposed items," old nylon pantyhose have numerous practical uses, Yeager says. For instance, they're perfect for shining shoes, removing pet hair and lint from clothing and upholstery, and, when combined with lemon rinds and a little cedar sawdust, they protect stored clothing from insects, taking the place of mothballs.
7. Spoiled yogurt. Don't try to eat spoiled yogurt, but you can use it to make "a soothing face mask," Yeager writes. Just blend one cup of spoiled yogurt with spare cucumber peels and "a dollop of honey if you really want to get salon-fancy," he says. "Apply liberally to your face and leave it on for thirty minutes before washing it off."
8. Soap slivers. Save the slivers of bar soap that you might normally throw away, and when you have several saved, melt them in a lightly oiled dish in the microwave. Yeager recommends microwaving them for 30 seconds at a time until they start to melt together. When melted, stir them together and when the mixture is cool enough to touch, mold them by hand into what Yeager calls "dirty snowballs." They may not look like new bars of soap, but they'll "get the job done," Yeager says.
SecondAct Asks: This list is just a start. What do you reuse or repurpose? Tell us about it in the comments section below and we might feature your ideas in a future post.