Reusing items slows the process of take and dispose. Reusing is our main tool to reduce, since the more we reuse what is already there, the less we need. We can reuse materials that were meant to be disposed of, giving them a second life, or we can choose materials that were meant to be reused and make sure we take good care of them so they can be used many many times.
The concept of reuse takes us away from single-use items and helps us practice valuing our possessions instead of seeing them as disposable. While the items we use will still end up being disposed of someday and have already caused harm upstream, we can still give them a long life with many uses.
Reusing can happen in the way of fun crafts like using old rain boots as plant containers or it can be implemented in a more basic, practical sense, like saving jars for future storage. We can reuse items that were meant to be only used once, like the jars, or we can seek out items that were meant to be reused many times. And for these items we can extend their life, slowing the take and dispose chain even further, by repairing or donating.
In order to learn to reuse, we must retrain our eyes to see an object's value and potential further uses before tossing. Here are some different ways you you can use the principles of reuse:
Repurpose and Upcycle
Disposables were meant to be used once and then thrown away or recycled, but many of these items can be incredible useful tools around the house or even turn into fun crafts, often called upcycling. Reusing disposables can also be very simple and practical like cutting up old clothes for cleaning rags, using plastic bags for pet waste, saving jars for storage. There are many blogs and website and social media accounts that can help you get creative ideas on how to turn unwanted items into useful tools or creative genius. You can try searching Pintrist or Reddit to get started with some inspiration!
Invest in Reusables
There are also reusable versions of many disposable items. We need to see our stuff as valuable and nothing says 'no value' than using something for a few minutes and disposing. A good step to learning to reuse our stuff it invest in stuff that you value and will take care of. There are so many reusable versions of things and more and more are on the market every day. Things you may not even have heard of. Here is a list to start:
- Water bottle
- To-go hot cup
- Cleaning rags
- Cloth Bags
- Mesh produce bags
- Coffee Filter
- Wrapping paper
- Rechargeable Batteries
- Cloth napkins or handkerchief
- Bowl covers
- Zip-shut bags (stasher)
The average American uses 180 plastic water bottles per year. Most people are able to hold onto a reusable water bottle for a least a year, even the most forgetful of us. The average family uses 100 roles of paper towels a year, yet cleaning rags are sturdier and take up very little space in the washing machine. Not to mention, that rag could be used out of an old shirt, double reuse!!
Though not the best option, even reusable plastic is a good alternative to disposable. Plastic can be very useful but we should use it sparingly and wisely, like the valuable invention that it is. Right now 57% of plastic products are single-use; used for only a few minutes and thrown away. The first step is not to eliminate all plastic, it is to eliminate all single-use plastic.
Donate and Share
If you really don’t have a reason to keep or reuse something, it’s important to ask before you throw it out, can someone else use it?
Recommended thrift stores in Encinitas:
- Rancho Coastal Humane Society Thrift Shop
- Community Resource Center Resale Store
- Hospice of the North Coast Resale Shop
There are also many great online tools to share your unwanted stuff:
- Buy Nothing Facebook Groups
Through these sites you can connect directly with others looking for the thing that you want gone. You might even make a little money while you do it as well as helping a fellow neighbor and the planet.
And on the other end, before you buy something new, consider getting it used and closing the loop from both ends!
Sometimes deemed its own category and its own R, another way to reuse something is to repair it. Before throwing something broken in the trash, ask yourself if it can be mended.
Repairing can be another fun DIY project (see list above for inspirational resources) and is an important practice in valuing our possessions.
Fast fashion is an example of how our culture is moving towards lower quality products in order to keep the take-make-dipose chain moving fast. It shows us how even our clothes are becoming single-use items. Instead we need to be moving back towards sturdy, long lasting possessions and support important trades like cobblers and tailors to keep these items in use.
A great example of brands moving towards quality and product longevity are these companies that have implemented life time warranties, indefinitely repairing their products free of charge: Osprey, Patagonia, Darn Tough Socks, The North Face, Jansport, among others.
Fixit clinics will support you in keeping your electronics working: volunteer technicians and engineers will fix your stuff for free or guide you how to fix it yourself. An online resource called ifixit is a wiki page that has a repair manual for pretty much any electronic.
Solana Center's top picks to reduce by REUSING:
COFFEE CUPS - why disposable coffee cups should be next to go after single use water bottles.
PLASTIC BAGS - we all have them, we might as well use them.
Back to Zero Waste main page