The Five Rs of Environmentalism: Reuse

As we continue our blog series on The Five Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Replace, Refuse, we have focused this post on ways that you can reuse items to minimize your impact on the environment.

Reuse: Don’t throw it away just yet!

In addition to replacing disposable items, we can re-use “disposable” items to keep them out of the waste stream. Most people use single-serving containers every day without thought. While many of them truly do need to be discarded after a single use, some can be repurposed to keep them out of a landfill. I challenge you to think about other uses for those single-serving containers. Some ideas include using empty marinara or baby food jars (keep the lid!) to store leftovers in the refrigerator, or loose screws in the basement. This “upcycling” can either be temporary or permanent, utilitarian or beautiful. There are countless articles online that provide ideas for re-using stuff. Pinterest basically exists for this reason!

Glass drink bottles can be reused as water bottles or vases, and plastic tubs from food or takeout can be used to store leftovers in the fridge. Check to make sure the plastic is microwave-safe before reheating food items in the microwave. Use cardboard toilet paper tubes to organize extension cords, or store buttons and loose change in interesting-shaped jars or jugs. Here are more ideas for re-using household items with little to no work involved.

We can use non-recyclable plastic containers or bags to contain really nasty stuff. Used cooking oil can cause quite a mess if it is not well-contained in the trash, and used cat litter is best contained within the trash as well (think of the poor garbage collector that has to face that used kitty litter that’s been in the bin for five days in August). Dog feces should be contained in plastic bags. Or, better yet, use earth-friendly poo bags to protect public health. Broken glass should always be contained when it is thrown away to prevent injury to you and others—use a non-recyclable margarine tub to hold those shards of glass in the trash bag.

If you have other ideas of items that can be reused instead of thrown away, please share them in the comments below.


  1. Alex Zelles says:

    I love reusing glass jars to hold my dried pantry items (rice, beans, etc.) and small bouquets of flowers. Some stores will even allow you to bring empty jars/plastic bags from home to fill from their bulk dried goods section!

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