Wednesday, 30 September 2015

September Reuse-It Item: Jars

Here at the Reuse Centre, we accept mason jars and baby food jars. They're great for canning, making preserves, storing food or small items, and home organization. This month, our blogger team has shared some other fun and useful ways to reuse old glass jars!

Image Source: Instructables

Here is a tutorial I found a few months ago that teaches you how to turn your mason jar into a sippy cup.

For a special touch, you can also use chalkboard paint to make a label area. Nobody will get their cups mixed up at your next party!

Check it out at Instructables.

How cute are these? They'd be great for a child's room.
Image Source:

Old jars, new lids! Just top the old lids with figurines or plastic animals.  All you need are some solid paint and strong glue to create this refreshed look.  The jar maintains its function, but the new lid adds a pop of colour and personality.

These is great for party favours, kids' storage, and general modern d├ęcor.  Looking for some cute topper combinations? Try rabbits for Easter chocolate jars, a nutcracker for nuts, cats or dogs for pet treats, a bride and groom for wedding favours, and lego men for organizing building blocks.

See the instructions at Paris Bourke.

This is a great way to organize pins and buttons.
Image Source:

I love to make mini pin cushion and pin jars from baby food jars. They make a great little stocking stuffer for sewists and other crafty people, and they are so cute. There are many different methods to make these, but has a quick, easy to follow tutorial.

These jars look like they're straight out of a magazine!
Image Source:

One of my favourite foods is jam. Homemade jam is even better. Glass jars are perfect to store jam, and reuse over and over again, because who would ever get sick of jam? Glass jars are also great for storing a variety of items, or food that doesn't spoil (e.g. sugar and spices).

I've also used jars for decoration. When I first moved into my place, I didn't have any vases for flowers so I just used jars instead. I liked the look so much that I decorated with various assortments of jars and fake flowers. This blogger spray painted her glass jars and the outcome is awesome!

A beautiful splash of green for the long winter ahead!
Image Source:

Autumn, while beautiful, makes me a bit sad because it reminds me of the winter that's coming.

Here's a way to save a little of the lush greenery of summer indoors, by making a glass jar terrarium!

Makezine  and Design Sponge give the basics on just what to do. I can't wait to customize my own!

Friday, 25 September 2015

ReStore - Reducing Waste with Habitat for Humanity

When we moved three years ago, our semi-new couch couldn't fit through the door.  It sat in the garage for a whole year, reminding us of our poor planning and unfortunate waste of a good piece of furniture - but wait!  Just like an unused craft kit is happily accepted at the Reuse Centre, gently used furniture is welcomed at Habitat for Humanity's ReStore!  I called for a pick up and that was that.

Welcome to the ReStore!
I thought very little of the ReStore again until several months ago, when my neighbour started developing her basement.  Costs for all-new building materials were outside her budget, but she knew about the ReStore's other side. They offer reasonably priced building materials. Together, we went for a visit.

The ReStore North location is a medium-sized warehouse. I expected to find a lot of furniture, but it couches, tables, and chairs actually took up very little of the floor space.  Instead there were pallets and shelves full of tile, carpet, hinges, and screws.  There was also an area for light fixtures, sinks, and kitchen cabinets.

Look at all of that flooring!
I learned that the ReStore is "a retail outlet that sells new and gently used building materials and home improvement items".  The stock is made up completely of donations from individuals and businesses. Also, like the Reuse Centre, they promote waste reduction through reuse. Since opening in 2000, they have diverted "over 12,000 tons  of reusable and resalable items from local landfills."

My neighbour found carpet and underlay for less than half the price of new materials(likely a donation from a building site, where the end of roll wasn't usable).  I eyed kitchen cabinets that I later learned may have been part of their Kitchen Salvage Program, which enables residents to donate their whole kitchens before renovations.  

Need new baseboards or wainscoting? I found plenty!
A kitchen reno is probably quite a few years away for me, but in the meantime I'll definitely look to ReStore for any of my future home improvement project supplies.  Aside from the cost savings, I'll know my purchases will help reduce landfill waste and support a good cause.  

All proceeds from ReStore fund Habitat for Humanity's administration costs. This means that every dollar donated directly to Habitat for Humanity goes directly to building homes and serving families.

Read more about Habitat for Humanity here

- Lana (Volunteer)

All photos taken by Lana and published with permission of Habitat for Humanity Edmonton.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Dorm Room Decorating on a Budget

When you're a university student living at home, you can still comfort yourself at the end of a tough day with familiar items and surroundings. When you're a student living in 'res', you may be lucky enough to bring a few of your familiar things into an otherwise soulless room that you may or may not be sharing. Even worse, you're probably also completely broke. 

Don't despair! There are a ton of ways to jeuje up your dorm room, organize yourself for school on a tight budget, and still have plenty of money left over for ramen noodles and beer. Some projects can be done with items you might already have or could borrow, and others could be done for a $5 shopping spree at the Reuse Centre. 

I'd like to share a few of my favourite budget projects for personalizing your dorm space and staying on top of school projects.

 DIY Dry Erase
Papers and exams can overwhelm you if you don't stay organized from the start. I always made sure to grab a free agenda during the first week of school, but I also liked having a wall calendar handy to help me plan a month ahead of time. Calendars can be pricey, but if you can pick up free paint chips at a hardware store or the Reuse Centre, a frame from your parents/Reuse Centre/dollar store, and a whiteboard marker, you can make a dry erase calendar to get you through the semester. Bonus points for giving your drab dorm room a punch of colour.

Don't need a calendar? Instead of paint chips, fill the frame with a bit of gift wrap or scrapbook paper. Now you've got a super cheap dry erase board to leave reminders for yourself, or angry notes for your roommate.

Desk Organizers
When you only have so much space, it's really easy to clutter it up and make a big mess. Closets can quickly get out of hand, and course handouts can get lost in the ever-growing piles of paper. Help yourself stay organized with upcycled wicker baskets! Grab some old, outdated styles for cheap. They might be hideous under normal circumstances, but covered in a coat of metallic or bright-coloured paint, they will breathe life into your room and tame your mess. These beauties can become your new T-shirt baskets, paper trays, and pencil cups. If your grandmother doesn't have any, thrift stores and the Reuse Centre certainly will. 

Transform cereal boxes into attractive and useful organizers with a box cutter, your favourite fabric, gift wrap or magazine cutouts, and some tape. Use them for your paperwork, organizing your makeup, storing your hair appliances... Whatever you need! 

Closet Space Savers
This has to be about the easiest possible way to maximize your dorm room's non-existent closet space. Remove the tab from a pop can, loop one end over one hanger, and a second hanger through the other end. Voila! You've doubled your storage space and now you can keep outfits together. You can probably assemble enough pop can tabs for this in an afternoon if you recruit your friends. 

Another inexpensive space saver is to add shower curtain rings to a hanger, to keep all of your smaller items in one place. Belts, scarves, tank tops, you name it! If you're a purse junkie, you can also store them this way. Try your nearest dollar store or second hand shop for shower curtain rings, and make sure your hanger is sturdy. 

Of course, this is just a sampling of some of the easiest ways to personalize and organize your dorm space on a small budget. The Reuse Centre, your closest dollar store, and your parents' basement can hold a wealth of items to accessorize your student life, and a spot of paint can do wonders to turn something dated into something chic. Be creative! 

Best semester wishes from the Reuse Centre! 
Nichole (Volunteer)

Friday, 11 September 2015

Book Review: Reuse Crafting Edition

I spend more time on websites like Pinterest than I'd care to admit, looking up interesting DIY projects and home decor ideas, yet invariably ending up on boards about cats. I sometimes need reminders that there are these things called books that are also excellent sources of information and ideas on all kind of subjects, including reusing and repurposing everyday items. I recently made a trip to my neighbourhood library, where I found a treasure trove of craft books that feature ideas to make use of everything from empty cereal boxes to wooden pallets. I'd like to tell you about three books, presented here from most to least helpful, for an inexperienced crafter.

The most helpful book of my recent haul is Create, Update, Remake (Transcontinental Books, 2011), from the editors of Canadian Living. Some of the projects which require sewing or knitting are, frankly, beyond the scope of my abilities. However, this book also has some completely simple craft ideas that are suitable even for children, like turning ugly ties into tea cozies, or salvaging the back pockets of worn-out jeans to make a wall organizer. Every craft is accompanied by detailed instructions, and some of the more complicated projects, like wooden bird feeders and window boxes, have additional diagrams in the back. I'm definitely going to be trying my two favourite projects: turning an old china cup and saucer into an elegant bird feeder (p.78); and making wastepaper baskets out of actual waste paper (p.153).

Another helpful find, if a little more geared towards an experienced crafter, is Eco-Chic Home (Skipstone, 2010) by Emily Anderson. One thing I really appreciate about this book is the comprehensive introduction on rethinking how we relate to materials generally considered disposable, and where we can find these items outside of our own homes, such as estate sales and even school libraries (neither of which, I confess, had ever occurred to me before). Every craft is accompanied by wonderfully detailed instructions, which will make projects like the braided t-shirt rug (p.57) that I’ve always wanted to try so much more possible. The helpful instructions even make some of the more complicated projects, like reupholstering chairs, seem less daunting. My biggest problem with this book is that the photography is beautiful, but about fifteen percent of the projects have no pictures, which means that if you’re interested in making them, you have no examples of how it’s supposed to turn out.

Finally, the least helpful book that I brought home is Remake, Restyle, Reuse (Watson-Guptill, 2006) by Sonia Lucano. I should clarify that an inexperienced crafter, such as myself, is kind of out-classed by the skill required for most of these projects. Like Eco-Chic Home, the photography is quite stunning, and every craft is followed by specific instructions. Unlike the other two books, certain projects in Remake, such as the admittedly cool geometric carafe (p. 21), require the use of things like glass engraving tools, which are not readily available or simple to use. Other crafts, like the spring-inspired pillowcases (p.55), require only fabric paint, tracing paper and a steady hand, none of which I possess, but could more reasonably acquire. Overall, I thought this book had some truly beautiful ideas for breathing new life into old things, but they just seem a little too daunting to attempt for a crafter of my skill-level.

All in all, it's important that you find a book that's right for you. A simple book provides no challenge for an experienced crafter, and a difficult book might scare away a newbie before they've even really begun. For my lackluster crafting talent, the books with big pictures and ludicrously simple directions work best. As soon as I read words like "engraving tools" and "turpentine", I start wondering where I can just buy the finished project, which rather defeats the purpose.

- Nichole (Volunteer)

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Back to School with the Reuse Centre

'Tis the season for school supply shopping! But before stepping into the mall rush, visit the Reuse Centre to ease some of your shopping woes.

Years ago, armed with school supply lists for my niece and nephew, I did just that and was rewarded. Almost half of the list was regularly accepted items! I was also delighted to find dictionaries in with the books, and lots of stickers for them to decorate and personalize their supplies.

It’s also been rumoured that more than one university student has found required textbooks at the Reuse Centre!

All this, reusing, and the thrill of the hunt for $5 (for 50kg)!  Last time I checked, that was about the price of one new binder.  My sister was certainly happy with my finds.

Visit us for all of your binder needs!
Here are some common school supplies that can be found in our Arts & Crafts and Office & School Supplies areas:

Crayons are a popular item here!
For Elementary School:
  • Craft glue  
  • Pencils (with colourful designs)
  • Pencil cases
  • Erasers
  • Pencil sharpeners
  • Crayons (wax and pencil)
  • Markers
  • Scissors

For High School and University:
Students of all ages can find supplies
at the Reuse Centre!
  • Binders (always in stock, in various sizes and colours)
  • Note pads, notebooks, paper
  • Pens
  • Highlighters and markers
  • Geometry sets
  • Calculators
  • Index cards 
  • Duotangs and dividers

Do yourself (and your wallet) a favour this school year, and try the Reuse Centre before you hit the mall!

A full list of Reuse Centre accepted items can be found here

- Lana (Volunteer)