Friday, 21 April 2017

10 Disposables to Toss From Your Kitchen

Earth Day is just around the corner, which means it's a great time to think about how we can live more sustainable lives. Here at the Reuse Centre, we're all about making good use of the items that we have in new and creative ways. To me, "reuse" also means making choices to avoid single-use items wherever possible.

I looked around the one area in my home that produces the most waste--the kitchen--and came up with these 10 everyday disposables you can toss from your life!

Paper Towels and Napkins
Keep a stock of rags within easy reach for mopping up spills around the house. Be extra thrifty and cut them from old, holey t-shirts that you were going to throw out anyway!

Paper Napkins
Who said cloth napkins were just for dinner parties and fancy folk? Buy a set of cheap fabric napkins for every day use, or make your own from old fabric scraps with this DIY Network tutorial.

Don't forget to say "No napkins, please!" next time you're at the drive-thru!

Make a shareable party box! Image source: Lifehacker
Single-Use Dishes
Disposable plates, cups and cutlery are a convenience item we often turn to when the party gets big, or far away from home. Avoid the waste at your next picnic. Thrift some extra dishes and cutlery on the cheap and start a party box to share with friends.

If you have to use disposables, stick to recycled paper where possible.

Say no to single-use straws at restaurants and at home. It's okay for your lips to touch the rim of a drinking glass, I promise!

If you love drinking out of straws, consider investing in metal or glass reusable ones.

Produce Bags
Most of us wash our produce before we eat it, so ditch the "protective" plastic bag and let your celery get up close and personal with that carton of cereal in your shopping cart. Use reusable mesh produce bags to keep items like loose apples or green beans together for the cashier

Shopping Bags
How could I talk about produce bags without talking about regular plastic shopping bags? Don't limit your reusable bags to the grocery store - take them to the mall, to summer markets, and especially to the Reuse Centre!

Image Source: The Art of Doing Stuff
Plastic Wrap
Stock your kitchen with storage containers for keeping leftovers, or try a plastic-wrap alternative like beeswax fabric, which you can buy online or make yourself out of cotton scraps.

Water Bottles
We're lucky to live in Edmonton, where clean and delicious drinking water comes out of the tap. Skip the vending machine and carry a reusable water bottle to help you stay hydrated through the day.

Quick and easy snack baggies. Image Source: The DIY Mommy
Sandwich Baggies
Washable snack baggies are a great alternative to plastic sandwich baggies. They're not common in stores, but easy to buy online or to make. Check out this tutorial from The DIY Mommy.

Coffee Cups
Most coffee shops are happy to fill up your mug, whether that's your fancy travel tumbler, or the "#1 Boss" mug you keep at the office. Many shops even offer a discount when you bring your own cup.

What disposables have you eliminated from your life? Share your reusable alternatives in the comments!

- Sarah (Volunteer)

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Featured Reuse-It Item - Envelopes

Envelopes are one of those everyday mundane items that many of us quickly dismiss and toss in the recycling as soon as we've taken out the important, or sometimes not so important, contents that they hold. However, as it turns out, envelopes can be reused and repurposed in a wide variety of ways. Here are all the ideas that our blog team found. Who would have thought that envelopes could be so versatile?


An old envelope is great to have on hand - they're fabulous for collecting and saving seeds! Penn and Cord's Garden talks about how paper envelopes allow seeds to breathe and describes how to create envelope seed packets. I like envelopes with plastic windows as it's easy to see the seeds that I've collected. It's also a good idea to add a photo of the plant into the envelope for easy identification.

Photo Credit: Penn & Cord's Garden

Though mail by post is on the decline, you likely still accumulate a number of envelopes. Some mail comes with a return envelope that is meant for you to send your payment back. These are ideal for reusing. To reuse envelopes, you can turn them inside out to make new envelopes. Essentially, you slice open all the sides with a letter opener or knife, fold it inside out, glue it back together, and voila, a new envelope. It is always a great feeling to save paper, not to mention money that would have been spent on new envelopes.

For a step by step tutorial on this useful idea visit Thrifty Jinxy
How to Reuse "Junk Mail" Envelopes
Photo Credit: Thrifty Jinxy


What can you find in any household that is more common than envelopes? Everyone receives mail! With all of that paper that's used for envelopes, it's never a bad idea to have some crafty upcycling options at your fingertips.

Being an avid reader myself, I know that I'm always looking for something to use as a bookmark, spoons, receipts, cloth scraps, and anything else that would possibly fit the bill. After stumbling upon this brilliant idea from d. Sharp journal to use the corner of an envelope as a corner bookmark, I just may never need to hunt for a bookmark again!

Photo Credit: d. Sharp journal
Sarah J.

Use old envelopes as a scrap notepad. I remember my mom always did this. In her purse, she always had an envelope with scribbling on the back. 

Envelopes are also great for storing  miscellaneous items around the house. Here are some ways that I use old envelopes for keeping my things tidy:
  • Use old envelopes to manage your money. Some people use cash, and this can be a very effective way to organize money into budget categories. This idea also works well for organizing receipts.
  • Use an old envelope to organize puzzles -  the larger the puzzle, the larger the envelope you'll need. 
  • I have started using brown envelopes in my filing drawer instead of folders to keep documents together. 
  • Store paper napkins in them. My paper napkins are always getting everywhere in my cupboard or drawer, making a mess. 
Image result for envelope organizing
Photo Credit: SC Johnson

In general, old envelopes are very handy for organizing!


Ellen mentioned that the inside of many envelopes have pretty and unique patterns and Sarah J. described how envelopes are great to use for scrap paper. Both of these points got me thinking about envelope notebooks. I found this tutorial on Crafting a Green World and was so impressed with how nice and pretty an envelope notebook can turn out. 

I love carrying a small notebook in my purse. They're usually filled with "To Do" lists and important reminders. Instead of buying a new notebook once my current one is filled, I'm definitely going to try to make one out of old envelopes.

Photo Credit: Crafting a Green World

How do you reuse old envelopes? Share your ideas in the comments section.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Toddler Busy Board

As soon as baby becomes mobile, there’s a mad dash to secure all hazards in the house while providing safe options for play. Instead of breaking the bank with fancy toys, look around for sights, sounds, textures, smells, and tastes that are all around us.

Enter the "Busy Board." A busy board is a collection of repurposed household items that provide exploration and play for infants and toddlers. A quick google search shows several fantastic inspirations.

Busy Board Google Images Search
Busy Boards can range from simple to very complex projects depending on your construction expertise. They can be fixed to the wall or freestanding. Their fixtures can be permanent or evolving.

I’ll admit that my first attempt at this somewhat failed. When we moved from a tiny dwelling to a larger house that had an entire room dedicated to play, I was ecstatic to build the most amazing busy board wall. As it turns out, “amazing” just meant “huge.” While we did a great job of building the board, we somewhat fizzled at supplying a quality range of items to explore.

Image Source: Ellen
Cue second born child hitting the crawling stage. It’s time to reinvigorate our wall so that she can pull herself up and practice standing while exploring all the wonderful busy wall discoveries. This is the beauty of this project; it’s ever-evolving to suit the needs of your growing children!

Begin by deciding if your board will be small and portable or fixed to the wall. Since ours was installed on the wall, and since I wanted items to be installed in an ongoing manner, I needed to build the board out from the wall with a spacer of 2x4s. Thankfully, Grandpa was visiting and he took it upon himself to get the job started. Normally, we’d have an assortment of wood scraps kicking around to use but since we had just moved, we were fresh out. If you’re working from scraps, you may have less choice in size.

Once our base was installed, we simply began adding items as we found them. Our first stop was raiding our existing stash in the tool room. Next stop, The Reuse Centre! Since then, I’ve simply been adding items as they reveal themselves. It’s amazing to consider everyday household items destined for the trash in a brand new light!
Components of the board. Image Source: Ellen
Image Source: Ellen
My son is working on dressing/undressing himself so I added the button and zipper from an old pair of pants as well as the back pocket. He’s obsessed with the telephone and the calculator—both broken and destined for the trash! Our youngest uses the bottom half to pull herself up and explore the textures, sights, and sounds.

Is your kid a fan of texture? Maybe a budding musician who seeks out sounds? Or a future engineer intent on figuring out tasks of dexterity and skill? What items would your kid love to play with on a busy wall?

- Ellen (Volunteer)