Reuse

How can you creatively reuse or recycle in the home?

It’s amazing how a few creative changes can transform a home. And for those on a budget, customization is either out of a realistic price range, or it’s DIY.

So what are the items or materials that have a lot of potential for home owners to retrofit? From chandeliers made of mason jars, to rugs woven from tee-shirts, we wanted to find out the most creative and effective ways to recycle home goods.So we’re turning to our Blog-Off experts to find out what things they’ve seen.

Why We’re Asking:

We all have changes we want to make to our homes that we could call in the experts for…if we lived in a perfect world. As that’s not the case for most, so we’d love to hear more about the projects that people can achieve by themselves, with just a little creativity and elbow grease.

So experts, it’s time to weigh in:

What are the best ways to creatively reuse or recycle in the home?

What has been the most creative re-use or recycled feature you’ve seen in a home?
Any suggestions for quirky and creative ways to save money and the environment by reusing something?
Are there any projects or materials that you’ve seen a lot of variations on? (Lighting and lampshade changes, for instance)
What are some good resources for finding materials? (Like the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store)?

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!



  • Nettie Owens @ Sappari Solutions 09/02/11

    I agree that the best ways to recycle are often the easiest. The first step is always to reduce, we can reduce what we have by simply not bringing new items into the home. The second way to reduce is to share our abundance with others either through donation or freecycle.org. Then start to think outside the box to create what you need in your home. Our first child received many new toys, for our subsequent children we found ways to re-purpose what we already had: the metal lids to frozen orange juice containers and a oatmeal tub made a good ‘shape sorter’, children always love boxes in order to create the magical environments in their heads: space ships, fairy hideouts, etc. We need to take a page from our children’s books to look at what we have that we can re-use. Whenever I work with clients I recommend that they not go out and buy new. Most of us have more than what we need. For organizing containers – food jars with lids, plastic food containers, boxes covered in wrapping paper or fabric all make great containers for your stuff. You can make them coordinate if you cover them with a similar fabric, paper or spray paint. Old clothing makes good ‘stuffing’ for craft projects if you cut it into small pieces. Saving ribbons & gift bags allows them to be reused and means you will always have gift packaging on hand when you need it. Old books can be used to make a stand for a computer. Broken pottery can be turned into a mosaic or used in the bottom of pots to help them drain better.

    Your best bet is to think about what you need and before running to the store to buy it, consider how you could make it at home with the supplies you have on hand. Try it for a month and I bet you will find you often have just what you need!

  • Vicky Sanderson @ The Toronto Star 09/02/11

    @vickysanderson says:

    Right now, I am obsessed with turning old things into new. So I fell instantly in love Lisa Occhipinti’s works with used books http://www.locchinpinti.com. Books have always fascinated Occhipinti, a painter with a degree in fine arts who studied traditional book-binding at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. After years of creating multi-media paintings that included pieces of cut up book pages, Occhipinti began pondering the potential for three-dimensional pieces suggested by the form of her many books.

    To help others who are into recycled décor, Occhipinti has written The Repurposed Library (www.abramsbooks.com), which includes 33 projects designed by Occhipinti and other artists and crafters — with detailed instructions for making everything from a chandelier to a hanging book mobile.

    Before you decide to make major furniture changes in a room, see what a fresh coat of paint will do for your look first. It’s one of the easiest, most affordable ways to create a custom look. These days, it’s also used as a way to define open-concept areas through colour blocking, an effect that can be easily achieved by even the most inexperienced painter. The trick is to plan your design carefully, and to use a good tape, such as 3M’s new Edge-Lock painter’s tapes, which makes clean, crisp lines without either tape residue or paint seepage. For tips on how to mask like a pro, go to http://www.scotchblue.com, and look under Painting Tips and Techniques.

    Painting out a family treasure or even a thrift shop find in a high-gloss paint (try super-shiny midnight blue) is another way to breathe new life into an old item. Or sexy up an old china cabinet by taking off the doors and either painting — or papering – the inside of it.

    Not only is recycled décor good for the planet — it’s a great way to express a uniquely personal style.

  • Trish Holder @ Greenspiration Home 09/02/11

    Just a few thoughts from some things we did in the Greenspiration Home…

    – Use an old dresser and a piece of scrap granite or other natural stone material to make a distinctive looking powder room vanity.

    – Use old pieces torn out carpeting and boarder with fabric to make custom occasional arial rugs

    – Use old floor joists from old factories to make decorative ceiling beams

    – Use a rusted metal fire pit to make a planter (haven’t done this yet — but plan too!)

    – Use leftover stone from home construction to build a landscaping wall and terrace to make a outdoor focal point and control moisture and erosion.

    – Contract with a construction waste company to use recycled construction concrete and gravel and stone to use as infill for drive ways (instead of virgin gravel).

  • Jennifer Dusina @ freedomRail 09/02/11

    Recently, one of my clients bought a home and challenged herself to reuse as much materials from remodeled homes as she could. She shopped Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore outlets and was able to outfit about 50 percent of her home at a fraction of the cost. And, not only did she save money, but it was a responsible way to keep good, reusable materials out of the waste stream. Some of the items that she purchased were from older, historic homes so they were truly beautiful, one of a kind pieces.

  • Rob Jones @ BuildDirect 09/02/11

    There are scads of ideas, especially if you’re crafty and have kids. Cans, egg cartons, and other kitchen items make for great crafty projects on rainy days.

    I would also put forward the idea that refinishing, or using slipcovers for furniture, is a great way to extend the life of a piece of furniture, or to add a used piece to a space.

  • Jason Crook @ The PHAG Shop 09/02/11

    Because we routinely encourage clients to recycle and re-use items, whenever possible, I don’t know that I have one “best” or “most creative” recycle or re-use example, but my perspective on the topic is that recycling and re-use is really about re-envisioning.

    From a design perspective, many of the “crafty” ideas for recycling we see everyday, while great for the environment and encouragement of re-use, don’t really do justice to the “glory” of the object’s former life or match up to the “new” options we have in that category. For example, sure, you can take a beautiful wine bottle and put some water in it to make it a vase (that’s re-use), but will that bottle vase really have the same impact it had when it was an amazing, full-bodied wine? Consider, instead, collecting three or four of your favorite wine bottles, have your local glass shop cut the bottom out, and you or an electrician can turn them into a series of pendant lights to hang over the bar area in your home. Now, in a sense, those illuminated bottles with beautiful labels capture the essence, in their new life, they had before. Also, they have become a reflection of you in your personal space, and you can utilize the services of some neighborhood glass or electrical professionals along the way, adding to the sustainable community concept that’s an equally important goal of the “green” movement.

    Applying this re-envisioning philosophy to your recycle and re-use projects will not just advance the “green” movement; it will advance the field of design!

  • Sohail Hassan @ One Stop Green 09/01/11

    We have a number of useful tips on easy ways to reuse or recycle in the home that are available on both our website and mobile app. However, the following are probably the most creative and have been chosen as our staff favorites:

    Be sure to make full use of your water! Inserting a bucket to collect water while waiting for your shower to warm up is perfect for watering plants!

    Get twice the use out of your sink water! In homes across the U.S., the bathroom accounts for 74% of total water usage. Install the AQUS System to capture water from the bathroom sink, then filter and disinfect it to provide reused water for toilet flushing! Reduce metered water usage in a two-person household by 15–20 gals a day – or approx. 6,000 gallons a year!

    You have got to Clean Green! Old newspapers are great for washing windows, just crumple up and wipe clean of all dirt and grime. Be sure to also save your worn or old t -shirts and use them as cleaning rags for anything from drying a freshly washed car to dusting or polishing your furniture!

    Save that Sponge! Don’t clean things with a dirty sponge, but don’t toss it out either! 2 minutes in a microwave can effectively destroy 99% of bacteria and other harmful buildup in a sponge and it can then be re-used to clean anything!

    Finally, be sure to Pee in the shower! Save wasted toilet water by peeing in the shower. Just kidding…One Stop Green in no way endorses peeing in the shower (except under extraordinary circumstances).

    As you can see, being ‘green’ doesn’t necessarily mean spending lots of money to make excessive upgrades to the home, at its very core, its just living your life in a smarter, more efficient manner in order to reduce your overall negative impact on the environment.

  • Peter L. Mosca, Green Realtor 09/01/11

    Since the best way to reduce the wasteful use of water, diminish greenhouse gases and save the world’s natural resources is to stop eating meat and fish (anything with eyes), my answer to this week’s question will focus on the backyard garden. Here are a few ways to recycle home goods that are working in my life and in my (OK, my wife’s) garden: 1) Coffee: a) of course, the grinds should be put aside and used as compost or placed directly into the soil, b) if you still use K-cups, empty the grinds into a bowl (see “a” above) and use the plastic cups for seedling development, 2) Plastic Bottles: a) dry and paint them, and use as bird feeders, b) stack them on sticks and use as “scarers” in the garden to keep animals away, 3) Paper: a) use newspaper as a weed deterrent by placing layers down on tilled soil and soak with water before using mulch, 4) Tires: a) stack old car tires and create raised beds to grow flowers, b) stack old car tires and create raised beds to grow root crops like parsley and radish, 5) Rainwater: attach a large barrel with spigot to your drain water pipe and use water for houseplants and garden, 6) Other: a) use old panty hose to tie vegetable plants like tomatoes and squash, b) use clam shell packaging from eggs and muffins, for example, for seedling development, c) use soda cans and smaller plastic bottles at bottom of your planters to fill space. Ultimately, there are countless ways to recycle home goods. You need to want to do it, put in the effort and get it done. And again, it takes very little effort to either stop, or reduce the amount of meat and fish in your diet, and you will be helping our environment the best way an individual can.

  • Bess Wyrick @ Celadon & Celery designs 09/01/11

    Best Way to Recycle, Re-Use? Dumpster Diving!

    At the end of the school year New York University brings in large dumpsters and places them in front of the dorm buildings around the West Village. The school officials are making it easy for all the kids to toss what they don’t want or need for the summer. This is also the best place to go dumpster diving for treasures. Almost everything in our floral studio is recycled from dumpster diving or from curb finds.

    This past May, I took my assistant at one in the morning to go open the bins and take a look. To our pleasant surprise we found a red bench, some cool wooden frames, and a clock. We took the frames and nailed them to the bench then poured some dirt and moss into the frames and made ourselves a cool little window garden with succulents for the studio! It was so easy to do, helps lower the carbon footprint and allows for a couture, tailored design.

    – Bess Wyrick, Owner and Artistic Director of Celadon and Celery Events

  • Nancy Keenholts Dalton @ Baywolf Dalton, Inc. 08/31/11

    All of my clients are supportive of donating materials to second use or re-use facilities. When items are more valuable they have sold them on Craig’s list, which at least keeps things out of landfills.
    Be sure to ask your neighbors if they need something you are removing from your home. Many times the homes on your street were built at the same time and have the same radiators, interior doors and trim. Especially if your home is older, some of these items would need to be custom ordered and expensive. If your neighbor was planning a remodel they’d be thrilled to be on the receiving end.
    When you consider a remodel or an addition think about what you need, what you will want to maintain and heat five years later. Sometimes you don’t need to add or change as much as you think. Add crown molding or wainscot a wall. In relatively new homes I’ve reconfigured islands and cabinetry instead of doing the entire kitchen over again. Waste isn’t always what you throw away; sometimes bigger isn’t always better and remember to maintain what you have for a longer lifespan.

  • Kerry Ann Dame @ Posh Surfside 08/31/11

    Reducing your use is one of the greenest things you can do; extend the idea of re-using what you have to home furnishings. Recover your furniture. It keeps it out of the landfill, and saves money versus buying new. Even if it needs a little repair or new cushions, it’s usually worth doing because you can choose any fabric and end up with something nicer than anything in a store.

    When you have a renovation project, purchase the longest lasting material you can – instead of carpet, choose tile or wood, since it won’t need replacing. Many types of old carpet can be recycled, so be sure to check before sending old carpet to the landfill. Building materials such as cabinets can be found at thrift and resale shops, so next time you need to renovate the garage, buy used cabinets.

    For every category of home product, there is at least one product that is more green than the others, so have ask the sustainability question every time you shop. Seek out American made furniture, carpet made from recycled content, and sustainably harvested wood. If the sales person where you are shopping has no idea, then move on. There are plenty of choices in the marketplace now, it is up to consumers to make the right selections.

  • Jason Todd @ GreenHomes America 08/31/11

    Recycle? One of my favorite things is newspaper. It’s not a do it yourself project I’m talking about here, its cellulose insulation and we love the stuff. GreenHomes America uses tractor trailer loads of recycled newspaper in the form of cellulose insulation. It is one of the finest retrofit insulations out there because it is inexpensive, is recycled, and can be blown into walls and attics and can really make a difference. Not only will it help insulate, but when installed densely in walls and floors it can help slow down drafts in a home.

    Another great thing to recycle in the home is all the heat from your shower. There’s a nifty device that replaces a section of the drain waste line in a house’s plumbing with a copper piece that has a smaller copper coil wrapped on its exterior. After you start your shower and are running hot water down the drain in the process, that copper coil preheats the cold water on its way to the water heater in your home. Instead of dumping all the heat from your shower down the drain now you can preheat the water you are heating up.

    Here’s one that’s strange but true: Air. We waste so much in a leaky home. We all need fresh air, but the average home in need of upgrading leaks 2-3 times as much as necessary. Ok maybe this isn’t like a soda can that gets recycled into something else, but when we are cooling or heating the air in our home we ought to consider getting a better handle on it keep it where we want it at least.

    I have to say the biggest thing to retrofit is the home itself. There’s no reason to leave behind all of the great homes that have been build in this country. In fact new ones can be just as inefficient and uncomfortable.

    If we are recycling to save the environment consider a few statements coming from energysavy.com: “For half the cost of a new nuclear power plant, we can retrofit 1,600,000 homes for energy efficiency and save the same amount of energy. Retrofitting the houses would create 220,000 new jobs – that’s 90 times more jobs than you’d get from the replacement nuclear power plant” “Retrofitting 75,000 houses would save as much energy as in the Gulf spill.”

    Maybe not for do-it yourselfers, but if you ask me it’s worth doing it for yourself.

  • Patricia Davis Brown, ASID, CKD, CBD @ Dig This Design 08/31/11

    We’ve all heard of DUMPSTER DIVING…right? Well, I’m not sure I would go that far but, garage sales are treasure hunts to a creative individual and handy person. Make it an event that you and your significant other can do together and see who can be the most creative with the stuff you find. Chandeliers can be the most exciting to rebuild and refurbish to make an artsy statement to any room. Some of those discarded old crystal prism chandeliers are great to dress up a ladies closet creating the girlie feel we all need when picking out our outfit for the day. Another great find I get excited about are candle stick holders and there are a lot of those at garage sales. A really cool look is taking an ornate metal candle stick and refinishing in a high gloss painted finish. This adds a contemporary look and the detail to the piece becomes really standout! Another treasure is finding an old wooden door and removing the center panels from it, replacing it with mirror for a full length leaning mirror…very cool! I have fun just talking about it!

  • Olga Adler, Interior Designer 08/31/11

    Reusing furniture by re-upholstering, re-painting and re-purposing is the best way to stay home-chic and eco-friendly. I have a console table that is made from an old Singer sewing machine (base) and a reconditioned slab of marble as a top. It is stunning!

  • Jonathan Steele, Former Contractor 08/31/11

    One of the biggest savings and easy to do recycling on home renovations is the trim. It is costly and if it can be recycled, it can save thousands. Especially in older homes, where the trim is plain, it is easier to return it to its original beauty.

    To save on the cost of lights, such as in the kitchen, we recess florescent lights in the ceiling joists and put a simple frame with the plastic used in ceiling lights. The wood is left over trim materials.

    One ceiling lame did not fit our look and feel. It had six faux oil lamps with hurricane globes. It had small flame shaped light bulbs. It was replaced with a brass chandelier. However, the parts of it, when separated, made great wall sconces in the bathroom. It has a steam punk look. It required buying a couple of brass plates so it could be attached to the wall.

    Many of the old boards that would normally be thrown away in a rehab were lightly brushed, cleaned with soap, water and then baking soda and water and dried. Then given a coat of finish, they made for trim in parts of the house that were previously unfinished. The cost of materials, only time. We trimmed out our basement this way.

  • Charlene Storozuk @ Dezigner Digz 08/30/11

    I think over time, we’re going to see more recycled objects fabricated into creative furniture and accessories for the home. We’re already seeing incredible one-off pieces popping up that are bringing design to another level and at the same time, saving the environment by repurposing existing items. Here’s a link that I recently came across that shows examples of some really amazing pieces: http://webecoist.com/2009/05/29/32-amazing-examples-of-recycled-furniture-art/

  • Kris @ HouseBuying Tips 08/30/11

    No “breaking news” type of advice here, but we do a few simple things that hopefully add up and give us the “green badge” for doing well for planet earth. First, we use the many bags we get from buying groceries for our bathroom trash cans, and for picking up after the dog. It’s funny seeing our hallway closet stuffed with plastic bags, but eventually they all get used.

    Next, we use leftover boxes for arts & crafts projects with the kids. Luckily, my wife has a home daycare in addition to our own kids so we get plenty of opportunities to do this. I save all pieces of scrap wood from my projects and extra hardware from furniture we buy, again so the kids can make things like bike ramps and fun houses for their pet turtles.

    Anything we don’t want, we sell on craigslist, which helps us make a few extra bucks too. And if the kids help us sell their stuff we give them a “commission” (or all the money if they’ve been good lately!). For the stuff we can’t sell, we give away for free online. You wouldn’t believe what people will take for free, as long as you tell them the truth, of course – we’ve given away broken vacuums and TV’s, sand from the base of a pool we got rid of, pretty much anything can become one person’s treasure!

  • Jill Banks @ Happily Better After 08/30/11

    One of the best ways I know to reuse furniture and accessories is to re-arrange the layout of a room. Sometimes just moving a lamp from one side of the room to another forces you to reposition the other items accordingly, changing the dynamic of the space, and making the room (and the items within it) feel new. For even more of an impact, “shop your home” for items that have been in one room for a while, and move them to another. Don’t forget to re-visit your garage or attic for items that could have a second life with minor repairs or updates. We get so used to seeing our homes in one way, that it’s often surprising how different it can look when things aren’t where you expect them!

  • Bill Riggs @ Riggs Construction 08/30/11

    When Riggs begins a remodeling project with “green” in mind, we always start by taking a look at what materials will be needed for the project, and what materials are already in the home that can be re-used – either re-purposed within the same room, or moved to a new space to create additional functionality. One of the most popular items to re-use / re-purpose are cabinets. Whether they’re in the bathroom or kitchen, cabinets can be painted, refinished, reconfigured and given new life. Homeowners are often amazed at how much cabinets can be transformed with some work. If that’s not an option, cabinets can find a new home elsewhere in the house. We’ve removed many kitchen cabinets and reinstalled them in garages to make work and storage areas, in basements to create secondary kitchen areas for the kids, and in home offices to create a built-in feel.

    And if the cabinets just don’t work in the house anymore, there are many resale shops and charities like Habitat for Humanity that can make use of them.

  • Andrew @ Money Crashers 08/29/11

    Some of my favorite creative recycling ideas on our Top 10 List (http://www.moneycrashers.com/creative-ways-to-recycle-reuse-household-items/) are using leftover containers such as yogurt cups not only to store individually-portioned leftovers, but also to use as flower pots!

    Also, tightly connect wine corks in the shape of a square and use it as a pinboard against which you can stick your notes, pictures, and other hangable items.

    Another ideas include using dryer sheets as a way to give a room a good scent instead of expensive plug-in perfumes or scented candles.

    Lastly, most people don’t realize the coffee grinds can be used in place of cellulite creams and exfoliants. Why does this work? In fact, the main ingredient in most cellulite solutions is caffeine!

  • Jen @ Recycle Scene 08/29/11

    Some of the best ways to creatively recycle around the home are with incredibly simple recycling projects. You can use an old wine bottle as a vase by sticking a flower in one, which is decorative reuse, especially if you save wine bottles with labels you like. Reuse old ketchup or dressing bottles to hold your own homemade sauces. Old glass jars can be made into garden lanterns if you can a tealight candle in them.

    The best part about reuse is that it’s less wasteful and more creative, and a lot of people probably already do this without even realizing it. Any time you take something and use it again, you’re practicing the art of reuse, and saving energy and money too.

    You can also use a cardboard 6-pack box to hold ketchup, BBQ sauce, malt vinegar other condiments. 6-pack boxes are also great for holding napkins and silverware, also because the boxes usually have fun artwork on them. These are great for just out on your patio table and also on picnics or camping trips.

    Once you start creatively reusing, more ideas will be a springboard to others.

  • Scarlet @ Family Focus Blog 08/29/11

    I like to reuse furniture. Not only does used furniture shopping save you lots of money, it also saves lots of things from going into landfill and lessens the manufacturing of new goods which may use chemicals or natural resources.
    My favorite recycled furniture project that I have done is a wood bunk bed I got off craigslist. It was covered in permanent marker but my husband sanded it down for me and I painted it with a no VOC paint and it came out really stunning. The same product new could easily have cost us $800 more!

  • Tanya Stock @ Vida Verde Build 08/29/11

    In my business I ask all clients first what they really need and then I ask them to reconcile with what they want. They are often the very same thing and its things they already have they just aren’t using them effectively.

    When a remodel occurs I ask them to make a trip to Second Use, The Re-Store or any Architectural Salvage yard and find things they like and perhaps can be incorporated into the design or build. From Windows to doors to, yes, appliances and furniture there is little that is not available at these type of businesses.

    I encourage the idea of moving things in and around the house. Where you have a painting or art work move it to a new location, change hardware and use what you have or re-purpose it in a way that will allow for better use. An old sofa can be reupholstered, a coffee table redesigned and refurbished. It is amazing to see what a fresh coat of paint can do to give something a new look. And to add to that – use Recycled content paint – our Second Use store makes a variety of colors, its affordable and quite industrial strength.

    Find Artists that are not afraid to re-purpose old items to make light fixtures or interesting object d’art. You are not only supporting a local business but encouraging new design. Hit the local garage sales, antique and collectible shops, the Goodwill to find interesting items that are great to incorporate in your new design – and the bonus points its highly affordable.

    Re-use, Re-fashion, Re-think the ideas of what it means to be green. Its not about buying something its about conserving something. Restore – its not just about the body, mind and soul its about life.

    Re-upholster furniture, use cabinetry in garages that can take on storage.

  • Pablo Solomon, Green Designer 08/29/11

    OK–this will seem a bit over the top, but it really is fun and works well. We rinse and keep all of the Styrofoam cups, boxes, etc. we get. While sitting around watching TV or listening to the crickets, we use scissors to cut the Styrofoam into pieces. When we have a bag full we dump it in the attic, between walls, etc. This is great insulation and you would be amazed at how much you accumulate over time.

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