I am a firm believer in recycling and reusing things. Maybe it is a product of me being part of the Hippie generation and becoming environmentally aware of the damage that was going on to our ecosystems. It also could be because as a penny pincher you look at everything for a possible reuse or re-purpose to keep from spending money down the line.
To begin, everything that is paper that enters my home gets shredded and put out into the compost pile. I recently got a micro shredder that cuts everything into confetti sized pieces and to say I love it is an under statement. When I say everything.. I mean everything. I do not throw away paper. Toilet paper and paper towel roll centers I cut from one end to the other, flatten and feed into the shredder. All the coupons that show up every week, all the pre-approved credit card offers, cereal and soda boxes and for sure anything with any personal information turns into confetti and becomes worm food. Every once in a while I get a catalog and those make lots of compost. I even have my mother saving her shredded papers to be composted.
Paper is not the only thing added to the compost pile. The chickens get their coop cleaned out every few days and I add their droppings to the top of the compost pile. My veggie kitchen scraps I was adding as is, but have now gotten into the habit of running the scraps through a blender with water to make a sloppy mush that gets added to the compost pile. I find it breaks down faster and is not such a draw to critters so that these things get dug up. The additional water helps to keep the compost moist as well. I don’t use a lot of paper towels, but those I do use and have not been used with household chemicals are put into a container of water to get soaking wet and added to the pile by digging dig a hole in the compost and bury them much further down into the pile. Being larger than the paper bits from the shredder they will take longer to break down. For the time being I am keeping the pile moist and turning it with a pitch fork every few days.
I have never lived anywhere where the soil did not need the addition of organic matter to make it better. You have the option of purchasing compost or making it. It really is not hard to set aside some square footage in even a small yard to have a compost pile. Kitchen scraps and paper do not belong in plastic bags in some land fill. It is not instant to get you your compost, but there are ways to speed things up if you don’t have much to contribute to a pile because you are the only one contributing to that pile. It may take some time and some effort to get a good pile going.. but your garden and house plants will thank your for your effort.
I have heard that Starbucks bags their coffee grounds and will give them away for composting. They are supposed to be bagged and in a container ready for pickup and addition to a home garden. That is going to be the next thing I do as there are actually several within a mile of where I work. With the paper I add there is a lot carbon that needs nitrogen to help break it down. Coffee grounds provides that nitrogen. The coffee grounds are not good for the chickens from what I hear.. but since I do not have them where they have access to the compost pile at this time, I am going to get some grounds so I can get the compost breaking down. I have also heard that many grocers and restaurants throw away produce that is going bad. It is often possible to arrange getting some of that to add to your pile.
I love fragrance in my home. When I had my shop I made candles and had over 100 fragrances in my offering and was always testing at least a half-dozen more each month to see what would be added to my line. Though I prefer to make my own candles and melts, I am just not in a position to do it at this time, so I purchase the wax melt packages. Each cube lasts about 24 hours then you are left with getting rid of the wax. There are a few things you can do with the scrap wax from your candles and warmers.
When I made candles and melts the scrap wax I ended up pouring over sawdust or shavings in cupcake wrappers to make fire starters.
These are handy to take camping or have by a fire place to get a fire started. To use you just light the paper and the wax and shavings will burn a good long while allowing your kindling to get off to a good start. A large bag of shavings can be had in a pet department for not a lot of money. If you live in an area with pine cones you can either drizzle the wax over pinecones or save it up, re-melt and dip the pine cones to make yet another type of fire starter.
During the winter months in Ohio we often had snow and ice storms that knocked out the power. Unfortunately, it was not always on in a few hours. And of course my growing concern we may have something here in the US along the lines of a 9/11 again and power may be disrupted for a period of time has me prepared to cook on something other than my stove. I found searching for ways to create a mini stove another way to use my wax.
Take a tuna or canned pet food can and then line it in a coil with cardboard so the “‘holes” are up. I cut strips of the cardboard and just start coiling them into the can working towards the center. You will get to where you can not add more to coil so I fill in any open areas with smaller pieces of the strips wedged down into the coiled pieces. Then I pour the used wax over the top starting at the center and working outward. Once the can seems full it goes into a small toaster oven I have to melt it down even. I set it at 200 and set a timer to check it about every 15 minutes. What I am looking for is all the wax to melt down and into the can as shown in the picture. You can then continue to fill with wax so it is more solid, or put this away to use as is. If left as is there is enough cardboard showing to be lit to get the first started. If you choose to add more wax to it so it pretty much covers the card board, then you will need to create some sort of wick. A piece of cardboard or a broken wooden match work just fine. You can also get wicks at any local hobby store. Seems these can burn up to 8 hours and that would be a plus is you are using them for heat. If cooking with them, they do need to be sheltered and used with a grill over the top. These can easily be put out and used again by covering the top to put out the fire. And if you are out power They may also be used to provide heat in an emergency as well by replacing the votives with one of these.
I have been having eggs every morning for breakfast and the shells used to go out into the compost pile. Now I save them and allow them to dry a bit before running them through my Magic Bullet and making calcium powder. I use it in the garden and add it to the soil when I am potting up plants. Tomatoes and peppers get a good dose as they seem to like a lot of calcium. I have read that some people eat this kind of powder as a calcium supplement. If one wants to consume the powder I would recommend baking the shells to kill off any bacteria before grinding. When my chickens get to laying eggs they will have a high demand for calcium and I will feed this back to them with some oyster shells to keep their eggs shells nice and hard.
I have already posted where my basil took root in water. This weekend I once again cut the herbs back and this time put a lot more of the basil cuttings in water. There are plenty of leaves on the stems to harvest and dehydrate, and leaving the little offshoot stems with the little leaves on the top half or third of the stem is not really costing me anything. If I had harvested all the leaves off, the stems would have ended up in the compost pile. If they do not root they may still end up there though the chickens seem to enjoy munching on the herb stems as well as the leaves. But if they root I will have a lot of little plants I can pot up and give as gifts.. or even sell come spring time.
Propagating and growing plants I always seem to need containers either to put them in or set them in to catch water. So I tend to save all kinds of plastic containers. Sour cream containers have been used to root cuttings and they are currently making a nice scoop for my various critter foods. The sour cream lids are under several small pots sitting on windowsills here around the house. Milk cartons also make a good water catcher under larger pots and just need cut to about an inch in height. I use the bottoms of 2 liter soda bottle for my African Violets. I keep the water filled almost to the top and the plants bloom like crazy for me. My mother always had fancy pots that wicked water up for the Violets and this was my “until I could get some” alternative. It has actually worked so well I am no longer interested in the fancy pots.
Another thing I save is plastic bags. The ones from the grocery store get the used cat litter. Don’t care if that stuff sits in a landfill forever. I am however trying some new litter that is biodegradable and I may end up using that in some of the deep cracks I have in the yard. Hoping when the rains come and the ground once more expands it will just get worked into the soil.
Boxes.. my dad once said there was never a box I did not like as I seemed to have saved every one I got at one time. But boxes are useful in the garden. I open them up and lay them flat in the garden beds around plants. Then I much over them. If I want to garden in a new area I spray a weed killer like Roundup or Vinegar to kill the existing vegetation. Then add several layers of the cardboard. Again.. a thick layer of mulch and the area is ready to plant the next season and should be relatively weed free. By then the cardboard and some of the mulch should be broken down and the soil improved from its previous condition.
Plastic Ziploc bags I also re-use. I take several pieces of dehydrated pineapple to work for lunch almost every day and I re-sue that bag until it shows its age. The larger bags I will wash out and dry to be used again depending on what was in them prior. I like to get at least two uses from them before sending them off in thee trash. If I have used them for meat at all they are only used once. Plastic is pretty much the only thing I throw away these days so I make sure it can’t get some more use before going to the landfill.
I also love to re-purpose items and this is an area I really enjoy. Where the composting makes you feel good about saving the environment.. re-purposing for me is just plain fun. To the left this frame used to be a dresser mirror. At an estate sale this frame is all that was left of it and I found it in a dirty old shed. After some haggling and telling them it was pretty useless as intended, I took it home and cleaned the dirt off. I hung the frame, added a birch wreath and then a cute canvas I found out shopping.. and now have a favorite piece of decor with a great story to go with it. I have wanted to get the frame a darker color with some stain to show up better on the gold walls.. but the aged antique white is fine for now. The day will come when I have some time to finish the vision I have for it.
Many that like the Country Primitive decorating style will re-purpose all manner of items. Shutters and chairs get turned into shelves and cheese graters get turned into lights. All one needs is a bit of imagination and some time to create really neat decor items with some one elses junk.
These things are just the beginning of what can be done to stretch your dollars or impact your environment. In a disposable generation is it sometimes worth it to take the time to keep things around a little longer.