Following on from the last post I did, looking at ‘The 5 Rs’ more closely, I thought I would take this to look at the super-fun world of reuse.
This is my favourite way to keep things from landfill and give them a new lease of life because it can be such a creative form of environmntalism. Some of my favourite things in our house have come about this way and I thouht I’d share them with you now.
The light was against me, taking this photograph, but what you’re looking at here isn’t the hanging (handmade and bought from a charity shop) – it’s the pole that the patchwork is suspended from. This was an old clothes rail in a 1950s wardrobe that came out of my Nan’s house in 2006. The wardrobe travelled round all my student digs and early married life with me, but it eventually disintegrated in around 2010 after over half a century of constant use. I kept the metal bar from it though, and the lovely fixtures, and it’s been used for all sorts since – hanging mugs from s-hooks in the kitchen, to holding little crocheted baskets of nappies over a changing table. The lesson here – if you’re throwing something out anyway, try to think of it as commponent parts. Some might still be useful.
Another example of component parts – we had a beautiful lamp that got smashed in one of our many house moves, so instead of binning the electrics, we fitted them inside an old whisky box, drilled holes in and made a ‘decorative wall light shelf thing’. At some point in the future, if we need an actual lamp that casts light, we can take this to bits and reuse the electics but for now, it makes the room look very cozy when we sit upstairs reading.
You don’t have to physically alter something to change its function. You just need a little imagination. This is a vintage toy cot that both my children have grown out of and which we now use for storing their picture books.
Of course, you can simply continue using something for its intended purpose… jars and tubs are a classic example of this, but pretty antiques absolutely count too. There are so many items from the middle of the last century which are absolutely perfect for a lower-waste lifestyle – wicker shopping baskets, tea caddies and strainers, clockwork hand-whisks… these pieces of kitchenalia were produced to last and though old, will function perfectly well. I didn’t take a picture because the state of it is frankly embarassinng, but my toaster is a 1960s bright orange floral monstrosity that was made in West Germany, whilst my iron – of the same origins – is from 1975 at the earliest. Just because something is old, that doesn’t mean it won’t work perfectly well. As long as you have any electronics properly tested, you’re golden!
One of my favorutie ways to reuse plastic from food – which I haven’t photographed because we haven’t got any seedlings going yet – is to employ old meat/soft fruit punnets as plant pots. You can fit so many more square containers on a window ledge than round, and the fruit punnets already have drainage holes in the bottom. Last year, we grew cress and rocket indoors in them, but hopefully this year, we’ll be able to start our garden vegetables this way.
Obviously, the ways you can reuse things are only limited by your imagination – I would absolutely love to see the creative ways you’ve found to extent the useful life of your items. Why not get in touch – here or on Twitter.