Single-use items are so ingrained in our culture that nearly all of us — no matter how sustainability-minded we may be — throw things away without even thinking about it. These easily disposable items might even be coming home with our groceries and household products.
These tips from homeowners and gardeners will help you find small things that can be reused in many ways around your home, garden and beyond.
Bread bag ties and clips
The ties and clips that keep your bagged bread closed can come in handy in a pinch, especially in the garden.
“I have used the bread ties in the garden to (stake) things up, such as trellis peas that aren’t going the way I wanted,” says Darlene Nicole-Utz McSwine.
The uses for these ties and clips don’t end in the garden, though.
“They are almost as useful as zip ties. (I use them for) holds on chicken wire, hanging pictures, keeping my headphones untangled in my purse, the cords behind my computer and TV labeled, hanging hair ties in the bathroom to free up counter space,” Holly Fillmore says. “My absolute-100-percent-all-the-time use is at the end of the tape roll.”
Toilet paper tubes
Billie Jo Smith says that dryer lint in a toilet paper tube can be an effective fire starter for camping. Toilet paper tubes can also be used as seed starters and to prevent cutworms from chopping down seedlings as they are transplanted into the garden.
If you have chickens or any other backyard fowl, you are likely already saving your store-bought egg cartons to hold your farm fresh eggs. Even if you don’t have birds, though, egg cartons can be reused in a number of ways. As with toilet paper tubes, for example, they can be turned into effective DIY fire starters for wood stoves.
“You take your dryer lint, cut out the egg seat and drizzle some candle wax on it,” Kellyjo Tibbetts says. “Then your wood stove has a tinder starter. (It’s) super useful.”
The stretchy mesh bags that carry bulk produce at the grocery store have a surprising number of uses around the house.
“The plastic mesh bags from onions (and) avocados make really good dish scrubbies,” Raina Cole says. “I just cut off the extra packaging and ball the mesh into my hand and scrub.”
Mesh bags are also useful in the garden, as trellises or to help with pot drainage.
“I save mine for my bulbs I dig up in the fall, and overwinter for planting the next spring.” Regina Fick says.
If your favorite coffee comes in cans instead of bags, save them for home storage, to grow mushrooms and to use as planters for other kinds of plants.
“We found that the tomato plants we potted up into coffee cans absolutely thrived compared to the same kinds of tomatoes in other pots of any kind,” says Alison Murray Whittington.
“Plastic yogurt and sour cream containers are great for growing or sharing plants, as well as lining some planters for succulents,” says Wendy Smith. She washes them in the dishwasher on the top rack on a sanitizer cycle. You can also rinse them with hydrogen peroxide, spritz with isopropyl alcohol or dip in a diluted bleach solution and allow them to dry.
Shaker container lids
Before you toss that plastic container of Parmesan cheese, check to see if the lid will fit on a Mason jar.
“I like to use the shaker with a dry rub that I make,” says Shari Maynes. “I also put some (diatomaceous) earth in a jar to make it easier to sprinkle around the chicken pen.”