Find a New Use for Everyday Items


  • Save used paper as scrap for shopping lists, notes and drawing paper for children.
  • Write your shopping lists on junk mail return envelopes, or any used envelope and carry your coupons inside the envelope.
  • Wrap postal packages or cover textbooks in brown paper bags that you've saved.
  • Reuse newspaper as gift wrapping paper, or use as lining for your animal cage. You can even enhance your indoor compost bin with a few sheets of newspaper!
  • Reuse last year's holiday cards to make this year's gift tags.


  • Fill empty plastic bottles (such as mouthwash bottles) with water and freeze to use in your coolers for picnics and camping.
  • Use empty yogurt, dip, or cream-cheese containers to hold individual portions of food.
  • Buy a lunch bag (or lunch box!) instead of using a paper bag.
  • Bring Tupperware when going out to dinner to bring your leftovers home in instead of a 'take out' bag or box for packing your lunch (or use them to pack cookies and chips so they won't get crushed).


  • Turn a large pickle jar into a cookie jar or a coin jar and decorate the outside.
  • Punch holes in small jar caps to create a spice or cheese shaker.
  • Keep bits and pieces, such as screws or nails, in jars and know at a glance what's inside.


  • Reuse aluminum foil many times (and buy recycled aluminum foil to support buying recycled).
  • Thoroughly clean out used aluminum cans from vegetables or beans and cover in old paper to use as pencil, pen and marker holders.

In the Home:

  • Use sponges and towels in lieu of disposable paper towels.
  • Wash out sandwich bags and reuse over and over.
  • Use stale bread for croutons, crumbs, stuffing or french toast.
  • Use rechargeable batteries.
  • Use your own coffee mug when frequenting coffee shops; bring your own mug to work instead of using disposable cups. Most coffee shops will even give you a 'good customer' discount for bringing in your mug!
  • Use old toothbrushes to scrub hard-to-reach places.
  • Reduce hazardous waste associated with cleaning products by substituting some less harmful cleaners. For example: vinegar and scrunched up newspaper for cleaning windows; baking powder and water for removing mold and mildew and vinegar for cleaning toilets.
  • Drop a Toilet Bank waste saver in your toilet tank to save water on flushing.
  • Buy energy efficient light bulbs from supermarkets, hardware stores and electrical shops. They last for around 10 years they will save you money.
  • Get a bike. Do you drive five minutes to pick up a loaf of bread at the supermarket? 25 percent of all car trips are less than a mile. By riding a bike or walking for short trips, you'll save energy and money, and you just might slim down in time for swimsuit season.

In the Office:

  • Make two-sided copies.
  • DO NOT PRINT EMAILS. Save them electronically.
  • Circulate original memos instead of making numerous copies.
  • Use one-sided scrap paper for notes and drafts.
  • Use refillable pens, pencils and tape dispensers. According to the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance, Americans throw out 1.6 billion single-use pens each year.
  • When receiving a package with polystyrene "peanuts" find a place to recycle them or that will take them back to recycle, or reuse them in new packaging.
  • Turn your computer monitor off when leaving for more than an hour. Monitors use more energy than your computer does.
  • Ink Jet Printers - Here's a guide to prolonging the life of ink cartidges. 

With the Kids:

  • Give children free reign over your unwanted papers, cardboard scraps and packaging--their creativity will take over from there.