Thursday, December 16, 2010

Use it up!

As a person trying to walk a more respectful path with nature, sometimes I do great - and sometimes I fail miserably.  I think our whole life is just one big learning process that we never quite complete- and honestly, would you really *want* to get everything right, all the time? So I compost, I recycle, I line-dry my clothes when the temperature is above freezing, and utilize a rain barrel.  Diapering my kiddos - I would LOVE to exclusively cloth diaper.  However I work 30 hours a week and the Mister will not mess with cloth diapers.  So I do what I can - I cloth diaper as much as I can, and yes, we also use the dreaded disposables.
To balance the things that we throw away, I try and re-purpose and upcycle.  Not only does it save us money, but we minimize how much crap gets dumped in a landfill.  Some things are no brainers, others have been results of making do in a pinch:

Stained or ruined clothing gets re-purposed into rags for cleaning.  Also, strips of cast-off t shirts make durable, free garden ties.
Stale bread gets crumbled up and added to bird feeders.
Twist ties and tab ties from bread bags make good garden ties as well - and the twist ties can also be used for crafts.
Mooch has gotten very into up-cycling from our recycling container.  From our tree topper to an empty huge vinegar jug that she's planning on making into a bird house.  Save yourself a trip to the craft store and always scout around for things that can be re-purposed.
When we rake up our leaves in the fall, we rake them straight into our gardens.  Free mulch!  If we have too many we add them to the compost bin, and if we have tons we bag them up and store them under our deck to be gradually added to the compost bin to balance our kitchen scraps and grass clipping additions.
Fallen branches in your yard - obviously these can be kindling for your fireplace, but they also make great stakes for the garden.  My parents have these gorgeous mountain laurel bushes on their property, and I grabbed some fallen branches to make a  pretty holiday planter.  Arrange branches in a planter filled about halfway with dirt, anchor with some medium sized rocks.  Wrap strings of lights around the branches for a pretty, low-cost addition to your entryway.
Egg cartons make great starters for seed.  Fill with potting soil, drop a seed in each one, and place in a sunny window.  
The gourds that use for decorating in the fall can be dried and used for everything from bird houses to instruments (drill a hole in the bottom, fill with beads, bells, or seeds; plug the whole back up) 
A few summers ago a friend came over with one of those giant buckets of pre-made margaritas.  The next day while nursing a sore head I noticed the girls' crayon bin was overflowing.  Eying the empty margarita bucket (gag) I scrubbed it out and dumped the crayons in there.  We later fancied it up (and covered the Jose Cuervo label) by covering it with construction paper that the girls then painted on. 

Though I sometimes drive the Mister crazy with this ("I can use that again!  Don't throw it away!" is my mantra) it makes me happy that when we haul our trash can out to the curb, it's usually only half-full.  Some weeks we get away with skipping with putting it out, altogether.

We are actually sending out our holiday cards today (wooh-hooo!!) and then I just have to knuckle down and get crafting for everyone's presents.  Luckily the Goodwill gods have been smiling on me and I've found a whole bunch of treasures.  I'm also going to ask the Mister about burning a Yule log this year, and although it always strikes me as disgustingly funny, I may attempt a Yule log cake.  Be well!

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