If you find you’re spending more time at home than usual, it’s a great opportunity to consider reevaluating that stuff you’ve accumulated over the years. Discovering new uses for those old items that you might trash or recycle is an excellent small action to help sustain the environment for future generations.
Of course, the most effective way to reduce waste is to not create it in the first place. First try to reduce new purchases, and then find ways to reuse old items. Extracting raw materials to make a new product creates pollution, uses energy and produces emissions that contribute to climate change. Reducing and reusing items can save on the amount of unnecessary waste that’s transported to landfills!
For example, if every American family wrapped just three presents in repurposed materials, such as old maps, newspapers, brown bags or previous wrappings, it would save enough paper to stretch from New York to Los Angeles, according to 3M Company. The Academy offers suggestions below on where to start your reuse journey.
Donate what you don’t want
Instead of discarding workable appliances, tools, furniture, books, clothes and building materials, try selling or donating them to a good cause. Churches, community centers, thrift stores, schools and nonprofit organizations — including Goodwill, Salvation Army, Restore, ARC, Catholic Charities, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity, and Disabled Veterans — accept donations to distribute to those in need or sell for their benefit. Sales from the local Uhuru Furniture and Collectibles support the African People’s Education and Defense Fund. Each organization has rules for what they will accept, so check before dropping off.
Take care of your possessions
If you maintain and repair, your items will last longer. Got a hole in a sock? Sew it instead of throwing it away. Every year Americans produce 14–16 million tons of unwanted textiles, but only 15% get reused or recycled. The rest ends up in landfills.
Car tires wearing out on one side? Rotate them. When tires can’t be repaired, recycle them; they can be ground up and used to make pothole fillers, new surfaces for roads, track and field materials and other products. Repair shops often take used tires and recycle them, usually for a small fee.
You can find anything used, from clothes to tools. And usually, these items are less expensive and as good as new. Consignment shops, thrift stores, antique stores, used furniture stores and estate sales abound in the Philadelphia region. The Resource Exchange operates a shop, gallery and workshop space and redirects donated items to artists, builders, educators and the general public.
Retailers — including Walmart, Nordstrom, Macy’s Eileen Fisher, Patagonia, Buffalo Exchange and REI — are selling slightly used clothing or plan to do so. There are dozens of secondhand apps and sites to explore, such as ThredUp, Poshmark and Tradesy. Some offer specific types of fashion, such as men’s clothing sites like Menswear Market and Grailed. And for everything else, don’t forget about eBay!
You can also buy, sell or give away used items on Facebook Marketplace or a local Buy Nothing group.
10 Fast Tips to Reuse
- Switch to rechargeable batteries that can be used up to 1,000 times.
- Use your grocery store bags as small trash can liners.
- Try crumbled newspapers from the recycle pile as packing material.
- Save cardboard boxes from your Amazon delivery and reuse them for storage or mailing.
- Bring your own silverware and cup to work for lunch.
- Reuse glass pasta sauce jars or plastic takeout containers to store leftovers.
- Use old coffee cans to store nails, screws, crayons, pennies or buttons.
- Turn plastic milk jugs into watering cans for the garden or household plants.
- Repurpose old toothbrushes as cleaning tools for hard-to-reach spots, like around the bathroom faucet.
- Eliminate or cut down on paper towels by using small absorbent wash rags and tea towels.
Visit our Small Actions Spark Big Changes webpage for more tips and discover how the Academy staff do their part to reuse both at home and at the office.
Written by Carolyn Belardo
Brigette Brown, Editor & Content Coordinator