December 31, 2006

Reuse Reaps Rewards

The green marketplace is growing, and there are plenty of fantastic sites out there who feature green businesses and products for those of us driven to consume. But, ultimately, consumption lies at the core of the problem—the more Stuff we buy, the more they make and the more Stuff we end up throwing away.

One alternative is to simply reuse old Stuff. Some fancier folks like to call it "repurpose" or "remix," but let's not get all high-falutin'. Before Henry Ford perfected the assemply line, Stuff was made by hand. The time, effort and resources put into each piece dictated that it not be simply thrown away when its initial use was over. Stuff was either repaired, or used for something else to get more life out of it.

These days, what with our busy schedules and the sheer accessability of Stuff—all kinds of Stuff—we tend to run out and replace instead of simply reusing what we already have. But there are some folks who actually get a kick out of saving their dimes and altering the Stuff they already have—and maybe don't want anymore—to become other Stuff.

Some of the following sites border on arts 'n' crafts, but getting your hands dirty is what is so rewarding about reusing old Stuff. And a lot of these sites don't necessarily focus on resuing old stuff so much as customizing new stuff. After this list, I've included some tips for keeping your project as sustainable as possible.

Most reuse projects take just an afternoon (if that). You can customize them as much as you want, to suit your schedule, budget and personal taste. And the result is one-of-a-kind Stuff made just for you!

...Recycle This?! How Can I Recycle This gives you loads of reuse tips and projects.

Ikea Hacker: A great resource for breathing new life into that old Ikea furniture you were going to throw away.

ReadyMade: Their blog often features easy DIY projects and the magazine does the same.

Curbly: More of an Apartment Therapy-type site, Curbly frequently offers ideas for DIY and reuse projects.

Acorn Studios: Acorn sells new Stuff made from old Stuff and they have a small section of fun DIY projects.

Dendrite: Dendrite's Reuse/Recycle section features some brilliant examples of what you can do with old Stuff.

Glitter: Get your craft on at this forum of DIY freaks.

In the Wake: A list of random projects for resuing old Stuff.

CraftZine: Yep, more wicked randomness made from old Stuff.

As you'll likely notice, most of these sites don't actually focus on reusing old Stuff, though they may touch on that here and there. But here are some tips when tackling any project to help you make it more sustainable:

  1. Use old Stuff! Instead of buying new materials, reclaim the things you don't use anymore. Old containers become planters, salvaged lumber becomes shelving, and so on and so forth. The idea is to stop thinking about objects as though they have a limited lifespan.

  2. Beg, borrow or steal. There is no reason that the old Stuff has to be yours. Yard sales, trash collections days, Craig's List, etc., are all great resources for picking up old Stuff to make new again.
  3. Consider your methods. Be mindful of the accessories and tools you use in your projects, such as using nontoxic glues and materials.

  4. Just don't throw it out. Even if you can't think of a new use for that old Stuff, someone else might. Try giving it away on, Craig's List, or to a local shelter, school or thrift shop.

What have you reused? I'd love to see your own projects in which you've given new life to old Stuff. I'm in the process of trying to design a desk made from old Stuff, and once I get around to completing it I'll be sure to post. In the meantime, show me your old-to-new Stuff!

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4 Comment(s)

Blogger Sherry said...


Here was my project, I recycled a bed sheet.

You will see that I had to cut the sheet into strips first. Then the strips were all tied together and I crocheted these strips into an oval pattern and the end result is this long lasting, durable rug. You can view it here at my Etsy Shop. Etsy is a place to buy and sell all things handmade.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Jessie Jane said...

That's very cool, Sherry! I have a couple of questions about your project if you have a second:

Was this made from a single bed sheet? Did you need other materials for it?

About how long did it take you?

It's really a cool way to reuse an old sheet (I wonder if curtains would work, too). I've got a ton of twin sheets and no more twin bed, so maybe I'll give it a shot!

4:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love this post! Thanks for the great links! I've linked to this on my blog (

7:43 AM  
Anonymous Joshua Johnson said...

"Customize" is the key word in your post, for me! I love making something for myself--mostly because, then, I have a one-of-a-kind item!

My entire blog ( is dedicated to making things from others' leftovers! I have made baby shoes from and gloves from an old leather sofa, men's jewelry from a rubber tube that I found on the ground, journals from rubber tires, and many other things!!!

9:43 AM  

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