Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: New Uses for Old Things


It’s an unfortunate truth that as we grow older, we accumulate more and more...stuff. Some things we keep, some things we give away, but most things, one way or another, end up in the discard pile. Many of these items have, long ago, served their purpose, and we simply just don’t know what to do with them anymore. There may yet be hope for these “useless items”. If you’re looking for a new way to “go green”, consider repurposing non-recyclables to make them useful in ways other than their intended functions.


If newspapers are for reading and you’ve already finished today’s issue, what other use could you possible have for it? Before you start searching for the nearest recycling bin, stop and think about how else you could use that newspaper.


Smelly feet? Stinky food containers? Odor in your fridge? Try stuffing your shoes with newspaper to soak up the smell. Putting newspaper in your shoes can also help to dry them since newspaper will soak up the water while simultaneously deodorizing them! This same method can be used with food containers that have acquired an unpleasant smell that you just can’t seem to get rid of. Put the newspaper in the container overnight with the lid on and the next day, the smell should be gone! Additionally, if you line the bottoms of your vegetable and fruit drawers in your fridge with newspaper, this can help get rid of unwanted smells.

Window Washer

It might seem counterintuitive to use a newspaper to clean something, but newspaper actually leaves behind less lint and residue than paper towels do. Just spray them with some window cleaner and wipe away for streak-free clean windows!



At the center of every paper towel or toilet paper roll, there lies a cardboard tube and the ever-present dilemma of what to do with said cardboard tube. When you were younger, perhaps you used them for arts and crafts to make sculptures or English party crackers. But now that you're older, how can these cardboard tubes be of use to you?

Wrinkle Prevention

Sometimes, no matter how hard we might try, those pesky wrinkles in our clothes just won’t go away. To prevent wrinkles from appearing in clothing items such as scarves, wrap them around a paper towel tube before you store them away. If you hang your folded pants over the side of hangers and are tired of that unwanted crease appearing there, cut a line lengthwise down a paper towel tube and wrap it around the bottom of the hanger. When you hang your pants over the paper towel tube, that annoying crease will stop appearing.

Boot supporter

At a loss for what to do to keep your boots from flopping around, sprawled messily on the floor? Want to prevent them from developing creases where they fold over after failing to stay upright? Keep your boots standing tall by placing a cardboard tube, soda bottle, or wine bottle inside them for support.

Store Hair Accessories

Instead of leaving your hair accessories lying around your bathroom counter or buying an expensive case to store then in, try wrapping your hair ties around a toilet paper tube instead. Bobby pins and other hair clips can easily be fastened to the top of the tube for easy access and storing. Decorate the tube with your own design to give it a more personal touch!

Pest Trap

Take a hands-on approach with those pests flying around your room by placing double sided tape on the outside of a cardboard tube and hanging it in an appropriate location, such as near a light, to attract and trap those flying bugs.

Protect Important Documents

Before storing away important documents such as certificates or diplomas, roll them inside a paper towel tube first! This will keep your precious papers crease-free and dry.



Haven’t kicked the habit of using plastic bags yet? Have an overabundance of them spilling out from various nooks and crannies of your room? Aside from using them as trash and storage bags, how else can these plastic bags be used without having to just throw them away?

Bubble Wrap Replacement

The next time you send a package to someone, consider using plastic bags as an alternative to bubble wrap. Stuff the box with plastic bags as a cushion for your package and include a note telling the recipient to do the same the next time they have to mail something!

“Recycled” Rug

As a fun, creative project, consider making a rug out of plastic bags. Use bags of all one color, or mix and match for more variety. Easy to follow instructions can be found on a number of different websites. For crocheting experts, consider making a more complicated rug. Get creative!

Hanging Planter

To repurpose a not-so eco-friendly object for a more eco-friendly use, consider turning a plastic bag into a hanging platner. Layer a couple plastic bags together for suport and poke a few small holes in the bottoms. Add a plant and soil to the plastic bags, and voila, a homemade hanging planter!


Maybe you still have the socks you wore when you were younger. Maybe you have some lonely socks whose partners never came home from the laundry. So what can you do with these forlorn bits of clothing other than toss them in the trash?


Tired of finding scratches on your sunglasses or scuff marks on your nice shoes after towing them around in your backpack? Try storing your sunglasses in a colorful sock or mitten to protect them from harm. For your shoes, protect them by

pulling a larger sock over individual shoes. Another truck to consider is pulling a shower cap, such as the kind you get from hotels, around a pair of shoes to not only keep them together, but to prevent them from being scratched when you travel.

Coffee Sleeve

Ever make a cup of hot coffee or tea and not been able to hold the cup because it’s too hot? Cut the toes off a colorful sock and pull it over the cup to use as a coffee sleeve or decorate a white sock with your own design! Don't’ have any socks to spare? An old wristband can also be used to the same effect.

Cord Holder

Behind every desk, there probably lies a hidden mess of cords from the various electronic gadgets that live on or near the desk. Cut the toes off an old sock and use it to contain those haphazard wires in one nice bundle instead!



In addition to outgrowing clothes, sometimes people outgrow books as well. Stuck with a shelf of books you don’t need anymore? Instead of tossing them, consider these fun ways to transform those unwanted books into useful household items.

Step Aerobics or Yoga Block

Instead of buying expensive exercise equipment, stack a couple of old books together and use them for step aerobics or as yoga blocks. Tape a couple books together or cover them with fabric to keep them in place.

Make Recycled Paper

What can you do with old paper? Make new paper! Use the pages of old, unwanted books to create paper that can be used as stationery. Instructions for making recycled paper can be found online.


For origami novices or professionals, using the pages of old books to make origami creations serves as an eco-friendly way of practicing this art. Try making origami flowers from old books to send to the book lover in your life.

Storage Box

Always wanted a book shaped storage box to hold your secret treasures? Make one yourself by cutting out the center of a book. Use it to store your jewelry, or even as an inconspicuous iPod carrying case. Be sure to reuse or recycle the paper that you cut out though!



Free t-shirts from events or various organizations seem to be a ubiquitos part of any college student;s life. At some point, however, the number of t-shirts you need and the number of t-shirts you have becomes unbalanced. Instead, of throwing out those old t-shirts, consider what else they might be used for.


Put your old t-shirts on display by making a throw pillow or pillowcase from the scraps. This easy-to-do project not only allows you to recycle your old t-shirts, but saves you from having to buy new pillowcases when your old ones wear out.

Hand Bag

Want to show your support for a cause or organization but don’t want to wear the t-shirt? Make a handbag out of the t-shirt instead and show your support while still looking fashionable.

Make New Clothes

Get creative! Many people have found ways to transform their oversized and drab t-shirts into fashionable new pieces that they can use for everyday wear. Look online to find patterns from DIY websites, or take a chance and make your own design. From scarves and headbands to more complicated designs such as shirts and dresses, anything is possible!

Summer 2011 | Vol. 11 | Issue 5