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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Repurpose Chic

Repurpose Chic

Today is Earth Day, though it doesn’t take a worldwide environmental holiday to remind us that planet Earth is a gift worth preserving and protecting.

While schools, businesses, and communities find various ways to acknowledge Earth Day on a larger scale, maybe by planting trees and sustainable gardens, there are small but important steps we can take as individuals as well. Recycling and repurposing items inside our homes, yards, and workplaces can make a huge impact on landfills, the air, and the environment in general. What’s more, in addition to honoring the Earth, in many cases we get to have fun and exorcise our inner Picasso, or Martha Stewart, or maybe our hidden mechanic or electrician (always consult a professional, however!). In short, the prescription for an effective, healing Earth Day is available to just about everyone.

For starters, among other things, Earth Day is a time to appreciate the planet by biking or walking, when possible, rather than adding to the burden of emissions and greenhouse gasses. In the same spirit, a walk around the house (outside and inside) may yield one, two–even a dozen or more objects that may not be in use, are damaged or have become obsolete and are ripe for a brand new life–even what’s called “upcycling” into attractive products. Items in kids’ playrooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, living room, garage, and garden can be reincarnated as useful, convenient, and decorative household helpers, some with very few steps from beginning to end–in fact fun projects for the whole family!

The following repurposing ideas can get you started by adding some creativity to your Earth Day agenda, and can be practiced throughout the rest of the year as well:

Plastic baby or toddler dishes and cups: Use on your desk as fun paper clip, thumb tack, staples or rubber band holders.

Cracked or broken garden hose: Cut up into even lengths and, with nails or glue, use as inventive drawer pulls.

Broken garden equipment: Turn upside down so the shovel head is at the top, for example, coat with bright spray paint, add jeweled “eyes,” “mouths,” “hair,” etc. from the craft store, and place items in bright metal bucket by your fireplace, a corner of the kitchen, etc.

Old mirrors: An array of unused make-up, hand, and even a car mirror from that “ruster” outside on the blocks can make a pretty wall collage in your foyer or on a bathroom wall, either by themselves or interspersed with family photos.

Unused sports equipment: Depending on type and size, these objects make interesting planters (helmets; skates) or frames for mirrors (as with old tennis racquets–especially vintage wooden ones; just place mirror inside frame). Surf and skate boards, and boat paddles, with a few additions, make exciting kids’ picnic tables and other furniture. Old water or snow skis affixed horizontally to a wall, and with added nails or hooks, make conversational coat racks.

Unused ladders: If it’s a front or twin step ladder, both of which form an upside down “V,” depending on its size spread over a refrigerator or bookcase as a graduated plant or knick-knack holder. Or, with a regular leaning ladder, nail to the wall horizontally and place books in between the slats. Or, lean against bathroom wall as a rustic towel holder.

Old box TV cabinets: With the insides removed, these make great planters or even hold fish tank inserts, though the latter requires some serious research and maybe a professional!

Empty pop, iced tea, juice, and other bottles: Depending on size, style, and material (glass works best for aesthetics), use decoratively for dish washing detergent, liquid hand soap, bubble bath (might want to stay away from glass there, however), etc.

Old shutters or doors: These have dozens of uses, including as shelves mounted to a wall, glued together as a table top, hinged vertically as a room divider or privacy screen, mounted on legs as a mudroom bench, etc.

Yellowed lamp shades and torn maps, atlases, pages from old directories, etc.: Use a product like Mod Podge (a glue, sealer, and finish all in one) to affix to tired, dated lamp shades for elegant objets d’art–especially when the light shines through!

Unused plastic traveling soap boxes: These serve as great protection for your digital camera, computer mouse, iPod, or other small electronic devices when packing a suitcase.

Unused metal file cabinet: Remove drawers and lay on its back. Use in garage for stand-up tool and garden equipment storage. Spray paint–even glitterize(!)–for a more decorative effect.

Happy Earth Day!

6 comments

1 Jayla SunBird { 05.09.13 at 9:05 am }

It’s nice of you to’ve come up with this article. My grand daughter just got her first apartment; still in college, she’ll be home growing on a budget, Now, she’s delighted at not having to spend money for everything she wanted to do to prettify her place. The ladder thing is super!

2 Jayla SubBird { 05.09.13 at 9:00 am }

It’s mice pf you to’ve come up with this article. My grand daughter just got her first apartment; still in college, she’ll be home growing on a budget, Now, she’s delighted at not having to spend money for everything she wanted to do to prettify her place. The ladder thing is super!

3 Joyce from Loris { 04.23.13 at 11:38 pm }

We live on a two hundred acre farm, and our house is literally in the woods! I have the woods cleaned out all around the house and decorate the trees with bird houses, feeders and just pretty items. All of the items were originally something else. I use old shutters for my climbing vines, I have an antique cast iron hanging candelabra hanging from tree limbs, an old fashion tire swing, an old metal wheel barrow full of flowers! People always slow down to see the chairs with flowers planted in the “seats” out by the road, and all the other decorations. It’s fun, and my yard looks different than any other yard.

4 Elkay { 04.22.13 at 2:40 pm }

Thanks for the reply, Kelly. I guess I could have experimented, but it’s always good to hear from someone who already knows what they’re doing.

5 kelly { 04.22.13 at 12:55 pm }

Elkay, I have been planting hens and chicks in old boots for years, no protective spray, they don’t get moldy but they will weather ….usually 2 to 3 years depending on how “earthy” you don’t mind them looking. Last year I went to thrift store and bought red patent leather high heels to plant marigolds in….also old purses are great for hanging plants that trail down..

6 Elkay { 04.22.13 at 11:05 am }

Wondering if whoever made the shoe planters, did they treat the insides of the shoes prior to filling them with dirt and putting the small plants in? If not treated (sprayed with lacquer or some sort of sealant), wouldn’t the shoes get moldy?

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