Simple living is all about doing more with less. We live in a disposable culture that encourages us to constantly upgrade and toss out the old. I was reminded of that when my Blackberry crapped out recently and I went to a Telus store to try to “downgrade” to my old, less fancy-schmancy phone I had a few years ago. I could do it but it would cost me $25 to switch. There’s nothing wrong with my old phone; it works perfectly fine and is all I really needed. Alternatively I had a $200 credit with Telus I could apply against purchasing a new phone with them.
It was a classic example of rewarding mass-consumption and penalizing any attempt to reuse. Out with old, in with the new. I was certainly tempted to buy a new phone but in the end downgraded to my old phone and ate the fee out of principle.
Of the three pillars of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, the first two are the most important but receive the least attention. Here are 10 ideas on Reusing:
- Shop at thrift and second-hand stores. I was just at one last week and bought a kick-ass wall clock for my living room for $4 and a great silk tie I wore to my cousin’s wedding for $1.99. Second-hand shops are full of great and cheap stuff.
- Print double-sided. It’s amazing how much paper still gets printed at home or the office in the digital age we live in. Reuse your scrap paper by printing on the other side.
- Check out sites like eBay, Craigslist, Kijiji.ca, etc. Everything humanly imaginable can be found on second-hand sites. My kitchen table and six chairs are awesome and I got them through Kijiji for a fraction of what I’d pay at a furniture store.
- Use cloth bags for groceries. These are definitely growing in popularity. My biggest problem is remembering to bring them with me so now I keep a bunch in the trunk of my car (which is used, by the way, another reusable idea).
- Reuse plastic bags around the house. When you do forget to bring your cloth bags with you to grocery stores, use the plastic bags you bring home in garbage cans and poop bags if you have a dog.
- Bring your own Tupperware container with you to a restaurant for take-out. My friend Rob got me turned on to this idea. At first I was a little embarrassed when he took out a container and asked them to pack his leftover food in it but it’s a great idea and if more and more people start doing the same it will get restaurants rethinking about the disposable containers they use.
- Save egg cartons and use them as planters. Get a head-start on the growing season by planting your seedlings in egg cartons. Works with pretty much anything – tomatoes, herbs, beans, whatever.
- Use old plastic water bottles as ice packs. Canadians send as many as 65 million empty water bottles to landfills per year according to the Toronto Sun and Statistics Canada reports that 1/3 of all households are choosing to drink bottled water instead of out of the tap. Big problem. One clever idea I read about is to refill you empty water bottle and toss it in the freezer to be used as an ice pack for your cooler.
- Use cloth napkins. I don’t do this but am going to start. It’s a great way to save on paper napkin waste.
- Regift. Make a regifting pact at Christmas and insist the every gift you exchange with your family and friends is a reused item. It’s amazing how much junk we accumulate in our basements, closets and attics and how so much of that junk would make great gifts. Don’t forget to wrap it all in reused newspaper!
Reusing is good for the environment and the wallet. Take a moment to think about other options before rushing out to upgrade to the latest phone or buy a brand new piece of furniture.
Funny stories. Good advice. Josh Martin is the author of the book “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.