Friday, 21 April 2017

10 Disposables to Toss From Your Kitchen

Earth Day is just around the corner, which means it's a great time to think about how we can live more sustainable lives. Here at the Reuse Centre, we're all about making good use of the items that we have in new and creative ways. To me, "reuse" also means making choices to avoid single-use items wherever possible.

I looked around the one area in my home that produces the most waste--the kitchen--and came up with these 10 everyday disposables you can toss from your life!

Paper Towels and Napkins
Keep a stock of rags within easy reach for mopping up spills around the house. Be extra thrifty and cut them from old, holey t-shirts that you were going to throw out anyway!

Paper Napkins
Who said cloth napkins were just for dinner parties and fancy folk? Buy a set of cheap fabric napkins for every day use, or make your own from old fabric scraps with this DIY Network tutorial.

Don't forget to say "No napkins, please!" next time you're at the drive-thru!

Make a shareable party box! Image source: Lifehacker
Single-Use Dishes
Disposable plates, cups and cutlery are a convenience item we often turn to when the party gets big, or far away from home. Avoid the waste at your next picnic. Thrift some extra dishes and cutlery on the cheap and start a party box to share with friends.

If you have to use disposables, stick to recycled paper where possible.

Say no to single-use straws at restaurants and at home. It's okay for your lips to touch the rim of a drinking glass, I promise!

If you love drinking out of straws, consider investing in metal or glass reusable ones.

Produce Bags
Most of us wash our produce before we eat it, so ditch the "protective" plastic bag and let your celery get up close and personal with that carton of cereal in your shopping cart. Use reusable mesh produce bags to keep items like loose apples or green beans together for the cashier

Shopping Bags
How could I talk about produce bags without talking about regular plastic shopping bags? Don't limit your reusable bags to the grocery store - take them to the mall, to summer markets, and especially to the Reuse Centre!

Image Source: The Art of Doing Stuff
Plastic Wrap
Stock your kitchen with storage containers for keeping leftovers, or try a plastic-wrap alternative like beeswax fabric, which you can buy online or make yourself out of cotton scraps.

Water Bottles
We're lucky to live in Edmonton, where clean and delicious drinking water comes out of the tap. Skip the vending machine and carry a reusable water bottle to help you stay hydrated through the day.

Quick and easy snack baggies. Image Source: The DIY Mommy
Sandwich Baggies
Washable snack baggies are a great alternative to plastic sandwich baggies. They're not common in stores, but easy to buy online or to make. Check out this tutorial from The DIY Mommy.

Coffee Cups
Most coffee shops are happy to fill up your mug, whether that's your fancy travel tumbler, or the "#1 Boss" mug you keep at the office. Many shops even offer a discount when you bring your own cup.

What disposables have you eliminated from your life? Share your reusable alternatives in the comments!

- Sarah (Volunteer)

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Featured Reuse-It Item - Envelopes

Envelopes are one of those everyday mundane items that many of us quickly dismiss and toss in the recycling as soon as we've taken out the important, or sometimes not so important, contents that they hold. However, as it turns out, envelopes can be reused and repurposed in a wide variety of ways. Here are all the ideas that our blog team found. Who would have thought that envelopes could be so versatile?


It never occurred to me that the interiors of plain business envelopes are so
pretty! It also never occurred to me that with a little glue you can flip an envelope inside out and end up with a lovely, fresh patterned envelope. But today we’re feeling goofy so we’re using some used envelopes to make hand puppets. A shark for the toddler and two fish puppets for mommy.

I used instructions and inspiration from Krafty Kid.

Photo Credit: Krafty Kid

What a fun way to give envelopes a second life before they get recycled! As fun as it was, I’m adding “go paperless” to my to-do list to reduce the number of envelopes that make it to my mailbox in the first place.


An old envelope is great to have on hand - they're fabulous for collecting and saving seeds! Penn and Cord's Garden talks about how paper envelopes allow seeds to breathe and describes how to create envelope seed packets. I like envelopes with plastic windows as it's easy to see the seeds that I've collected. It's also a good idea to add a photo of the plant into the envelope for easy identification.

Photo Credit: Penn & Cord's Garden

Though mail by post is on the decline, you likely still accumulate a number of envelopes. Some mail comes with a return envelope that is meant for you to send your payment back. These are ideal for reusing. To reuse envelopes, you can turn them inside out to make new envelopes. Essentially, you slice open all the sides with a letter opener or knife, fold it inside out, glue it back together, and voila, a new envelope. It is always a great feeling to save paper, not to mention money that would have been spent on new envelopes.

For a step by step tutorial on this useful idea visit Thrifty Jinxy
How to Reuse "Junk Mail" Envelopes
Photo Credit: Thrifty Jinxy

Envelopes from birthday and special occasion cards come in fun colours and patterns. Just look at the polka dots inside that green one! They're a really great source of cheap material for anyone who does any kind of paper-craft.

I like to save mine and cut them up to use as accents or backgrounds for photos, tickets, and all the other bits and pieces I save in my scrapbook. The red triangle in the left corner of the pictured scrapbook page is cut out of an envelope. The rest of it shows up on other pages commemorating the same trip.

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Dress up scrapbook pages with pretty envelope paper. 
Image provided by Sarah


What can you find in any household that is more common than envelopes? Everyone receives mail! With all of that paper that's used for envelopes, it's never a bad idea to have some crafty upcycling options at your fingertips.

Being an avid reader myself, I know that I'm always looking for something to use as a bookmark, spoons, receipts, cloth scraps, and anything else that would possibly fit the bill. After stumbling upon this brilliant idea from d. Sharp journal to use the corner of an envelope as a corner bookmark, I just may never need to hunt for a bookmark again!

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Photo Credit: d. Sharp journal
Sarah J.

Use old envelopes as a scrap notepad. I remember my mom always did this. In her purse, she always had an envelope with scribbling on the back. 

Envelopes are also great for storing  miscellaneous items around the house. Here are some ways that I use old envelopes for keeping my things tidy:
  • Use old envelopes to manage your money. Some people use cash, and this can be a very effective way to organize money into budget categories. This idea also works well for organizing receipts.
  • Use an old envelope to organize puzzles -  the larger the puzzle, the larger the envelope you'll need. 
  • I have started using brown envelopes in my filing drawer instead of folders to keep documents together. 
  • Store paper napkins in them. My paper napkins are always getting everywhere in my cupboard or drawer, making a mess. 
Image result for envelope organizing
Photo Credit: SC Johnson

In general, old envelopes are very handy for organizing!


Ellen mentioned that the inside of many envelopes have pretty and unique patterns and Sarah J. described how envelopes are great to use for scrap paper. Both of these points got me thinking about envelope notebooks. I found this tutorial on Crafting a Green World and was so impressed with how nice and pretty an envelope notebook can turn out. 

I love carrying a small notebook in my purse. They're usually filled with "To Do" lists and important reminders. Instead of buying a new notebook once my current one is filled, I'm definitely going to try to make one out of old envelopes.

junk mail envelope front
Photo Credit: Crafting a Green World

How do you reuse old envelopes? Share your ideas in the comments section.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Toddler Busy Board

As soon as baby becomes mobile, there’s a mad dash to secure all hazards in the house while providing safe options for play. Instead of breaking the bank with fancy toys, look around for sights, sounds, textures, smells, and tastes that are all around us.

Enter the "Busy Board." A busy board is a collection of repurposed household items that provide exploration and play for infants and toddlers. A quick google search shows several fantastic inspirations.

Busy Board Google Images Search
Busy Boards can range from simple to very complex projects depending on your construction expertise. They can be fixed to the wall or freestanding. Their fixtures can be permanent or evolving.

I’ll admit that my first attempt at this somewhat failed. When we moved from a tiny dwelling to a larger house that had an entire room dedicated to play, I was ecstatic to build the most amazing busy board wall. As it turns out, “amazing” just meant “huge.” While we did a great job of building the board, we somewhat fizzled at supplying a quality range of items to explore.

Image Source: Ellen
Cue second born child hitting the crawling stage. It’s time to reinvigorate our wall so that she can pull herself up and practice standing while exploring all the wonderful busy wall discoveries. This is the beauty of this project; it’s ever-evolving to suit the needs of your growing children!

Begin by deciding if your board will be small and portable or fixed to the wall. Since ours was installed on the wall, and since I wanted items to be installed in an ongoing manner, I needed to build the board out from the wall with a spacer of 2x4s. Thankfully, Grandpa was visiting and he took it upon himself to get the job started. Normally, we’d have an assortment of wood scraps kicking around to use but since we had just moved, we were fresh out. If you’re working from scraps, you may have less choice in size.

Once our base was installed, we simply began adding items as we found them. Our first stop was raiding our existing stash in the tool room. Next stop, The Reuse Centre! Since then, I’ve simply been adding items as they reveal themselves. It’s amazing to consider everyday household items destined for the trash in a brand new light!
Components of the board. Image Source: Ellen
Image Source: Ellen
My son is working on dressing/undressing himself so I added the button and zipper from an old pair of pants as well as the back pocket. He’s obsessed with the telephone and the calculator—both broken and destined for the trash! Our youngest uses the bottom half to pull herself up and explore the textures, sights, and sounds.

Is your kid a fan of texture? Maybe a budding musician who seeks out sounds? Or a future engineer intent on figuring out tasks of dexterity and skill? What items would your kid love to play with on a busy wall?


- Ellen (Volunteer)

Friday, 24 March 2017

Low-cost/No-cost Upcycled Seed Starting Kits

It seems like spring is taking forever to get here, doesn't it? Not to worry though, there are some things you can do to get started on your garden early. The best part is that you can use common items found around the house or at the Reuse Centre. I use these techniques every year to get my tomatoes and flowers started indoors with no outlay of expenses other than the potting soil.

Cardboard Tube Seed Pot 

Photo Credit: Sarah J.

What you will need:
  • Clean cardboard tubes (toilet paper, paper towel, or wrapping paper rolls)
  • Scissors
  • Shallow plastic tray
  • Potting soil *sterilized through microwaving or store bought to reduce the risk of introducing molds that may harm your seedlings. Packaged potting soil is already sterilized.
  • Yogurt container
  • Water
  • Seeds

  1. Find a clean cardboard tube (trim longer tubes to about 7-10cm) and cut four slits into the bottom of the roll a quarter of an inch long.
  2. Press cut sections of toilet paper rolls inwards to create the bottom of the seed pot. Don't worry if it doesn't stay completely shut on its own, the soil will hold everything in place. 
  3. Fill the cardboard seed pot with soil. I like to fill a yogurt container with soil first and then scoop the soil with the cardboard seed pot.
  4. Once the seed pot is filled with soil, stand it up in a shallow plastic tray. The tray will collect any extra water.
  5. Make as many as you need and follow the directions on the seed packet for planting.
  6. Keep the seed pots damp and warm to sprout the seeds.
  7. When the sprout gets large enough, replant it in the garden or a larger pot. 

Pastry Container Seed Starting

Photo Credit: Sarah J.
What you will need:
  • Plastic pastry container
  • Scissors
  • Yogurt container, to scoop the soil
  • Potting soil *sterilized through microwaving or store bought to reduce the risk of introducing molds that may harm your seedlings. Packaged potting soil is already sterilized. 
  • Seeds 

Steps :
  1. You will need to make some drainage holes; use one side of the scissors and poke some holes in the bottom of your pastry container. 
  2. Cut the lid off. 
  3. Fill the bottom portion of the container with damp potting soil. 
  4. Plant the seeds according to seed package. 
  5. Place the lid on the top of the bottom of the pastry container to keep the moisture in the soil while the seeds germinate. 
  6. When the seeds sprout place the lid underneath as a tray to prevent water from leaking onto your table.
  7. Water as needed, to keep the soil damp.

Starting seeds inside will give you a jump start on the summer gardening. Most of the supplies are easily found around the house and whatever you're missing can be found at the Reuse Centre. This will save you money on buying new supplies and starter plants from the garden centers. If you have little ones, let them get dirty, let them see something grow! 

- Sarah J. (Volunteer)

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Foreign Coins: DIY Projects

I don’t know about you but I love travelling – I can’t get enough of it. It’s always exhilarating to go to a brand new, exotic place, and take in all the local culture. This includes using foreign currency.

Although it can be difficult at times to mentally figure out the approximate conversion to Canadian dollars, it’s also lots of fun to use fascinating looking coins of all different shapes, weights, colours, and sizes. The only problem when coming home is that you usually end up with a handful of coins in small denominations that you simply couldn’t use up. So what do you do with these unusual coins?

Mine have been sitting in a jar, out of sight. I’ve always been intrigued by decorations that display aspects of travelling, and thought that perhaps I could make something out of all the extra change I collected throughout my travels.

Recently, I created magnets using some of my foreign coins. This was pretty easy.

If you have old magnets, for example one with an expired calendar on it, you can cut it up into small pieces so they fit onto the back of the coin. Then you just glue the magnet to the coin. I used a hot glue gun but other craft glues may also work. You can also use inexpensive magnetic tape, instead of glue. This might be a good idea if the magnets you currently have are not very strong or the coins you’re using are heavy. The hardest part about this little craft is selecting which side of the coin you’d like to display! My magnets look something like this:

Photo Credit: Tamara

Another idea that I recently found and am really excited to try, is to use an old vase and decorate it completely with foreign coins. This example from Bob Vila shows what the vase looks like with only pennies but you could easily replicate the idea with foreign coins. A great thing about this craft is it is not very complicated, and the result looks fantastic. Depending on what background you want, you can spray paint the vase to a different colour before gluing the coins. In this example, the vase was spray painted black, which contrasts nicely with the pennies and gives it an elegant, modern look. This is a superb idea especially for those Canadians who may have a surplus of pennies lying around since the cent was phased out. 

Image Source: Bob Vila

Do you have any craft ideas to use extra foreign coins? Share them in the comments section.

                                                                                                                                 -Tamara (Volunteer)

Saturday, 11 March 2017

For the love of Green!

March 17th is rolling in. Why not share in the celebration of Saint Patrick, be it having a green beer, eating a large Irish feast, watching the parade, or simply wearing green? There are many ways to get into the spirit and here are some craft ideas to show your love of green.

St Patrick's Wreath

Shamrock Wreath Photo Tutorial ~ Step-by-step instructions showing how to make this grapevine wreath decorated with shamrocks and different kinds of ribbon. Very easy to do with fabulous results specially made for St. Patrick's Day! /
Image Source: Time with Thea

Image Source: Punkie Pies

Dig out those Christmas wreaths and with any luck, there will be some greens and golds already incorporated, so little will need to be changed. Any of the neutral colours can stay, such as white, blacks, browns. Then all that is left are the finishing touches of shamrocks, leprechauns, rainbows, and pots of golds.  Check out the instructions for the two wreaths shown above at Time with Thea and Punkie Pies.

Nordic Leprechaun Gnome

St Patrick's Day Gnome, Nordic Leprechaun, Irish Felt Gnomes, Fairy Gnome, Scandinavian Gnomes, Irish Gnome, Gifts, Ireland, Gnome Makers

Image Source: Etsy: NORDIKatja Shop

These little leprechaun Nordic gnomes will be a delight to have as decoration and would also make a great addition to the garden as we head into spring. Instructions on making your own mini-felt gnomes can be found at Spool and Spoon Blog. You can make the leprechaun variation of the Nordic felt gnomes by adapting the hat to be flat top instead of pointy and using green coloured scraps.

Happy St. Patrick's Crafting!
                                                                                                                                    - Siao (Volunteer)

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Featured Reuse-It Item - Neckties

Here at the Reuse Centre we usually have a few neckties kicking around waiting for someone to pick them up and give them a second life. Neckties can be reworn over and over again but they can also be repurposed and upcycled into numerous creative things. Our blog team has put together a number of great ideas to upcycle old and unwanted neckties. Check out what we came up with.

Ellen & Tamara

The best thing about crafting with preloved neckties is that the best patterns are often the ones rejected by current fashion trends. What no longer works with a crisp, professional suit, will look lovely cut to bits on a crafting table!

Using Sadie Seasongoods' tutorial as a guideline, I started with a plain vibrant blue necktie and roughly measured the circumference of a typical to-go coffee cup then snipped the end of the tie to accommodate the circumference. I sewed along the cut line to prevent any unwanted fraying from occurring. The cut line would be hidden by the tip of the tie overlapping, so the seam didn’t need to be fancy. I decided to use adhesive-backed hook and loop Velcro strips. I fixed the loop side of the Velcro fastener to the backside of the tip of the tie and the hook end of the Velcro strip to the other side of the tie. Once the Velcro was attached all I had to do was wrap my necktie cozy around my beverage cup or bottle. Super easy!

Photo Credits: Ellen

With summer just a couple of months away, these drink cozies will be perfect for enjoying a cold beverage out in the sun. What a "cool" idea for keeping your drinks from getting warm this summer!


What better way to repurpose an old necktie than to use it to add a little extra flare and adornment to an existing shirt. I love the contrast of blue with the yellow on this tee shirt created by McKell's Closet. There are unlimited possibilities to create one of a kind ruffled necktie tees.

Image Source: McKell's Closet


Neckties are easy to find stuffed in the back corners of closets, hanging untouched on hangers, and drooping in second-hand stores. It's also hard to find a use for them once the crazy prints are obscenely out of style.

Good thing there's an upcycle option for everything, including your old ties! A great example for those who are handy with a sewing machine is to use the bright, vibrant colours and interesting prints as focal points in quilts. Your tie quilt will continue to draw attention in a beautifully eye-catching way. See Anita's Piecing and Quilting for a tutorial.

I am always looking for ways to better organize my things, so I'm not always digging for something in my cavernous purse. I love this idea for a pouch made out of an old tie! I have a collection of ties in cool prints that I've been trying to use up, and I think I'll be whipping one of these up over the weekend! See Snapguide for detailed instructions.
Image Source: Snapguide

Happy Crafting!