Reduce, reuse, recycle – the three magic ‘R’ words are one of the major ways of reducing the amount of energy we use, and the amount of waste we produce. It saves precious resources, and gives old products a new lease of life.
While there are lots of recycling schemes to help you recycle everything from plastic bottles to mobile phones, recycling still uses energy, so if you can reuse something a few times before your recycle it, then so much the better. Some things are easy to reuse – plastic water bottles can be refilled several times before you need to replace them, for example. Other things can be reused, but it takes a little more creativity and craftiness to do it. And even better, reusing them can be fun!
Here are 5 crafty ways to reuse and recycle some everyday household objects.
1. Button rings
Old buttons can be beautiful, but they so often end up accumulating in a craft jar, waiting to be used for something that we never get round to. With a little bit of glue you can transform them into some quirky jewellery, which you could sell at a craft event to raise money for good causes! All you need are a lot of old buttons, some brass ‘ring blanks’ which have adjustable bands (you can get these from haberdashery shops and online in bulk), and some metal glue. Apply a little metal glue to the back of the button, pop it on the ring blank and leave it to dry and hey presto, you have a funky piece of jewellery!
2. T-shirt pompoms
There are lots of ways to transform old, colourful t-shirts that are lying around the place, and one thing you can do is transform them into colourful, decorative pompoms! Because this means cutting them up, we’d suggest this is best for t-shirts that can’t be worn or donated to charity.
To make the pompoms, cut the t-shirts into long strips about 1 cm wide. Next, cut two cardboard discs, using a wide circle for the outer edge and a narrow circle for the inner edge. Take one strip and form a loop around the circle between the two pieces of cardboard; when the pompom is finished, you’ll use this to pull it together. Now start wrapping the strips of t-shirt fabric tightly around the cardboard disc until it’s completely covered. Then use that first strip of fabric to pull it together, tying it tightly. This keeps all the strips of fabric in place. Next, cut through the t-shirt fabric that’s looped around the cardboard, and remove the cardboard disc. Fluff out the fabric and you should have a colourful pompom!
These make great decorations, and the more colours you can use the brighter and prettier the finished look! There’s a brilliant step-by-step guide with pictures on Craftaholics Anonymous.
[One brilliant idea we spotted online for these is to attach them to hair clips and use them as hair decorations. We love it!]
3. Tin-can lanterns
Tin-can lanterns are super-easy to make, though they do involve punching through metal so children should be supervised when trying this, and it’s not a good activity for younger students. The result it wonderfully pretty though, and perfect for decorating gardens for summer barbecues. Pop a little candle inside, and the patterns you create will be illuminated.
To do this, you’ll need lots of empty, clean tin-cans with the labels removed. You’ll also need a hard, steady and safe surface like a wooden work bench, a massive lump of plasticine or blue tack, a sharp screwdriver or pointed implement, and, if you have one, a clamp for holding the can in place. The blue tack should be placed inside the can behind where you’re going to punch a hole through.
You can either sketch out a pattern in advance or just see what comes out when you start playing, but pushing from the outside of the can in, punch lots of little holes in the can all the way around. Once you’ve done this, check for sharp edges and if you find any, file them down. Then all you need are some little candles or tea-lights and you’ve got everything you need for some magical summer lighting.
4. Old jeans into a handbag
Once your favourite jeans are just to old and full of holes to wear any more, you can give them a new lease of life as a handbag! You’ll need sharp scissors, a needle and thread (or better yet a sturdy sewing machine) and either some shop-bought bag handles (which you can get from haberdashery shops) or some extra strips of denim to turn into handles, plus a zip or poppers depending on what kind of closure you want.
Wash and iron the jeans, and lay them out flat with the fly done up. Cut along the tops of the legs, just above where the crotch lies, then turn the jeans inside out and hem the opening at the bottom, and the fly too. If you are putting a zip closure in, then stitch this into place when the jeans are inside out too. Turn them back the right way round, and sew the handles into place, and there you have it – a fun, homemade handbag! Add ribbons, buttons, badges or patches to it to customise it further.
The website Brit + Co has some more funky ideas on how you can transform your old jeans into something fresh and new.
5. Plastic bottle bird feeder
This is one of the simplest ways to reuse a plastic bottle from water or fizzy soft drinks. All you need to do it wash the bottle and lid out, and remove the label. Next punch two or three holes all the way through each side of the bottle. You should have several pairs of holes at matching heights on opposite sides of the bottles. These are for your bird perches! Wooden spoons work well for this, so make sure the holes are big enough for the handles to pop all the way through. You should also allow a little extra space above these holes to allow some of the birdseed to fall out, and you can put some more small holes above where the spoons will sit so the birds can get at the food.
Then all you need to do is fill it up with bird seed, which is available at many garden centres, pop the lid back on, tie some string around the neck of the bottle and tie it up from a tree branch (but away from where any cats are likely to be able to get at the birds).
Want to see some more incredible ideas on what to do with a plastic bottle, check out this fun article on the Bored Panda website – 23 different ways to recycle plastic bottles!
If you try and make any of these, then send us in a picture of what you make, as we’d love to see how you get on and feature it on Roots & Shoots. Good luck!