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What are some ideas for re-purposing common disposable items?

There are many items that are disposable that we now recycle. However, it takes energy to recycle things and I was wondering if some of this energy might be saved by re-purposing the items to a second functional need with no real treatment. Examples of disposable items that might be re-purposed include soda bottles, car tires and cardboard boxes. One example of a re-purpose is car tires being bound together and turned into reefs for sea life.

I am sure there are many items and uses. What are they?

I am mostly interested in functional uses rather than artistic ones.

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Closing Statement from Robert Galway

Thanks everyone for providing ideas.

  • Nov 13 2013: I have been gardening for many years and have discovered that the most effective weed abatement for this area is spreading a thick layer of newspaper over freshly weeded soil, then, cover this with a layer of cardboard and then, cover that with about 4 inches of mulch from a local tree service. Old tattered sheets and ragged blankets can be given to the animal shelter. Retired yoga matts can be donated to a homeless shelter, in addition to clothes. Old dresser drawers can make fun patio planters for non-edible plants. Plastic bags can be knitted into handbags, wallets or or other imaginative projects. Game pieces, like domino or old scrabble pieces can be used to make jewelry pendents,( just mod-pogde tiny images or colorful bits from a favorite calendar or old art book.) Strip wire from discarded chords and make wire wrapped stones and pendants... I saw a guy make a cool scorpion from discarded copper wire. If you weld, you will have fun creating metal sculptures out of old retired shovels, tools and other stuff. Old plastic containers are good for seed starters. Empty jars make nice sprouting containers or sturdy cups. Broken ceramics, glass and mirrors can be made into mosaics. Found rusty objects make fun mobiles ... rusty nails are especially cool. Crayon bits can be melted down to make outdoor candles. Magazines can be woven into decorative bowls. I have seen rice bags and foil juice bags sewn into wallets and tote bags. Old jeans and other fabrics can be made into groovy purses or messenger bags. Sock Monkeys are always a hit. Rags can be woven into small area rugs. Dryer lint can be used to make handmade parchment type paper. Old CD's can be hung in trees to discourage birds from eating fruit ... old red ornaments discourage birds form eating tomatoes if they are hung on young tomato plants as decoys during the flowering stage. Washer machine drums make great planters. You can paint on old car hoods. Old tires can become swings. The possibilities are endless
    • Nov 16 2013: These are great ideas!

      Old CDs seem like they have so much re-purposing potential...and the cylindrical plastic containers they come in, never thought of them as fruit protectors though!
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    Nov 1 2013: Some excellent ideas here:

    http://www.boredpanda.com/creative-reuse-upcycling-repurposing-ideas/

    (love the TV aquarium)

    Old radiators, painted matt black, behind glass, turned into solar panels for hot water.

    Old louvre doors on the wall as slot-in message boards.

    Liquid detergent bottles with small holes in the lid as small watering cans...
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      Nov 1 2013: Oh my goodness.....very clever Allan! I love the TV aquarium too....also, the plastic spoon lampshade is exquisite! And.....I have a couple old wooden tennis rackets in the barn that have been waiting for a repurpose for years....love the mirror idea!
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    Nov 13 2013: one of the best uses of a product that i know of is the leaves from the tree and the grass cutting just put the back into your garden for mulch / compost .
    Always use firewood , from a tree that dies or falls down .
    We save wrapping paper and gift bags and reuse them .
    We use margine containers to freeze leftovers in .
    Collect aluminum cans recycle for money and beauty of the planet .
    We collect sunlight to make ice tea .
    Solar collectors to charge our boat batteries .
    • Nov 16 2013: My wife does the wrapping paper thing. We save the nice boxes at Christmas and she wraps the lid, then uses colored string to hold them together. She saves and resuses the wrapping paper if it is salvageable.

      Nothing is said, but the eviscerating glance given to those that mistakenly tear into a package is...well..Grinch worthy!
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      Nov 28 2013: Hi Jeffrey I put the link also in my comment but if you didn't see, maybe you're interested to see the application of using leaves and other dead organic material as compost on a (extremely) large scale (permaculture). You'll be amazed what they pulled of on the Loss-plateau in China. There is beautiful documentary here:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBLZmwlPa8A

      cheers!
  • Nov 3 2013: I have read through the comments and it is truly encouraging to see all the responses. We are a farm, and I would say we don't throw anything away without first examining any possible uses first. We have a very old farmhouse and those plastic bags from the store are a life saver. Crumpled up bags fill holes and stop the wind and cold. We also reuse them for garbage bags, liners for the compost bucket, to mention a few. We dehydrate fruits and veggies from our gardens. We at first used the sealer with the plastic bags, but quickly went to mason jars which can be vacuum sealed and reused many times over. We also use those for vases, drinking glasses, to store seeds, string from the grain bags, just about anything. We reuse our grain bags for garbage bags and have on occasion used in out buildings to seal off the wind. We reuse nails, screws, bolts. We find things at the dump to repurpose. It is just amazing what people throw away. Bed frames for gates, fences, poles. Any useable wood is always picked up and repurposed for other projects, repairs. Small spice bottles are great for small organization projects for the kids and the shop tidbits.nails, screws, nuts, bolts, etc. Old fans can be refitted to alternators for wind power. Old discarded slider glass doors make great walls for greenhouses. Tires for growing pumpkins, also for containing herbs that like to run like mint. Strings from our grain bags for numerous projects, even dyed for weaving. Old aquariums are great for incubators for young baby chicks. We reused an old coke fridge case for a starter area for seedlings. Glass soda bottles on a stick make great markers (marked with permanent marker) for gardens. Plastic vinegar bottles with bottom cut off make funnels. Yoghurt cups make seedling starters, storage serving cups, store small items, paint cups,even a light shade. Empty paper towel/toilet paper for storing various cords. Wide mouth jars for light covers. Aluminum cans=windmills.
    • Nov 3 2013: Sharen thanks for the contribution! In reading your post, it occurs to me that the cost of transporting goods is another good reason to re-use what is around if possible. In addition to the extra cost, the energy expended in delivering the new goods to a customer, particularly a remote customer, is something to consider.

      I am not sure if you have Craig's List(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craigslist) in your area, but quite often people will put things like building materials in there for free, just to get rid of them. In some instances, the transportation cost might be worth it if that is all you pay.

      Another thing I get from your post is that farmers will have a different set of re-purposing challenges than mechanics, also different than doctors, also different than store keepers, also different than fishermen. Perhaps, an on-line collaboration for re-purposing ideas by occupation, locality, culture, or hobby might make some sense. I wonder if this has already been done?
      • Nov 3 2013: Robert, yes transport costs are something we have always considered. We make few trips to town to shop, even though it is 20 miles, for us it is time management and transportation costs. Yes, also, we have used craigslist for years. It is a great resource. Sometimes, though, the travel time and costs aren't worth it; so we always hope someone closer will make the connection. We share items with other people, as iin if we know of someone else local seeking to accomplish some project, we contribute what we have that might be "re-purposed" and visa versa. We here did a group study on ways in which we of different disciplines could help one another through sustainability with the goal of creating a group consisting of the entire town. We had studied Transitional Towns. My son and I put together a workshop with certain tools and goals toward managing an town in isolation to see what we would need for the support of a community. There were many fantastic ideas. We considered everything from power, communication, food, health, emotional support, support for the weak, young, and elderly, clothing, entertainment, etc. The group became quite innovative in discovering ways in which we could recycle, build, make necessary items from basically what our society considers junk, and sharing. The townspeople in general at the time were unfortunately not accepting of such a change in perspective. What we each brought away from the exercise though was a change in each of our own perspectives. When people really sit down and put their heads together many ideas begin to emerge. We all did a lot of studying of both "old" ways and modern ways of accomplishing tasks. By combining these, we found some interesting ideas, such as taking aluminum cans and Knex parts and harnessing power from everything from water lines to running streams. I feel if these type groups were to form in all communities, so much could be accomplished. And include the kids, they have great ideas!
  • Nov 3 2013: this is actually a much more complex question than many people will think. in adelaide australia where i'm from, plastic shopping bags were banned a couple of years ago, and the result was that plastic consumption went up. what happened was people who had been using plastic shopping bags as garbage bags then had to buy them. the disposable bags were smaller, but also made of much thinner plastic, so the effort directed at reducing plastic actually caused the opposite. there was also another negative effect: when you throw away a bag you also throw away the bacteria your hands left on the handles, but with people re-using bags the bacteria stuck around and could multiply, not exactly the thing you want around your groceries! that problem would be saved by washing the bags regularly, but the use of detergent and water (especially hot water) would use more than you were saving in the first place by not use a plastic supermarket bag.

    thinking on the wider scale, there's also the meme effect to consider. whether you're saving a lot or a little, any action you take will satisfy your feelings of the need to conserve, and so people who are already saving a little tend not to discover ways to save a lot. here in japan many people enthusiastically switch off lights at every available opportunity, but being so engaged in that it hasn't occurred to many people to install insulation, fit pelmets, or even switch to energy-efficient lights, all of which would save hundreds or times more energy.
    • Nov 3 2013: Thanks Ben.

      Had to look up the word "meme". (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme). "A meme is "an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture." A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.

      Your quite right about the mindset of people needing to embrace the idea of re-purposing.

      My wife and I are avid "yard salers" or "garage salers". Every Saturday morning we go around our city together visiting the houses of people trying to turn some things they no longer need into cash. For us, it is an inexpensive treasure hunt that becomes a date. I think my wife enjoys spreading $40 around 15 yard sales more than she would enjoy going out to dinner the night before! Anyhow, she teaches botanical related craft classes for adults and often finds materials at yard sales for a very cheap price, so she is able to keep the cost of her classes down and make them available to many folks. She has the MaGyver like skillset to envision the class by just looking at the materials in a garage sale. So, she saves money for the class, but also re-purposes these items to something that becomes highly desirable, or at least desirable, depending on the skill level of the craft maker. We have a lot of fun, then come home and watch "Antiques Roadshow" to see if anything we bought is secretly worth millions.

      By the way, if there are any reality TV show writers out there, the characters you see at a yard sale would be an interesting group. My wife and I actually give nicknames to some, and wonder what our nicknames might be to them.

      I ALWAYS get lemonade and a cookie at garage sales if being sold by a child, and usually overpay in coins. That is inspiring small business!
      • Nov 4 2013: yes and i think one of the important effects of memes is that they displace other memes. show me a group of people cleaning up a riverbank and i'll show you a group of people *not* picketing the business responsible for the garbage in the first place, and while japanese are enthusiastically encouraging as many people as possible to turn off lights, at the same time they're ensuring that fewer people will take more effective measures such as buying better insulation.
  • W T 100+

    • +2
    Nov 1 2013: I do not throw away any plastic bags, and make use of sturdy packaging as well.
    How I repurpose them.........

    * Oatmeal containers.......

    ----I use as pencil holders
    ----For seedlings

    * Small plastic bags......

    ------for lunches
    ------to put the trimming from raw meat and freeze until garbage day (it's hot here, and putting raw meat in the garbage-can makes for a stinky back yard)
    -----for separating meats bought in bulk into smaller portions and freezing, etc.....

    * Plastic Milk gallons

    -----I use them to collect rain water for my plants
    -----for planting

    * Plastic containers with lids (like the turbinated sugar ones)

    ----I keep a variety of beans and rice in them (it makes for an organized cupboards)
    http://i.walmartimages.com/i/p/00/07/57/79/92/0007577992000_500X500.jpg


    I do a lot of spontaneous repurposing..........especially when there are school projects of any kind.
    I have also used the onion bags, like Colleen mentioned, as scrubbers.

    It's good to be able to use the same item in various ways before having to part with it.
    I still have containers passed down from my parents (coffee cans) filled with nuts and bolts.
    We pretty much recycle a lot of our packaging because the city has the provision. So not so much waste goes into the garbage.

    Nice topic Robert.
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      Nov 1 2013: Yes....yes.....yes Mary.....all good ideas:>)

      School projects.....there are a couple teachers here, who collect all kinds of "stuff" for various school projects. Last night, while watching the news, I was cutting the personal messages from greeting cards that I've had for years, and I'll bring them to the library, where the librarian has a "craft table" with all kinds of recycled "stuff" for kids to make things with:>)
      • W T 100+

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        Nov 1 2013: Scraps of ribbons, old buttons, zippers, greeting cards, pretty much anything can be repurposed.
        Many teachers who enjoy arts and crafts to enrich the learning experience of the kids will welcome your contributions.

        Even the twisty ties from bread packages are great for antennas on a butterfly :)

        The pinterest site has some great ideas. As do the many teachers on their personal blogs.
        Elementary teachers have to be careful with this repurposing because it can get away from us, and we may become hoarders......I've seen it happen.....the most successful way of repurposing is to have an organized, methodical way to use the materials.

        Oh.....and baby jars are great for filling with cream and making butter in school. This is a great experiment when studying the states of matter and how matter can change forms. (But it should be done with older kids because of the glass)

        edit...

        and those onion bags are great for giving "texture" to art pieces.......just put the paper on top of the bag and rub your crayon or pencil and Voila.......you now have texture in your drawing.
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          Nov 1 2013: You are so right Mary....pretty much anything can be repurposed! I went through a phase of making my own greeting cards out of scrapes of fabric, ribbon, buttons, pieces of old jewelry, some natural dried plants and flowers, and even incorporated white birch bark and things like that into the mix....it was really fun, and I did lots of cards over a period of a few years. Also used mesh bags for texture on top of another material. Some people still have those cards, have framed them, or displayed them in some way.....often using recycled "stuff" for the frame......I LOVE it!
  • Nov 1 2013: You have to like the internet. Simple searches on combinations of: plastic bottle, house construction, green house, tire, etc. yielded some neat plastic bottle house sites:

    http://www.inspirationgreen.com/index.php?q=plastic-bottle-homes.html

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPxXH7rCSHQ

    Plastic bottle Greenhouse video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyKUnPecRi8
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      Nov 1 2013: not only is it recycled but it also looks cool.
      Downside: not everybody is an architect being able to build such structures.
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        Nov 1 2013: I would love to visit one of these Earthships, I am very curious as to how the sewage system works.
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        Nov 1 2013: Maybe a study of primitive architecture, native architecture and even animal architecture would help magnify the small (but growing) vision of the "sustainable" future. I think a vast majority of people do not believe there can be a symbiotic relationship between man and nature...at least a relationship that leaves man as comfortable as we have grown accustomed to. I think most still see saving the environment as a chore that will leave us living very frugal lives.
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          Nov 1 2013: You are right, marketing of all these environmental groups really isn't doing a good job because at the end folks get the impression that we have to move back in time when people lived in caves.
          I don't think this is necessary. We just have to be more conscious about how we interact with our environment. If everybody does a little at the end it all ends up when multiplied by 7 billion
    • W T 100+

      • +1
      Nov 1 2013: Michael Reynolds needs to come on TED.........thanks for sharing the video.
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        Nov 1 2013: You are very welcome and I agree, I think he could make a wonderful contribution to the ever growing list of talks.Thanks for taking the time to comment.
    • Nov 1 2013: Wow! Great Youtube video! Earthships instead of houses to "avoid per-concieved notions of houses". Love it! You could use exercise bikes to supplement the solar cells and batteries. You could grow food on the roofs of an earth houses as use the root structure to help hold things as well.

      These folks are purists, which is great, but there is also a lot of middle ground between the purist and the rest of the population, where one or two steps in the direction taken by the purists by large number of people, have an increased combined effect.

      Rammed earth construction has been around for a while.( http://home.howstuffworks.com/rammed-earth-home.htm) One idea is to re-purpose things that supplement this technique, maybe with discarded materials used as the "re-bar". Another aspect is the benefit of matching the construction technique used, to the area your in. This should save on transportation costs of materials and make alternative materials more attractive.

      This has been around for a long time, but Mother Earth News has some neat ideas on this style of life.
      (http://www.motherearthnews.com).
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      Nov 1 2013: That is very cool Glenn....enjoyed it.!
  • Steve C

    • +1
    Nov 23 2013: I alsways like the idea of using newspaper comics section to wrap presents with.
    I've been saving my styrofoam cups to make a "heat-seat" for when sitting on cold metal benches.

    Edit: (thanks for the +1)
    I also just saw a guy from South America link about using plastic bottles filled with water & bleach set into (through) a roof to let in sunlight. http://happynews.com/news/8152013/brazilian-mechanic-uses-plastic-water-bottles-bleach-create-light.htm I like the look of hundreds of colored bottles stacked horizontally into a wall.
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    Nov 18 2013: Here is one of the most amazing stories I've ever seen about recycling/re-purposing!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXynrsrTKbI

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkTQQ0m8Ys8
    • Nov 18 2013: Thanks Colleen!

      I saw this on 60 minutes the other night and was awestruck. Re-purposing of materials to make the instruments is incredible, but the testament to the resilience of the human spirit shown by those kids and that conductor is just extraordinary. To create something so beautiful and uplifting amid the filth is inspiring.

      Seeing this story really gives me hope for the next generation.

      It is a fabulous story to be thinking about when it come time to give thanks for all your blessings at the Thanksgiving table.
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        Nov 18 2013: That's where I saw it too Robert.....60 minutes last night. It touched me deeply, and I felt motivated to explore more about it on line this morning. I agree....the resilience of the human spirit is awesome! Did you see the follow-up on "60 Minutes Overtime"? There's more of the story on line, but I cannot seem to connect with the link right now.....I'll see if I can add the link here later.

        The orchestra is planning to travel around the world, and they have been getting donations of money and new instruments. To see their faces when they have the real, new instrument in their hands brings tears to my eyes!
      • W T 100+

        • 0
        Nov 25 2013: On May 28th of this year, we discussed this orchestra in a TED conversation on music.

        http://www.ted.com/conversations/18167/integrating_music_into_our_eve.html

        A Vimeo link was given where a lot of us enjoyed learning of this ingenious music teacher.
        It was really wonderful that 60 minutes came around and did a piece on them.

        Hopefully it will bring much needed help to that region of the world.
  • Nov 17 2013: Ok YES you can do SO much with things that often get trashed. You can make a mattress and bed board using two sown together two fitted sheets (can be gotten anywhere cheaply second hand, just wash them well) with plarn (old plastic bag yarn) braided rope up until only the top is left open. Stuff with clean dry used Styrofoam cup or plate bits, shredded paper, unused plastic bag bits from the plarn, chopped up tattered old clothes, dryer lint, hair collected from your hair brush, and of course any old pillows that need upcycyling. Next you will need buttons that are at least 25mm (about the size of a quarter) in diameter. As you stuff your mattress with the mixed up particles of stuffing you have made, sow every 8 inches apart a button that connects to an other button on the other side which will keep the stuffing from bunching in to one corner. Sow the tope up with braded plarn and you have the mattress for your bed. Prepare to use solid wooden pallets (do not pick shabby broken pallets or ones that are a bunch of thin slices of wood glued together), and take sand paper and make sure that the pallets edges are smooth and will not splinter. For the part of the pallets that will come into contact with the mattress use slat of wood to make sure no huge grooves are there. Cut pallets to size and if needed used piece of steal and screws, or industrial staples to attach the two pieces. Paint the pallet bed and let it dry for a few days. In the meanwhile use the stuffing to stuff some of shirts and sow them at the neck arms and after fully stiffed at the torso and there you have pillows. Place mattress over dried sanded board filled pallet bed base and put one huge thick blanket over the bed then get the blanket you will use as a cover and fold it and cover your pillows with it until you are ready for sleep. Also: old glass jar = cups, plastic tubs = cereal bowls, tin cans w/ decorative holes for light +wire hanger + small candle = lantern. Compost everything organic.
  • Nov 13 2013: Cleaned expanded polystyrene (styrofoam cups, packing chips, appliance packaging) can be ground up and mixed with new EPS to form various insulation products and other moldable products. Or it can be densified and reused as hard cases for laptops, cell phones, etc... I can't believe the amount of it we are dumping in landfills - it just makes me cringe.
    I work for a company that recycles all of its EPS waste material and steel material - but we do not have the resources to add a full recycling operation whereby we could accept these materials from the landfills, wash them, and recycle them. That would be a very lucrative operation if one could effectively get it off the ground.
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    Nov 12 2013: Where is 'away' in throw away?

    Before the Industrial revolution there was no garbage that couldn't be composted.

    We must confront that modern civilization directly is responsible for many linear problems, in part because they are out of the natural cyclical loop of nature.

    As Gandhi once said, 'I'm afraid we are bartering away the permanent good for a temporary pleasure'. Perhaps the epithet of our modern world.
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    Nov 3 2013: Just a matter of time...unfortunately still.

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/rocknail/filabot-plastic-filament-maker

    If we really cared about recycling we would have been doing it in our homes at least 10 years ago. This is nothing new. The fear of more people losing jobs is what is at stake I believe.

    It's time to turn the corner.
    • Nov 3 2013: Neat video, thanks for contributing. That was interesting.

      I look at that and get the idea of personal plastic recycling, but then I think of the fumes, the fingers pushing the plastic in the hopper, the open can of sterno heating a pipe, and people like my son and his friends doing this in an engineering college dorm room or something. I reflect on past history as a parent, and think of past displays of safe shop practices, cleanliness, and concern about personal safety. Mix that with a few beers at college and Yikes! However, 3D desktop printer technology is all over the place now. Very cool stuff.

      Were I an investor, I think I would want a more elaborate demonstration than the video shows. Makes me think of the cold fusion thing from a few years back...

      Plastic shredders, low cost heating sources, fumes local to operation and overall emissions control, OSHA, etc., make me think this should be handled at a facility. Even if it did make it to the home owner, I think I would want it in a remote shed more than desktop. Still, you now have some raw materials to make things. Might be a neat source for weed wacker line, line for wrapping bundles, or maybe just stored as filament until heated and transferred to another form.
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        Nov 3 2013: I know Robert, this is a raw method as well. It is very basic. It does belong in a shed at this level of simplicity. I'm thinking of retro microwaves when the technology was there and finding a way to make it safe in relation to what is showed here. As far as the investing goes, it's difficult to tell what the incentive really is. ...Easy way to make money or passionate about the idea. I lack experience in this department.
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    JB E

    • +1
    Nov 3 2013: I am a re purpose r of sorts, some of my projects have been welding together a charcoal grill from scrap metal parts to building a modular indoor hydroponic garden. I feel that it's a way of life for me to re purpose objects as well as a necessity and it probably should be done more.
    My hydroponic garden project was made from old plastic laundry sinks people either tossed out or sold to me on craigs list for a few bucks.

    https://picasaweb.google.com/105841009402005191275/WindowGardenProject#5941826846486644354

    The control panel that houses the timers and power for the pumps and lights and stuff was made from an old toolbox, the wires and switches from broken coffee makers, a blender and some junk air conditioning units.

    https://picasaweb.google.com/105841009402005191275/WindowGardenProject#5941826924293510242

    Most of the pvc pipe and fittings were left over from jobs, the auto siphon crafted by hand and tuned for the longest cycle I could get from the amount of nutrient solution the system holds. I have had the system operating in my apartment for almost a year now and it consistently produces more tomatoes than I can eat myself, I usually give away a bag of them every few weeks.

    https://picasaweb.google.com/105841009402005191275/WindowGardenProject#5941826958218836258
    • Nov 3 2013: Wow! This is "re-purpose engineering", or as Mr. Fowler might say, "up-cycle engineering".

      The ability to envision a design this complex using materials at hand is a real talent. You will hear a lot of folks make analogies to an old TV show called MaGyver for such innovation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacGyver), but I have a friend that is one of the best design engineers I know, that claims there is a higher level of engineering than PHD, called "Duct tape engineering". This type of engineer seemingly has exceptional skills at using scraps, common materials and simple materials to produce masterpieces, like MaGyver. You might qualify for this distinction, well done!
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        JB E

        • 0
        Nov 3 2013: Thanks! I plan on further automating the system with telemetry by using an Arduino micro controller with internet functioning to give someone control of the nutrients and light cycles and such via the internet. Arduino controllers have all kinds of capabilities like controlling a CCT camera to monitor the plants as well as servo controls to possibly add nutrients or more water ect.

        I used those sinks for a reason as they are a standard size and width, they will fit nicely in a standard sized sink base cabinet. I hope to eventually mount one of the moduals into a sink base and counter top and set it on casters to make it look nicer, like something someone wouldn't mind having in their living room in hopes to promote indoor growing of food for everyone. The Arduino control might be made to "Gamify" the whole process further making the idea of growing your own food indoors appealing to the masses.

        I will probably put the designs on the internet for all to have in the future, with details instructions as I want to make the world a better place if only by this small contribution. Food is going to become a major issue in the future and most don't know that. This concept if taken to the extreme can help mitigate the issue.
        • Nov 3 2013: I like the idea of "gamify".

          You know, I see you have kids and the new learning method that Khan is putting forth with his video lessons and reverse teaching techniques, might benefit from interactive hydroponic experiments that could be remotely controlled by a student, or group of students. If the group of students were united via the net, then the composition of the group might be fascinating. You could capture things with video, re-use experiments to see if if different groups could make different observations from the same data, and actually do relative critics of things like report presentations, analysis methods, and application of scientific principles. This might be one group interested in such a device.

          Another group might be those unable to get to facilities due to location, transportation issues, economic circumstances, or even health circumstances.

          Here is Khan giving a TED talk:

          http://www.ted.com/talks/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education.html

          and a link to his website:

          https://www.khanacademy.org/

          and a 60 minutes special on him:

          http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57394905/khan-academy-the-future-of-education/

          Perhaps you could connect some how to this new educational effort, help teach kids about hydroponics, and have the additional benefit of teaching about "green living" in several different ways!
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        JB E

        • 0
        Nov 3 2013: Yes, that's an excellent idea, perfect group to encourage because its them that will bear the brunt of the coming food crisis. One of my daughters is a gifted child and is in advanced school where they have a hydroponic program. I've been trying to subtly encourage her to participate in it, but she is preoccupied with her pursuit of liberal arts more than science. I think as long as she is aware of the science, then at least I have broadened her horizons. I try to involve my girls in my projects as much as I can being divorced and it has helped to foster problem solving as I approach things as a series of problems to be solved.
  • Nov 1 2013: there is a term for that it is called upcycling or up-cycling, taking a formerly used item and transforming it into a new useful item
  • Nov 1 2013: Instead of using glass bottles to hold flowers, we can use coconut shells after drinking the coconut water. This way we can use it for a longer period of time before drying it and using its fibre,

    Also we can use the idea behind aquarium pipes for mini irrigation for small patches of garden
    • Nov 1 2013: Great ideas! Coconuts might be a logistical problem for some people, but similar containers made from shells, gourds, similar agricultural discarded pods could work nicely. (Just moved this to a reply!)
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    Nov 1 2013: True true, I have to count myself in with people who need to do more. I find myself at odds with my beliefs at times. Although I believe that I (and we as a whole) will benefit more from living as closely to "natures plan" as possible, I find it hard to give up the things I have convinced myself I need in my life in order to be happy. What I mean to say is that while I know the computer that I am currently typing on in some way is harmful to the environment (mining of rare earth elements) harmful to the factory workers assembling it and probably just as harmful to me for if it wasn't here I might be outside moving my body..I am afraid to not have it in my life, as it is the primary way I distract myself from reality, if that makes sense. But I have a very nagging thought that being able to provide shelter, feed and clothe my family with little to no..or better yet, to the benefit of nature would be just as fulfilling as typing on my laptop. So why am I not packing earth into tires, figuring out how to filter rain water or treating the sewage we create? I am not sure..and it is that lack of an answer (that ultimately is probably hidden deep within some denial) that I cannot point my finger at anyone else. I don't know what is worse at this point; believing we can live in concert with nature and not doing it..or not seeing it possible at all. LOL, I made need some therapy after this conversation.
    • Nov 1 2013: I think people that live as the folks in Earthships, Biospheres, and similar extreme living choices are to be commended their sacrifices, but the rest of the world looks at them like purists or extremists. Subjecting yourself and your family to the hardship and risk associated with some of these living choices is not for everybody.

      Similarly, there are things that have been learned by mankind in general that should be shared and used for the benefit of all via technology. While they have the capability of being perceived as a luxury, they have a great deal of utility as well. I put computers, TVs, and phones in this category. Similarly, we all need to survive, so we need to have a source of food and water as well as shelter.

      From a logistic sense, the skill set we have learned for survival is also geared more to urban, suburban, or even modern rural living, rather than the life styles of some of the communities where a more survivalist or extreme living choices have been adopted. These communities, people and living techniques are interesting in that they sort of represent an on-going experiment to see what works that might be more "Green". Once the ideas have been vetted, where a particular individual falls on the 'sacrifice vs risk vs pursuit of happiness vs personal harmony with nature trade-off spectrum' can be matched to the individual. However, the number of options that are "green improvements" over similar decisions made by prior generations should increase, perhaps accommodating a generation more concerned with "green Living" than luxurious living.

      If the past is any indicator, making the choices commercially viable and cost effective are a big part to more widespread adoption and use.

      So, do not let the guilt of not doing becoming a purist ruin the good feeling obtained by taking a few steps in the "Green direction", or perhaps as many as you can to strike that balance of safety, comfort, and harmony with nature and other people that most of us seek.
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        Nov 1 2013: Mr. Galway thank you for the pep talk, I feel a little better. I agree the sacrifices these folks make warrants commendation. I also think your comments are spot on and insightful. Thanks again.
        • Nov 1 2013: Than you for your open and honest contributions. I suspect they will resonate with many readers.
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      Nov 1 2013: Glenn,
      Welcome to TED, and based on the conversations we see here, I don't think you are the only one who is at odds with his/her beliefs at times!

      I was born into a family that renovated/recycled/restored/reused/repurposed ALL the time. We had 8 kids, not much money, and my mother was VERY aware of our environment and the need to be good stewards of our earth, which sustains us. So, 60+ years ago, I learned ways to help support the environment. I think it is more difficult to make the switch when one has been taught differently.

      You said it yourself my friend...you have "convinced" yourself that you "need" certain things to be happy. Perhaps with attention to the matter, you can "convince" yourself otherwise? Regarding your question to use the computer, or be outside moving the body...there are choices my friend, and I'm sure as you become more and more aware, you will discover the balance.

      Many times, people look at the big picture and feel overwhelmed by the huge task. I agree with Robert...try not to let guilt ruin the good feeling obtained when you take a few small steps toward your goal...enjoy it and build on it:>)


      We buy items in plastic bags....bread for example. Then we throw them in the trash and buy plastic bags for lunches, freezer bags, trash bags, etc.?
      There are some big items that come in plastic bags....potting soil for example. I use those for trash bags, and I have very little trash, because I also have a compost pile in the gardens.
      Plastic bags can often be used many times, so I don't buy any plastic bags anymore....haven't for years.

      You know the mesh bags often used for onions and other produce? They usually go into the trash right?
      The stiffer ones can be rolled into a ball and used to scrub pots and pans. The finer ones can be used for bath and shower scrubs....fill them with herbs from the garden, and it is a delightful bath/shower:>)

      I heard recently that 63 degrees is the best temp. for the body. Turn the thermostat down:>)
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        Nov 1 2013: Colleen,

        Thank you very much for the little pearls of wisdom, I am really getting a lot out of these TED inspired consultations lol. I was just diving into some of the other comments in search of treasure and have come up with a bounty of knowledge and honestly, more than the very creative submissions, it is the feeling of being a part of something that seems to have had the most value.
        As I have started noticing the alternate lives of the things around me, i.e: an oatmeal container that moonlights as a piggy bank, a cardboard box privately wishing to be my daughters art project; I have found something, something begging to be employed more purposefully.....my time. So I am pledging to repurpose, up-cycle, whatever you want to call it, a little bit of my time. Thank you again Colleen, I really appreciate it.
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          Nov 2 2013: Thank you for your pearls of wisdom as well Glenn:>)

          I find that as I open the heart and mind more and more, all kinds of ideas manifest....begging to be employed more purposefully in my life.....well said....and I appreciate you my friend:>)
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      Oct 29 2013: Good idea, probably excellent for cold climates since the insulation of those air filled bottles must be better than simple glass.
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    Oct 28 2013: I think you would be most interested in applications that result in larger scale use of those disposable items.
    Tires for example can be used well as flower beds. Just stack as many as you want together and you get the desired depth of your flower bed. I even use cardboard boxes as flower pots.Same goes for plastic bottles, easy to be converted into plant pots.
    If you have old clothes made of natural fibers you could use them as substrate for mushroom cultures such as oyster mushroom (you can use anything that's made of cellulose for that purpose)
    • Oct 28 2013: Hey! Like the flower bed idea a lot! You could secure them for stability and even put some branches around the perimeter as an ornamental touch. Nice!
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        Oct 28 2013: You could actually build an entire wall with tires, cut out holes and then you can even use the vertical space to plant something. This way you could get a completely green wall where the tires aren't even visible anymore if you choose the right plants.
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    Nov 28 2013: I'm deeply inspired by permaculture. John D. Liu is doing some incredible work around the world (Loss plateua in China for example). Not sure if it's officially recycling, but to me in a way it is.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBLZmwlPa8A

    Another one is recycling of plastics to use in 3D printers. If fully developed it seems it could be a gamechanger in the near future.
    http://gigaom.com/2013/10/08/its-about-to-get-easier-to-3d-print-with-recycled-plastic/

    cheers
  • Nov 13 2013: I would like to see the plastic bags we get at grocery stores et al reused for insulation -- somehow.
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    Nov 12 2013: how about reducing use of all that stuff in the first place? What did people do before paper towels? (Rags) Plastic wrap and Tupperware? (Put it in a bowl with a plate on top. Or at least re-use deli cups and plastic wrappers)
  • Nov 1 2013: Thank you Robert ! I was only thinking of the simple things that can be re-used especially in India.

    Also, for many of us, holding ceramic plates at lunches or dinners is getting to be a problem more specifically when there is no sitting place. Some light weight organic plates might come in useful. Banana leaves used to be the norm. But these may not be the right choice for a stand and eat party.
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    Nov 1 2013: I saw a documentary some time ago (the title escapes me at the moment) were a fellow used old tires, he received for free I might add, to build a house with. He tightly packed the inner space of the tires with dirt and stacked them. I am not sure how they were held together. He also repurposed aluminum cans for some parts of the walls, using the bottom concave portion positioned towards the outside. He lived in a rather cold climate but stated due to the thermal properties of the repurposed building materials, his home was quite comfortable in the winter.
  • Nov 1 2013: Yep! I have seen this done with mason jars. I have also seen this done with baby food jars on an octagon woodn tube that rotated.

    This migh work the best with bottles having wide tops, and might also work with buttons, beads, or similar things stored in quantity of different shape or size.