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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.

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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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