Slogans abound for the green movement. The green movement refers to the idea that we stop polluting and using up the valuable resources of the Earth and make a commitment to leaving a smaller carbon footprint. One of the slogans I see is "Re-use, Reduce, Recycle." To reuse something is simply to use it more than once.
Did you know the ubiquitous plastic bottles used to hold bottled water can be used more than once? Simply tear off the paper label, and fill it with water. Any water will do, as this is a method of purifying water. Take the water filled clean clear plastic bottles and lay them on a piece of metal in the sun for over 6 hours. The heat will kill any bacteria in the water making it safe to drink. This economical method is used in Africa to make safe drinking water. After the water is sterilized don't open the bottle until you are ready to drink it. Glass does not work as well for this project as the regular bottles water usually comes in. PET plastic is the best. Do not disturb the bottles while the sun is warming them. Another less exciting way to reuse the bottles is simply to refill them with clean drinking water from your sink. The manufacturers do not recommend you run these bottles through the high heat of a dishwasher to sterilize them because the bottle were not made with the intention of re-use. However, rinsing the bottles in the sink will enable you to use them at least more than once.
Reduce your carbon foot print by using less disposable products. Do you know what people used before bottled water was invented? They used to use a cup, which could be washed and used over and over again. They used to drink water right out of the sink. Most urban water is safe, moving through pipes constantly it has less chance to grow bacteria than water that has sat in a container. You can also use a real towel and wash it, in lieu of paper towels and cloth napkins instead of paper ones. Think of any product you use that is currently disposable and ask yourself what did people do 10 years ago? Is there a possibility you can reduce your use by taking up an old fashioned method?
As a last resort if you can neither re-use nor reduce you can always recycle. Take your newspapers and magazines to a recycling center. They often take cardboard as well. Bottles and cans are sometimes redeemable for money. That's fun, you can start a slush fund with your recycled money to buy non-disposable items. Food leftovers can be composted for garden use. Growing your own vegetables is another way to reduce your carbon footprint and eat healthy too.
A new idea is something called "up-cycling." This is when you take something generally thought of as trash and turn it into a useful item. Some examples of up-cycling are making art works out of thrown away rebar and broken glass. My friend makes mandalas for Tibetan meditation out of the thrown away plastic caps of soda bottles. Another friend of mine, instead of taking his cars in for cash for clunkers, goes to junk yards and makes inoperable vehicles run again. He is quite a mechanic. Some up-cycling you probably do already without even thinking about it. For example, who hasn't taken a pretty glass wine bottle and turned it into vase for cut flowers?
For the ultimate in up-cycling I would have to give the prize to my former neighbor in West Virginia. She would card the hair off of her Border Collie and boil and clean it. When it was dry she would spin it into yarn, crochet it into hats and sweaters and sell them at craft fairs. Sometimes she would mix the fur with the waterproof wool from her sheep, and sometimes she would use straight Border Collie. Well, you get the hair all over your house anyway, why not put your pet hair to good use!
Some up-cycling takes no effort. My friend's father would drop his smashed egg shells into his potted plants. He said the calcium was good for them. Other friends I have know mix up their used tea leaves or coffee grinds with their out door plants. They say deer don't like the smell. An up-cycling craft I used to do with my son was making soap at home. You can buy the soap base plain on Ebay or at a craft store. We would then up-cycle left over perfume to scent our creations, adding scrub or left over shower gels. You can layer the soap in a loaf pan and after it sets cut off bars for use.
My mother, bless her heart, collected all the single size soaps from hotels and motels we stayed at. She justified her behavior by pointing out "we paid for them." I suppose, but the buckets of little soaps were still sitting in her closet when she died. You can unwrap the nicely scented ones and put them in clothing drawers to sweetly scent your clothing. If you have more than you know what to do with, as we did, take them to a homeless shelter or a battered woman's shelter and donate them. That is exactly the place where a single use soap would be useful.Up-cycle an old tree trunk that you are taking out anyway by turning it into a coffee table top. People pay good money for these rustic looking crafts. You can also use branches with the bark still on it for the legs of a table, buying the top elsewhere. I have a friend who took two large fallen branches off of her property and made them into stair railings for her neighbor's front step. It was easier than you think. They didn't polish the wood or anything, they just lopped each end until it was right length and nailed it into the balustrades. It looks very chic.