....You have stuff all over your home that can have a second life and save you both the money you’ve already spent on them AND money you might potentially spend in the future on a product you could make yourself with your discard. ...The key to limiting waste is creativity, and giving your garbage as many lives as possible before committing it to its final resting place.
Used Cooking Oil and Grease
So, you have a big can or bottle of used cooking oil or grease under the sink from a time you deep-fried, and you can’t seem to get rid of it all via cooking reuse. No problem.
- Did you know you can use your cooking oil as lantern fuel? Strain any chunks and pieces of breading that may be in the used oil out with a cheesecloth or fine mesh. Pour the oil into a jar, and make a wick out of a cotton thread and piece of wire. This oil lamp will work just as well as kerosene, but you might want to keep this a garden lamp—used cooking oil lamps can produce a fried food smell that you might not want lingering in your home. Then again, you might think that’s a plus.
- You can use saved animal fat and grease from cooking to make your own bird suet cakes. Heat the solidified fat just enough so that it liquefies, and be sure to strain it several times through cheesecloth to remove any cooked food particles that might remain. Choose a mold, such as muffin tins, and add all kinds of goodies to it, like peanut butter, nuts, bird seed, raisins, oats, corn, and corn meal—this can be a great way to dispose of baking supplies you don’t know what to do with after the holidays. Add just enough of the fat so your cakes will solidify in the fridge into a cake, and put them outside for your hungry birds during the winter. If this is a method of reuse that you’d like to continue in the long term, it might be worth switching to low sodium in the kitchen—low sodium options, like low sodium bacon, are healthier for the birds.
Recycling water is pivotal to adopting a greener and waste-free lifestyle. It should be fairly obvious at this point that having a rain barrel, and preferably multiple rain barrels, is one of the best things you can do for the planet and your wallet. When you don’t have a rain collection system in place, watching all of that great water run down off of your roof is like watching little coins toward your water bill disappear. Cut down on your hose and sprinkler use in the summer by collecting as much of that awesome free water as you can. But, maybe you can’t have a rain barrel. Maybe you’re wondering what other ways you can save. There are a lot of ways we can collect used water in the home for the garden, and you may be surprised by what can be used—we were!
- Shout out to all you aquascaping and fish-tank fans! So, every so often, your plecos and corys just can’t keep up with all of the algae and uneaten food, and you need to drain your tank and give it a good clean and refill. Wait just a minute before you go siphoning that out into the bathtub or sink. That gross dirty fish water is the best for watering your plants. Provided that you aren’t using a lot of chemicals and salt, that stuff is full of nutrients and good bacteria. Keep this in mind, also, if you have an ornamental pond that needs cleaning.
- Do you have dogs or cats? Then you probably have a pet water bowl that needs to be dumped and refilled every day. Pour that in the garden.
- If you’re eating your vegetables every day, then you’re probably using a lot of water to boil them. The pot of water that’s leftover from pasta, vegetables, boiling eggs, and canning—right into the garden.
- Does your shower or bath take a thousand years to heat up? You might want to keep a bucket in the bathroom, then. Collect that glacial water and use it outside.
- When you’re done with that shower or bath, you can use that bucket to take all of that water outside. It might be a good idea to switch to shampoos and soaps that are plant-based to limit chemicals in the soil.
- Wash your dishes in a dish pan. Your wash water can be reused in the garden. Again, you should consider using earth-friendly dish soaps when reusing cleaning water.
There are many more ways to collect greywater for garden use, but, for the safety of you and your garden, keep some tips in mind when recycling this water outside.
- Do not reuse water that has come into contact with feces.
- It is not the best idea to use greywater on edible plants—unseen bacteria and chemicals in the water could make you sick.
- Make sure you use all water collected for reuse in 24 hours to avoid greywater becoming blackwater.
- You can’t reuse water from the dish washer—dish detergents are not something you want in your soil.
- A good rule of thumb: if the water looks too yucky to use outside, it probably is, so go ahead and dump it down the drain.
Pantyhose might seem a very specific and odd sort of thing to mention, but if you wear nylons to work or on the regular, there is a good possibility you have a drawer full of hosiery that has the hole in the big toe or at least one nail polish-encrusted run in them. Stockings and tights that come out of the package in the morning can be ruined by lunch due to the rough edge of just one wooden chair, and then you end up with a big crumpled synthetic polymer pile of wasted money. Then again, you might just have a pile of incredibly useful and garden tools, too.
- Pantyhose is soft, stretchy, and delicate, making it an excellent alternative to twine, ties, and string when it comes to supporting your plants. Use pieces of ‘hose to tie up tomatoes, climbing hydrangeas, and other creepers and leaners for gentle support that won’t rub, break, or damage stems and branches.
- A worn out pair of stockings can be your melon’s best friend. Bag your growing melons up in the foot of some pantyhose to protect it from pests, or, if you’re growing your melons vertically to keep them off the ground, you can make a nice cushy ‘hose hammock with pantyhose legs. Growing your melons in this way will keep them suspended and free of flat or rotted spots from sitting on the ground.
- Store bulbs over the winter in a leg of hose. The material will be incredibly breathable, preventing your bulbs from rotting while you wait to replant.
- Have you seen those hanging pouch-style vertical gardens? Well, you can make your own with pantyhose. You can even make your own upside-down planter with them. The ‘hose will allow plenty of air in and great drainage.
- Use pantyhose as a very fine strainer for cleaning seed and vegetables for the garden.
- If you are growing aromatic herbs like mint, rosemary, or lavender, you can make your dried herb sachets to freshen up drawers and closets.
Flicker Tail and Suet - Noël Zia Lee, CC BY 2.0
Dog Water Bowl - Ohiopetwatch, CC BY-SA 3.0
Pile of Pantyhose - Daniel Case, CC BY 2.0