Novel ways to reuse common household items

A recent conversation with friends led to a little game of " one-upsmanship " to find our most innovative reuse of recyclables.

  • Barb Hackett of Plantation Key saves a couple of plastic jars with good screw-on lids to use as bag closers. Wide-mouth vitamin jars work great for this. Cut the jar about two inches from the threads so you have a good base to hold. Take a plastic bag (like a bag of rice or frozen peas), put the open end through the jar opening, fold back the bag and screw on the lid. You can pour out of the opening and seal it up tight.
  • For the best dog toy ever: Take a sturdy juice jug without the lid and put the all-time doggie favorite, a tennis ball, inside. How? It is sort of like the old " ship in a bottle " trick: cut along the curvy line about half way around the ball; you can now fold the ball into itself and slip it into the mouth of the jar. Once there, it will pop back into shape. Your dog will have tons of fun trying to get at it.
  • No more tangles. Use a 2-liter bottle to keep string or yarn from getting tangled. Cut off the bottom of bottle, insert string or yarn, pull a strand through the mouth then tape bottom back in place. If you have a cat and like to knit, this can be a sanity-saver.
  • Easy low-volume flush. Use a 2-liter water bottle filled with water in the toilet tank to displace the volume in an older tank.
  • Self-watering planter. Cut a 2-liter bottle in half, put strips of cotton t-shirt material through the opening and into the base filled with water. Add soil and plant in the inverted top half.
  • The best pot scrubber I have ever used is an old credit card I keep near the sink. It will scrape anything burned or gooey with ease.
  • Reuse a couple of pretty little jars for your daily vitamins. Put about a week’s worth of each of them in one or two jars and leave them out where you will remember to take them. If you have some that need to be taken twice a day, put them all in one jar and turn it upside down when you take the morning dose. For sure you will see that upside down jar later and remember to take the second dose.
  • Neil Boyce of Key Largo makes recycling as easy as using the trash bin at Largo Lodge. With a little looking, he found a large and a small trashcan just the right size to have the small fit sideways into the large can. Place your trash in the small can and your recycling in the large one — same effort to get to them both makes it easy to recycle.
  • Got compost? If collecting the trimmings and coffee grounds for the compost bin is a bit messy for you, find an old ice bucket with a lid to keep on the kitchen counter. You can leave it sit out and no one would guess what it is holding.
  • -- Karen Beal is a member of the Keyswide nonprofit Green Living & Energy Education. She writes about green living and the four Rs -- reducing, reusing, recycling and rot (compost). She can be reached at