Although it has gained more popularity in recent years, repurposing is not a new thing. In fact, people used to repurpose and reuse all the time. Sometimes they’d do so in order to make their purchases last, other times they’d simply want to be creative and there were those who just couldn’t fathom the idea of throwing something useful away. If a product still has life in it, you might as well make the most of it, right?
Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about in this month’s Biofriendly DIY. We’re going to discuss repurposing and, hopefully, get more people incorporating this concept and activity into their lives.
Convenience Has Become a dirty word
Before we get into talking about repurposing what we have, we need to talk about the convenience of your purchases. Are you buying products built to last? Are you looking for something long-term or something you can use and toss?
Unfortunately, over the years, much of the world has been focused on the “convenience” of their purchases. They want something they can simply buy once, use and dispose of it afterwards. This has turned convenience into a dirty word. Why? Well, because convenience is often associated with single- and one-use, plastic and disposable items. Which, as we all know, are not really convenient at all.
People buy plastic cups, straws and utensils for backyard parties. They opt for plastic bottles of soda or water, instead of offering guests reusable glasses. Disposable party decorations are an inexpensive way to decorate, but the waste generated isn’t necessary. Sometimes, people even buy plastic furniture to use for special events, instead of repurposing other objects into seating areas. Even fashion has become wasteful due to people opting for inexpensive, yet poorly made, clothes instead of creating a sustainable wardrobe which could last a lifetime.
All this “convenience” leads to waste. As a result, these types of products are pilling up in landfills and polluting our oceans. According to studies, a plastic water bottle could take up to 450 years to decompose in a landfill. Even clothing waste could take decades to decompose. What is even worse is, as these products decompose, they break down into smaller particles (micro-plastics) and these particles get into the air we breathe, the food we eat and the environment in which we live.
Although scientists are not sure of all the risks associated with microplastics, these micro-particles have been shown to cause damage to human cells, so it is definitely cause for concern.
Built to Last Means Longer Use
So, with the information we have on microplastics and poor quality materials, the reality is it’s more convenient to buy products built to last. If you have one product capable of lasting for decades and another intended to be used only once, it’s actually going to be less expensive and better for the environment to purchase to product from which you can get multiple uses over the years.
Let’s take a dining room table set, for example. If you buy a well-made table and chairs, with quality materials, you’ll have it for years to come. If you opt for a less expensive table, just because you want something immediately or for the short term, then you’re not going to get as much use out it. Plus, it’s going to end up in the landfill a lot sooner than your other table would.
The same is true for most products, clothing included. Did you know, the number of times a person wears a garment before throwing it away has declined by around 36% in the last 15 years? Much of this problem stems from the poor quality materials used to make clothes. In addition, the technology for textile recycling begs improvement.
One solution to this problem is buying items built to last. This means you will have them longer, get more use from them and generate less waste. It will save you money in the long run, as well.
Repurposing Needs to be Your NEXT thought
Once you’ve taken a look at the “convenience” of your purchase, and you’ve factored in buying items to last, repurposing needs to be your next thought.
You shouldn’t automatically think about throwing items away. Disposal should be a last resort if you can’t repurpose, reuse, recycle or donate. This is where society has fallen short in recent years. Back in my grandparents’ day, they would have never bought items they didn’t intend to keep for a very long time. The idea of single- or one-use products was simply wasteful. Why would you want to buy something to use only once?
When you buy something, it should be built to last and should be built to be repurposed.
Going back to the dining room table and chairs, once you’ve used them as much as you can, sanded and refinished them over and over, consider moving them to your backyard or deck for an outdoor dining set instead. You could also split the set up and repurpose the chairs into a nice garden bench, a planter or two and even a few bookshelves. The table could be used as a desk, for gardening preps, as a craft table and more.
Clothing can be repurposed in a variety of ways. You can repurpose parts of an outfit into new outfit. You can repurpose a shirt into a cleaning cloth or a pair of jeans into a bag. Sometimes people take worn sweatshirts and repurpose them into a new quilt.
Other repurposing ideas
Wine bottles and mason jars can be repurposed into beautiful lighting fixtures or candle holders. An end table can be repurposed into a book shelf. Take a standing bookshelf, turn it on its side, add some doors or curtains and make it a storage cabinet. Repurpose an old window frame into a picture frame or hang it in the garden to “frame” the sunset view from your porch. Take the knobs off old doors and cabinets and turn them into decorative wall hooks. Make an unused ladder into a towel or blanket rack. An old pair of jeans can become a new pair of shorts. Turn your favorite, worn out t-shirt into a practical tote bag.
The options are numerous when it comes to repurposing. If you aren’t sure what to do, a quick online search can lead to countless ideas and likely provide you with a direction to take.
The key here is changing your mindset. When you make a purchase, buy to last. Realize convenience doesn’t need to mean single- or one-use only. Look for reusable instead of disposable. Figure out how to repurpose an item before ever considering throwing it away. Opting this viewpoint will save you money, minimize waste and help the environment.