If you want to live frugally while being green, you have to make the most of what comes into your household – Which means making the most of what goes out, too. Of course, we are all aware of the importance of recycling, and some of us even have curbside recycling programs to make it easier to do. And that’s all well and good for the planet – but ultimately, charity starts at home. So, before consigning your trash to be recycled for society’s benefit, you need to ask- can I make use of this for myself? Because the more uses you can put your stuff to, the less stuff you’ll be buying in the first place. A bit of clever trash management can go a long way to making you able to get by with a lot less.
The best place to start is to chuck the idea of the trash-can as a useful and convenient black hole – down which all your garbage magically disappears. You can’t make the most of your trash if you still throw it all in a jumbled and unsorted mess. Instead, you’ll need to replace that bin with a number of different boxes, tubs and bags – reuse receptacles if you will. Think of them as part of a production line, to provide you with new materials that can be reused around the house. Then take away all the garbage-cans you normally use, and leaving just the main one outside.
By placing an inconvenient trip outside, just to throw away your garbage, you will have a new motivation to make use of your new ‘reuse receptacles’ (which you keep indoors of course). But what things should you be aiming to re-use from your daily refuse? Well, a first division is threefold. Between those things that are organic and messy- and can be composted; those that are basic materials – and can be easily put to new uses; and those that are complicated, which might be worth storing, to broken up later when you find a possible use for them, or their components.
Food scraps, garden refuse, bits and pieces of cardboard and newspaper – all make fine fodder for the compost bin or heap. Just keep a small, well-sealed container in the kitchen to hold all your scraps, and empty every day or so onto your garden compost heap. As long as you layer it up nicely with grass clippings and cardboard, you’ll end up, within a couple of months, with plenty of compost-for-free, to enrich your garden.
Cardboard can be re-used for all sorts of craft and artistic endeavors. But there are plenty of other uses too. Old shoe boxes make great storage systems, for everything from filing papers, to storing haberdashery materials, or children’s toys. Bigger boxes can become the toy itself, of course, for kids with a little imagination. And cardboard inner tubes are excellent for storing such unruly stuff as plastic grocery bags, and pantyhose.
Plastic yogurt tubs, and other food containers, can be made use of in the garden – here they make ideal pots for starting off all manner of plants. And clear plastic drinks bottles have their use in the garden too. Just cut these in half with a pair of scissors, and they make excellent cloches, for protecting tender plants from frosts, and slugs. Don’t throw plastic lidded food containers either – washed and dried, they can be reused to store leftovers in the freezer.
When it comes to old electrical and mechanical goods, think carefully before you consign them to be disposed of. Although they will often be broken or worn out, it is likely that some components will still be working, and can be reused. For example, many computer DVD drives can be removed, and put in another machine – as can their hard-drives. Washing machine drums can be used for everything from compost tumblers to plant pots to chandeliers. As with most things related to living as frugally as possible, you are only limited by your creativity and imagination – no need for frugal life to be dull.