Monday, May 20, 2013

Repurposing: Solutions to My Everyday Life

Popcorn bowl!
I think it's time I take a break from criticizing and address another bullet point from my introduction post: projects. Specifically, I want to share what I call "repurposing" and what that is to me.

Ever since I living on my own, I have discovered a fondness for repurposing items around my house. Not only does it save me money, but it also saves on the trash I produce and facilitates craft projects. Since I'm getting the dreaded "red scribble" underneath the word repurposing, I should explain what it means:
Repurposing-- The act of someone taking would-be-trash and turning it into useful or creative items. (source: me)
I told this once to my partner once and his response was, "Ah, so recycling?" But to me, recycling is putting would-be-trash into a container in hopes that it will be recycled properly. I will be honest: I don't know what happens when I put out my recycling. Where does it go? What does it become? I still do recycle when I have no room to store what could be repurposed (eg: milk jugs, juice jogs, boxes, etc), but first I try to find ways to use the material myself.

So in short: repurposing is what I do with my own hands and supplies to turn would-be-trash into useful items. This allows me to feel an immediate satisfaction that I reduced waste as well as giving me a creative outlet. Even if I make something rather boring like a shelf, I am still using my hands and problem-solving that I would otherwise not get. Not to mention it saves me money.

It began by my apartment needing shelves when I lived in Philadelphia. I was dirt broke, but I had a bunch of boxes from moving and no were to put them in a studio apartment. Solution? Turned them on their sides, stacked, and duct-taped together so I could put books and other supplies in there. I had roughly 4 shelves in that apartment. Here in Omaha, my art supplies are organized with two boxes I moved in with. I also have boxes in the closet that house miscellaneous electronics and bags. I also have juice bottles with their tops cut off in the drawers for compartment storage.

Another frequent repurpose item are old juice bottles for home-brewed ice tea. Not only is this less expensive than buying pre-brewed tea at grocery stores, but it is also less wasteful. I can brew tea at home and to my specifications. With all the containers my partner and I store up, I tend to have a stock of three to four different types of teas in the refrigerator. And the only cost to me is the tea bags, sugar, and time.

It goes further than just drink containers too. Like pictured above, I have made milk and juice jugs into containers for food. My partner and I love our popcorn, but didn't have a large bowl for it. Solution? I cut open a sizable hole in a milk jug and now we have a place for popcorn--equipped with a handy handle! I also duct-taped and painted two juice jugs together for sunflower seeds: one side for the seeds, the other side for the discarded shells. My partner uses it regularly as that is his snack of choice.

Probably my favorite project yet was turning our stock pile of milk jugs into planters for a garden; (my partner and I drink copious amounts of milk. If grocery shopping wasn't so expensive, my partner would drink a gallon a day alone.) Perhaps my favorite because it took the most creativity and time to complete, with an exceeding amount of satisfaction at the end. This was very spiritual for me as well, as this was the first Beltane I tried to grow anything. I always wanted but space and time were always against me. This year, though, I had everything I needed.

Here is the final result taken on the night I planted the seeds into the containers:

From an angle.
Unfortunately since I live in an apartment, I don't have actual ground to dig into. And while I had fun painting each planter a different way, it didn't look as pleasant as if I had used an universal cover or pattern. But even with the discord visual of the nine planters on my patio, I am pleased with how they turned out.

Since this is my first time gardening, I would be happy if one planter sprouted, but it turns out I have a few green sprouts already! Here's a panoramic shot of my planter garden taken a week later:

Panoramic shot of my planters a week later.
From the picture, you can see three green sprouts but there were actually two more in the red one near the middle and the green one on the far right side. I am so excited to have created life using repurposed milk jugs, my own creativity, and Earth's soil and water. I definitely plan on making this a continuous Beltane tradition.

Speaking of repurposing for pagan reasons, I recently used an old glass jar to make a witch-jar for myself. I am also trying to sort out how to use the toilet paper rolls to separate candles and incense. I also have a project in mind for a piece of Styrofoam that I will most likely dedicate a future article to explaining its purpose and inspiration. There are probably also plenty of other uses for things in terms of magic and ritual work that I am missing. For example, a blogger I follow pointed out how to reuse broken or used light bulbs for magic.

Anyway, in short? Repurposing helps with saving money, reducing landfills, and fixing everyday problems as well as inspiring creativity for myself. I have a storage space now specifically for items I think I can later use. I am unfortunately (fortunately?) possessing more supplies than ideas. Cereal boxes, milk jugs, etc etc all pile up quicker than I can find ways to use them. Luckily, my apartment does have a recycling program and I utilize that when I run out of room. Still? I rather repurpose.

So reader, my question this week to you is: what ways can bottles, boxes, etc. be repurposed?

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