Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Ok, so you separate your bottles, cans, tins and paper from the rest of your rubbish and send them to be recycled. That's great. But there are so many more ways in which we can recycle! If you can take something which was just going to be thrown away and put it to practical use, you're not only helping reduce landfills — you're probably also saving yourself money by reusing rather than purchasing something, and you're consuming less of the earth's resources than you might have been. Please try some of the ideas here; many are aimed at my fellow Pagans and their needs but there are plenty of ideas which everyone will find useful.

Aluminum Foil

Save small pieces to use for cleaning silver.

Save little scraps for kids to make Barbie doll jewelry from.

Aluminum foil pie plates can be re-used for mixing paint or glue.


Please don't throw them away! Unwanted books can be donated to local libraries, schools or old folks' homes, book exchanges, passed on to friends, given to charity shops. If they have no cover left and are truly tatty, put in the paper recycling bin.

Bottles and Jars

Bottles and Jars can be used to store herbs, natural cosmetics and remedies, essential oil blends, magickal oils, powder incense, beads, buttons, home-made wine or mead, yarn, string, gemstone chips, charm bags. Wine bottles can be used as candlesticks and they look amazing when they have wax all dripped down their necks. Dark medicine or vitamin bottles are good for oil blends or cosmetics. Don't overlook liqueur bottles (they're often dark-colored and have lovely, unusual shapes), or those tiny 'sample' liquor bottles.

To clean bottles and jars with small necks, half-fill with soapy water, add a few spoonfuls of uncooked rice and shake thoroughly.

To make sure any traces of soap are removed, use vinegar or a few drops of ammonia in the final rinse water, or add a few lemon skins to the rinse.

To remove odors from bottles and jars, fill with hot water and add a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and leave for two hours. Or fill with warm water, a tablespoon of tea leaves and a tablespoon of vinegar, shake, stand three hours, then rinse.

Sticky marks from labels can be removed by rubbing eucalyptus oil on, leaving a little while, then peel or rub off.


You can use small boxes to separate items in cupboards, etc.

Large strong boxes can be stacked, covered with a swathe of fabric and used as a display table, coffee table or altar.

If you move house a lot, keep the boxes for your more expensive appliances (TV, VCR, stereo components) and the polystyrene inserts, and re-use whenever you move. They can be stacked on top of a wardrobe for storage, or stacked, covered with a sweep of fabric and used as coffee table or display table. Keeping them saves a lot of trouble and possible scratches/breakages when moving.

I currently have a dressing table and my altar made from cardboard appliance boxes covered with sarongs. They're plenty strong enough (one is the TV box) and look a lot better than any pieces of furniture I could afford to buy.

Bread, Stale

Stale bread can be cut into cubes and frozen for stuffing or croutons

You can freshen stale bread by dipping into water, wrapping in foil and heating in the oven.

Make bread-and-butter pudding!

Put out for the birds.

Broom Handles

Or mop handles, duster handles, etc — use them as plant stakes in your garden.

CD-Rom Disks

If you're one of those people who gets AOL or other free software disks through the mail try backing them with felt and using as drink coasters.

Cover with little stickers and glitter and hang as sparkly mobiles for young children.

Hang them in fruit trees to keep the birds away (and make your neighbors think you're mad!)

Candle Scraps

Save for remelting into new candles; candle making instructions can be found here. There is another detailed candle making page here. Toilet rolls, milk cartons, etc, can be used as molds, and powdered herbs and essential oils added to make ritual candles.

Cards and Wrapping Paper

We all have lovely greeting or birthday cards, or pretty pagan-themed wrapping paper, that we don't want to throw out. Make them into bookmarks instead; cut to size desired, put a single drop of a favorite essential oil in an unnoticed spot on the paper and seal in a bag overnight to let the scent permeate the bookmark. If you don't want to run the risk of the bookmark being stained by the oil, simply seal overnight in a plastic bag with a piece of cotton wool to which you've added a drop of essential oil. You can make several of these for your favorite places in magickal texts. If desired, add a ribbon tail and a bead on the end.

Chocolate Boxes

The plastic trays that come in fancy chocolate boxes are perfect for storing and displaying gemstones and crystals; they're the right size for small and medium stones, and generally come in several different shapes to fit in different kinds of rocks. You can also keep the trays in the chocolate boxes and decorate the boxes' exteriors, which also allows easy stacking for compact storage.

Clothes, Unwanted

If they're in good condition and fashionable, try selling them to second-hand shops or at a garage sale.

Give them to charity shops or organizations, give to friends or relatives, use as dusters and washing rags, use in patchwork quilts, put in animal beds.

The legs of old jeans can be cut off and sewn up to make good sturdy bags for carrying your tent poles, ski poles, etc.

I've also seen backpacks and tote bags made to look like the tops of jeans (pockets, zips and all) sold in places like Sportsgirl. If you can sew, it might be an interesting idea to try.

Puppies like to play with the legs of jeans.

Cut or tear fabrics into even strips and use for making braided rag rugs.

Coffee Grounds

Mix in with potting mix.

Drink Mix Containers

Stack them in the garage or shed and use to store different sizes of nails, bolts, etc.

Fabric Scraps

Use to make magickal charm bags, herb sachets; can also be used for patchwork quilts, or in animal beds.

Tear into rags and use instead of paper towel to clean stuff up.

Flat Beer

Pour a glassful of cold flat beer (must be cold). Roll up a little piece of newspaper until about the size of a cigarette and stir the beer for a second or two — hey presto, a thick frothy head on the beer!

Flat beer also makes a good shampoo addition, it gives the hair body.

Film Canisters

Use them to store fiddly things like paperclips, beads, etc.

Decorate (or leave plain) and use as toothpick holders.

Fruit Cake

Stale fruit cake can be cut into slices, moistened with sherry, heated in the microwave or oven and served as dessert with cream.

Make rum balls with stale fruit cake crumbs.

Gift Wrapping Paper

Remove tags and tape, keep folded in a box, or rolled up in a mailing tube, and re-use for other gifts.

Use to cover shoe boxes, tins, etc, to make them attractive storage items.

If you celebrate Christmas, use Christmas wrap that's too wrinkled or torn for re-wrapping by making paper chains from it to decorate the tree or home. A nice holiday project for kids, and the colored paper looks fantastic.

Jewelry, Broken

Lone stud earrings can be given to someone with lots of piercings, or someone who likes wearing odd earrings. Use to make charm bags if they have meaningful shapes (heart, money bag, etc)

If the jewelry involves beads, hooks or other useful fittings, save them for making other jewelry or donate to someone who does make jewelry (or a local craft school or charity organization)

Mailing Tubes

These can be used to store posters or wrapping paper waiting to be re-used.

Covered with paper or fabric, they make a nice storage tube for knitting needles. Shorter ones may be used as pencil cases.

Mesh Bags (orange bags, onion bags, etc)

Fold it into a little square, fasten together with a few stitches, and hey presto, a dish scourer!

Milk Cartons

Use as temporary plant pots.

Use as candle or soap molds.


Save that last little bit of paint and use for decorating the boxes, tins, etc that you've been reusing. Or paint a mirror frame, picture frame, door handle, chair or something else that could do with a fresh coat of paint — or paint something that needs paint but doesn't need color-matching, like the inside of the shed door.

Pantyhose, Laddered or Holey

Use them to wash windows or dishes; the texture helps to scrub away dirt without being too abrasive.

Use to stuff drain stoppers, cushions, homemade stuffed toys, or pet beds.


If paper is used on one side only, use the other side! Can be used for message pads, children's scrap paper, sketching, shopping lists, etc.

When both sides are used, put in the recycling bin or make into homemade paper for gift wrapping, envelopes, notepaper, etc; there are easy instructions for paper making here, and more instructions here.

Make a message pad from used envelopes; clip them all together with a heavy bulldog clip and leave by the phone.

Paper Bags

Plain lunch-sack-type bags can be used as gift bags — decorate and make a string or ribbon handle.

Use to dry herbs. Herbs get placed in paper bags, which are stored on a wardrobe shelf. Shake the bags every day to circulate air amongst them, and they dry very quickly.

Plastic Berry Punnets

These make really pretty little gift baskets for fetes, etc, if you decorate them with a bit of ribbon or something. Can be used to hold lollies, biscuits (cookies) or other little knick-knacks.

Use as seed trays or tiny planters.

Plastic Containers

Wash and use to store beads, buttons, foodstuffs, soap or candle wax scraps for later re-use. They can be used for storing virtually anything. Here are examples of a few of the plastic containers I've re-used:

Oblong cake tray — perfect size for storing my crochet hooks, cable needles and scissors

Tall square clear box, used to hold stock cubes — now contains seed beads

Small white tray that once held bocconcini — with a few drainage holes, is now a very nice soap dish

Plastic dip container — right size for holding small quantities of leftovers

Tall dome that came as a cake protector — now used to protect food from air and flies at barbecues

You can make a great packed lunch using various containers to keep everything separate, right down to using a little film canister to store salt/seasoning/dressing, a dip container for salad, etc, pack it all into a lunchbox or rectangular ice-cream box.

Most labels will come off easily; if they won't, try soaking in water for several hours.

Plastic Lids

Lids from Pringles tubes or similar containers can be lined with felt and used as coasters.

Polystyrene Boxes

Use as planters for herbs; they're lightweight and large.

Break up and use as packaging material.

Polystyrene Trays

Avoid them if you can — but if you do end up with them:

Wash, save and use as paper plates at picnics or barbecues.

Use to mix paint or glue on, or as kids' paint palettes.

Wash, dry, break into pieces and use as packaging material.

Soap Scraps

Save in plastic containers and remelt later; there are recipes for washing balls on my Apothecary page.

Make liquid soap for hand washing; add a cupful of boiling water to every half-cup of scraps. Add the juice of a lemon and a teaspoon of glycerin for every cupful of boiling water. Leave to melt for 24 hours, mix well, and put in an old hand-soap pump pack. Keeps hands clean and soft.

Shoe Boxes

Decorate with paint, fabric or paper and use as candle storage boxes — they're the perfect size.

Squeeze-Top Bottles

Wash thoroughly, fill with water and use to water plants.

Fill with water and keep in the car to fill windscreen wipers with.

Use to store and dispense homemade hand soap; see 'Soap Scraps' above.

Storing Magickal Herbs, Oils and Ointments

Rather than buying new jars for these, check what you have lying about the house. Currently I have in use bottles and jars that used to contain coffee, vitamins, medicine, curacao, liqueur port, lip balm, food coloring, vanilla essence and bath salts. The best jars for oil blends are the dark glass ones you buy medicine and vitamins in, since they generally have secure screw tops and will protect the oils from being destroyed by the light.

For a really pretty effect, though, try using the little bottles you buy vanilla essence or food coloring in. These can be painted with the clear window and glass paints you can find in craft stores to darken the glass somewhat against the light, and the color can be matched to the oil's purpose (green for a money oil, red for a love oil, etc). Moccona coffee jars are my favorites for storing herbs in, because of their nice easy-sealing lids and attractive shape, and I beg empty ones from family and friends. Try to avoid using jars with metal lids as they can become rusty.

String and Yarn Scraps

Use as cat toys, or to tie up bundles of herbs for drying, to secure decorations and ornaments; if scraps of yarn are large enough, make granny-square rugs (I have an ongoing one which includes small scraps of lovely luxury yarns.)

Tarot Cards

Clean Tarot cards which have become grubby through long use with talcum powder or breadcrumbs; don't use an eraser as they can become difficult to handle.

Old or unwanted Tarot cards can be framed; they look particularly handsome on a velvet backing and can be used for meditation or just decoration.

Tea Leaves, Used

Put old tea leaves in a bucket, fill with water and strain. Use the liquid to wash windows and mirrors.

Tea leaves can be sprinkled around the base of plants, or worked lightly into the soil, as fertilizer.

Mix cold used tea leaves with potting mix and use to sprout seeds.

Water and mulch ferns with left-over tea and tea leaves.

Used tea bags can be used to refresh eyes; close the eyes and place a lukewarm or cold teabag, just damp, over the eyes for 5-10 minutes.

Sprinkle damp tea leaves over outdoor paths and porches before sweeping, to help stop dust rising.

Tin Cans

Wash well, de-label, file or cover sharp edges, fill halfway up with damp sand and use as candlesticks.

Can also be covered with paper or fabric, lined with felt, and used as desktop storage for pencils, pens, rubber bands, paperclips, etc.

Many recycling centers will accept cans.


Add three cups of ordinary white vinegar to a medium bucket of warm water; this will clean glass tiles, washing machine surfaces, floors, enamel surfaces and windows.

Wipe the inside of your refrigerator with vinegar to stop mold

Clean sinks and baths with vinegar mixed with cooking salt

Clean kettles, coffee and tea post by filling with hot water and ΒΌ cup vinegar. Stand for several hours then brush out or rinse well with water.

To clean your washing machine, add two cups white vinegar to a normal warm cycle with no clothes in machine.

Wheelbarrows, Broken

Yep, wheelbarrows. A broken or rusted-out one can be used as a really nice planter. There's a house near me that has a little wheelbarrow filled with flowers in front of their house, and it looks gorgeous and very 'folky'.

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