Body+Soul readers share ideas for ditching waste, buying less, saving water, and making the most of everything.
Set an Example
In our family, we're well aware that every piece of paper has two sides and must be used wisely. Only after it's been pulled from the scrap paper pile and used again do we recycle it. Some of my friends think these things don't make much of a difference, but they do. Our kids are watching, and they pass on what they learn. Last year, I got a wonderful call from my son's teacher after his first day of school; she wanted to thank me for teaching him about recycling. It seemed that Zach wanted to know where the scrap paper pile was in the classroom. Zach's "activism" has caught on. The teachers have now adopted a system similar to what we use at home.
--Renee Vaughan, Allen Park, Michigan
Wear It Out
I recently purchased two new (to me, anyway) pieces of furniture. Both came from a store whose owners take old and used furniture and rehab it for resale. I'm also a sucker for thrift, consignment, and (especially) vintage stores. Not too long ago I found a fabulous little black dress from the 1960s that I've worn to three weddings.
--Amy Malcom, Denver, Colorado
I just returned from a life-changing, three-and-a-half-month cross-country camping trip. My boyfriend and I reused all the jars and cans from the food we bought along the way. Glass jars became our teacups, wildflower vases, storage for bulk items, and wine glasses (on the few times we splurged). Empty tin cans made great holders for silverware, candles, and pencils. We're now looking forward to using our container collection in our new place, where it will also hold our memories. Who needs fancy crystal or china? To me the wine tastes better when served with warm memories in a jelly jar from Hot Springs, Arkansas.
--Jessica Tracey, Mattapoisett, Massachusetts
I'm the owner-moderator of the local Freecycle Network, which connects people who have things they no longer want with people who would be glad to have those things. I sometimes Dumpster dive in my own trash cans to salvage things my husband or son have thrown away that can be reused, recycled, or given away. My teenage son calls me "Earth Mother" and my husband shakes his head and jokes, "I don't know what I'm allowed to throw away anymore!" We also try to live simply and not overbuy to begin with. It's all just "stuff" in the end.
--Tracy Owens, Springfield, Illinois
Just Add Water
We run a dehumidifier in our basement to control the moisture. When the bin fills up, I pour the collected water into my washing machine to reduce the amount it requires in a cycle. The excess water can also be used for watering plants. It's a precious resource, and it would be a waste to just pour it down the drain.
--Aljene Wendling, Seattle, Washington
Cut and Paste
Since art and eco-conscious living are both important to me, I make efforts to combine these two passions. This includes using my copy of Body+Soul (after I've read it, of course) to create greeting cards. The magazine is filled with fabulous artwork and pictures, and I'm never disappointed when I scour it for new ideas. My friends and family always appreciate the cards, and I never tire of creating them. Thanks for the inspiration!
--Heidi Stoltzfus, Lancaster, Pennsylvania