by Janelle Rolke @sustainablestepswithjanelle

This is the fourth chapter from "Lead a Circular Lifestyle By Practicing the R's of Sustainability"

Reuse (Repurpose & Upcycle!)

Instead of chucking it all into the trash or recycling, try using things more than once to extend the item's life. Reuse a jar as a flower vase, turn old socks into sock puppets, transform a wood pallet into a vertical wall planter, frame an old carpet or blanket and hang as wall décor, or make a tablecloth into curtains.   Transition from single use items to reusable options to reduce waste and save money!

Typically, you will find “repurpose” and “reuse” as separate categories when referring to the R’s of sustainability. In so many ways they are similar so I’ve grouped them together for this post.

Repurposing something is avoiding the landfill by giving something a new use. Reusing is using something again (sometimes in a different capacity). Upcycle is also a common phrase you will find when practicing sustainability.  If you are upcycling something, you are reusing it in a way that adds a higher quality or value from what the item was originally.

It’s amazing what can be done with used jars and containers (salsa, sauce, peanut butter, etc.) I’ve started to save glass jars and am using them for various things. (Scroll down to learn how to remove labels from jars!)

Pinterest is a great site to find creative ways to change the purpose of something.  Looking for  moreinspiration? Check out 50 Ways to Reuse Your Garbage and here are ways to find new uses for old windows, doors, and chairs.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to reuse, repurpose, or upcycle items:

  • Bath toys- My 4 year old son requests to play with empty plastic containers during bathtime. Children love pouring water and bubbles out, experimenting with water fountain towers, and an absolute favorite is squirting water (plastic ketchup bottles work great for this!)
  • Freeze leftovers- I’m a big fan of cozy meals so saving leftover soups and stews for future meals always comes in handy. By storing leftovers in glass jars, I can easily thaw and reheat a single portion and eat it from the jar (i’ll do anything to have less dishes to clean!)
  • Make big batches of Alton Brown's Granola or other homemade treats and gift them in glass jars. If you have a large list of family and friends who you usually gift to on holidays and birthdays, start saving your jars now and avoid having to purchase them down the line!
  • Bathroom décor to hold bamboo cotton swabs
  • Storage tins and ceramics turned into planters

  • Wooden wire spool turned into outdoor patio table

  • Coffee tin turned into a time capsule. This is something we’ve done for years. I look forward to opening our time capsule with my family every January to reminisce about our previous year!

  • Cardboard egg cartons as planters to start seedlings (regardless of whether you will reuse these or not, avoid purchasing plastic egg cartons!)


Follow these easy steps to remove labels from jars and containers (soap and water does not work, so just skip the attempt!):

  • Remove label (as best as you can!)
  • Mix together 1 tablespoon of cooking oil (I use olive oil) and 1 tablespoon of baking soda
  • Spread mix on sticky jar
  • Let sit for at least 2 hours; I like to let them sit overnight. make sure you put something underneath them (cookie sheet or cutting boards works great) so nothing drips on your counter.
  • Wash off; I like to use a scrub brush and finish with a warm water rinse and wipe with a cloth dish towel.

Reusable Alternatives:

Look around your home and see how you can adjust some of your habits with the intention of living more sustainably. Instead of regularly purchasing single use items, consider reusable alternatives. Here are just a few suggestions:



  • Replace grocery bags with reusable bags (store them in your car so they are always with you!)
  • Replace plastic produce bags with reusable produce bags
  • Replace single use face masks with cloth masks that are easily washed and hung to dry



  • Replace disposable diapers with cloth diapers (if you’re considering this, please message me, I love sharing my experience with cloth diapering!)
  • Replace disposable wipes with homemade cloth wipes

Reuse Summary

We find ourselves throwing away or recycling an incredible amount of things daily.  Think outside the box and find new ways to use items. Seek items that are meant to be used again and again and phase our single use items.

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