It makes no sense to buy something you're just going to throw in the trash, especially if you already have that something just sitting around. Pre-cycling is even better for our environment and bank accounts than re-cycling!
Paper is a great example. Think about all the flyers that we get through the mail, in our kids' school announcements, etc., and all the excess things we print out. I don't toss papers that have writing on one side only. I place them, blank side up, in a small box near my printer.
- I use them to print drafts of things I'm writing where the quality of the paper doesn't matter. (An X on the back side makes it easier to see which side matters now).
- I can cut them in half lengthwise to make grocery lists or other to-do lists.
- I can fold them in half, blank side out, and staple several together. These make small 5.5-by-8 inch "books" that my kids can draw in. I like to take a few of these to church and other places where the boys have to play quietly.
- In fact, I've made "books" in the method above with puzzles and activities on each page, sending these as birthday greetings to my nieces. This cheaper and more personal than a greeting card.
Another example is plastic bags. It seems that EVERYTHING comes in plastic bags nowadays -- so why do we toss them and buy more? Frozen veggies, coffee filters, even my newspaper comes in bags. I don't use newspaper bags for food, I admit (those are good for dog messes), but I save most other small plastic bags for food storage.
Large bags can find second lives, too. A few years ago I inherited a bunch of clothes from my mom, and they all came in those filmy dry-cleaner bags. I couldn't stand to toss so much plastic, so I folded over the neck end a few times and stapled . . . they then became my large kitchen trash bags. They're not as sturdy as regular trash bags, but come on! We're just throwing that stuff in the garbage, not carrying it on a 25-mile march.
One last reminder. My home is not overflowing with piles of paper and plastic. I have two one-inch stacks of pre-cycled paper, and a kitchen drawer with plastic bags. I keep as much as I think I'll need, and then recycle the rest. Space is another treasure, and I try not to waste that, either.