Sustainable obtainables: The fourth “R”

Sustainable obtainables: The fourth “R”

A vertical garden made from a wooden pallet. Source: Design*Sponge
]1 A vertical garden made from a wooden pallet. Source: Design*Sponge
We all know about the three “Rs” of sustainability—reduce, reuse, recycle. They’ve been in songs, on posters, and drilled into our heads as the mantra of sustainable purchasing. But now there’s a new R in town. That’s right – we’re adding “repurpose” to our sustainability lexicon. Repurposing can have a huge impact in how we think about our stuff, especially when we have something that’s reached the end of its usefulness in our lives.

A few months ago I moved into the basement room of my house, and didn’t want to buy new furniture. I was scrounging around for a bookshelf but couldn’t find what I was looking for. Then I stumbled upon an abandoned step ladder full of spider friends and cobwebs and old paint lying in the corner of the laundry room. I cleaned it up with some disinfectant (my own recipe with tea-tree oil) and voila! It became my new bookshelf. It goes with the exposed-framework decor, too.

This got me thinking about what else I could repurpose in my life. Like most people in the DIY world, I’m addicted to glass jars. There are seriously so many cool things to do with these things. Use them as travel mugs, vases, candle holders, storage—the list goes on. Pallets are another hot topic right now, for sofas, chairs, artwork, coffee tables, or my personal favorite, the vertical garden.

My continuing effort to decrease my exponentially increasing art supply collection (not helped by my addiction to Art Scraps a few blocks away) has recently caused me to rethink why I keep literally every fabric scrap I’ve ever cut. I have all of these little pieces of random fabric lying around in piles that I never do anything with, for no apparent reason. In mentioning them as a part of this week’s “Repurpose” theme, I wanted to be able to write about at least three productive things I did with them this week. Here it goes:

  1. I used some old pink sheets to make curtains for my door, which has a large window in it so now light won’t shine through.

  2. I used a few pieces of oilcloth, too small to be used for anything on their own, to make a lunchbox.

  3. I stitched up a small pillowcase, filled it with basmati rice and sewed it shut—microwavable heating pad! It gets cold with no heat.

OK, I’m feeling a little better about my craft supply addiction now.

If you too are experiencing some sustainability-related stress because you have no reasonable use for your possessions, or are having trouble parting with something that appears obsolete, my major advice here is just to do something with what you have! Make it a priority to experiment, and find new and interesting ways to repurpose old, scrounged, found or used items. Look online, talk to friends, visit Art Scraps (St. Claire & Pascal), and resolve to take a refreshed, new and contemplative look at design inspiration that’s literally all around you!