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10 Recycling Tips from Mother Earth News

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10 Recycling Tips from Mother Earth News

Lately I’ve been mining the Mother Earth News archives for bits of relevant wisdom–which are abundant there. When the magazine got started, in 1970, I was in first grade and recycling was new and cool. (We loved those field trips to the shiny new recycling center.) In the fifth issue, September/October 1970, T.H. Hagemann offers some great recycling and reuse tips–many still relevant today. He describes these as “little ideas that anyone can start using right now to cut day to day living expenses and–over a year’s period–add a number of dollars (a penny saved is a penny earned) to the family kitty.

“Best of all,” Hagemann adds, “these ideas are ecologically sound because each one makes better, extra or extended use of an item from our insane ‘throw-away’ system.” (One has to wonder what Mr. Hagemann would have to say about that today.)

Cut it up and use the back side for notes and shopping lists.

1. Cut up Christmas and other greeting cards and keep the clear, smooth pieces in a holder in the kitchen to be used for shopping lists, notes to the milkman, etc. (OK, so all my “notes” to the milkman now happen online and most of the greeting cards I get are electronic. Hagemann also suggests doing this with junk mail, and I still get plenty of that.)

Use it again and again.

2. Wash and save glass containers from mayonnaise and other products for food storage and keeping fruit juice in the refrigerator. Tall mayonnaise jars will protect sugar, salt, flour and cereals better than their original paper or cardboard containers, and squatty jars are perfect for storing little leftovers in the refrigerator.

Save both the lid and the can for reuse. Photo by David Pursehouse/flickr

3. Use the plastic tops of coffee cans as coasters under glasses and also to keep furniture feet from digging into your rug.

4. Coffee cans with holes punched in their bottoms–and-perhaps decorated with aluminum foil–make adequate temporary flower pots.

Nearly everyone had an avocado plant in the kitchen window in the 1970s.

5. Use the seeds of foods you have eaten–apples, oranges, grapefruit, green pepper and avocado–to grow new plants. (Remember the iconic 70s avocado plant? Hagemann had one that was 5 feet high.)

Next: 5 more tips

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Read more: Green, Reduce, Recycle & Reuse

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Robyn Lawrence

Robyn Griggs Lawrence is editor-in-chief of Organic Spa Magazine, an eco-lifestyle magazine that bridges spa wisdom with green living. Through print, online and phone apps, Organic Spa Magazine offers expert advice and inspiration on sustainable health and wellness, beauty and skin care, fashion and travel. 


+ add your own
7:57PM PST on Dec 25, 2012

I have an avocado seed sprouting in my kitchen right now. :)

2:07PM PDT on Aug 22, 2011

Great tips, thanks!~

7:37PM PDT on Aug 1, 2011

Thanks -
I do already do a lot of your suggestions

9:27AM PDT on Jul 16, 2011

Thank you very much for the interesting article

6:33PM PDT on Jul 12, 2011

I really like the suggestion on how to protect your books.

11:04AM PDT on Jul 12, 2011

My work recycles Christmas cards nationally (in the UK) so I don't have a problem with these. Junk mail, however, is the bane of my life! I really wish it would be made illegal - afterall, how many shopping lists can one person use!

I use spare yoghurt pots to germinate seeds in (never tried an avocado though).

10:53AM PDT on Jul 11, 2011

liked it.

3:06PM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

A local school used to collect the fronts of cards for projects. It was a fantastic idea, but they don't do it anymore.

9:29PM PDT on Jul 7, 2011

Simple tasks for a better planet. Bringing up ideas like these to your neighbors and friends can help make a difference.

12:19PM PDT on Jul 7, 2011

Thanks...more on the greeting/xmas cards. I take the ones we get every yr & cut them down to use as gift tags on next yrs xmas presents. That way i never buy "gift tags" and the cards are reused. I also reuse all my xmas wrapping paper the next yr, even if it means taping a few pieces together to get one big piece

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