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Creative Recycling

By Jenn Bronson

Spring is the time when it feels good to open up the windows to let in the clean, fresh air. A time when we clean out closets, garages, and refrigerators, dust the winter residue from bookshelves and hidden corners. This is the time of year many of us want to freshen up our homes and gardens and it is also the perfect time to think about creative recycling.

While you're throwing out that half used can of moldy tomato paste or that not-so-great bottle of wine, with only one glass missing from it, still in the fridge because you swore you would cook with it—think about the garden. Happen to have a little left in a couple gallons of paint that you didn't bring to the dump yet? Keep it for crafts. And don't throw those old t-shirts, jeans, and sweatshirts into a bag for donation just yet; there are ways to reuse them to help you clean the house! Recycling doesn't have to mean just filling your bin for pick-up—you can do a lot of recycling right at home.

One of my favorite creative recycling crafts is to turn aluminum food cans into flowers for the garden. This is a simple project that requires a good assortment of different sized cans, tin snips, and any leftover paint you may have around. First, carefully cut the cans, from the open end, into various shapes and try stacking a few to create the look you want. Next, paint each one with your leftover paint and then screw or nail them onto a sturdy stick or bamboo stakes and place throughout the garden. These are wonderful for year-round color and they age beautifully with spots or streaks of rust peaking through. And because cans tend to have different colored metals, sometimes you don't even have to paint them!

Another garden project uses wine bottles or any other glass bottle you have around. This time of year, many of us enjoy being outside in the cool night breeze or under the patio fans, enjoying dinner with friends and family. But keeping candles lit on the table can be an issue. An easy way to fix that problem is by taking assorted colors and sizes of glass bottles and cutting the bottoms off! Once the bottoms have been removed, sand the cut edge. You can melt down nubs of leftover candles and coat the cut edge for safety. Then just set them over a candle on the table and you have an instant centerpiece that is both decorative and functional.

Finally, one of the best ways to recycle at home is to cut old clothes into rags to clean with instead of using paper towels. This not only reuses materials you already have, but also saves you money, helps preserve trees, and puts a dent in the landfills. If you happen to have old clothes with pretty colors and patterns, consider cutting and sewing them into cloth napkins for everyday use. Yet another way to recycle at home and help the environment!

And remember, for all those hard to reuse items there are drop spots. Goodwill will come pick up furniture and the dump will charge a small fee to recycle paints and other toxic chemicals (http://www.talgov.com/you/solid/hazwaste.cfm). Check out this webpage and enter you location to find where you can drop all your electronic recyclables: http://ecyclingcenter.com/.

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