A re-purpose-driven lifestyle

One of my favorite ways of explaining the validity of recycling is through a discussion about surviving efficiently. None of us would be here today if the cavemen and our grandparents were not adept at efficient survival. You've heard or watched explanations about how early man utilized every part of what they harvested from nature, be it an animal or a plant. They were highly efficient at survival, though they had very little in comparison to us in the 21st century. Then, how many of you remember how "frugal" your grandparents and great-grandparents were? They reused everything! They reused canning jars, tin cans and bread bag ties. They turned their scraps of fabric into warm quilts. They composted their organic waste to their garden. Very very little went to "waste." And here we are in a slowly recovering economy, many of us doing our level best to survive more efficiently at home and in our businesses. Let's talk about that familiar phrase: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – or, as I like to say, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Relax.


As individual consumers and businesses, how we reduce is pretty straightforward. We can buy less via:

– better planning and tracking

– reducing our lust for stuff

– by making purchasing choices that consciously address less packaging

At work, we can share newspapers and magazines, utilize apps and programs that aid us in going paperless, choose durable goods (i.e., ceramic mugs over disposable cups) and using both sides of the copy paper.


Most of us do reuse every day without thinking. It's kind of our nature to reuse; though some of us more than others, admittedly.

Reuse is fun. At RecycleChicken.com, you can find locations to recycle anything and everything, and in particular those items not appropriate for your curbside or drop-off recycling efforts.

You'll find many location listings for individuals or businesses that are taking something back they are reusing to save money or repurposing to make money. Many common items can be repurposed in fun and useful ways.

– Imagine repurposing an old stiff-sided leather suitcase into a medicine cabinet. This is a great way to add character and charm to a room!

– Try saving and rinsing milk jugs and assembling them into a reading igloo. This is great for elementary teachers or for setting aside a special reading spot at home.

– Have you ever wondered what to do with an old box of photos? Maybe they're not suitable for albums and framing; they can be hand or die-cut into beautiful vintage gift tags.

– One of my favorite repurpose ideas is to convert a vintage hardcover book into a case for your e-reader. Empty out the pages, felt the inside and install Velcro or elastic strapping to secure the reader.

– Pallets are some of the most versatile items to repurpose. They can be made into any variety of furniture items from coffee tables, to couches, to beds.

– Have an old wooden water ski that has lived its useful life on the water? Add a few coat hooks and you have a nice rack for the cottage.

– An ongoing problem is old tires. Try stacking them for an interesting indoor/outdoor side table. They also make lovely rustic planters for flowers.

Repurposing ideas are endless. There are examples on the RecycleChicken.com blog, on Pinterest.com or shop repurposed items on Etsy.com. Many local artisans have Etsy shops.


We often think of recycling as the first option, but it's what we do after reducing and reusing. Please recycle that which you cannot reduce or reuse and check with your waste hauler for available recycling options.

American Waste's recycling programs offer recycling of aseptic packaging (cartons and soy milk-type boxes) and recycling of ALL plastics, even those without a recycling symbol. This is a huge change from the recycling program of 15 and 20 years ago when the preparation and separation of materials was very detailed.

Kelly Ignace is the keeper of RecycleChicken.com, as well as the Director of Marketing & PR for American Waste.