Repurpose a beer bottle.

The Earth is drowning in waste, and if we’re going to survive, we have to learn how to recycle, reuse and repurpose instead of throwing things away. It’s a skill our grandparents and great-grandparents had–my grandfather could make anything out of anything–of that I am convinced. Here are four must-know commandments that will teach us (and our kids) how to recycle and repurpose as well.

Our elders saved newspapers for the garden, baby food jars to store nails and screws in, used broken dresser drawers as toy storage, and more. They weren’t obsessed with jettisoning materials and goods as soon as they’d outlived their intended purpose. Past generationssaw the possible secondary value in these goods. Purchased goods were expensive, sometimes scarce, and our elders tried to squeeze as much value out of them as possible.

As we transition into a world where sustainability is understood and valued, we need to re-teach ourselves to see the secondary (and even tertiary) potential of goods. Instead of being quick to throw things away, or even to put them in the recycling bin (recycling uses lots of energy) we must learn how to recycle and repurpose them ourselves.

Repurposed wagon planter.

The 4 Commandments of How To Recycle or Repurpose Anything

1. Don’t throw stuff away!

If you are lucky enough to have a garage and/or basement, utilize it and save stuff like jars, cardboard tubes, egg cartons, pallets, old sweaters, broken down furniture and the like for future use. If you’re living in a smaller space, you might have to be more selective, but still save what you can.

2. Be creative

To learn how to recycle and repurpose stuff, you must unleash the creative part of your mind. Stop thinking in terms of store-bought goods, but instead look for ways to solve problems with stuff you already have on hand. Practice will make perfect…I think that’s why my grandfather could repurpose anything–he had lots of practice.

3. Be resilient and independent

When you stop looking to the marketplace to fulfill all of your needs, you will find yourself looking for more and more opportunities to do-it-yourself. Yes, you’ll have to be flexible, patient, and possibly even lower your expectations, but in the end it will save you money, and clean up the planet.

4. Develop your DIY skills

Some repurposing is pretty low-skill, while other ideas you may have will require a little more handiness. Ask those with DIY or repair skills to teach you what they know. As for tips about books and websites from which you can learn how to recycle on your own. Don’t be afraid to become handier–it’s a skill that will never do you wrong.

Some easy repurposing ideas for inspiration:

  • Turn old sweaters into scarves.
  • Spray paint bottles and jars to make bud vases.
  • Use egg cartons and seedling planters.
  • Save coffee grounds for the compost pile.
  • Make cloth napkins from old clothing.
  • Use wine corks to make a “cork” board.
  • Use glass jars to declutter your home.
  • Use old shoe boxes to store photos and mementos in.
  • Turn broken jewelry into magnets.
  • Use old yoga mats as drawer liners.
  • Used chipped cups and saucers as jewelry storage.
  • Turn used beer bottles into glasses.

What’s the best thing you’ve ever recycled or repurposed? Tell us in the comments!

Related on Organic Authority:

13 Creative Uses for Repurposing Paint Cans

6 DIY Storage Ideas for Small Spaces

13 Super Crafty DIY Home Repurposing Projects

Images: Bommarito GlassworksWickerfurniture