Skip to main content Skip to header navigation

10 Fab alternatives to throwing it away

We throw away a lot of stuff! You’ve heard it before, but it’s not cliche: each of us can make a difference in our own little way. These simple don’t-throw-it-away tips can help.

Woman having garage sale

1Swap it

With over 1 million members, provides consumers with a budget-friendly way to swap books, CDs, DVDs and video games. Members list like-new items they have, along with a list of items they want, and matches them up. Swappers pay only the cost of shipping plus a nominal transaction fee of 50 cents or $1. By swapping, instead of buying new, members saved $11.5 million in 2010.

10 Ways to green-up your life and your wallet >>

2Terracycle it

Think about the juice pouches, candy wrappers and other non-recyclable items you throw away. Glenn Croston, author of Starting Green, encourages families to send these hard-to-recycle items to Terracycle, “one of the fastest growing green companies in the world.” Terracycle strives to “eliminate the idea of waste” by converting your trash into products ranging from backpacks to park benches.

Green school supplies >>

3Consign it

Resale and consignment stores are a great place to buy and sell clothing, home décor, furniture, books, music, sporting equipment, shoes, purses and accessories, says Tracy True Dismukes, former president of the National Association of Resale and Thrift Stores. “You make money, the store makes money, the shopper gets a great deal and the landfills are less cluttered. Everybody wins!”

Buying used baby gear: What you need to know >>

4Freecycle it

You may no longer need that hamster cage (or sofa, treadmill or bag of maternity clothes), but someone else can probably use it. With more than 8 million members worldwide, The Freecycle Network(TM) connects those who have with those who need. This non-profit grassroots organization “is all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills.” Membership is free and local, so join today to find happy homes for everything you don’t need.

Use Freecycle to create a family crafting stash >>

5Scrap it

Now there’s an iPhone app to help users recycle scrap metal — everything from aluminum cans to drains! Download the iScrap App to find the nearest scrapyard and find out what they’re paying for scrap materials.

Top 10 green apps >>

6Repurpose it

The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano aims to engage families in “fun, hands-on activities that teach practical, environmental solutions.” The Center’s book Backyard Skills offers do-it-yourself solutions, projects and practices that help us better manage waste. Create a terrarium out of an old jar or make a chair from a wooden shipping pallet. “The projects are easy, cheap, fun and earth-friendly,” says Croston.

Reuse before recycling: Give your garbage another life >>

7Compost it

Mom Sarah Thompson recycles anything she can. “According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food waste makes up more than 14 percent of the total amount of municipal solid waste in the US,” says Thompson. Reduce the waste with your own composting system. “Throw almost anything in a small countertop bucket with a lid — just leave out meat or eggs (although eggshells are fine),” suggests Thompson. “Your trash can won’t smell nearly as bad, and your garden will look great!”

5 Benefits of composting >>

8Sell it

There are many ways to make a buck or two on unwanted items. Hold your own garage or yard sale, one in early spring with warm-weather clothes and another in late summer with back-to-school items and winter wear. Or go online and list your items for more people to see. With sites like Craig’s List and eBay, you’ll reach tons of potential buyers.

Save money shopping online >>

9Donate it

Help foster kids by donating gently used backpacks, suitcases and duffle bags, encourages former foster child Conna Craig. “For too long, the Hefty bag has been the official luggage of children in foster care,” says Craig. “Our nation’s most vulnerable kids deserve better!” Donate guides you through the donation process and features wish lists for things such as art supplies, scrapbooking materials, sports equipment, coats and other items.

Teaching kids to donate to charity >>

10E-cycle it

eWaste is the fastest-growing part of the US garbage stream. Americans throw out more than 350,000 cell phones every day — that’s 125 million per year! is a gadget-recycling site that pays quick cash for cell phones, laptops and other used electronics. The average consumer earns $100 cash for their trade-ins!

How to recycle electronics >>

Composting how-to

How to make compost

This how-to video by the non-profit group Kitchen Gardeners International shows you step-by-step instructions for successful organic composting.


More tips for going green

Leave a Comment