6 Ways to Make the Most of Recycled Materials

Learn how to make any building or redecorating project green

Planning, creativity and imagination are the fuel for your recycling ideas. Recycled products are readily available, from plastic pencil holders to plastic bins, from speaker cases made of cardboard to floor tiles made from tires. Purchasing products made from recycled materials is a large part of eco-decorating.

Many of these products offer eco-décor and design-focused consumers the chance to acquire credit toward LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. LEED certification is an internationally recognized standard of eco-friendly building design and construction developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit organization striving to promote the availability of green homes and structures. Environmentally friendly, LEED-certified homes, cost more but have lower operating costs over the life of the building, thus making them attractive to potential home-buyers and profitable for home-sellers.

Plan your eco-decorating project using recycled materials

Great recycling ideas begin with deciding what you want to do and how you will accomplish it. Include plans to use recycled materials in your home and to recycle the materials that you are replacing. Recycling keeps material out of landfills and is a great find for others who use recycled products in their homes' eco-design.

Purchase wisely

Eco-friendly decorating challenges purchasing decisions. When purchasing products made from recycled materials, read the labels and ask questions. Look at how much virgin material is in it. Is it recyclable? It's also important to look for the source of the material on the label. For example, wood can be reclaimed or come from sustainably harvested forests, which is good.

Purchase recyclable products

Continue your quest for an eco-friendly home by reducing material sent to landfills: Use recyclable products. For instance, aluminum lawn furniture is recyclable. Recyclable products can be made into new products after they’ve been used. However, recyclable products may not necessarily contain previously recycled materials.

Give new life to recycled materials

An eco-friendly decorating project gives you an opportunity to use innovative new products made with recycled materials. There are over 4,500 products made from recycled materials, including many paper products, aluminum cans, car bumpers, carpeting, glass containers, motor oil, nails and steel products. Carpet choices with a 25 percent post consumer PET for polyester carpets offer eco-décor- and design-focused consumers the possibility of getting credit toward LEED. The blue jeans that are now thread bare can be made useful again through organizations that collect old blue jeans and turn them into insulation for homes or acoustical ceiling tiles for businesses.

Repurpose your items

Recycle a sturdy wood 1970 coffee table by painting it with a coat of eco-friendly paint such as clay- or milk-based paints, or low-VOC or zero-VOC. VOCs, volatile organic compounds, are emitted as gases. The use of water instead of petroleum-based solvents in low VOC paints use makes harmful emissions much lower. Add a thick cushion on top to create a bench for the end of a bed. An unused narrow wood bookcase turned on its side with added castors creates a bench for the entry hall or the kitchen table (wicker baskets in the cubby holes add storage space).

Reuse creatively

Be creative with your recycling ideas. Think outside of the box. A free-standing wood pantry with its shelves removed and a closet bar installed becomes an armoire for the cluttered bedroom that needs more closet space. Reusing by finding a new purpose creates less waste.

Recycling ideas lead to new innovations, leading to the creation of new products from recycled materials. There's no end to the items that you can reuse. Among other benefits, products from recycled materials support new jobs and preserve natural resources.

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