StopWaste at School


Enter your email address to be notified of new content:


The Reuse Corner

~Resources and ideas for the thrifty and creative teacher.

Bring Your Own Shopping Bags

Students at Alameda High hand painted reusable bags as part of an art project.Students at Alameda High hand painted reusable bags as part of an art project.Starting  January 1, 2013, we won't automatically be given a plastic bag at the local grocery store check-out stand. The Alameda County Waste Management Authority passed a single-use plastic bag ordinance that seeks to encourage the use of reusable bags. While you can still get a paper bag at the checkout stand, if you forget a reusable bag, it will cost 10 cents. (The store keeps the 10 cents to offset the cost of purchasing bags.)

The ordinance has sparked several conversations with friends, family members and folks in the check-out line. While memory strategies vary with reusable shopping bags, I usually carry 3-4 in purse all the time. Other folks have a large stash in their cars. Someone I know keeps a bag of reusable bags on the front door knob while another friend will hang bags on a hook next to the place she normally keeps the shopping list.

As someone who has used reusable bags for years, it hasn't really made a big difference in my shopping "experience". I do struggle to get the items I am purchasing on the conveyor belt, get out my credit card and unpack my reusable bags before the checker can automatically pop my purchases into a plastic bag. It has become my strategy to pull the reusable bags out of my purse first and place them on the conveyor belt ahead of my purchases.

In the big picture, plastic bags are a big problem for the environment. Here are some facts:

  • Plastic bags are one of the most common items found in creeks, storm drains and streets.
  • Storm drain cleanup costs Alameda County cities approximately $4 million every year and plastic bags are the most prevalent items found in storm drains.
  • Approximately 10,000 tons of plastic bags find their way to Alameda County landfills every year.
  • One reusable bag can replace 600 single-use bags over its lifetime.

~ Posted by Roberta Miller~ Posted by Roberta MillerWhat strategies do you use to remember your reusable shopping bags?  Let me know in the comments below and I will share them with others.

If you want more information about the ordinance, visit www.ReusableBags

Mason Jar Luminaria

The best way to reuse a mason jar in the fall is to wash it out and use it to preserve some of your garden's harvest, but occassionally, you'll find a jar with cracked or chipped edges.

Before you toss the jar in the recycling bin, consider other reuse projects such as this one that I recently saw on a craft project website. It was part of an expansive list on canning jar reuse projects. While following the project instructions, I made some changes, incorporating more found and reused materials. Here is my take on the project.

Materials Needed:

  • Glass jar, quart canning jars work great
  • Tissue paper
  • Paint brush
  • Mod Podge or other decoupage medium
  • Water
  • Ribbon
  • Buttons
  • Decorative paper or fabric scraps
  • Plastic mesh bag, like those used for bulk produce
  • Small pillar or tea light candle


1. Cut or tear paper into roughly 2 inch squares.

2. Apply a coat of Mod Podge or decoupage medium to the jar.

3. Apply paper squares to the jar, making sure that square overlap between ¼ and ½ inches.

4. Once the jar is completely covered with paper, apply a light coat of water using the paint brush, to the paper squares. This will create a bit of wrinkly texture to the paper as well as encouraging the paper to mold more closely to the jar. Let dry.

5. Cut a 3 ½ inch strip of the mesh bag. Using the Mod Podge, apply the mesh strip to the jar. Cover the entire jar exterior with a layer or two of Mod Podge.

6. Apply the decorative elements like ribbon, buttons or paper and apply another coat of Mod Podge to seal. I used more of the mesh bag to use as a bow around the top and a few mylar stars.

Safety Warning! If using flammable elements near the jar opening, be sure that they do not exceed the jar rim as they could catch fire.

7. Place the candle inside jar, once jar is dry.

Here's a luminaria using the same basic technique but using a brown paper bag, butterflies cut from wrapping paper and squares cut from a fabric belt. I also used a coat of Glitter Mod Podge to add a little bling. This same look could be achieved with a light dusting of glitter to wet decoupage medium. I finished the jar with a bit of raffia around the top. Both jars add a nice warmth to a room when they have a candle inside.

Other mason jar reuse projects can be found here.

FrankenSock Bottle Cozy

For years, I have been trying to find a way to keep my water bottle cold and dry. The metal reusable bottles are the best as they survive my less-than-gentle-and -graceful treatment. My strategy is to fill a bottle half way with water, pop it in the freezer. When I am ready to leave for the day, I fill the remaining space in the bottle with water and drop it in my bag. Condensation creates a bit of damp exterior, making a mess of any book or paper product also in my bag.

In an attempt to solve this problem, I started using a sock, which worked pretty well but, frankly, looked weird. So, I took the aesthetics into consideration. Here is my reuse solution. If FrankenSock gets dirty, throw it in the wash with the rest of the socks.


  • Reusable bottle (I used a Giant's bottle that I picked up at a game)
  • 1 sock, preferable with a hole
  • Scissors
  • Needle and thread


1) Lay the sock on a flat, hard surface. Cut it just above the heel, straight across. Set aside the top part of the sock.

2) Remove the heel from the bottom part of the sock.

3) Cover the bottom of the bottle with the bottom portion of the sock.

4) Cover the top portion of the bottle with the top portion of the sock, adjusting the overlap so that it doesn't over the bottle mouth.

5) Using the needle and thread, stitch the two pieces together. While I haven't tried it, I would assume you could probably use glue to attach the two pieces, being careful not to glue the sock to the bottle.

6) Should the creative bug strike you, embellish with buttons, ribbon or other interesting bits. I left mine plain as the sock pattern was interesting enough for me.

Zipper Bracelet with Bottle Cap Charm

Zipper Bracelet with Bottle Cap CharmZipper Bracelet with Bottle Cap CharmMaterials Needed:
  • Metal zipper, click 6 or 7 inches
  • Wire, 4 inches
  • Lobster claw jewelry clasp
  • Jewelry pliers
  • Wire cutters
  • Metal bottle cap
  • Hammer
  • Nail
  • Scissors
  • Clear glue or Mod Podge
  • Paper image, picture from catalog or photograph
  • Jump ring, 1



1. Remove fabric portion of the zipper. Cut the fabric fairly close to the metal zipper teeth.

Cut Away FabricCut Away Fabric Cleaned ZipperCleaned Zipper

2. Bend the wire in half, forming a U. Thread the lobster claw clasp onto the wire and let it rest at the bend. Grasp the bend with the jewelry pliers and grasp the wire ends and twist the ends twice. The lobster claw should dangle freely.

Assemble Lobster Claw AttachmentAssemble Lobster Claw Attachment

3. Place the twisted wire on top of the end of the zipper (not the end with the pull tab). Wrap the wire around the zipper several times. Trim off any extra wire. Press the wrapped wire against the zipper with the pliers. Your bracelet is done. Now for the fun part, ornamentation!

Attach to ZipperAttach to Zipper Attached ClawAttached Claw

4. Using the hammer, flatten the bottle cap.

5. Place flattened bottle cap on top of the image and trace around the cap.

6. Using scissors, cut out the image. I removed an extra ¼ inch so the image could be centered on the cap, allowing the ruffled edge of the cap to show.

7. Glue the image onto the cap. Cover with Mod Podge or clear glue and allow to dry. I mixed some glitter glue into the clear glue for a bit of "bling".

Bottle Cap CharmBottle Cap Charm

8. Make a hole in the cap by hammering the nail into the cap.

9. Use the jump ring to attach the bottle cap charm to the bracelet.

Completed BraceletCompleted Bracelet

Magnetic Bulletin Board and Magnets

Recently I stumbled upon the book "Rediscovered Treasures: A New Life for Old Objects" by Ellen Dyrop and Hanna Kristindottir. It is full of amazing ideas to turn vintage items into new things. I was inspired to recreate my own version of one of their projects.

My neighborhood hosts a once-a-month antique fair which is prime habitat for the bargain hunter. During a recent foray, medications I found a serving tray with some rust spots. After a bit of back and forth with the dealer, sick I was able to purchase the tray for a few dollars. It was fodder for my thrifty and creative spirit.


  • Metal tray
  • Paper towel
  • Ribbon, sildenafil cord, fabric
  • 6 bottle caps
  • 6 magnets
  • Clear school glue or Mod Podge
  • Caulk or contact adhesive
  • Paper
  • Glitter
  • Toothpick or other sharp implement



1. Wash and dry the tray.
2. Tie the ribbon, cord or fabric on each handle. I used 3 pieces of t-shirt (strips or 2 inches wide and 36 inches long) which I braided.


1. Chose the words and phrases you would like to use. Print or copy them onto paper

2. Trace around the word and trim away excess.

Create words or images for the inside of the bottle cap magnetsCreate words or images for the inside of the bottle cap magnets

3. Put a drop or 2 of glue onto the back of the paper and place it into the bottle cap.

4. Arrange glitter, confetti or other decorative bits on the paper.

Assemble CapsAssemble Caps

5. Cover with clear glue or Mod Podge. Remove any air bubbles with the tooth pick. I really like to use clear glues or Mod Podge because you can see through it and adjust the bits as needed.

Cover With Clear GlueCover With Clear Glue

6. Let the glue dry over night.

7. Place a dollop of caulk or contact adhesive onto a small magnet and press bottle cap onto magnet.


8. Let dry. Arrange finished magnets onto the tray and hang tray on wall.

Finished Magnetic BoardFinished Magnetic Board