StopWaste at School


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The Reuse Corner

~Resources and ideas for the thrifty and creative teacher.

Paper Carton Wallet

The Spring 2011 Leadership and Environmental Action Forum (LEAF) at Camp Arroyo featured a wide range of craft and creative reuse activities.

Cynthia Ashley from the East Bay Depot For Creative Reuse shared a workshop teaching the construction of wallets or small pouches from waxed gabletop cartons (1/2 gallon waxed cardboard milk & juice containers with plastic screwtop lids were ideal for the project)

Templates and instructions for the activity are available here:

Check out the photos below to see the creations and creatvie process from LEAF.

Crafting Hope

~ by Roberta Miller~ by Roberta MillerRecently I came across a wonderful book called Craft Hope. The author, Jade Sims, has combined creative endeavors with making a difference in the 
world. She started her efforts by calling for handmade pillow case dresses for a children's shelter in Mexico. Within a few weeks, she had received 27 dresses in the mail from like minded folks. Her next project was making dolls for an orphanage in Nicaragua. Soon the Craft Hope community grew beyond her wildest dreams, allowing her to provide patterns and ideas to crafters internationally. But, this is much more than an "isn't-that-a-creative-idea" book. The author provides 32 project ideas AND connections to appropriate charities to which we can send our finished projects. This connection is unique in my experience and makes the connection to Service Learning.

My particular interest in the book is that many of the projects utilize reused and salvaged materials that can be turned into something fabulous. A prime example is the Simple-Knot Newborn Cap on page 35. The sleeves of t-shirts are used to create caps for tiny newborns that help them retain body heat and increase survival. When I teach the t-shirt reusable bag project, inevitably there are t-shirt sleeves left over. Making caps would be a perfect way to repurpose these cut off sleeves.

Some of the projects require basic sewing skills and sewing machines. This may be out of the reach for many, but if students can do a basting stitch by hand, they can create some great items.

Your students can investigate a local charity or underserved community, assess the need and find a way to help out. This book can give you some ideas. If nothing else, the book will serve as inspiration.

Rethink Back-to-School Shopping

Back to School Already?

Every year it seems that summer flies by even faster. It seems like we were just working on school locker clean outs and sorting through year end projects. However, with the start of school just a few days away, now is the best time to start thinking about school and classroom supplies. I would recommend a trip to the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, 4695 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA. 510-547-6470. The Depot gets materials donated from the general public as well as businesses for reuse to teachers, artists and the community. If you go to the back of the store, you will find their teacher resource center. Lots of pens, paper, markers, paints, tins and other consumables can be found at the Depot as well as other things you just didn't know you had to have. If you have stuff left over from last school year that you know you won't use, bring it with you for donation.

East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse

Another excellent source for good school supplies is the Resource Area for Teachers, as known as RAFT. While it may seem like a long drive to San Jose, the supplies make the trip well worth it. The materials found at RAFT come largely from businesses. RAFT features all kinds of office supplies like staplers, staple removers as well as paints, calendars, binders, organizers, paper, stickers and lots more. In RAFT's Green Room, teachers can find a large collection of Ellison dies for use by members. In addition, you'll find paper cutters, book binding equipment, a computer, a button maker, a copier and laminator. Green Room Gatherings are informal drop-in mini workshops that take place on select Thursdays between 5:00pm and 6:00pm and Saturday mornings between 9:30am and 12:00pm. They are fun and FREE. Check out the RAFT website for more details: Be sure to check out the lesson plans and kits which include supplies for 20 students.

Resource Area for Teachers

The website Earth911 has a great article on how to save on school supplies. For more information, here is the article. 

Challenge yourself to reduce the amount of waste you generate at school and home and have a great school year!

Books on Reuse: My Personal Favorites

~by Roberta Miller~by Roberta MillerOver the years, I have collected a few books that features elements of reuse. A couple of folks have asked for suggestions on titles that might be helpful, so here is my non-exhaustive list.

50 Fabulous Flea Market Makeovers50 Fabulous Flea Market Makeovers50 Fabulous Flea Market Makeovers by BJ Berti- There are several books in this series that challenge us to look differently at the trinkets, treasure and doo dads that can be found at flea markets.  I love the ethic of conservation that is so intrinsic to these books.  They share techniques and ideas for taking furniture, fabrics and nicknacks and turning them into something unusual.  My personal favorites are the pressed glass lamps.  The author show us how to take apart a lamp she found at a flea market, clean , rewire and reassemble.  She also goes into how to recover a lampshade.  In the back is a section on basic techniques that are alone worth the price of the book.  She recommends peanut butter to remove stubborn price stickers or tape from glass and toothpaste to polish and remove light stains from marble


869 New Uses for Old Things869 New Uses for Old Things

Real Simple's 869 New Uses for old Things
- This book would have made my father and  MacGyver proud.  It espouses the virtue of toothpicks, aluminum foil, tape, candle wax, dryer sheets and tennis balls for uses other than their intended purpose.  It is a great help for the thrifty and creative.  My personal favorites are the vinegar as weed killer and stain remover and cupcake pan used as a way to keep office supplies like paper clips and rubber bands separate.  (The cupcake pan was invaluable during the recent assembly of a piece of furniture from Ikea!  All those different screws and hinges!) An entire page is spent on the virtues of dental floss, besides oral hygiene


Craft Challenge: Tea TowelsCraft Challenge: Tea TowelsCraft Challenge: Tea Towels and Pillow Cases- Both of these books feature examples of reuses for what are often forgotten raw materials.  In helping a friend clear out the linen cabinet when a relative passed away, we found some gorgeous hand embroidered pillow cases.  The thought of turning these into rags was more than we could contemplate.  While the books require a bit more sewing skill than many folks have, they are worth contemplating.  I am looking forward to finding other books in this series.  My personal favorite are all the different bags.  She features picnic basket/bags on the cover which is absolutely charming.  I also loved the pillow case dog bed which can be washed when needed and the blouses featuring embroidered scenes commonly found on vintage pillow cases

Salvage StyleSalvage StyleSalvage Style- 45 Home and Garden Projects Using Reclaimed Architectural Details by Joe Rhatigan and Dana Irwin - In the SF Bay Area, it is getting harder and harder to find the really charming salvage home parts for cheap.  That is a good thing because it means we value these resources but a challenge for us of the frugal bent.  Several visits to relatives in the Midwest have included adventures to salvage yards with some amazing results.  The author of this book features lots of lovely projects made from materials I saw a lot of in the Midwest.  The reused mirror and window projects are so inspiring.  I used the plant stand made from 4 shutters recently, putting a tall candle inside and slightly opening the shutters.  Another project are bookends made from broken marble pieces glued to salvaged molding (for stability.)

Junk ChicJunk Chic

Junk Chic by Kathryn Elliot
features more pictures of projects in rooms for design purposes.  My personal favorite is a table she made from a short leather-bound trunk.  She attached legs on the bottom to raise it off the floor.  The legs were made from wooden handrail spindles but she also suggests that the decorative portion of a fence post could be used


American JunkAmerican JunkAmerican Junk by Mary Randolph Carter - There are lots of interesting ideas about how to shop at a flea market and what to look for.  I found her section on lampshades inspiring.  Mary Randolph Carter has written 3 more books on reuse that are just as inspiring: Big City Junk, Kitchen Junk and Garden Junk.  My personal favorite is the section on chairs.  I found a wonderful wooden chair at the flea market but it lacked the cane seat.  I used a scrap piece of plywood, padded it with foam and used a vintage curtain fabric scrap as the cover.  It turned out to be the perfect accent piece for the guest bedroom


If any other titles have been inspiring to you, please log in and  let me know in the comments section below.


While I am on the topic of reuse, a friend sent me a great link about aluminum foil.  It shares ways to use the ubiquitous stuff in ways we hadn't thought of:

Silk Flower Pin or Magnet

Silk Flower PinSilk Flower PinYet another project I love! Perhaps I should stop saying this in my introductions. I found this idea on Vintage Image Craft and thought I could repurpose the project. Here is my take on this project. Lots of silk flowers (actually nylon most of the time) end up at thrift stores or garage sales. Discarded floral arrangements can be a bounty for the thrifty and creative.

Materials needed:

  • silk flowers - several colors and shapes, daisies, hydrangeas and chrysanthemums work great
  • water based glue like Mod Podge and/or Tacky Glue 
    paint brush 
    flat backed marbles or globs 
    picture or saying printed on heavier weight paper 
    marking pen 
    pin back or magnet 
    felt (I found EcoFi, a felt made from post consumer plastic bottles at Michael's)+ 
    plastic wrap or other surface protector (the address portion of a FedEx envelop works perfectly!)


1)  Pull the flowers apart, removing the plastic center and stems. You should have layers of flower shapes.

Flower_BundleFlower_Bundle Loose FlowersLoose Flowers

2)  Prepare the paper that will serve as the flower center.  Place the glob on top of the paper and trace around it with a pen. Cut along the line.

Trace Paper CenterTrace Paper Center

3. Using the paint brush, put a thin coat of glue on the flat part of the glob and apply the paper center you have just cut out.  The image may be a bit cloudy until the glue dries.  Let the glue dry until clear before proceeding with the project.

Apply GlueApply Glue image010image010

4. Stack the flower layers. I like to use 2 or 3, depending on the type of flower I am using. Glue the flower layers together, maintaining the center. I put a toothpick in the center hole and remove it as the glue starts to dry.

Glued Flower StackGlued Flower Stack

5. Once the glob and the flower stack are dry, you can assemble the pin. Put more glue on the back of the glob and attach it to the flower stack. I place the piece on a piece of plastic wrap with a stapler on top to maintain a little pressure and encourage maximum stick-age. Let this dry for a couple of hours.

Apply Pressure to StackApply Pressure to Stack

6.  Now you have to decide if you are making a pin or magnet.  For a magnet, just glue a dot magnet on to the flower back, let dry and you are done!

Adding a MagnetAdding a Magnet

For the pin, glue the pin back onto the flower. I cut a small piece of green felt over the pin back, cutting notches for the pin clasps. Glue on the felt. Let it dry thoroughly before wearing.

Attaching a PinAttaching a Pin


  • If any of the glue gets onto the glob face(which it will), it can be removed with your fingernail or a green kitchen scouring pad.
  • Watch the amount of glue you use to attach the paper to the glob.  Sometimes an excess of glue will cause inks to run, which can look interesting but not be your intended effect.
  • Mod Podge makes different types of glue.  The "glitter" and "shimmer" types are really fun.  I used a little of the glitter glue on the flower petals.

Finished PinsFinished Pins