Recycling is Broken — These Ideas Give Another Life to Empty Packaging

We grew up with recycling engrained in us from a young age. It was the entry-level green lifestyle choice and a prerequisite for calling yourself an environmentalist. But today, the truth is that recycling is not as simple of a solution as we were taught. Humans have produced so much waste in recent decades, and most of that waste isn’t being recycled anymore (reference).

So, what can we do? Before recycling, we can focus on reducing and reusing items as much as possible. One way to do this is by finding ways to repurpose things like packaging instead of sending it to the recycling center or landfill after one use. To get started, here are a few creative projects to get more use out of the containers from your leftover beauty products.

DIY sea salt spray

DIY Sea Salt Spray

This DIY sea salt spray is as easy to make as it is to use. The recipe makes 1 ounce, perfect for your leftover Healing Water Toning Mist bottle. To make more, just double or quadruple the recipe. Here’s what you’ll need to make yours:

  • 1/8 c. warm filtered water
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt. Pink Himalayan sea salt will make this really pretty, but any sea salt will work.
  • 1/2 tsp. of your favorite hair gel. If you want more or less hold, adjust the amount of gel.
  • 1/2 tsp. melted coconut oil
  • Optional: If you want your spray to smell great, add 5-6 drops of your favorite essential oil blend. We like 2 drops each of lavender, rosemary, and lemongrass.

Place the warm water and salt in a mixing bowl. Once the salt is dissolved, add the hair gel, coconut oil, and essential oils, if desired. Transfer the mixture to your bottle and shake before use. Spray generously and air dry for effortless, beachy waves.

Homemade reed diffuser

Essential Oil Reed Diffuser

This is a simple way to make your space smell amazing. While this recipe is for our 1-ounce bottles, you can make a reed diffuser with any tall, narrow bottle; just double or quadruple the recipe as needed. Here’s what you’ll need to make yours:

  • 2 tbs. of a base oil. A thin oil, such as fractionated coconut oil or grapeseed oil, works best.
  • 10 drops essential oil. Choose your favorite scent and feel free to adjust the amount depending on how strongly you want it to smell.
  • Reed diffuser sticks. If you don’t have any, improvise with bamboo skewers, wooden chopsticks, or popsicle sticks.

Mix the oils together and transfer into the bottle with the diffuser sticks. If the oil seems like it’s taking too long to be absorbed up into the reeds, you can add a small amount of alcohol, like vodka, to thin the oil.

Gourmet Herbal Oil-Infused Salt

These infused salts are easy to make and add delicious flavor to any dish. You can experiment with flavor combinations and find more recipe ideas online. This recipe from Steelhouse Kitchen is for Rosemary Lemon Sea Salt, but you can make your salt with any combination of flavors and herbs. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • 1 cup coarse sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • Zest of one lemon, grated

Add ingredients to a food processor and pulse until the ingredients are combined. While a food processor works best, you can also make do without one: just chop the flavor ingredients as small as possible, add to a bowl with the salt, and muddle together until combined. Pour the salt mixture onto a baking sheet and put in the oven at 170 F (or lower) for 2 hours, stirring frequently, until completely dried. Once your salt is dried and cooled, store in an airtight container like the jars we use for our Sea to Skin Cleansing Gel or Deep Moisture Cleansing Balm.

How to propagate plants on your windowsill

Mini Windowsill Planters

We all know that you can never have too many plants. If you already have some houseplants or garden plants that you want more of, you can take a small cutting and replant it in an empty container on your windowsill.

To start, pick a green, non-woody stem for your cutting. It doesn’t have to be a long piece as long as it has at least one node, or the spot where a leaf attaches to the stem. You’ll want to cut the stem at the node to help the roots grow easier. Then, remove all but one or two leaves from the cutting and plant it in a clean container—any type will work for this—filled with soilless potting mixture. For more details on which types of plants are well suited for propagating from a cutting, check out this article from The Spruce.

Plant misting bottle

Plant Misting Bottles

Once your home is full of plants, you need make sure they’re getting plenty of moisture. While watering plants the traditional way is a good start, using an empty spray bottle to mist your plants with water will help them thrive. Many houseplants come from climates with higher humidity than the inside of a house and misting them can help increase humidity. Spray them in the morning so the leaves can dry during the day, and make sure to get the tops and bottoms of the leaves alike.

Decoy travel containers

Easy Traveling Accessories

Empty skincare jars are a great place to store small items when you’re traveling. They work well for pills, jewelry, headphones, hair pins, and any other items you don’t want to get lost in your suitcase. As an added bonus, the containers will disguise your valuables if you’re worried about them getting stolen.

DIY Liquid Hand Soap

A bottle of liquid hand soap can cost several dollars at the store, and the container it comes in will probably be tossed out once the soap is gone. To save some money and create a little less waste, try making your own liquid hand soap. All you need is a bar of soap and some hot water.

To start, grate your bar of soap with a cheese grater. If you don’t have one, you can also chop the soap finely with a knife. Then add the soap to a pot of boiling water on the stove. Start with 4 cups of water for every 1 ounce of soap flakes; you can adjust the consistency of your soap by adding more or less soap as desired. Once the mixture is dissolved, wait until it cools completely to pour it into the bottle. After giving the soap 24 hours to gel completely, shake the bottle and it’s ready to use.

For more on the recycling issue, check out this article from The Atlantic: Is This the End of Recycling?