Last week, I talked about some of the bigger movements universities should start taking to help reduce waste. Yet, most of us will individually throw away thousands of pounds trash throughout our lifetimes. So in an effort to preserve Mother Nature, I thought I’d recommend nine eco-friendly things you can craft yourself this summer. As a side note, I’d like to say that all of these would make great gifts if you’re not sure what to get your friends or great date projects if you and your partner are up for something more hands-on. The main theme for these projects is that you take something you thought of as trash and make it into something cool and meaningful.

Tin and metals:

According to Cleveland State University, the tinned steel cans that we’ve seen dominate food shelves at the grocery store take 50 years to degrade. And aluminum products? Anywhere from 200 to 500 years. Luckily, the durability of these metallic items make them really easy to re-purpose while adding a bit of flair to your decor for dirt cheap.

Coffee can planting pots:

Perhaps one of the simplest projects on the list is converting your used coffee cans into planting pots. Due to the confined space of the can, most people recommended that you use small plants such as kitchen herbs, onions, or succulents. You can also decorate as you choose; wrapping twine around the can gives the planter a more rustic feel; or maybe spray painting intricate designs on the sides is more your style. Either way, you can’t really go wrong with fresh herbs and adding some extra green to your space. Something to be careful for when creating your coffee planters is notching holes into the bottom of your can to allow water filtration. Coffee cans will conduct heat, especially in the summer, so make sure the plant you select likes it hot!

Altoids tins:

Altoids tins are one of the things I tend to hoard because of their versatility. Once all the mints are gone, their sturdy exterior makes them excellent for holding matches, storing headphones, or keeping hairpins in a nifty place. Really the only thing left to do is personalize the tin. The best way to do this would be a quick coat of spray paint with a small design to give it depth.

Tin can lanterns:

Mood lighting is the best lighting, and for outdoor balconies or porches a few tin can lanterns will give your space a warm, homey feel. For these lanterns, using small tea candles will shine enough light, but 1-inch candles are fine too. Puncturing holes into the can will require a hammer and nails, but use a rag underneath the can to prevent it from sliding away. Designs can range from anything from your favorite nighttime constellations to elegant snowflakes.

Old keys:

Don't know what to do with all those old keys you've been hoarding? String them up into a fancy little wind chime. If you haven’t been secretly collecting keys, buying some at a local antique shop is a good alternative, usually old keys go for less than $1 a piece. Depending on the complexity of your wind chime, you can fashion it to hold five to 30 keys. For a relatively simple design, I’d look to Kendra on Simply Darrling and Sophie Olphie of Can Can Dancer, both of whom use an embroidery hoop to hang the keys, but if you don’t feel like ordering a hoop off somewhere like Amazon, a cool stick or piece of driftwood works too.

Bottle caps:

Remember all those beers or wine you drank too much of last weekend? Don’t discard those bottle caps just yet! By melting down broken crayons or even scrapping old candle wax, you can make extra tea lights that have an interesting little flavor to them. You’ll need candle wicks, a tin can, and unbent bottle caps (although slightly bent is fine), and a stove. The wicks will need to be loaded into place by a bit of super glue right in the middle of the caps. Load clean crayons or candle wax into the tin can and carefully set the can, with tongs, in a pot of boiling water. Wait for the wax to get all liquidy, then pour it into another pot with a spouted end. Once the wax is in the candles let them set for two to seven hours. BAM, tea candles!

Reusing aluminum foil:

Instead of balling it up and throwing it away, simply washing, straightening and reusing aluminum foil is a great way to save some cash.


Glass products hold second place for longest item to degrade at one million to two million years, but happen to be one of those recyclable materials that never loses its quality when its recycled. However, if you have some cool liquor bottles adorning your shelves, consider using them for these crafts. Because we’re dealing with glass, these items do have the potential to break, so please make sure to use protective eye wear and have a whole lot of patience, 'cause you’ll have to take it slow.

Lighting bottle:

You’ve run out of your good liquor, but you’re reluctant to throw the bottle away cause it's so damn cool, and cost you quite a pretty penny. Stuff some white Christmas lights into it to create an elegant light source or try some color-changing lights to get more of a party vibe. This project will need a power drill and since I’m no expert, I’d recommend taking a look at Gabrielle Blair’s tutorial over at Design Mom.

Dish soap bottles:

What looks cooler than doing dishes with an old bottle of Jack Daniels? Nothing. Buy a bottle of normal soap, dump the soap into the bottle and squeeze the cap onto the Jack bottle. This could also work with hand sanitizer or lotion but personally I think it looks more authentic with a clear liquid.

Beer bottle candle holder:

Recently, lots of craft breweries have come out with awesome labels that add personality to their beer. Instead of throwing out these labels, turn them into rustic candle holders; perfect gifts for beer lovers. For this project you’ll need to cut and sand down the glass rim of the bottle. For instructions on how to safely do this, check out Jeremy Anderderg’s article at the Art of Manliness.