DIY Creates a Lot of Scraps — Here's How to Make Projects More Sustainable

<p>Aja Koska / Getty Images</p>

Aja Koska / Getty Images

Upcycling, repairing, and making things with your own two hands are some of the best things you can do to lower your carbon footprint. However, there's one glaring fact that any DIYer can't ignore: When you've wrapped up a project, you're often left with a pile of scraps that you may or may not ever use again. Luckily, there are some ways you can save those extra materials from the abyss of a landfill or cramped closet.

Give Away What You Can

When you donate your project materials, there's still a chance they might end up in the trash before making it into the hands of another person. However, you can lower these odds by doing a little research on the best place to take your scraps.

Locate Your Nearest Art Thrift Store

Before donating your unwanted supplies to a thrift store that mainly sells clothing or home goods, check if there's an art supply thrift store nearby. These organizations often operate as nonprofits and sell donated supplies at low costs. You might even find some gems of your own to take home during your visit, which would be a sustainable win-win.

Give Away Building Supplies to a Home Improvement Donation Store

If you have leftover planks of wood from a floating shelf DIY, old door knobs you swapped out for new ones, or perhaps an unwanted ceiling fan, look up your nearest home improvement donation store. There are multiple Habitat for Humanity ReStores across America that will typically take items like these.

Alternatively, you can create a listing on Facebook Marketplace or post in a Buy Nothing or neighborhood association group to advertise your free goods. This is an especially great option for useful items that you want to haul off like extra pea gravel or unwanted landscaping rocks.

Donate Shredded Paper to an Animal Shelter

During a DIY project, it's always wise to protect your work area. If you've covered your floors or table with craft paper or newspaper, you can shred the paper and donate it to your local animal shelter to use as bedding to keep animals warm. However, just ensure that your paper doesn't have any traces of potentially toxic materials on it, like lead paint or chemical solvents, which could harm the animals. If you're unsure of a material's impact on an animal, call up a local vet to check. They may also have an interest in your shredded paper too.

Give Yarn to Groups Who Knit for a Cause

Knitting and crochet projects notoriously leave you with extra yarn. There are several organizations that knit hats, gloves, and blankets for newborns or people experiencing homelessness that may love to take the surplus off your hands. Two examples are Newborns in Need and Warm Up America.

Check-in With a Teacher

Teachers are great people to contact when you have leftover art supplies to donate. Take an inventory of what you want to get off your hands, and share the list with a local elementary or art teacher. You can think beyond crayons and construction paper here — leftover fabric, macrame string, and even tools like paintbrushes could inspire a new type of project for young minds. Some art teachers will even accept leftover wall paint samples for projects to beautify the school, like painting wall murals.

Host a Swap Meet

If you're part of a crafting club or you're just friends with a lot of DIYers, try hosting a swap meet for supplies. You can even encourage people to bring their unwanted DIY tools, like the loom they haven't touched in years.

If It's Biodegradable, Compost It

Surprisingly, many common DIY Scraps are biodegradable. Here are a few compost candidates:

  • natural fibers like wool, linen, and cotton

  • brown paper, plain white paper, and shredded newspaper

  • toothpicks, wood chips, and sawdust

Just watch out for anything that contains plastic-based glue, synthetic fabrics, or paper with a glossy coating. If you use a composting service, make sure to check in with your provider before composting anything that's not on their accepted list, even if you think it's biodegradable.

Opt for Reusable Painting Supplies (and Actually Reuse Them)

When purchasing supplies for a weekend paint project, it's often more sustainable to spend a little more for durable tools that aren't one-time use. For example, canvas tarps or even thick moving blankets that you may already have on hand are great alternatives to plastic tarps. Also, you can forgo the plastic paint tray liner if you form the habit of pouring leftover paint back in the can. A few thin layers of paint built-up in an aluminum tray liner won't hurt anything.

If you're using water-based paint, you can store rollers and paint brushes in a ziplock baggie in the fridge for several days between uses. When your project wraps up, be sure to remove all the paint residue so you can keep your tools in good shape.

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