By Marisa Belger

As a busy, penny-wise, green-minded mama, I'm on an ever-present mission to find new uses for things that may otherwise end up as trash. Faced with a growing pile of paperless rolls left over from paper towels and toilet tissue, used dryer sheets, and empty laundry-detergent bottles, I polled my eco-oriented parent friends for tips on new ways to use these old things. Here's what I discovered:

Paper Towel and Toilet Tissue Rolls

Get crafty

Cardboard tubes of all sizes are the ideal foundation for crafts. Paint the tube with stripes or dots and glue on feathers, or fur plus ears and a tail, and you've got a quick and cute handmade animal. For the mini musician in your house, tape one end of a toilet paper tube with masking tape, fill with dried beans or rice, tape the other end closed, and voila: a homemade maraca. Up the fun by decorating it with bold paint and glittery glue.

Get organized

Paper tubes are a wonderful way to keep electrical cords tangle-free. Fold the cord and slide it into the roll before plugging it in. Get bonus decor points by covering the roll with colorful tape. And what about those tangled Christmas tree lights? Keep them in holiday-ready shape by wrapping them around a tube before storing for the year. Cardboard tubes can also be used to protect important documents or kids' artwork. Roll the papers, slide into the tube and stash in a drawer or box.

Get Burning

Fill a cardboard tube with dried leaves and wrap in newspaper for an easy and accessible fire-starter. Stock a basket with these homemade starters during chilly months, and even the most hesitant of fire-makers will be ready to get burning.

Dryer Sheets

Banish (dust) bunnies

Word on the street -- or from my mama crew -- is that used dryer sheets are practically designed for dusting. Run one over shelves, furniture, blinds or any surface where dust gathers.

Say goodbye to soap scum.

I'm particularly crazy about this one, since I appreciate anything that makes cleaning the bathroom easier. Running a used dryer sheet across soap scum reveals the shiny surface beneath!

Shine your screens

Screens of all types -- and glass lenses -- love being wiped down by a dryer sheet. Run a used sheet across your computer, TV or glasses for a crystal-clear viewing experience.

Laundry Detergent Bottles

Make a scoop

Cut an empty detergent bottle in half and use the handle side to scoop up, well, anything. Kids will love to add the scoop to sandbox fun!

Make some weights

Homemade gym! It doesn't get greener than that. Skip the commute to your local workout emporium and get pumping at home. Fill empty detergent bottles with sand or water and flex those muscles.

Make a funnel

Transfer lots of liquid from one place to another with by cutting the bottom off of almost any bottle. Presto: funnel!


Marisa Belger's work has appeared in Travel + Leisure Family, Natural Health, Prevention and, where she wrote a column about eco-friendly living. She was an editor at and collaborated with author Josh Dorfman on his bestselling books, The Lazy Environmentalist and The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget.


Available at

Cut Your Energy Bills Now: 150 Smart Ways to Save Money & Make Your Home More Comfortable & Green

It's Easy Being Green: A Handbook for Earth-Friendly Living

Sean Conway's Cultivating Life: 125 Projects for Backyard Living


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Home & Garden - New Uses for Old Things: Household Odds and Ends