I do something I've never seen/heard about others doing: I "recycle" flowers I'm given or bring into the house, not just in compost. It becomes "house pot pourri". It lives in a blue vase. When I'm given flowers, as the petals drop off, they're added to the vase. Eventually, the empty stems go to the compost. I also add the end of last years' old thyme, mint tea (mixed lemon balm and spearmint), rosemary and summer savory, as I love their smell. The pot pourri gets put into small cloth bags and is used with bedding and out-of-season clothing...
I do something similar with cloth/rags. I have 3 classes of rags unmarked, /'d, and X'd. When a rag is still good enough to deal with food, it is unmarked. When it gets permanently stained and I'm not sure how safe it might be, or it's holey, it gets slashed. When it degrades to the point where if it's tossed after the next use, I won't be upset, it gets X'd.
I cook with many of the same ideas in mind. Last night we had a split chicken for dinner. We ate bird. Today, I"ll pick/bone 1 of the 2 pieces, make soup stock and freeze it. The other half will be frozen so we can have "bird" again. i know others do this with food, it's the best way to not be wasteful....
But that flow is what I'm after here -- the planned re-use through something's lifecycle as it degrades. What do you do this for? What are the less than obvious uses you plan for from the beginning? A bed spread into a caftan, a blanket into a pillow or ... I'm not talking about the wonderful Aha! moment when you look at a piece of wood and figure it would fix the hole in the fence, because I'm trying to make up systems to go into place beforehand.
Great post Jennie!
You mentioning lemon balm reminded me of something I tried this year. Once it got a good size to it I cut and used it as mulch. I first dried it for a few days on old screens then mulched my fall crops with it. Before that I was having issues with slugs and snails, but no more. From now on I will cut it several times per year.
I love the way you stack functions even with small items. Once you start thinking that way you’ll see all kind of things you can stack!
I have another example. Bar soap. When I can, I buy it bulk from an artisan maker. But whether I’m using up a 10 lb block or bars from market... I store the bars unwrapped. When they first get used they’re at my kitchen sink. They sit on a plastic nail brush in a plastic lid. I use the soapy water from the lid to wash the sink or my hands about 1x each week.
When they’re about 1/2 used , they go to the bathroom sink. Scraps of soap bars are under a scrubby in the bath soap dish. The scrubbie is used to clean the sink about 1x a day. The kitchen sinks mess is usually in a dish bucket, which gets cleaned frequently.
Every year, I hit holiday craft shows and buy scented goats' milk soaps I like, from small local vendors. The new soaps go into drawers and closets to impart a nice scent and help keep moths at bay, and the ones bought the previous year finally get used as soap. They still have a scent, just not so strong as it was when fresh, and I actually prefer it that way. This year, I'm ordering them from the lady I bought last year's soaps from, because none of the usual craft shows are running (as well as extra for small gifts).
And I do a variation on the rags thing too. I just have two categories of them, and use different containers to separate the "good" rags from the "last gasp" rags. I end up with a lot of funky old towels because I'm a cat lady and people give them to me, and there's a whole Cat Towel Life Cycle they go through as they wear out, get torn into half-towels or cleaning rags, and eventually end up in the compost pile.
Sheets, curtains, blankets, and any other textile will end up recycled into a garment, a throw blanket, cat beds and toys, pot holders, oven mitts, placemats, cushions, ragdolls, etc., and that's a fact of their existence from the moment I buy them. I've bought curtains at Goodwill that I totally planned to use as curtains, but even as I bought them I knew I was going to make pants out of them once their curtain days were done. These days, it's rare that I buy a textile without knowing what I want to use it for in its second life.