More About Toilet Paper Cores

Toilet Paper Core

Still useful, even after they’re empty. (Photo credit: Luigi Chiesa)

I just came across a delightful graphic demonstrating several ways to use empty toilet paper cores: to create wall art, to hold office supplies and other odds and ends, to keep rolls of wrapping paper safe and tidy. Check them out here.

My reluctance to discard these things probably qualifies me among the lunatic fringe of recyclers. (It’s my mom’s voice in the back of my mind: “are you sure someone can’t use this?” I bet she’s surprised to find out that I really was listening.) When the local daycare center greeted with joy my offer of a bagful of the things, I decided to let the world call me crazy and keep saving them.


Recycle Refrigerator Magnets: Answering a Reader’s Question

A reader left a comment recently on my original (March 31, 2011) Keep It Out of the Landfill post, asking whether I can suggest any ways to recycle old refrigerator magnets. Great question, and one I wish I’d thought of myself.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Refrigerator with Magnets

Are you ready for some new uses for those refrigerator magnets? (Photo credit: Jacinda Santora)

  • If they’re the flat, flexible magnets, cut them to whatever size you need and glue photographs or other scrapbook-y things to them. Keep them to use on your own refrigerator, or give them to family and friends.
  • If you have a small business, cut them to business-card size and glue your business cards to them for distribution to customers and prospects. (I’ve bought business-card size magnets to use for this purpose. That’s why I wish I’d thought of the question myself.)
  • Attach a magnetic strip or small magnet to the side of your desk to control stray paper clips.
  • Keep one in your sewing kit to clean up needles and pins.
  • Keep a couple in your tool box to hold screws while you’re taking something apart.
  • Glue one to the end of a ruler — better yet, a yardstick — to retrieve small metal things that fall into awkward places. Keep one of these in the car to pull small objects out from under the front seat or the corner of the trunk.
  • Use them for crafts: use the back pocket from an old pair of jeans to turn one into a notepaper holder or make a photo-frame magnet. (Check out this YouTube video.)

And if you exhaust all your own crafty ideas:

  • See whether a local preschool/daycare center can use them. I recycle some weird household discards that way, and the daycare folks are delighted to have them. (See my July 26 blog post.)
  • Offer them “free to a good home” on Craigslist or Freecycle.
  • Get really good at reusing them, and you can probably teach a class on things you can do with them.

You may have been told to keep magnets away from your computer because they’ll erase your data. In the days of floppy disks, this was an issue, but evidently it’s no longer considered a serious problem. Check out this post from Greg Keizer of PC World. (Personally, I still don’t keep magnets near my computer. But I’m getting old and set in my ways, and I’d rather avoid problems than solve them.)

Anyone have more ideas about what to do with refrigerator magnets? Let me know, and we can share them.

Recycling Trail Mix: The Chipmunk Will Eat It

Last spring, I bought a large bag of trail mix from the wholesale club. We ate a little of it and didn’t like it. What to do with a ten-dollar bag of trail mix that you don’t like?

My husband’s suggestion: maybe The Chipmunk will eat it.

Ever since I moved into our condominium when Leo and I got married sixteen years ago, I’ve been enjoying The Chipmunk’s occasional brief appearances. I know that chipmunks live only about three to five years in Northeast Ohio’s climate, so the one we’re seeing now is several generations removed from The Original Chipmunk, but who can tell — he sure looks like his mommy and daddy.

Chipmunk eating nut

Trail mix doesn’t last long when there’s a chipmunk around. Photo credit: Gilles Gonthier

We’ve grown fond of the little critter, especially since the day thirteen years ago when he and my final cat faced each other through an open doorway and decided to let well enough alone. The Chipmunk went back to his lair under the garage, Muffy came back inside and curled up on the couch.

In the years since, I’ve put various nutty/fruity leftovers out onto the patio, and The Chipmunk, or some other beastie, has made them go away. Once in a great while I’d be rewarded by the sight of him stowing the goodies into his little chipmunk cheeks.

So last spring I poured a couple of tablespoons’ worth of the untasty trail mix onto a plastic lid left over from a can of salted cashews and placed it on the patio about where Chippy disappears into the shrubbery. I checked it every couple of hours, and, later that day, the dish was almost empty.

From time to time this summer I’ve set more of the trail mix out on the patio, and it reliably disappears. The bag is finally running low, and this afternoon I put out what may be Chippy’s second-last serving. About ten minutes later I glanced out the back door and watched as he dashed out of the shrubbery hell-bent for the stand of mint growing behind the grill. Leo joined me to see him get halfway there, stop, lift his head, taste the air, and hang a sharp left for his plate o’ goodies. The plate’s about half-empty now — he can stuff only so much into those little cheeks — but I’m sure that by bedtime it will all be gone.

Once I empty the bag, I know I won’t be able to abandon him. I guess I’ll just have to start doling out the walnuts I’ve been saving for the cookies I never seem to bake. And maybe next spring I’ll buy him another bag of trail mix.

Today and tomorrow: repair, reuse, recycle (and do a little shopping)

Today and tomorrow are Repair/Reuse/Recycle Days at my house.

Reusable Shopping Bags

Reusable shopping bags don’t stay this clean, but they can be washed. (Photo credit: Tanacollins)


  • Ran my reusable shopping bags through the wash (cool gentle wash, air dry cycle, finish drying in room air). First time I’ve tried this (don’t want to think about how yucky they were) — worked like a charm.
  • Got out the duct tape and fixed the tears and cracks in said shopping bags and their liners.
TP Core

Day care providers turn these into everything from steamrollers to binoculars. (Photo credit: Luigi Chiesa)


  • Delivering craftable odds and ends (like my world-class collection of empty toilet paper cores) to a local day care center.
  • Delivering shirts and jackets that no longer fit my husband (he’s lost thirty pounds) to the Salvation Army Thrift Store (map).
Medical Supplies

The Humane Society finds veterinary uses for many kinds of medical supplies. (Photo credit: Animagus)

  • Delivering surplus medical supplies (oxygen tubing, small containers) to the Lake Humane Society in Mentor (map).


Shop recycle:

Little by little, I’m finding order in my chaos!

Repair, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Keep It Out of the Landfill

Shop Recycled: Local Library Book Sales for June 2012

If you’re looking for some good beach reading at a bargain price, check out the Friends of the Library book sales at these local libraries – and pick up a few CDs and videos, while you’re at it:

June 8 and 9, Orange Branch Library Book Sale. Held at 31300 Chagrin Boulevard (map). Public sale hours are:

  • Friday, June 8: 1–5 p.m.
  • Saturday, June 9, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

The Friends Benefactor Preview sale, Friday, June 8, 12–1 p.m., is limited to Friends of the Library members only. Books, videos, and CDs are priced at 50¢–$1.00, and children’s books are 4/$1.00. For more information, see the Friends of the Orange Library web site.

June 9 (Saturday), Burton Public Library Book Sale. Held at 14588 West Park Street (map). Hours are 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Books are 80% donated, 50% hardcover, sorted, priced 50¢–$2.00.

Reading at the Beach

A great selection of summer reading is available at a Friends of the Library book sale.

June 9 (Saturday), Mayfield Library Book Sale. Held at 6080 Wilson Mills Road (map). Hours are 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

June 30 (Saturday), Painesville, Morley Library Book Sale. Held at 184 Phelps Street (map). Hours are 10 a.m.–3 p.m.

Proceeds from the sales help support the sponsoring Friends organizations, who in turn provide funding for local library programs. And every purchase from a Friends of the Library Book Sale is an exercise in reducing, reusing and recycling.

Old tractors don’t belong in landfills, either.

Few mechanical devices inspire love like an old tractor, so a recent Click and Clack column about a 1945 Farmall-A in failing health warmed my heart.

The tractor’s owner had written to Car Talk, the King Features column written by Tom and Ray Magliozzi (aka Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers), for help diagnosing a problem: the tractor would start and run well for 20–30 minutes, but then would start to miss and then stall, usually while going up a hill.

The owner checked out the carburetor and fuel lines, put in new plugs, tried a couple of gasoline additives — nothing worked. He considered replacing the carburetor but didn’t want to go that far unless he could be sure that was the problem.


If you love your tractor, you won’t give up on it.

Tom and Ray, in their column’s usual back-and-forth discussion format, suggested that the problem lay in either the ignition or the carburetor.

Maybe it was a case of float sink, which replacing the carburetor would solve.

Or it might be a weak spark that acceleration and a sudden increase in fuel flow was extinguishing, causing the engine to stall. So new plugs, points, and condenser might be the answer, and maybe a new coil, too.

The brothers closed their column with, “Remember, the reason you never see questions about old farm tractors in our column is because we don’t know anything about them!”

Car Talk posted the article on its website, and their readers weighed in – at last count, twenty comments had been posted:

  • Make sure you have more than a little gas in the tank (advice based on the writer’s experience with his 1950 Ferguson).
  • Check for foreign objects in the fuel tank (from another writer’s memories of pranks played on a friend).
  • If it’s a battery engine, replace the coil, condenser, and points, but if it’s magneto, replace points and condenser and maybe rebuild the magneto.
  • If it’s a magneto, you’re better off converting it to distributor and coil.
  • Troubleshoot to narrow it down — a list of at least a dozen checks — and don’t ask Tom and Ray questions about anything besides cars and trucks.
  • Maybe it’s water in the fuel line.
  • Is the gas cap venting?
  • My old pickup truck used to do this — turned out that the fuel filter needed replacing.
  • Run a compression check on the engine, and if that doesn’t solve the problem, check that the governor is working.
  • Pull the sediment bulb out of the fuel line and empty it.
  • Even if the condenser is new, it might have been bad out of the box.
  • Did you run an ignition analyzer check?
  • Is there water in the carburetor bowl?
  • “Try backing up the hill. If it does not stall out, you have narrowed it down to fuel flow.”

When I finished reading, I knew only a little more about tractors, but I had learned a lot about the people who love them. My kind of people!

Use it up, wear it out … and by all means, keep it out of the landfill!

Recycling in the Garden

I picked up a back copy of Fine Gardening magazine from the Free Cart at my local library, because a teaser on the cover caught my eye: “Trend Watch: A new way to compost.” The article was about Bokashi composting, and it inspired me to write my latest article for

Of course, in the spirit of waste not, want not, I went on to read the rest of the magazine, and I found several delightful recycling tips for gardeners.

Saving and Sharing Seeds

A reader in Littleton, Connecticut saves envelopes from junk mail and uses them when he collects and stores seeds at the end of the growing season.

And a reader in Beach Haven, New Jersey saves the paper envelopes that some tea bags are packaged in and uses them to store seeds that she shares with friends. She tapes the envelope shut, labels it with the name of the seeds and the date she collected them, and stores them in a resealable zip-top plastic bag.

A New Use for a Toy Dinosaur

A reader in Santa Cruz, California uses a motion-triggered toy dinosaur to protect her garden from the deer that manage to squeeze through her fence. It roars, she says, like a T. Rex when triggered. At the time she wrote, the deer still hadn’t figured it out.

Forged Trowels From Railroad Spikes

A craftsman in Floyds Knob, Indiana, turns reclaimed railroad spikes into garden tools. You can see (and purchase) them at his shop.

All these came from the October 2010 issue of Fine Gardening magazine, which I found on the cart where our local Friends of the Library group offers — free for the taking — books, magazines, CD, videos, etc. that they aren’t able to sell at their quarterly book sales. What a wonderful way to recycle!

Use it up, wear it out: get the most from your laser toner cartridge

When the toner in your HP laserjet printer shows signs of running out, you may get an alert from your printer’s software, or you may just notice vertical white streaks on the printed page, depending on the printer model you’re using.

Don’t be in a hurry to replace the cartridge. You can get a lot more use from it if you take out the cartridge and gently shake it from side to side to redistribute the toner, and replace it in the printer. Keep doing this every time it shows signs of running out, and you should be able to get a lot more pages. I finally, today, replaced the cartridge that’s been giving me alerts for at least two weeks. (This may or may not work with other manufacturers’ printers, but it’s worth a try.)

And of course you do have the printer’s properties set to default to economy/toner-saving mode, don’t you?

When you do install a new cartridge, remember to recycle the old one. If it’s an HP, you can use the box from the new cartridge to ship the old one to a recycling facility — there’s a prepaid shipping label in the box.  Just put the old cartridge into the box, seal it, slap on the label, and take it to a UPS shipper.