Recyclable Kingdom

recyclable kingdomQ: I want to do one of your projects, but where am I going to get 30 oatmeal containers for my classroom?

Don’t start eating a mountain of oatmeal just yet!

Here at Princeton University, I have a recycling program that involves the entire library system. I send out periodic calls for recyclables (oatmeal containers, tissue boxes, paper towel tubes, tea tins, etc.) and people regularly bring these items from home and drop them off at our office. The lovely pile of goodies you see displayed above is about six week’s worth of supplies, all donated by Princeton University Library staff.

People drop off useful odds and ends as well, like old jewelry, wrapping paper remnants, plastic lids, stickers, and ribbon. Sometimes, I’ll request something specific, such as coins from foreign countries to serve as “pirate treasure,” or old neckties to transform into stuffed snakes.

People also know to contact me if they have office items they’re recycling or throwing away. I used two big boxes to create a spooky tree adventure for this post. An extra large box became a fabulous Humpty Dumpty climbing wall for this project. I used discarded white archive boxes for this miraculous mechanism project, this fast food stand, and this haunted dollhouse (and I still have some left over!). Another giant box became Crackenhopper Field for some creepy carrots. An avalanche of leftover brown packing paper was used for this tree project. An influx of bubble wrap was used to secure giant feet at this dance party. A friend who works at a pharmacy sends me a steady stream of tagboard he salvages from box packaging. And if you’re wondering what to do with those leftover 8oz water bottles, try this simple ship in the bottle project.

Yes, I get pretty giddy about recyclables. Not only do these materials get a fantastic second life, they allow me to splurge on other art supplies (like this, this, this and this). I even reuse the paper and plastic bags the recyclables arrive in – kids use the bags to carry their projects home.

You can do something like this too. Send word to colleagues and friends at your library, school, workplace, or neighborhood and see what you can find. There’s also Freecycle, the national network for freely getting and giving all sorts of stuff. When I was a grad student at the University of Virginia (and a Public Programs Coordinator at a children’s museum at the same time), I used a UVa listserv to request recyclables for my programs. Perhaps your learning institution has something similar you can tap into?

There’s also going right to the source to find something. I’ve circled around camera shops to collect clear film canisters, snagged branches from grounds crews, grabbed rocks from roadsides, pawed through piles of discarded spice bottles to find juuust the right ones for a project. I spent weeks repeatedly going to Starbucks to claim empty gallon milk jugs to transform into an igloo (I’m afraid I don’t have a picture of my igloo, but I pinned one like it on my “Ideas & Inspirations” board on Pinterest).

Worst case, you could buy 30 oatmeal containers and consume 1,260 ounces of oatmeal. I’ve done that too. Oh yes.

Have a question of your own? E-mail me!

Worth the Splurge II

gallon glue pumpWe’ve all been through the arduous task known as “the refilling of the squeeze glue bottles.” Drips. Spurts. Clogged funnels. Gloppy snakes of glue that run over your hand and pool onto the tabletop.

I endured this for years. Oh yes, I was well aware that glue pumps existed, but I couldn’t bring my stubborn self to pony up and buy one. Then one day, I finally caved. I’m glad I did. This pump is awesome! It slides into a gallon glue container, neatly deposits the glue right into the bottles, and it even has a little cap that covers the pump opening to prevent drips. It’s also gigantic, so you feel very mighty and powerful as you sit pumping glue.

I bought this glue pump online for $19.99 at Discount School Supply. I’m sure my splurge has saved me much time and frustration (not to mention wasted glue). I heart my gallon glue pump!

Interested in another crafting tool tip? Click here for the original “Worth the Splurge!”

Worth the Splurge

tape dispensor 1Exactly what are we looking at here? Perhaps this will help:

tape dispensor 2Still a bit strange? How about this?

tape dispensor 3That’s right. You’re looking at a tape dispenser with an attached tape drum. YES!

I don’t know about you, but for years I fought the tape dispenser drum battle. For some kids, ripping tape off a dispenser is not easy. They jerk the tape, causing the whole roll to fly out of the dispenser. Those nefarious drums would go missing too, chuckling gleefully in the shadows while we tried to rig up something with craft sticks or toothpicks shoved into bouncy balls. Inquires about “extra tape drums” were met with blank stares from office supply store clerks.

When I saw this in an office supply catalog in 2006, looking like a little DeLorean tape dispenser, I rejoiced.

historical reenactmentThen I ordered sixteen of them and never looked back. These dispensers are easy for kid to handle, there are no flying rolls of tape, no lost tape drums, and they are super easy to reload. You can get one from the Office Max catalog for $8.62. Absolutely worth the splurge!