Five Ways to Encourage Creative Reuse

What are some ways that companies are encouraging the public to creatively reuse their packaging? Here are trends in creative reuse that get me super inspired. If your job relates to improving product packaging, I would love to collaborate with you to explore these trends!

1. Creative Reuse by Suggestion

My friend Schelli gave me a box that she received in the mail from Abe’s Market. The sides of the box were decorated with messages encourage people to re-use the box. There was a website where you could report on your creative re-use of the box.

Abe's Market shipping box

Abe’s Market shipping box

This reminds me of the Caine’s Arcade viral sensation about a boy who was stuck in his dad’s auto parts shop, but he built the most amazing pretend arcade games from cardboard boxes. A video documentary maker just happened to find him. He made a video about Caine, which brought hundreds of people to the arcade. Now kids all over the world are designing their own items from cardboard boxes.

2. Creative Reuse By Helping Others

One of my favorite companies in the world is Terracycle. They partner with companies that produce packaging. They then pay schools and charities to collect the packaging for reuse. Finally, they take the packaging and make it into fun stuff. So if an individual wants to participate, they can collect the trash, and then direct the payment to a school or charity that they want to support.

Another campaign that encourages reuse through charitable feelings is the vending machine in Turkey where you can recycle water bottles. You pour any extra water into a spout and the water is then made available to stray dogs, which are apparently a big issue in Turkey. And the money made from recycling your bottles goes towards buying food for the dogs.

3. Creative Reuse by Design

Earlier this year, I was writing my first patent application and did a lot of research around patents for creative reuse. My favorite patent was for bottle caps that were cast in plastic so that once you were finished with the cap, it became a child’s toy like a Lego block. This is patentĀ EP 2578510 A1, which is for caps as building blocks “designed as interlocking or stackable blocks after the cap has been used for sealing packaging containers.”

Another example is this new type of cardboard box which has re-use built into its DNA. It’s hard to beat that experience of pushing down and the box is made, or pulling and the box pops open. So many behaviors we need to do to save the planet require more effort, so the beauty of this design is that it just works so much better.

4. Creative Reuse by Adding Components

Coca Cola’s 2nd Lives Campaign is my new favorite creative reuse example. Currently running only in Vietnam, it involves giving people components they can screw on to an empty bottle to make it have a longer useful life.

5. Creative Reuse by Making It So Beautiful

For examples of this thinking, I have one word – Pinterest – and you can check out Trashmagination’s Pinterest collection for lots of examples where we are enticed to do creative reuse by seeing beautiful outcomes. This is what I might call the Martha Stewart school of Creative Reuse. Yes – her projects require a ridiculous level of effort – but we are still enticed to do it because we want that kind of creative beauty in our lives. Here’s a rug I hooked for my friend Leanne after she generously worked as my life coach. Her company, Shine Like the Sun, made a huge difference in my life. This rug was hooked from recycled blankets and clothing. I hope it inspires you to try creative reuse!

Leanne's Shine Rug

Leanne’s Shine Rug

The Bottom Line: Let’s Get Beyond Single-Use Thinking

“Single-use thinking” is so sad and damaging. This past week was difficult because some dear friends were laid off from their jobs. This was a terrible example of single-use thinking. It is wasteful to throw away objects and people. Trashmagination focuses on creatively getting the most out of stuff, but it is not because I am obsessed with plastic and cardboard. It is my belief that when we callously throw away stuff, it’s only a few steps and then we learn to throw away people’s talents too. By being more creative and mindful, we help everyone and everything live their full lives.

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