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This is your page for all things reduction, reuse, repair, and upcycling. Here you will find resources and recommendations for how you can reduce waste. 

These four steps are recommended and prioritized before recycling and composting, because they prevent waste from being formed in the first place. Waste prevention saves energy and resources, preserves landfill space, and reduces our greenhouse gas emissions in Iowa City. All of these efforts go towards our emissions reduction goals outlined in the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan

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Reduction and Reuse

Reduction and reuse are simply about using less stuff.

The amount of stuff we use and buy tends to translate into the amount of trash we produce. For example, when we reduce the amount of disposable packaging we choose to buy, our trash production decreases. 

Reuse involves using items again and again, such as a reusable shopping bag. Reusing items is an impactful way that each of us can reduce waste. 

Reducing and reusing are all about our behaviors and habits. Changing behaviors can sometimes seem difficult, but the good news is that there are a lot of easy, simple steps you can take that make a big difference over time.

Eco-Friendly Alternatives

Drinking water: Choose a reusable water bottle.

Drinking coffee or tea: Choose a reusable mug. 

Shopping: Bring your reusable shopping bags the next time you head to the store.

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Remember the importance of consumer choice. You make a vote for the products you want on the shelf with what you choose to spend money on. Choose products that are local, sustainably-made, Fair Trade, recycled content, recyclable, reusable, durable, or organic

For grocery shopping, have a strategy in mind before walking in the store. Make a list, and only buy the food that you know you can eat. For more great tips on reducing food waste, check out our Food Waste webpage. 

Drying freshly-washed hands: Reach for a cloth towel at home the next time you wash your hands.

Meal time: Opt for cloth napkins for your next meal; only plate what you know you can eat; save leftovers for later.

Reading: Check out a book from the library. Sharing, or reusing books is a great way to reduce environmental impact. Did you know that you can also check out movies, music, and artwork from the library? More information at the Library's website


Making do with what we already have reduces waste and our overall environmental impact.

Repairing clothing that is torn, adding a coat of paint on an old table to freshen it up, or replacing a tire on your bike are just a few examples of “making do” instead of buying new.  

Looking for guidance on how to fix something? The following websites have simple and affordable tips on how to fix or repair stuff around the house with a large library of tutorials for all sorts of common at-home items. 


Upcycling is taking an item, that would have otherwise ended up in the trash or recycling bin, and giving it a new use or purpose. Upcycling oftentimes involves some creativity and craftiness, and in a lot of cases, can be quite simple. 

Some examples include:

  • Using an old mason jar as a drinking glass or pencil holder 
  • Collecting wine corks to make a bulletin board
  • Transforming a t-shirt into a reusable bag
  • Turning a plastic water bottle into a bird feeder 
  • Sewing old sweaters into mittens

The following website have tons of upcycling tutorials to help you get creative while reducing waste: 


Upcycle and Repurpose
Simplify, Reduce Clutter, Increase Meaning
  • Reclaim Your Holidays: Use these tips and resources to reduce clutter, while increasing meaning, during the holidays. 
  • New Dream: This organization provides resources on how we can improve well-being and decrease consumption. 
  • The Story of Stuff: Check out this website for information on current issues and resources on how to take action to reduce plastic pollution.
  • 30 Day Unshopping Challenge: This challenge encourages us to take a break from shopping, and to use this time for more meaningful experiences that bring us joy. 
  • Simple Homemade Cleaning Recipes: View this handout for natural cleaning tips that reduce your use and exposure to hazardous material. 
Earth-Friendly Shopping 
Borrow, Check Out, Rent
Reduce Food Waste
Holiday Waste Reduction Guides

Local Events

  • Repair and Upcycle Series: This event series is held every January, February, and March. More information on the Repair and Upcycle Series 2021 will be posted here later this year. 
  • Iowa City Fab Lab: This local maker-space has frequent events related to upcycling and reuse. 
  • Backyard Abundance: This local nonprofit can help you create a beautiful, organic, low-maintenance landscape that reuses materials for gardens, creates compost from kitchen scraps and yard debris, provides habitat for desired wildlife, grows food and manages rainwater.
  • Iowa City Bike Library: This organization offers classes and workshops related to bike maintenance and repair. 

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