This is your page for all things reduction and reuse.
Websites listed below are not exhaustive and do not reflect City endorsement or support of products and services. Follow all safety precautions when doing your own repair or upcycling projects.
These 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 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.
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.
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 page.
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.
Mending torn clothing, adding a coat of paint to an old table, or replacing a damaged bike tire are just a few examples of “making do” instead of buying new.
For Do-It-Yourself (DIY) repair resources, visit the Repair (Fix It and Do-It-Yourself) webpage.
For local repair services in the area, view the Iowa City Area Repair Directory.
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:
Reduction and reuse are first priorities as they have the most beneficial environmental impact in terms of waste reduction. However, recycling is a necessary and important piece of the waste reduction puzzle.
For recycling to be a beneficial part of a sustainable system, it needs to be done correctly with minimal contamination. Materials not accepted in recycling are called "contamination" because they negatively affect the recycling process for accepted materials or create safety hazards.
It is important to keep contamination low. Too many of the wrong items can lead to the entire load being landfilled. We all have a part to play to ensure recycling actually gets recycled. Only put accepted, clean (no food residue) items in your recycling bin.
The Curbside Recycling At-Home Sort is a great activity to do at home on your own or with other family members to learn which materials are accepted and which materials are contamination. A text-only version of this activity is also available.
For more information on curbside or drop-off recycling opportunities in Iowa City, visit www.icgov.org/recycle.
Upcycle and Repurpose
- Rag Rug Making:
- Plastic Bottle Bird Feeder (Inhabitat)
- Weaved Magazine Drink Coaster (How About Orange)
- No-sew T-shirt Reusable Bag (Mommypotamus)
- Old Drawer Upcycling (DIY & Crafts)
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.
- Iowa City Resale and Consignment Directory: This guide provides a list of local secondhand and consignment stores in Iowa City and Coralville.
- Freecycle.org is another great resource that supports local reuse. This website is a platform for locals to post items they wish to get rid of or need. The items are free, and it is free to participate.
- Fair Trade: Fair Trade offers a labeling system that focuses on conscious consumption related to social and economic fairness, and environmental protection.
- Iowa City Citywide Garage Sale
- North Liberty Citywide Garage Sale
Borrow, Check Out, Rent
- Iowa City Area Rental Item Directory offers a variety of rental opportunities in our community for equipment, supplies, tools, and more.
Reduce Food Waste
- The following Food: Too Good To Waste strategies can help you reduce food waste:
- For recipes, food storage and planning tips, and more, check out Save the Food:
- Are you a restaurant wanting to reduce food waste? Check out the ReFed Restaurant Food Waste Action Guide.
- Have food that could be donated?
- Table to Table is a local non-profit organization that rescues edible food and delivers it to organizations in Iowa City that can use it.
Holiday Waste Reduction Guides
- 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.