The following post is from Katie of Kitchen Stewardship:
Sometimes I quantify my life in steps taken, items moved in a day, and a category called “Things I Do That Normal People Don’t Bother With.”
In this category are things like rinsing out glass milk jars, hauling Styrofoam to the recycling plant, and saving plastic zipper bags that held items in the mail – they’re in a box in our linen closet to be ready to hold handmade soap, little toy pieces and coins that need to be sent to school.
Also on this list is the fact that we have a large stack of egg cartons on our coat closet shelf. I guess I don’t know what “normal people” do with their egg cartons – trash them? recycle them? – but I save them to take back to the farmer whenever possible.
Simply reusing is certainly my preferred end for an egg carton. I hope you can find somewhere that can reuse your egg cartons for actual eggs. I’ve even taken them back to a brick-and-mortar store before because I know that they deal directly with the farmers, and they said they’d make sure they got back to the farm. It’s worth asking!
If you can find quality eggs in cardboard containers, you can often recycle them with paper products, and the clear plastic kind are also often recyclable (check your community’s guidelines). Before recycling, though, I always try to think of ways to repurpose products.
Whether you go through 3-4 dozen eggs in a week like my family can or not, you might wonder what other options there are for egg cartons. I’ve got seven ideas for you.
Both Styrofoam and plastic egg cartons are easy to rinse out and keep kids’ paint colors separate, so the little artists can mix their own instead of gravity doing it for them.
You might ask at your local school to see if the elementary art teacher would be able to repurpose egg cartons (or any number of other household items). Please ask first, though, don’t just drop off *stuff* at your school’s office!
Grab some dry beans, marbles, or rocks from outside and make a homemade version of Mancala.
You’ll need 48 counters and two little receptacles of some kind for either end (I used repurposed butter covers in this photo).
If you’re not familiar with the game, I found some online instructions for you at eHow and Instructables. It’s a good one for keeping your thinker sharp and playing with younger children, maybe 5 and up – the kind of game where parents aren’t feeling like their IQ is dropping (ahem, Candy Land) and the kiddos can still keep up.
Science Fair Projects
Years back when I was still a third grade teacher I bought this demonstration of various rocks at a teacher fair. Any small items that need to be contained and labeled, especially if you can get them in groups of 12, would be perfect for this form of presentation.
The rocks are glued in with a ton of glue (or plaster or something), and then the labels go on the inside of the lid of the carton. Nothing has budged in ten years, so I’d say it would last through a science fair for sure!
I have no doubt the Internet is a vast resource of egg carton crafts, the caterpillar with pipe cleaner antennae being the classic that comes to my mind first. Here are just a few massive roundups:
- Dragons, flowers, bulletin boards, and plenty of caterpillars from The Crafty Crow
- Jewelry holder, flower garden and more from AHC Arts and Crafts
- Quite an inspiring Pinterest board!
I demonstrated this one when I shared free preschool activities from your kitchen, but it’s a very simple counting work for 2-4 year olds.
You provide the child with the exact number they’ll need to complete, either 0-5 or 0-11 or 1-12, and then they have a little bit of a self-check built in if they have any leftovers or run out.
Nest two egg cartons with the 12 spots inside the lid of the other, and you’ve got a nearly perfect container for storing alphabet tiles, stamps, etc.
Okay, so 24 isn’t exactly equal to the number of letters in the alphabet (26 if you’re not sure), but W/X and Y/Z hang out pretty well together at the end.
Then you can have your child build words in the second lid, like this:
To store, just separate the two cartons and close the lids. Wrap a rubber band around them in case of a fall from a shelf, and keep all toddlers who like to dump things away.
Don’t waste your money buying those biodegradable seed starting pots. Just use the cardboard egg cartons and/or shells and you’re off and running for spring gardening! See Michelle’s beautiful post on repurposed containers for starting seeds for more details.
What’s your favorite repurpose job for food packaging?
|Katie Kimball has been “green” since 5th grade when she read 50 Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth. She remains slightly disappointed that she didn’t actually save the whole thing back then, but now that she has 3 kiddos counting on her, she keeps plugging away hopefully. Katie blogs at Kitchen Stewardship about real food and natural living and is the author of Healthy Snacks to Go and other eBooks, available for Kindle.|