Repurposing: Using Old to Make New

Going green in not just about reducing, recycling and reusing. There is a fourth “R” — repurposing.
Writer: Vickie Kite Milburn

While reusing and repurposing have similar outcomes in that they both do their part in preserving the planet and reducing the waste at landfills, they are different by definition — but are equally valuable. Reusing is to use something again instead of tossing, like reusing grocery bags, wrapping paper and bubble wrap or donating items you don’t use to a charity thrift store so that those items can be used by someone else. Reusing is also using items that have been previously used … available at antique, vintage and thrift stores — like furniture, home decor and collectibles. Reusing is giving an item a new life with the same purpose.
Repurposing is all about finding new uses for items you already own or may come across in your travels. It is taking something you consider useless and giving it a new purpose in life. It is about doing some creative thinking before you toss items in the garbage or buy something new.
I asked Anita Goehringer of Tall Timbers, owner of Upcycled Warehouse, to make some suggestions for our readers for repurposing.
Anita has been repurposing, and upcycling, for more than 20 years. I have purchased many of her creations over the years.
Retired from ergonomics consulting, she has spent many years getting back to her roots of nature, horticulture and the outdoors. As one of the talented artists at Herring Creek Furniture at Cecil’s Old Mill, Anita spends much of her time creating upcycled, repurposed and sustainable goods.
Her website ( describes her business well: “I see beauty in using old to make new, in keeping usable finds from ending up in landfills or contaminating our waterways. I love spending time outdoors in the natural world and believe that our creations help in some small way to preserve nature, highlight its beauty and enhance sustainability.”
Anita has given us a great list of items to get started in our pursuit of repurposing.

    • • Rusty industrial parts repurposed into art and/or functional items (lamps, furniture, etc.)
    • • Using used Keurig cups to improve soils and start garden plants for gardens (make sure you take the coffee out and add in good potting soil)
    • • Repurposing old clothes into other creations such as pillows and bags
    • • Repurposing heavy duty plastic feed bags into grocery/carryall bags
    • • Old pallet wood and other “burn pile” wood turned into counter spice racks
    • • Using old shutters and doors to make raised garden beds
    • • Using oyster shells to make miniature succulent gardens
    • • Using old cast-off items such as pottery, glassware, oyster shells, etc. to make cool planters or mini gardens/greenhouse gardens


      This list is just the beginning of items that can be repurposed. There are so many more. The list really is endless. You don’t have to do them all, or completely change your life, to make our world a little greener.

    Just make a small shift in your mindset. It could be a lot of fun as well as rewarding. I’m currently working on a project to make a bird bath out of broken pieces of pottery. •