1. Don’t replace — refinish! Take a cue from Christopher Jones of styleNorth and bring out the best in your tiles. Instead of replacing them altogether and tossing old ceramic tile in the dumpster, or treating tiles with harsh chemicals, use a biodegradable paint stripper to clean up bathroom floors or shower walls. Jones was pleasantly surprised at how well this product worked. It’s free of the usual chemicals like methylene chloride, hydrogen peroxide and ammonia, but still dissolves varnishes and paints from metal, concrete, wood, glass or tile. Just layer on, walk away for 30 minutes, and then scrub down your tiles with an abrasive pad. This biodegradable stripper is available through Lee Valley, and it’s made in Canada.
2. Craft custom furniture from reclaimed materials. Victoria, one of the two handy ladies from DesignTies, saved stumps from a cedar tree she was forced to take down last summer. But instead of tossing the trunk, she saved three large stumps, stored them in her basement, and waited for them to dry out until she brought them up for her next project: side tables for her living room. She’s in the process of stripping the bark to give them a smooth, rustic finish. Using cut trees from your own yard gives furniture even more meaning.
If you’re not into DIY projects, Urban Tree Salvage sells beds, desks, tables and benches from reclaimed local wood. Arrange salvaged stumps in a grouping with different heights as a coffee table at the cottage, or individually as side tables. They’re easy to move around as needed, and with the right finish, they’ll last longer than the cottage itself.
3. Go vintage. Café Cartolina’s Fiona Richards stumbled upon these gorgeous antique pieces from Vintage Home Recycled. Vintage jars like these have so much more personality than the new jars that everyone has. This glass salt/pepper shaker and glass tea caddy from the early 1900s are simple enough for a modern countertop, and “diner” enough for a fun, eclectic kitchen. And the shaker is only $8 USD — so it's stylish and affordable. Both available through Etsy’s Vintage Home Recycled.
For more ideas on living green, view our Green Design photo gallery.