Photo: Mary Anne Enriquez/Flickr
Maybe you don't go through milk by the jug like some people do, but chances are that you've got a steady supply of milk (or Lactaid, or Silk ... you get the idea) cartons streaming out of your house every month. You absolutely can recycle them, but did you know that there are also tons of other things you can do with them?
1. Nifty little box
You'll need two cartons for this one. Cut the first off at the desired depth, and then cut the other off from the bottom at about one to two inches. The shorter carton will become the lid for the taller one. Cover the two boxes in paper, foil, or other decorations to make a lovely gift box out of totally recycled materials.
2. We're gonna need a bigger ice cube
If you live somewhere hot, you know how useful it is to have lots of ice around in the summer months. Try milk carton ice cubes on for size. Yes, seriously. Freeze water (leave some room for expansion!) in milk cartons for stacking in coolers or tossing into the yard for pets to play with. Kids might enjoy your oversized ice cubes too!
3. Floor protectors
If you're moving, changes are high that you're going to scuff your floors as you shift furniture around. That's no fun for anyone, especially your deposit. Use cut-off milk cartons as little booties for your furniture to create a protective barrier between sharp couch, bed, and other feet and your floor.
Photo: London Permaculture/Flickr
4. Planter box
Milk cartons are a great size for growing herbs and other small plantings. Fill a carton with dirt, poke some holes in the bottom for drainage, and you have a great planter. If you don't want to look at a row of milk cartons, you can decorate the sides; try chalkboard paint, for example, which will allow you to note down details about what's planted in which carton. Milk cartons are also good for starting seeds indoors — they're even popular with landscapers for managing starts in the spring.
5. Collaring for bug protection
Insects and slugs love attacking young plants, which is exactly what you don't want to happen. Use a cut-off milk carton to make a collar around young plants to give them a chance to grow without being used as a snack by garden pests. As plants mature, you can remove the collars.
6. Bird house or feeder
Milk cartons are a great size for small birds and bats. Cut out a hole in the side and add straw, pine needles, or other natural liners to make a soft nest for creatures you want to invite inside. Install your bird house high enough that rats and mice won't be encouraged to take advantage of the new digs, and make sure it's out of reach of neighborhood predators, too. Here's an instructional guide to making a bird feeder from a milk carton!
Milk cartons are great for organizing because of their standardized shape and size. You can use as many or as few as you need on a desk or workbench, inside drawers, and in other locations to keep small items like pens and pencils in order. Remember to wash your cartons out thoroughly to avoid sour milk smells!
Like other cardboard products, milk cartons can be added to compost to up the brown or carbon content. Shred or cut up your cartons to help them break down more quickly before you add them to the compost.
9. Frozen food storage
Milk cartons are a great size and height for storing stock, soups, stews, and more. Better yet, the design is ideal for slicing off as much as you need and putting the rest back into the freezer (you'll need to bag it to prevent freezer messes). Your solid frozen blocks of liquid foods will also help keep temperatures down in the freezer in the event there's a power interruption, so you won't have to throw out your frozen goods. Bonus!
10. Paint mixing
Working on a project? Milk cartons are great for paint mixing and storage, allowing you to take as much as you need from a larger can to work with while you're painting. When you're finished with the painting project, you can rinse and recycle your milk carton.
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