I am OB-sessed with almond milk – so much so that I go through approximately 4-5 cartons per week. Up until about a month ago, I would finish them off and toss them in the recycling bin—thinking, ‘What a responsible consumer I am!‘ Responsible? Possibly. Innovative, creative? Not so much.
It was not until I recently took up running again that I realized what I was tossing out. Because of my rickety knees and hips, running comes at a price for me. That price is usually a few weeks of limping around at the onset of any new program. This time, I read about the wonder of ice baths. Yes, they sounded only slightly more appealing than hobbling. However, I was determined to get back in my Asics, so I took the plunge. It was not nearly as torturous as I had imagined it would be, and I was actually refreshed when I was done. Even better, I had zero aches and pains. Win and win!
The one down side was that keeping a supply of ice for 3-5 weekly baths became a bit cumbersome. Then I stumbled upon a runner’s site that recommended freezing water in empty milk cartons to create large bricks of ice. Now my almond milk addiction was paying off! Now I can freeze my bottom off without hindrance. And more importantly, finally reach my 10k time goals.
If you are harboring an equally ridiculous amount of milk cartons, but have no desire to to join the Polar Bear Club–here are a few other ideas for re-use (taken from and a few other places)
Around The House
- Floor protectors. Cut the tops off cartons and use the bottoms to cover furniture legs. Now you can slide large items around without scratching the floor.
- Paint containers. Cartons make ideal disposable containers for small painting jobs. Trim the carton to the appropriate size, then add paint. No rinsing is needed – just throw the carton in the trash when you’re done. Not the most environmentally sound practice, but it is convenient.
- Drawer organizers. Cut lengthwise to fit utensils. Cut the bottoms to make one or two (or more) inch-deep squares. These make very handy in-drawer storage containers for small odds and ends. You can leave them with their original print for an eclectic feel or paint them to for an more uniform look.
- Dispose of cooking oil. Fill a carton with newspaper and pour oil inside. The newspaper absorbs the oil and the carton keeps everything neatly contained, so no leaks. When it’s been used several times, throw it away.
Disposable cutting boards. Slit cartons open and spread them flat. Keep on hand for when you need to chop smelly items like fish. Or use them for draining fried foods. The paper side absorbs oil and the waxed side keeps oil from leaking through to the plate underneath.
- Use cartons for storing liquids in the refrigerator or freezer. They are great for freezing soup, frozen desserts and whipped cream. When you need some, you don’t have to thaw the whole container: just slice off a chunk as big as you need, then peel the cardboard off and thaw.
Around The Yard
- Winter bird food form. Cartons are ideal for storing homemade suet or peanut butter-based mixtures. Pour hot mix into a carton. When it’s completely hardened, use a sharp carving knife to cut into inch-thick slices. Peel off the cardboard around edges. Each slice fits perfectly into most wire suet holders.
- Seed starter. Cut cartons in half lengthwise and punch drainage holes in the bottom. Fill with potting mix. Now you’re ready to grow some seeds!
- Toe guard. Camping? Try using bottoms of cartons as tent peg covers. They’ll help prevent painful stubbed toes.
- Weight. Fill cartons with sand or pebbles. Punch holes in tops. Use them to weigh down a tarp or drop cloth when it’s windy. Thread rope through the punched holes and tie them down for added security.
- Compost. Schools in LA collected 200 tons of school lunch milk cartons, which the city converted into compost and used to plant trees in bare urban areas. You can do the same on a small scale. Just shred them before adding to your compost container.
- Bowling alley. Empty cartons make great (free!) bowling pins for kids. Let them spend a rainy afternoon decorating the “pins” with paint before the all-important first game.
- Coin purse. A super cute way for young girls to keep their purses organized. Perhaps even an idea for little girls to give to their friends as gifts. Check out the tutorial at CutOutandKeep.com
- Blocks for baby. Wash and dry cartons, then stuff with scrunched up newspaper or junk mail. Fold down the triangle top and tape shut. They make wonderful blocks for babies and toddlers to play with and practice their stacking skills.
Candle mold. Trim carton to size. Anchor wick at the bottom on the inside, making sure the wick is a couple of inches longer than the container is tall. Pour hot wax inside and let it set. **Ice variation**Coat the inside of a clean carton with cooking spray. Anchor the wick inside, then fill with ice cubes. Pour in hot wax. The melting ice creates beautiful formations in the wax.
Bird feeder. An easy homemade feeder that encourages kids to learn about birds. Cut a hole in a carton and insert a piece of dowel for a perch just below. Fill with seed and hang from a branch.
Decorative bird house. A great craft idea for kids or adults. Decorate a clean carton however you like. Cut holes and decorate by gluing little craft “birds” into the doorways or on top. Use twigs, raffia and moss to create their “nests.”
Pencil holder or vase. Clean and trim old cartons, then decorate with paints, papers, ribbon, glitter – or whatever catches your eye. Use them as pencil holders or even as flower vases.
- Ginger bread house. Very young kids don’t have the dexterity to work with real gingerbread house kits. So let them use cartons for a firm foundation. Just clean and trim a carton, then let the kids glue ginger cookies onto the sides, using white icing for “glue.” Add candy, pretzels etc for added decorations.
- Doll house or toy town. Each carton can become a room or tiny house in your child’s imagination. Help kids cut the sides out of cartons and decorate. Glue them together to make a house … or a whole town.