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Eco-friendly life hacks

By: Jordan Bowlby, Broadreach HQ High School Dive + Sail , Middle School, High School Study Abroad, Scuba Diving, Marine Biology, Wildlife Biology

The world generates too much trash. There’s the giant trash gyre in the Pacific Ocean so large that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) has yet to determine its true size. Sea turtles often confuse grocery bags for jellyfish. These issues, as well as the many others, demonstrate a global need for improvement – and we can all do our part to help.

Thanks to the diligent work of environmentalists and creatives, there are many ways you can turn what you consider trash into something useful. This type of reusing and repurposing is a subset of permaculture, or “permanent agriculture,” and seeks to use design and construction to integrate systems instead of thinking of these as separate. One part of this includes sourcing materials from reusable and existing objects using small life hacks.

A life hack allows us to use a little ingenuity and everyday items to make life easier and more efficient, used a lot in countries around the world. Countries’ unmet needs and lack of various resources drives innovation. In some countries, entire houses are built from materials that would normally end up in a landfill – while on a Broadreach trip in Costa Rica, I witnessed the people there making a jungle gym out of old tires. It’s amazing the ways in which people have learned to repair, improve and innovate everyday things.


All around the world, people find new ways to get creative and start using systems that not only promote healthy living, but sustainability as well. Some are complex and require technical knowledge and special skill sets, while others are very simple and can be done with a bit of research

Here are a few of my favorite ways to repurpose trash (upcycle) in order to improve our world and your life… at the same time!

Planter and hanging garden with 2-liter bottles: There are several ways to do this, but a simple way is to cut off the top of a 2-liter bottle and drill some holes in the bottom. Having plants around the house and office not only brings in color and a natural feel, but it also has the added benefit of oxygenating the room, making us all a little happier and healthier. In addition, the see-through bottles allow you to watch your plant grow and see the root system in action. You can even use 2-liter bottles to create a greenhouse, terrarium or place to germinate seeds and propagate new plants. They can also be used to make bird feeders, storage containers and more.

Compost bin with old pallets: It’s amazing all the things you can build using old pallets, and a compost bin can be a handy way to make soil for those planters you just made out of your 2-liter bottles! Composting is also a fantastic way to save money on buying nutrient rich soil. It keeps organics out of landfills, thus reducing sprawl and the potential loss of animal habitat.

Pallets are also great for making into coffee tables and hanging wall gardens, and are often easy to obtain from grocery stores, construction sites or any place that receives large shipments. If you ask, they’re usually happy to provide them to you and so they don’t have to worry about discarding them.

Fix broken flip-flops with a bread clip: Attach a bread clip around the knob part of a pair of flip-flops that connects the toe strap under the sandal. As a frequent traveller, this little trick has saved my feet time and time again while allowing me to get a few extra weeks out of my flip-flops. Plus, you don’t have to keep buying new shoes that use extra resources.

By the way – bread clips are also super handy for keeping computer cords bundled together and labeling what each cord goes to. They even make a great guitar pic if you’re in a pinch!

Jordan Bowlby a program specialist at Broadreach HQ. He was previously a Broadreach instructor who has led numerous adventures around the world, including programs in Costa Rica and Peru.