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There is an important movement happening now to reduce our use of plastic, and choosing glass jars instead of plastic ones is a big part of it. A problem, however, that many eco-conscious consumers run into is that there is a finite number of glass jars that can be stowed away for later use. At some point, the amassing has to stop. Not only do our cabinets insist, but also there are only so many pickles one can make or dried beans one can store or seed banks one can start or fermentation cultures needed in one household. Then, what do we do with the extra jars?

When in doubt, pawn them off on others. Jars are amazing. With them, we can make a cool collection of gifts that will remind our friends of how wonderfully green and colorfully creative we are, as well as provide thoughtful, useful presents. The following DIY gifts don’t take much effort, and we can save ourselves the cash of buying a present, upcycling instead of using more resources, and emptying the cupboards a little. Check out these hip ways to upcycle jars.

1. Personalized Salt and Pepper Shakers

Using small jars, such as from baby food, it is possible to poke holes in the lids in personalized patterns, maybe initials or numbers (for a birthday). Just clean the labels from the jars. Put a piece of tape on the top and mark out the design with a marker. Then, using a hammer and small nail, create the holes for the shaker. It’s possible to take the gift even further and make special homemade seasoning salts and pepper blends to go in the shakers. Food is always a great gift because everyone needs to eat.

2. Plant Pot for Home-Grown Herbs

Along that same line of thinking, large pickle jars, or anything of a quart or more, are perfect for growing fresh herbs. Clean the jar out very well. Fill it with a well-made organic potting mix. Go to a nursery and buy a fresh herb seedling to put in it. Growing herbs from seeds or cuttings is completely doable as well, and possibly free, but it will take a little more preparation time – like weeks. For added charm, consider painting the jar or somehow decorating the outside. However, seeing the roots spread along the sides is pretty cool, too. Another nifty plant option, though not edible, is to create a terrarium.

3. A Specially Selected Snack Pack

This is great for old pint and/or quart jars, something about the right size for personalized snacking. After the jar has been scrubbed and dried well, fill it with a collection of mixed nuts, dehydrated fruit, cacao nibs, and whatever else might fit into what some of us like to call a vegan munch. To make it a little more presentable, tie a bit of festive ribbon around the lid, and there it is. Another option would be to bake some homemade cookies or power bites and fill it with them. It’s healthy, it’s green and it’s really sweet.

4. A Stylish and Deluxe Sewing Kit

Sewing kits, at one time, may have seemed a bit of a laughable gift, something for grandmas, but the DIY thing is in big-time these days. Sewing kits have become yet another way to regain our empowerment as people. Put a little foam or padding on the lid and cover it with a bit of scrap cloth to create a handy pin cushion. Stuff the jar with a healthy assortment of threads, needles, some scissors, a thimble, safety pins, and a cloth tape measure. It’s an upcycled gift that looks good, has real value, and encourages self-sufficiency. Pats on backs all around.

5. Scripted and Hand-Painted Vases

Vases are one of those things that, at some point, we all need around, but they are often quite difficult to drop hard-earned money on. Some of us end up with a lovely bouquet springing forth from an old spaghetti sauce jar. That’s just fine, but it’s possible to jazz up those jars with a bit of hot glue and some paint. Carefully apply the glue in whatever design works, a simple flower or a word, then prime and paint the jar. (Be sure to remove any errant strands of glue before painting.) Why not make a trio and get rid of a few jars in one lovingly crafted multi-gift? Then, you could also provide seeds so that the person can grow some flowers to put in them.

6. Reusable Storage Jars with Chalkboard Labels

For friends that are interested in going green, but perhaps are not quite on to the jar phase yet, it’s easy to create storage jars with chalkboard labels (helping the present look like more than just a box of old jars). Just tape around the area to be painted, creating a clean-looking shape, and paint it with chalkboard paint, which is available at most hardware stores. To up the quality a bit, perhaps fill the jars with some treats the receiver of the gift likes, label the jars, and include some chalk so they are ready to refill them with something new when the time comes.

Frankly, these all seem like gifts certain authors might like to receive or maybe just have to make themselves because they can’t wait around for that. Jars are rad. Save them. Use them. Give them away.

Easy Ways to Help the Planet:

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  • Do What You Can: Reduce waste, plant trees, eat local, travel responsibly, reuse stuff, say no to single-use plastics, recycle, vote smart, switch to cold water laundry, divest from fossil fuels, save water, shop wisely, Donate if you can, grow your own food, volunteer, conserve energy, compost, and don’t forget about the microplastics and microbeads lurking in common household and personal care products!