Simple Saturday ~ Operation Donate Recycle

I ran into a friend at the grocery store a week ago and we had a little chat. She was searching for some containers to hold clean and used plastic teaspoons that she washes and reuses in her work space. She works in a training environment and as usual coffee and tea is provided as refreshment. In order to do the right thing by the environment she encourages people to leave the plastic spoon to be washed and reused. Of course not everyone conforms to this ideal so the spoons constantly need restocking.

I offered to find her some proper metal teaspoons at the thrift store where I volunteer making it more likely that people would leave then where they use them. This should eliminate the use of plastic altogether and the spoons are secondhand so buying them doesn’t add to the supply and demand for new product.

I managed to pick up 20 silver plated teaspoons for only $4 and delivered them to her. She was very pleased and I was happy to help. Not only did we achieve something for the environment but the sale of the spoons provides cash for a charity that helps people in need. To top it off, my donation of the spoons to the organisation she works for saved them the expense of buying new ones. Win Win Win!

My Silver Spoon Donation

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Mini Mission ~ Friday 22Dec2017 Declutter a couple of old shabby shoes that you no long choose to use.
  • Mini Mission ~ Thursday 21Dec2017 Declutter your fridge of out of date items or by using up as much as possible before adding more. With the holiday season here you will likely need every inch of spare space.
  • Mini Mission ~ Wednesday 20Dec2017 Declutter by recycling some items. That mound ofused takeout containers, old newspapers and magazines, paperwork that needs shredding, glass jars you set aside in case you have a use for […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Great plan Colleen! People do automatically assume that plastic = trash. I have some colorful, heavy plastic plates that I use when we have a lot of guests or kid guests, like for the neighborhood pot luck we have every few months. Inevitably, someone tries to throw one of my plates away. They’re REAL plates! What’s up with that??

    • Hi Cindy,
      yours is a familiar story. I have had the same thing happening with plastic items of mine at times. I have even been known to fish them out of the garbage. I was so pleased to be able to help my friend Jenny out with this task. Then my hubby said, get some for my work too if you can.

      • Isn’t that interesting, I bemused that my new office had so much cutlery, someone explained it was cause of few of them decluttered their sets at home and brought them in. And obviously, should we need to, we can get more at a thrift store. Strange how so many other offices (usually with more transient staff) have nothing, and everyone BYOs (fraught with difficulty) or uses plastic.

        • Hi Snosie,
          I think you are right about this being a bigger problem with transient staff. That is the case with the situation I wrote about. But in some cases people just don’t care, convenience will usurp added responsibility every time.

  2. Good for you, Colleen. Perceptions can and do change.

    I used to take a box of paper plates, plastic utensils and glasses to potlucks and picnics but have stopped doing it because they weren’t needed. Almost everyone brings their own dishes and utensils and takes them home to be washed. A gradual shift in attitude and a case of leading by example.

    • I love this idea. We moved to paper plates for family get-togethers so that the host family wouldn’t need to worry about doing dishes afterwards. This solves the problem so much better.

    • Hi Wendy B,
      it is very encouraging to think that many people are rejecting the convenience of throw away items and opting to make the effort to maintain reusable items for the sake of the environment. It warms my heart to know that and gives me hope that maybe just maybe society is making a turn in the right direction.

  3. Great idea, Colleen. I wish we had a small sink in our kitchen space at work; I wouldn’t mind doing this. I draw the line at doing dishes in the bathroom sink šŸ™‚

    • Hi Jo,
      I think I am hard done by with the sink at work doesn’t have hot water. No sink at all in the kitchen area, now that just isn’t an option. I understand why you wouldn’t want to use the one in the bathroom although they do say that there are more germs in the average kitchen sink than there are in the toilet so it probably isn’t so back in the hand basin after all.

  4. What a great thing to do, Colleen. At the moment, our church does not have a building. We meet in an elementary school and we use the clubhouse where I live for an big gatherings like our annual Ladies Christmas Tea. We have had very little storage available so we couldn’t store regular plates and things. This year we are going to purchase reusable plates and utensils. To help with the cleanup we are going to have several people take a portion of these home and wash them then bring them back to us to store. Mom and I have decided that we can store them in our extra shed that we don’t use. I’m excited about finding a way to help the environment. I’m excited about having a place that is free to use for things like this. Nice to have decluttered that shed.

    • Hi Deb J,
      I like your plan, sharing the work load make the option to use reusables even more feasible. I am glad you have decluttered a space to be able to store them in too. Well done. One more win for the environment.

  5. well done!! I recently put some of our picnic flatware in the car…no more need for plastic cutlery when we’re on the go and have to buy take out.

    • Hey, that’s a good idea. Smart.

    • Hi Dmarie,
      keeping your picnic flatware in the car is a good idea. I hate it when you buy take-out and they give you a plastic packet with a knife, fork, spoon and napkin in it when all you really need is a folk and maybe the napkin. With that thought in mind I really want to approach our favourite Indian takeout and see if I can work out a system with them where we can bring our own containers because I hate taking throw-away containers home every time we go there. Yes they go in the recycling but still I would rather not use them at all.

  6. Great job Colleen! I have to say that it breaks my heart when I see people washing their ‘one time use’ plastic cutlery, ziploc bags or #1 water bottle. These become so much more toxic every time you reuse them. Way better to go with glass, stainless steel, wood, or any natural material instead! Plastic is just terrible for the earth but also for the health.

    • Hi NatalieinCA,
      I must admit I used to wash out ziplock bags and reuse them all of the time. Now I very use them and the small box lasts me forever.

    • NatalieInCA – how do they get more toxic as you wash and reuse them? Are they toxic when they are ‘fresh’ and new too?

  7. Wow, I can’t believe that I didn’t visit your blog earlier! It’s amazing.. I am going to read everything now! Love it!

    • Hi Marina,
      welcome to 365 Less Things and thank you for leaving a comment. I hope you will find time to drop in often for a read and to leave some great advice via comments.
      Happy reading,

  8. Hi Colleen, I’ve been following your blog for a while now, but I found this story particularly inspirational! You came up with a very creative solution for your friend. My own workplace could use a dose of waste reduction. I think I’ve done quite a bit in the way of cutting down on waste and needless stuff at home (with the help of your blog), but because of this I’ve become more aware of the amount of waste created at work. Everyday, a huge garbage bin in the lunchroom is filled to capacity, and a big portion consists of styrofoam cups, plastic cutlery, and paper napkins and plates. I don’t want to be preachy about waste reduction to others, but at the same time I hate to stand by and watch bins getting filled unnecessarily. Perhaps I can do something similar to you and pick up some inexpensive reusable cups/cutlery at a thrift store and leave them in the lunchroom cupboards with a note.
    Thanks for your daily inspiration!
    San Ramon, California

    • Hi Kathleen,
      I would like to extend to you a very warm welcome to 365 Less Things and thank you for dropping in to leave a comment.

      I am glad this little story spoke to you. Every small effort like this makes a difference when it comes to protecting the environment. I am glad it has inspired you to do a similar thing in your work place. I would suggest making a sign to encourage your co-workers to clean up after themselves, that is to wash up their used items. Otherwise you may be left with that task. Even that would be a small sacrifice to make in order to do the right thing. You will find that most people will cooperate and others won’t but better that than the alternative. It would probably help to also advertise the fact that you are trying to help the environment by discouraging the use of single use items that adds unnecessary non-biodegradable items to landfill.

      I love the idea and I fully encourage you to implement it as soon as possible. And I thank you for making an effort to do the right thing for our planet.

      • The success of this idea depends on the workplace and your co-workers. If the disposables are paid for by your employer or by a staff fund, maybe you could suggest that the money paid for disposables be directed to paying someone who will be responsible for regularly washing up. This could be the regular cleaner or a student or a staff member who could use extra pay.
        If that doesn’t work, at least you can lead by example by bringing your own reusable stuff and encouraging others to do the same.
        Good luck to you!

        • Hi Wendy,
          good suggestions. It is often a struggle to impress upon people that these things are important especially if it means they have to make an extra effort. Sometimes it is just best to remove the choice. Not supplying the irresponsible choice doesn’t guarantee that the lazy uncaring people will come to the party with cleaning up after themselves, especially if they don’t believe that the environment needs saving. As the age old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Leading by example is always advisable.

      • Oh Kathleen, I’m on board with you…GOOD LUCK reducing waste at your work place. Maybe you could ask someone with authority at your work place to let them have you put together a proposal to show the waste on a daily basis and compare it to the use of reusable items and the environmental benefits, etc (or something like that)??? Might even get you a promotion? Start a campaign to see which department can have the least amount of waste….just brain storming here…you run with this and keep us posted! If you can show the management the cost savings and the increase in their bottom line profits (via recycle, etc), along with helping the environment, then how can they say NO???

        I recently worked many years for a company that was so on board with keeping the environment a better place for today and the future (reuse, reduce, recycle) so it still stuns me that there are so many work places who don’t yet see how wonderful such a thing can be!

  9. Hi Colleen, for our wedding reception we are useing all colourful, flowery crockery collected by various people from charity shops (to serve English afternoon tea of sandwiches, cakes and a cup of tea).
    Everyone is a winner in this and we get just the look we love and the charity shops will get a chance to resell.

    I am busy today re arranging our front room while my OH is out…wicked of me I know…but I have long needed to arrange his mess where at least I am not sitting staring at it. Where he sits, he’s had (and still does) a lovely view of my neat tidied and massively decluttered creative cormer and bookshelves whereas I had to look his quart stuffed into pint pot. Hard work but nearly there and feel much happier about my space now. He’s due home from work in hour…hopefully he’ll still want to marry me, LOL!

    • Katharine, what a lovely idea for your wedding tea. I also loved your saying “quart stuffed into pint pot”!! I am so familiar with the look of this!

    • What a great idea.

    • Hi Katharine,
      I had a friend who did a simpilar thing for a baby shower. They went to the thrift shop and bought lovely patterned china tea cups, saucers and plates for very little money. She put on a lovely High Tea party and everyone who wanted to took their china home with them when they left. Like you say everyone is a winner. It sounds like a beautiful idea for your wedding and I hope it is a beautiful day for you.

      I am sure the wedding will still be on once your darling comes home and sees what you have done with his stuff. He has probably secretly been wanting to do something about it but didn’t know where to start. Just make sure you leave him a map as to where everything is so he knows where to find it. I can understand why you finally decided to take matters into your own hands and I am sure he will too. Let me know how it goes.

    • Oh I love this! We did this at our wedding reception many moons ago. At the local thrift stores we purchased china plates and tea cups, etc, of any and all patterns. It made for a lovely reception!

      Then after it was all over, and the dishes were clean (we all helped clean up), I let whomever wanted to take whatever dishes, tea cups etc, that grabbed their fancy. Surprisingly, there were some left over, so we left a few serving pieces & tea cups for the church (where this all took place) and then the little that was left over and not chipped we gave back to the thrift store! The chipped stuff or any pieces that got broken a friend of ours took and she used all that to make some mosaic project. šŸ™‚ WIN-WIN!!!

  10. Well I am staggered Colleen – he barely twitched,lol! He cheerfully made a joke about needing 3 days to find where all his stuff is and that has been it! This is such a change around from the man who 5 years ago curled up in a fetal position on our bed in response to any change at all. Long slow journey but what a reward for patience and understanding.

    He hasn’t even noticed the missing stalamites of detritus I have removed from aound his chair. A.m.a.z.i.n.g.

    I feel so much better about our sitting room and feel I now wouldn’t be embarrassed if someone dropped by unexpectedly. I don’t want the minimalist loook, I want order and cosiness and character.
    My next aim is to try and break his habit of putting things down on the floor and building piles of stuff, the bottom of which he never touches again. And of course, I need to keep working on my own hot spot – my creative corner which has a lovely flat surface that seems to gather alsorts.
    Today’s goal is to see if he will agree that the really old computer and VDU, that he hasn’t used in 15 yrs but is keeping as aspirational cluter for some unspecified project in the future, can go to the ‘recyle old computers shop’ this week. Too heavy for us to get in the attic (probably as well) it has sat, in the way, on our floor for the last 18 months.

    • Good work, Katharine,

      I’ve been working on a ‘nothing on the floor’ policy for a while. Stuff on the floor becomes ‘furniture’ while stuff on tables or higher surfaces becomes visible and therefore ‘real’ and needs to be dealt with. It also makes it easier to clean the place!
      Your spouse sounds a lot like mine. Quite often a person who puts things down has a hard time parting with stuff, even if they don’t ever want to see it again. Putting it on the floor is like putting it in the garbage without making the last cut in the string. It isn’t fair that you have to do it for him but that’s probably what he wants (though he may not know it). I make a daily sweep of ‘put down’ stuff and toss what I know is garbage. Keeps the piles at bay. Every once in a while I have a round-up of questionables and ASK him what should be kept and what tossed – 90% is toss and the other 10% he gets to put away. The trick is to keep on top of the piles so he will eventually enjoy seeing the floor!

      Good luck!

      • I think that is spot on advice thanks Wendy. It’s like stuff on the floor is the clutter free wannabe’s equivalent of purgatory – neither one thing or another. It isn’t put away in a home and looks like it is on the cusp of being used, but over time it actually isn’t. I think this I will have to stay firm on as you suggest. I need to keep the clear floor look so that is the norm and he adjusts to a new norm. Becasue he does have a track record of adjusting.

        Although it isn’t fair I have to do it for him, I don’t mind when he is co-operative, but when he digs his heals in I have to let it go til a better time.
        We’ve just had very unexpected family visitors and it was lovely having the place in a decent state. It was so easy just to quickly sweep the floor.
        There were two left over boxes of his stuff and the dreaded computer on the floor and I shoved them all in our bedrooom. When they left, I have refused to put them back in the sitting room and the boxes have gone in the attic (they’ve been on ‘ I need to check through them first’ standby for 8 months). I don’t care that they are now in the attic ‘unsorted’. It would be ideal that everything up there had been weeded, but I have had enough of them down here. I am fairly sure however, they will remain unlooked at til we move at some distant point in the future or he departs this mortal coil.
        The computer is now downstairs and is being got rid of this week…

      • Good advice as usual, Wendy. You and Katharine should compare notes on a regular basis.

    • Hi Katharine,
      well done mate. The wedding is still on. With your patient guidance he really has come a long way. Congratulations to you both.
      Getting rid of old computers is such a pain because there is always that niggling feeling the when you pass it on someone can still extract information from it that you really wouldn’t want know. I have an old laptop that keep hanging around here to, I had better talk to my husband about that.

  11. Oh I love this post. What a GRAND idea (and those spoons looked so lovely!). Why if I was at work and I used a spoon like that, I’d feel like a QUEEN whilst I was preparing my tea!

    Hey Colleen, how is your volunteering? Are you enjoying it? What are you learning about?

    • Hi Annabelle,
      they were nice spoons and they will get well used now.

      I am really enjoying my volunteering. The people I have been working with are very nice. I have discovered that contrary to popular belief they do attempt to sell everything that comes through their door except soiling clothing and linen items that never should have been donated in the first place. Some people seriously use thrift shops as their dumping ground.

  12. Well this has made me think about NOT using plastic utensils again…l saw on the weekend the story of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. How plastic doesn’t break down, just breaks into smaller pieces and the poor wildlife are eating it thinking it is food. Birds are being found with large amounts of plastic bits in their guts. I didn’t really think about it until l saw the footage, then it made it so real. Let’s not contribute to this rubbish patch.

    • Hi Felicity,
      welcome to 365 Less Things and thank you for joining in the conversation. Do you have link to that story so I can share it with all of my readers. It is amazing that people can continue to turn a blind eye to these situations. It is easier not to admit it is happening than it is to admit they we are all contributing to the problem. I make certain choices to avoid plastic but there is more that I can do. I have a favourite indian take-out that we use nearly once every week and I only wish there was a way to buy what I want without bringing plastic home. I could stop shopping there but I don’t. It is time I asked them if there is a way that I can bring my own containers to pick up my order.

      • Hi Colleen,

        Thanks for the welcome. I don’t have the link – l saw it on tv – can’t remember if it was the news or the weekend morning shows. But it was a real wake up call – although having said that, l went shopping at Woolies yesterday and just about everything is in plastic…….everything…even down to a pre-packaged salad for one complete with plastic fork included.

        • Hi Felicity,
          it is hard to avoid the plastic unfortunately especial in conventional grocery stores like Woolies. I am please to see though that they are using compostable plastics for their meat trays. I also bought some garbage bags there last week that were degradable. So things are changing. I never use plastic bags to put my fruit and veg in I just load it all into the trolley and them put them into my reusable bags when they have been processed at the check out. Every little thing helps.

  13. I wanted to report in on my *giving things away* day on Saturday. Not a lot of people came, but enough did that the *stuff* I put out is almost gone. A few items that currently fit into a shoe box, and I will move along next time.

    The ART I put out had several pieces left over, but I have some friends who have an art studio along an alley and they hang Art in The Alley and ask people to help themselves. I had delivered the leftovers to them and they hung it yesterday and it is all gone. With some nice thank you notes.

    So round one went very well. There are some holes in my apartment. It is true that if I get rid of 2/3 of the things in a box on the shelf in the closet, it is kind of hard to tell that I have made any progress. But I am just trying to keep going and believe that sooner or later I will really be ready to move.

    Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement.

    • Hi Rachel K,
      I am glad your give away day went well. It doesn’t matter how many people turn up so long as they take the stuff away. You seem to be finding more and more ways to dispose of stuff. Taking your art to your friends studio was very effective. Keep up the good work and I am sure that come moving day you will be able to fit into your new little home. Keep smiling and stay positive, we are not much help to you physically but we are behind you mentally and hoping the best for you all the way.

  14. We had our joint 50th a couple of months ago and to cut down on waste we borrowed the crockery and cutlery from the local village hall & gave them a donation. I was very keen to make this a low waste event so all food scraps went to my chooks

    • Brilliant Carol, that just goes to prove that with a little imagination we can cut down on waste and consumerism. I really hope the borrow phenomenon catches on. Or even buying things from the thrift store and donation them back when you are done with them.

  15. When we picnic, often with friends, I pack fabric napkins and our regular forks – its all we have! It never fails to impress our friends and they feel very fancy about it all and are careful to make sure things get returned after use. Funny that they think I’m going out of my way to make it nice, but I’m really avoiding going out of my way.