Updated on 12/16/15. Originally published on 10/15/13.
Upcycling Glass Bottles & Jars
From wine to mayonnaise, baby food to salsa – so many products are packaged in glass containers, which are extremely easy to recycle. Most of the time, you don’t even need to bother cleaning out the leftover peanut butter. Just chuck it in the designated bin and be done with it. Your glass jars and bottles, which are 100 percent recyclable according to the Glass Packaging Institute, will be reincarnated endlessly “without loss in quality or purity – something no other food and beverage packaging option can claim.”
And yet, says Ronnie Citron-Fink of Planet Green, instead of giving our glass bottles and jars infinite opportunities at revival, every year we throw enough away to fill up a skyscraper. “The energy that could be saved from recycling one glass bottle could provide 20 percent less air pollution and 50 percent less water pollution.” Better still, says Citron-Fink, you can find ways to repurpose your glass jars and bottles into useful items.
Bring the Outdoors Inside
The peace and beauty of nature is a wonderful accent to any home decor. Enjoy the outdoors from the comfort of your own home with simple projects using glass bottles and jars.
Self-Watering Plant Project
There are pricey gadgets you can buy that will gradually release water into your household plants, so they enjoy a fresh drink of water even when you’re away. Instead of spending the money on those products, you can make your own using an empty glass bottle. Becca Diestelkamp-Woodham drilled a quarter-inch hole in a wine bottle cork. She filled a wine bottle with water, and then she put the cork back in the top and put the bottle’s neck down in the dirt next to her plant. If you don’t have a wine bottle, you can fill any glass bottle with water and add a handful of marbles to the bottle too. Stick it neck down in your pot, and the marbles will slow the drip so the plant receives water gradually.
In a glass jar or bottle, in the following order, add pebbles, activated charcoal, sphagnum or moss, and then soil. Lastly, add the plants of your choice. Using these materials in the proper order means that your soil will stay healthy and the roots of your plant won’t rot. The activated charcoal is an important step in a terrarium because it filters the air and helps keep the terrarium clean, so don’t skip that step. Terrarium Man has the full tutorial. You can even make tiny terrariums if you have tiny glass jars you want to repurpose.
Use Upcycled Glass Outside
Outdoor projects can break the bank in a hurry; however, using recycled glass bottles and jars will help you achieve an outdoor oasis at a fraction of the cost.
Fill a clear glass bottle with liquid nectar, insert a purchased feeder tube, hang it upside down and you have an inexpensive hummingbird feeder you can display in your outdoor space. Birds and Blooms hangs the DIY feeder using a 4-gauge copper wire (with 12-gauge copper wire used as a decorative accent).
Seed Storage and Garden Chime
Made+Remade blogger Kelly Smith Trimble recommends reusing old spice jars with plastic shaker tops to store and sow seeds in your garden. She says it’s important to match the size of the holes in the plastic shaker tops to the seeds that you’ll store in that jar, and then you’re good to go. Label the jar so you remember what type of seeds are in there, and then you can store the seeds in a cabinet or in a storage bin, or you can display them on a shelf in your home. While you’re at it, cut off the tops of your wine bottles or jars and create a DIY garden chime. Note: you’ll need a glass bottle cutter for this project and, since you’ll be handling glass pieces, please practice extra caution with this project.
Wine Bottle Citronella Candles
Enjoy sitting outside at night without pesky mosquitoes buzzing around when you make your own citronella candles. Put one or two bags of marbles or small pebbles in the bottom of the wine bottle to keep the wick from falling too far down. Using a funnel, fill the bottle with torch fluid until the bottle is mostly full (don’t fill it to the top or it will overflow when you add the wick). Add the wick and the coupling, and your candle is complete. View the full tutorial at Hello Natural, which includes tips to keep the coupling tightly secured in your candle.
Even the most mundane tasks can take on a new life when you make a simple change to how the tasks get done, like adding a variety of new kitchenware to your supply. You can do this on a budget when you repurpose glass jars and bottles as part of your project.
Dish Soap Dispenser
Paint some glass etching cream on an empty wine bottle using a stencil so the design turns out just how you want it. You can make your own stencil with vinyl or contact paper so the etching cream doesn’t bleed onto other parts of the bottle. After about 30 minutes, you can wash the etching cream off your bottle and you have a beautifully designed etching on your wine bottle. Fill the bottle with your favorite dish soap, and then add a bottle topper to finish off the project. You can see the full tutorial (with lots of details about making your own stencil) at Living Well Spending Less.
Oil & Vinegar Bottles
You can use the same procedure for the dish soap dispenser to create oil and vinegar bottles for your kitchen. Simply use the etching cream to create graphic words on the bottles and fill them with oil and vinegar. Be sure the bottles are thoroughly cleaned prior to filling.
Are you looking for a better, cheaper way to store cereal, flour, sugar and other pantry items? Instead of buying expensive canister sets, create your own by converting wide-mouth glass jars, such as the kind pickles come in. It’s a simple do-it-yourself project from One Good Thing by Jillee. You can even add handles by gluing wooden craft-store knobs to the lids.
Wine Bottle Rolling Pin
A glass bottle makes an excellent rolling pin. Yumi Sakugawa, cartoonist and inventive illustrator of the Yumiverse, says that putting the dough between sheets of wax paper or saran wrap will keep the wine bottle and the dough from sticking together. You could also chill the bottle first to keep the dough from sticking.
Make Your Own Decor
Finally, you can use your old glass bottles and jars to spruce up the interior (or exterior) of your home. Whether you’re a DIYer at heart or have never completed a home decor project on your own, below you’ll find some easy and foolproof ways to make your own decor with glass bottles and jars.
Drill a hole in the bottom of a bottle and thread in a string of Christmas lights to capture light in a bottle. The plug stays outside of the bottle so you can easily plug it into any outlet, then unplug it and move it as needed. Amanda Wright created this project using a wine bottle she kept, for sentimental reasons, from a vacation. It’s a simple project, but drilling a hole in the glass bottle does take some time to complete. Make sure you wear safety goggles when you drill or cut through glass.
Instantly create an elegant candleholder when you pair candlesticks with varying sizes and styles of glass bottles. Make sure the mouth of the bottle will allow you to securely insert the candlestick so the candle won’t tip over while lit. Arrange the bottles on your table, and the project is complete!
With a bit more effort and the right tools, you can create one-of-a-kind works of art using your empty bottles. One idea is to slice the bottoms off wine bottles and set them on stone coasters. Put a tea light inside each bottomless bottle and you’ll instantly have a beautiful glass chimney in miniature.
A wine bottle that carries special memories or a glass jar with a unique design that you love can be transformed into functional lamp stands. Purchase a lamp kit at your favorite home improvement store, or you can buy a lamp cord and a lamp socket individually (this allows you to customize the color of cord you want). Attach the wires from the cord to the socket using the directions in the lamp kit, or ask a qualified friend to help you with this step. Insert the socket into the spout of the glass bottle, and your lamp is complete.
Even if you only use your old jars to store hardware odds and ends in your workshop, you’ll be doing your part to keep glass out of our landfills and save energy and natural resources. You’ll also increase function and style inside (and outside) your home using glass bottles you would’ve otherwise tossed in the recycling.
Need someplace to keep your collection of unique bottles and jars until you have time for your arts-and-crafts projects? Instead of letting them clutter up your garage or closet, rent a self-storage unit.