As a kid, I assumed that I'd grow up to be a fulltime soda bottle collector.
Back then, my home state of Ohio had a so-called "bottle bill," a law that required refundable deposits (usually five or ten cents) on all soda and beer bottles. Collecting empty Coke bottles that people carelessly tossed out of their car windows became a lucrative sideline to my paper route. Combined with finding spare change in payphones and vending machines along my route, I had the most diversified income portfolio of any twelve-year-old in the neighborhood.
Unfortunately, bottle bills have never really caught on -- thanks in large part to heavy lobbying by the industry -- even though they still exist in some states and other states are pushing to enact them. Bottle bills are a proven, effective way of reducing litter and promoting recycling.
Sadly the demise of the bottle bill in Ohio caused my income to plummet and my career plans to change. But I've discovered that while today's plastic soda bottles may not make you money, they can definitely save you money. Here's how:
1. Get Juiced: Cut the bottom off some types of two-liter soda bottles and you can use it to squeeze fresh OJ and lemonade, just like Scott Amron. Savings: A plastic juicer at the grocery store will cost you around $5, or go high-tech with an electric juicer or a chic chrome plated citrus press and you can pay as much as $200.
2. Festive Patio Lighting: Feed your LED Christmas lights (aka "twinkle lights") into colorful empty soda bottles and rope them together to use around the patio in the summertime. The result can be gorgeous. Savings: Set of 20 patio lights at Target, $25.
3. Workout Weights (or Juggling Clubs): Fill different sized bottles with water or sand to use as impact resistant workout weights on land or in the pool. A liter bottle filled with water weighs about 2.2 pounds, and filled with dry sand it's about 2.6 pounds. Similarly, make your own homemade juggling clubs like Mark Stosberg. Savings: A pair of two-pound hand weights will cost you about $10, or really go for the soda bottle burn and cancel your gym membership, which runs about $600 a year on average.
4. Free Funnel: Cut the top off a plastic bottle and use it as a funnel in the kitchen or garage. Sure, you can buy a plastic funnel at the dollar store for only a buck. Or you can buy a two-liter bottle of soda at the dollar store and make your own funnel for free. Get detailed directions from Instructables. Savings: $1
5. Drip-less Ice Cubes: Fill empty bottles with water and freeze them to use in your ice chest this summer instead of loose ice. It's cheaper, and a lot less messy than all those melting cubes. Savings: About $3 for a ten-pound bag of ice.
6. Toilet Tank Trick: Skip the brick in your toilet tank -- they can disintegrate and damage plumbing. Instead, drop a plastic bottle or two filled with water into your tank, and you'll displace enough water to save a half gallon to a gallon with every flush. Most toilets flush just fine with a little less water. Savings: Based on FPP ("Flushes Per Person"), a family of four might save 16 gallons of water a day with this little trick, which should save you about $90 a year on your water bill.
7. Homemade Heat Sink: A heat sink is something that absorbs heat, in this case from the sun, and dissipates the excess heat. Green cheapskates are doing some creative things with plastic bottles, using them as heat sinks and even insulation to help heat and cool their homes. Savings: Every degree you heat/cool your home during the year is equivalent to about 2% of your total household energy bill. Depending on where you live and how you heat/cool, a single degree or two difference could save you $100.
8. Water Your Plants: My wife had a fit because I forgot to water her Boston fern when she was out of town and it died. Oh, if I'd only made an automatic plant watering device out of an empty soda bottle and one of these AquaSpikes. Savings: Boston fern (DOA), $25.
9. Six-Pack of Green Clean: Fill a six-pack of empty liter bottles with an assortment of homemade, eco-friendly cleaners. Many household cleaning products can be made from simple, inexpensive ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, ammonia, and liquid soap. Insert an interchangeable spray pump to deliver a green clean where and when you need it. Savings: Six liters of homemade cleaning products will probably save you $25 or more off comparable commercial (and toxic!) products.
10. Just Don't Buy It: Most soda is at best some empty calories -- and an expense -- that we don't need. There's been a lot written about the possible negative health consequences of drinking too much soda as well. Consider cutting soda out of your diet and budget. Further, skip the bottled water, too. It's no friend to the environment, and if you drink only bottled water, you'll spend about $1,400 annually to get your recommended daily amount of H2O. Calculate your savings with this tool. Savings: The average U.S. household spends about $650 annually on carbonated soft drinks. If you drank bottled water exclusively over tap add $1,400.
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