Green Money-Saving Lessons We Learned in Kindergarten

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American author Robert Fulghum’s  now-classic book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” landed on the New York Times best-seller list in 1988. And if you ask Earth911, when it comes to reducing waste and saving money, that sentiment couldn’t be more true.

No, we’re not saying you should ask your 4-year-old to balance the checkbook. But a little back-to-basics wisdom can go a long way when it comes to making the most of what you have. From repurposing your trash to sharing with your neighbors, here are five green, money-saving lessons we learned in kindergarten.

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Tip #3: You'll be shocked at how much money you can save by taking a page out of a kindergartener's book and repurposing items before tossing them in the trash. Photo: Flickr/Silly Eagle Books

1. Use your imagination

The joy of infinite imagination is synonymous with childhood. But for many of us, stress, busy schedules and hectic workdays can stifle that youthful ingenuity.

If you’re looking for crafty ways to save money and reduce waste in your home, getting back to your inventive roots is the best way to start. Take a moment to analyze your monthly bills and waste, and think of a few creative ways to cut back.

If you’ve noticed a spike in your electric bills, try to figure out which rooms you’re using the most energy in and go from there. Stuck for ideas? Check out Earth911′s tips for saving energy in the kitchen, laundry room and living room. If your water bill is responsible for a large portion of your monthly budget, use our tips to save 27,412 gallons of water this year.

And what about your trash cans? If you they are unusually full, it may indicate that your hard-earned dollars are often heading right to the landfill. Use some of the waste-saving and reuse tips below to keep more of that cash where it belongs – in your pocket!

READ: 8 Quick Ways to Save $290 This Month

2. Clean your plate

We all remember our parents saying, “You can’t leave the table until you clean your plate.” But it can be easy to forget this simple edict during the hustle and bustle of adult life, as convenience often seems more appealing than frugality.

As a result, more than 34 million tons of food are wasted in the U.S. each year, according to the EPA. This shocking stat not only indicates loads of wasted resources but also millions of dollars in grocery bills being tossed in the trash.

Combat your contribution to America’s food waste problem (and save hundreds of dollars each month) by cleaning your plate each time. No, we’re not saying you have to keep eating until you’re stuffed. But saving and repurposing leftovers means you have to spend less at the supermarket, and you’ll likely be shocked at how empty your trash cans become.

Start by using every component of fresh vegetables and meats. Try leaving the skin on veggies like potatoes and cucumbers and incorporate meat bones and vegetable scraps into stocks, sauces and gravies. Not sure how to make stock from scratch? We’ll teach you!

For fruit scraps and other leftovers you don’t want to use for stock, check out our handy reuse guide for food scraps, and use your throw-aways for everything from cleaning the kitchen to shining your shoes.

And before throwing leftovers from last night’s dinner in the compost pile, think of ways to repurpose them into another tasty meal for your family to enjoy. Love Food Hate Waste provides a huge library of “rescue recipes” made from old leftovers, and their mobile app (available for iPhone and Android) will even help you make leftover plans on the go.

READ: Reduce Food Waste in 5 Easy Steps

3. Repurpose first

As kids, every little knick-knack has value. Even when a toy breaks, children are hesitant to throw it away and often use leftover components to fuel imagination play (think: using fallen shingles from your sister’s dollhouse as launching pads for tiny astronauts).

But now, items often find their way into the trash at the first signs of disrepair. So, why not go back to basics and do a little repurposing to save on cash and virgin materials?

To get you started, Earth911 compiled a huge library of reuse ideas that will help you make the most out of everything from food packaging to magazine pages to old board games. For your trashed fashions, check out these fun and functional ways to repurpose old jeans, T-shirts and sports jerseys.

And while recycling is one eco-friendly option for common waste materials like aluminum cans, plastic bottles and bottle caps, you can also turn these materials into useful household items like lamps, doormats and even a stove – saving both money and resources.

But why reuse in the first place? Repurposing and reusing items before throwing them away helps you get the most out of the money you originally spent, saves a useful item from the landfill and keeps you away from the mall for yet another day. Sounds like a win, win to us!

READ: 15 Reuse Projects to Try in 2012

NEXT: See how sharing and playing can save you money