A full-size C-3PO costume and 5 other wonders kids can create from empty paper towel rolls

January 22 | Guest post by Ariane Fisher

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Environmentalism, for me, is less about recycle and far more about reuse. "Recycle" smacks of some propaganda feel-good program for using too much crap in the first place. As a parent, I naturally impart my opinionated views on my offspring. They're all about reusing things — from junk mail to paper towel rolls.

Paper towel rolls are a hot commodity is our house. Even with six kids, we only go through about two rolls per week, maybe less. They make these nifty things called REAL towels, which you can actually wash in the washing machine. We pretty much only drink tap water, so if there's a spill, cloth towels work great.

When an empty paper towel roll becomes available, boxing matches have been known to break out over who gets to use it. Here are some of the cool ways the kids have used them:

Full size C-3PO costume

What you need

How you do it

  1. Cut paper towel rolls lengthwise to wrap around arm from wrist to elbow, upper arm, cuffs for elbow
  2. Cut paper towel rolls lengthwise to wrap around shin and thigh (must be super skinny kid)
  3. Cut rectangle out of posterboard for chest and back covering.
  4. Cut ridiculously complex shape out of posterboard for shoulders and neck.
  5. Cut oval out of posterboard for face.
  6. Spray paint all pieces gold.
  7. hot glue paper towel rolls to sweat pants
  8. Use rubber bands to hold paper towel rolls on arms.
  9. Draw lines using paint marker and hope your four-year-old doesn't get her hot hands on the marker to write on your walls

Other creations we've come up with include a working Batman flashlight, an articulating model of an elbow joint, jet packs for air flight, knight armor, and (of course!) binoculars. What have you and your kids invented with cardboard?

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  1. Growing up, cardboard was always a hot commodity for my brother and I, as well. Especially when it's the holidays and wrapping paper tubes come into play! I used to build huge, elaborate tunnels for my hamster. I'd even cut windows into sections of the tubes so she could peek her head out and I could see her progress. My brother liked to make weapons out of the tubes, heh.

  2. "Recycle" smacks of some propaganda feel-good program for using too much crap in the first place.

    I like this post, but I disagree with this line. Yes, using less to begin with is a great idea and an important part of helping the environment. However, for the majority of people (those who don't have a zero waste house: http://zerowastehome.blogspot.com) there will be containers brought into the house and when you are done with them, why not recycle them? Sure, reuse them first, but when they are done being used again what will you do with them? Recycling is important because it reduces the amount of raw materials that are used, which is important.

    Here is a post about recycling from Offbeat Home & Life: http://offbeathome.com/2012/06/recycling

    1 agrees
    • Thanks for the feedback Kahlanamnell. I just get kind of sick of disposable items being called "green" because they are recyclable. Why not buy items that last or those without packaging? For instance, did you know that it's next to impossible to find a dishwasher repair man since they started making them energy star compliant? The parts are super expensive, made of plastic, and have a life expectancy of 4 years, rather than 20. There's a lot of hypocrisy in the whole green movement. I agree, if you have the packaging in the first place, it makes sense for it to be made out of things that can be reused. There just isn't enough emphasis on the absolute simplest way to go green. Buy less junk.

      1 agrees

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