Summer’s a great time to be outside and enjoying the fresh air and sun. You may not have the biggest budget for your ideal outdoor living space, but you don’t have to. Using recycled materials to create the outdoor living spaces you dream of is trendy.

The Benefits of Eco-Friendly Outdoor Living Spaces

Whether you’re purchasing items made from recycled materials or finding a new use for older items, you’re supporting a circular economy. You’re also keeping waste out of the landfill. Both of these are great ways to start reducing your carbon footprint and eliminating needless waste and overharvesting. 

A study found that the demand for wood is expected to increase by as much as 170% by 2050. Trees are essential for providing oxygen and providing the habitat many animals require. When you use wood made from recycled materials, you help lower the demand for newly harvested trees. 

Pressure-treated wood contains chromate cooper arsenate, creosote, sodium borate, etc. The most concerning part of this is arsenic, which is why it should never be used around gardens or for animal housing. Switch to recycled plastic lumber for long-lasting lumber that won’t rot, need painting, or wear out.

Use Creativity to Create Outdoor Living Spaces Like These

The best way to use recycled materials for your outdoor living areas is simply by being creative. If you have Pinterest, you’ll find loads of ideas you can build upon. Here are three I’ve done.

Create a Cozy Fire Pit Patio

Pay attention to sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for people getting rid of old bricks. You can turn those into a cozy fire pit area. Many home improvement stores sell metal firepit rings for less than $50, or you might find someone giving one away. Place the bricks around the firepit ring as far as you can and use sand and crushed stone to form the rest of the patio seating area. 

Keep your eye out for people getting rid of old chairs. You can refurbish them to be great all-season chairs with some waterproof tarp or water-resistant canvas. I took a slipper chair someone had out for free, covered it in canvas, and had a seat that repels water.

Go online and look for the blueprints for turning wood pallets into lounge chairs. If you have the tools and pallets that aren’t falling apart, it’s an easy project. I’ve also turned pallets into outdoor coffee tables by adding some lumber to form the legs and then using waterproof paints in bright colors that were left over from other projects. Just make sure you set these chairs and tables back from the ring to avoid any sparks.

Enjoy Bug-Free Time by Screening in Your Deck

This is one of my favorite uses of recycled materials around my home. It took time, but materials were inexpensive or even free. Note that we were starting with a 20’ x 12’ two-level deck that had a roof over the upper 10’ x 12’ section.

A neighbor was getting rid of mesh tarps as the grommets were falling out. I took the tarps from them, and we used scrap lumber that was sitting around from when the decks were built. Using post anchors we screwed to the decking, we installed the posts against the house. 

That gave us all four corner posts needed for connecting the tarps. Once we’d treated the posts using the stain we already had from our deck, we took the tarps and stretched them from one post to the next. A staple gun secured them in place and covered the staples with strips of cedar lath that we had from another project. 

Next was an old storm door from our front door replacement. We attached that to a post to form the exit door to the lower portion of the deck. Eventually, the entire deck was screened in and bug-free except for the gaps in the deck slats. 

After some searching, I found an outdoor rug made from recycled plastic bottles on Amazon. It took two of them to fit the space, but they blocked bugs from coming up through the slats. That created an outdoor area we can use all spring, summer, and fall without any fear of bugs biting or stinging us.

Build a Dreamy Outdoor Garden

My other favorite use for recycled materials is an outdoor garden. I have three of them. Here, worn tires cost $5 each to recycle, and the local facility stopped accepting them during the pandemic. I had six tires with nowhere I could bring them. 

My husband has a bad habit of forgetting where some of my perennials come up and mowing them each spring. I used paint to brighten up the tires in summery colors and added potting soil. I transplanted my plants into the tires and added wildflower seeds to create an abundance of flowers like poppies, daisies, and bachelor buttons. The splash of color with the flowers creates a lot of color.

When I’m starting seedlings, I use egg cartons. Fill each egg area with potting soil, plant the seed, and set it on a tray to contain water that may leak through the cardboard. When the seedlings are big enough to plant, remove a section, plant it, and repeat the process with the next.

I also have herb and vegetable gardens. I used up cardboard and composted food scraps, lawn clippings, and leaves to create lasagna gardens. Last year, I had more zucchini than I’ve ever had. While it seemed frustrating to have to start composing food waste during the pandemic, having a compost tumbler has been great for my gardens. 

With other scrap lumber, I’ve built vertical garden ladders for vines like winter squash, runner beans, and cucumbers. They grow up from the ground and have a place to climb. I especially love the scarlet runner beans due to their vivid color.

If you have cracked buckets, fill them with potting soil and place them in and around your garden. You’ll have container plants that enjoy the benefit of pollination from the bees but are in their own space and not crowding your other plants.

Once the gardens are in full bloom, turn scrap wood into a bench. You’ll spend hours enjoying the fragrant flowers and herbs and watching birds flit from tree to tree.

Correctly Recycle the Rest

While you can’t reuse every recyclable you generate, every little bit helps. Make sure you’re properly recycling the rest. With so much variation between states and cities on what and what isn’t accepted for recycling, it gets hard to figure it out. 

Recycle Nation’s recycling search engine makes it easy to figure things out. Submit your ZIP code and the item you have for recycling. Once you’ve submitted it, a list of facilities that accept that item appears. Find the nearest location, get directions, and learn the hours it’s open.