Pill Bottles and Altoids Tins

In our endless quest to save the planet from humanities concept of “progress” I find it comforting to draw upon the wisdom of our ancestors.  Recently I had a long chat with Mom, who was a little girl during World War II.  I’d grown up in the suburbs of a midwestern city and therefore was part of the “baby boomer” generation.  We were the ones who experienced many of those leaps of technology designed to make life comfortable and taught us that immediate gratification was possible.

New Mexico has recently passed legislation echoing that of other cities on the road to sustainability.  Stores must not provide single use plastic shopping bags to customers anymore and restaurants must find something besides styrofoam or non recyclable plastic boxes for takeouts and leftovers.

I’ve always liked reusable shopping bags, but I must admit I have frequently gone to the store only to find I’d left them in the house.  Developing new habits like immediately putting them in the car after unloading is tough on old birds.  Personally I never threw out the old plastic shopping bags – I’d save them up and use them for collecting the canine defecation from the back yard or tucking them in the corners of boxes full of Holiday gifts being sent to family.

Two things I’ve always collected and found uses for are pill bottles and altoids tins.  I wish I could just clean out the pill bottles and give them back to the pharmacist, but they won’t take them.  That would simply make too much sense! However, they are perfect for storing so many little things especially as they come in many sizes.

  • beads and jewelry
  • screws and nails
  • seeds (the dark color helps keep them viable!)
  • sewing needles and safety pins
  • buttons
  • paper clips
  • tacks
  • hearing aid batteries

If you drill small holes in the lids they can make good seasoning shakers, or slightly larger holes let you use them for evenly distributing small seeds like carrot and poppy while planting the garden.

Altoids tins can provide easy storage and transportation for smaller items as well.  Mom told me that people used to store soap and candles in tin boxes to keep mice from eating them.  I find that this is quite practical while traveling today – it keeps bar soap from getting messy.

They are just the right size for carrying multiple flash drives, phone charger cords, and ear plugs. If you are camping and need to keep fire lighting materials dry and ready, load one with cotton balls lightly soaked in oil and place books of matches in another one.

Although the bright colors and lettering on the tins are fairly attractive, it is easy to get confused as to what is in which tin.  I like to spray paint them a solid color and if needed you can then label them with permanent markers.   This is also a fun project for kids as they can paint the outsides and glue beads or small stones to the lids.

Of course you can always puff yourself up with civic pride by chucking the plastic and tins in the recycle bin, but why not find a new use for them?

I invite anyone reading this to share your inspirations as to what pill bottles and altoid tins can be used for.  Just send your ideas to   solarranch@swcp.com and I’ll post them below!

Francis Rose




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