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Newspapers as cleaning rags, diapers as heating pads and other AltUses

January 27, 2010 |  1:31 pm


For most people, vinegar brings salad dressing to mind. But for the co-founder and president of, it's an inexpensive and common household item that can be used to clean windows, kill weeds, remove stains and prevent jeans from fading. Those are just some of the ideas that can be found on the AltUse website, which lists 2,000-plus alternative uses for 700 or so household items.

Designed to save consumers money and reduce waste, AltUse is the brainchild of Benjamin Goldfarb, a former interactive marketing expert for Nestle who wanted to act upon his green values and did so by setting up the site in July. Since then, between 5,000 and 10,000 visitors come to the site each day, searching for uses by product, i.e. sugar, or by need, stain removal. More than 5,000 users have also registered to receive free and daily AltUse tips and to suggest some of their own, such as Goldfarb's faves: using instant mashed potatoes as a garden-vermin deterrent and re-purposing soda bottles as ice packs for picnics and hikes.

According to Goldfarb, up to 20% of consumer items are thrown away either partially used or unused.

"The more things are used, the less things that are thrown away, the less landfill space is used," said Goldfarb, 50, who lives in Sherman Oaks.

Currently the site is supported by contextual advertising. Goldfarb is hoping to expand his business model with an official AltUse seal that can be adopted by manufacturers as a marketing tool to show consumers additional ways to use their products.

Note to Pampers: Some people say your nappies make for good heating pads.

-- Susan Carpenter

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