Top Books About Creative Reuse at Your Library

Reuse Got Me Reading!

By Laura Kraus, Librarian & Spare Parts Volunteer Coordinator

If you don’t frequent your local branch of the San Antonio Public Library (SAPL), you should probably take some time on a lazy Sunday to see what’s available: you might be surprised at everything that’s offered. They have programs for adults and children, host musicians and artists and of course they have books! If you don’t have a library card, it’s super easy to get one – go to any of the SAPL branches, present your ID and proof of Bexar County address. You can also pre-register online and get access to online resources.

As a librarian, I was excited to see SAPL has plenty of good print resources about creative reuse, sustainability, and the environment in general. I’ve put together two lists: one for adults and one for the younger crowd. My choices include crafty books to get you inspired to reuse what might be considered trash to some, and turn it into your own personal treasure. I’ve also included informational books to get you thinking about the state of our world, and the ways in which we, as its inhabitants, can make small changes to help out.

So, whether you’re looking for something creative to do on your time off, or a way to introduce a little one in your life to a value of our environment, take a moment to peruse these lists and see what sparks passion in you. #reusegotmethinking

Have any questions? Feel free to contact me ( and I’m happy to help.


Young Adult and Children’s Books on Reuse and Sustainability

Recycle This Book : 100 Top Children’s Book Authors Tell You How to Go Green


Don’t Throw That Away! : A Lift-the-Flap Book About Recycling and Reusing
Bergen, Lara


The Life Cycle of Paper
Costain, Meredith


Cool Odds and Ends Projects : Creative Ways to Upcycle Your Trash into Treasure
Scheunemann, Pam


Second-Time Cool : The Art of Chopping Up A Sweater
Lindén Ivarsson, Anna-Stina


What Can You Do With An Old Red Shoe? : A Green Activity Book About Re-use
Alter, Anna


Trash to Treasure : A Kid’s Upcycling Guide to Crafts : Fun, Easy Projects with Paper, Plastic, Glass
Scheunemann, Pam


Generation T : 108 Ways to Transform a T-shirt
Nicolay, Megan


47 Things You Can Do for the Environment
Petronis, Lexi

Adult Books on Reuse and Sustainability

1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse : Remake, Restyle, Recycle, Renew
Johnson, Garth.


Garbology : Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash
Humes, Edward


Use Less Stuff : Environmentalism for Who We Really Are
Lilienfeld, Robert M


Better : The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living
Caldwell, Nicole


Modern Upcycling : A User-Friendly Guide to Inspiring and Repurposed Handicrafts for a Trendy Home
Zacke, Susanna


Don’t Throw it Out : Recycle, Renew, and Reuse to Make Things Last
Baird, Lori


Rubbish : Reuse Your Refuse
Shoup, Kate


Refashioned Bags : Upcycle Anything into High-Style Handbags
Blakeney, Faith.


Stylish Remakes : Upcycle Your Old T’s, Sweats and Flannels into Trendy Street Fashion Pieces
Room, Violette


The Art of Cardboard : Big Ideas for Creativity, Collaboration, Storytelling, and Reuse
Zimmer, Lori


Spare Parts Helps Students Get Their Art On At Harlandale ISD STREAM Summer Program

Spare Parts was thrilled to participate in Harlandale ISD’s STREAM program during June and July this summer. Seven Spare Parts instructors hosted art programs at four campuses, all with a focus on reuse in art education. Omar Leos, the Fine Arts Coordinator for HISD says that the main goal of the program, “…is to have enrichment activities that focus on STREAM (Science, Technology, Robotics, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). The benefits are numerous, but we want students to get excited about learning and take what they learn in the summer and apply it during the regular school year. We want them to know that all these subjects are related and tied to one another.”

The summer program originally began as a two-week Robotics camp in 2014. Harlandale ISD STEM & GT Coordinator, Anthony Khosravi, describes how the next summer they went on to establish a STEM Pipeline provided STEM-related instruction and after-school opportunities for all students interested in a STEM career or degree. Recognizing the need for a more well-rounded program, the STEM/GT department offered their first STREAM camp at Morrill Elementary School in 2015. “A little over 250 elementary students were part of the first STREAM camp,” says Khosravi. “The second STREAM summer camp was at Stonewall Elementary School, and Leal Middle School, as we began working with middle school students, and our program steadily grew to over 350 students the second year in 2016.”

This summer, the STREAM summer program expanded to six elementary schools, one middle school campus and the STEM Early College High School campus. Nearly 600 students attended the STREAM program, with 100 staff members supporting as teachers, assistants and clerical staff.

“This summer’s expansion was made possible through a district grant which was awarded to eight campuses within the district,” says Khosravi. The TEXAS ACE grant, administered by the Texas Education Agency and funded through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative of the U.S. Department of Education, was awarded to these campuses participating in the program.

The overarching goal of the Texas ACE program is to foster each student’s academic success by improving attendance, behavior and academics which lead to grade level promotion, graduation and helping students be more prepared for college and the workplace. The grant was specifically intended to help provide enrichment during non-school hours, which is imperative during the three-month hiatus from academics during the summer. While the summer program ended in July, Texas ACE will continue to provide after-school education designed to enrich student academic success on each campus.

Omar Leos oversaw the fine arts enrichment activities at all campuses, including arts workshops hosted by Spare Parts instructors. 

Some of the highlights of the program included karate, yoga, ballet, visual art, coding, robotics, xylophone and ukulele lessons. At one campus, students even worked on a musical rendition called, “Disney’s The Lion King Kids.”

To prepare for their visual arts workshops, Spare Parts instructors made a trip up to the Austin Creative Reuse Center, bringing back a van full of preloved supplies to share with the students. The instructors hit the ground rolling with students that same week.

At Adams elementary instructors Amy Jones, Amy Johnson, Gabriela Santiago and Kara Michele Salinas led students in creating an Art-A-Zon with a recycled cardboard jungle, ocean diorama binders, giant creatures, and cardboard robots.

Daniel Flores helped students at Terrell Wells Middle School create moving art with dry erase markers, 3D sculptures and bubble blowers, leftover coffee paint, floating chalk prints, fingerprint portraits, and pop art sculptures.

Junye Butler led students in creating mini box sculptures, owl paintings, yarn string balls, art inspired by music, salt dough sculptures and more at Stonewall/Flanders Elementary.

At Collier Elementary, students created a number of projects including bird mobiles, cork sailboats, recycled sea creatures, space collages, and much, much more with Dezarre Boone.

Kara Salinas, who taught in July at Adams elementary, created her lessons and project ideas in May and June. “But [I] followed closely the progress of all the schools [as the other instructors taught]. I really did not want to revisit a technique or project by accident when it was my turn to teach. I used cardboard as did the other teachers. I wanted to focus teaching the process to change the cardboard, and create items that were not immediately recognized as cardboard, Salinas said. “Teaching for the STREAM program really forced me to create lessons that were part of a bigger concept like structure, vocabulary, or modeling the color spectrum. This program was not a summer of craft making. I am thoroughly impressed by the knowledge of the participating students, and their willingness to work together. I learned a lot from the students participating in STREAM. I will never forget this experience.”

Throughout the camp, Spare Parts made it a point to emphasize the importance of reuse to the students. And although it took some habit breaking leading kids away from the garbage bin, it was inspiring to see how the students ran with the ideas given to them.

It isn’t waste ’til we waste it.

“Imagine a place in San Antonio where waste inspires creativity…because it isn’t waste ’til we waste it,” reiterates Mary Elizabeth Cantú, Founder and Director of Spare Parts. As an organization whose mission includes–cultural and environmental sustainability; affordability and accessibility to the arts; community, education and creativity, green-style–Spare Parts engages the public with many possibilities to reach zero waste...