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Creative Ways to Reuse Soda, Beer Cans

Beer can lantern

If you follow my blog regularly, you know that I'm a big fan of offbeat holidays and an even bigger fan of finding creative ways to save money by reusing stuff that most people just throw away. And I may have also mentioned once or twice that, on occasion, I enjoy a nice cold beer. So you can imagine my excitement when I recently discovered that Jan. 24  is officially "National Beer Can Appreciation Day." (I kid you not.)

In fact, National Beer Can Appreciation Day has actual historical underpinnings, commemorating the very day - Jan. 24, 1935 - when the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company became the first brewer to sell beer in cans. Perhaps you were out sick the day they taught that fact in 10th grade history class?

WATCH: Jeff's YouTube show 'The Cheap Life.'

Of course the most practical way to reuse beer cans or any aluminum cans is to simply make sure they get recycled. Recycling cans requires 95 percent less energy than manufacturing them from virgin ore, and an astonishing 105,784 cans are recycled every minute here in the U.S.,  according to the Can Manufacturers Institute. Curbside recycling is now available to the vast majority of American households, and you can also sell your aluminum cans to some recyclers (check the Yellow Pages under "recycling," "scrap metal," and/or "salvage"). Selling your aluminum cans won't make you rich - you'll currently earn only about fifty cents for every thirty or so cans you sell for scrap - but it's one way to generate a little extra beer money!

Then there are the more creative ways some people repurpose beer cans and other aluminum beverage cans:

Coming of age in the 1970s, "beer can hats" were fashionable (well, at least if you grew up in rural Ohio), and today if you search online you'll find that crotchet enthusiasts are still using aluminum cans to make not only hats, but purses, tote bags, and a host of other aluminum-clad items. (NOTE: Be extremely careful when cutting aluminum cans as the edges can be very sharp, so always wear work gloves and take other safety precautions.)

  • I like to use sturdy scissors to make simple decorative stars from aluminum cans, like the ones pictured in this earlier blog post. If you sand the sharp edges and fold them over, these little stars and other shapes cut out of aluminum cans can also be fashioned into earrings.
  • I also cut aluminum cans with a utility knife - again, carefully! - to make simple "can lanterns" like the one shown here. They can be lit with little electric tea candles or strung together on LED lights and hung as festive party lights. You can also spray paint them so no one needs to know what cheap brands of beer you drink.
  • Making model airplanes and other miniatures out of beer cans is a fascinating - and affordable! - hobby.  Check out these incredible scale models made out of various aluminum beverage cans.
  • And finally, there can be no doubt that the All-Time #1 Fan of beer can repurposing is the late John Milkovisch of Houston, Tex. In 1968, Milkovisch began covering and adorning his house as well as his yard with flattened and sculpted beer cans.  About 18 years and 50,000 beer cans later, Milkovisch completed what is now officially known as "The Beer Can House," a protected work of art that you can visit in Houston and online. Best of all, not only was Milkovisch a superstar of creative repurposing, but he was apparently a fellow cheapskate as well. When asked what brand of beer he preferred, his "canned" response was, "Whatever's on special."

So on Jan. 24, raise a glass ... er, can... and toast National Beer Can Appreciation Day.

Photo credit: Jeff Yeager

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