Thursday, September 11, 2008

Reuse, the neglected middle sibling of the Green family

How many of you can go to the kitchen, either your own or your mom's and find stacks of
Kool Whip bowls waiting patiently for the leftover beans or mashed potatoes? How many of you can find assorted screws, nuts, washers and bolts filling baby food jars or jelly jars on your dad's or your work bench? Do you have some old magazines stored in an old milk crate or garden tools resting in an empty 5 gallon paint bucket?

As you raise your hand to these questions, pat yourself on the back because you have been "Going Green" and you didn't even know it! Lots of folks reuse items, not to "Save the Planet", but because it just makes sense.

It used to be that Americans reused things on a regular basis. We repaired an slightly damaged item because buying a new one seemed decadent and wasteful, and for most of us, too expensive. As our society has become a consumer society, we have become a "disposable" society as well. Instant coffee and disposable razors have changed our mindset to the place where repairmen are becoming an endangered species.

We need to hold on to whatever item we are about to drop in the dumpster or recycling bin for just a few seconds and think if there is any way we could reuse this potential landfill fodder.

I clean a small medical research clinic and they have a lot of cardboard boxes that they discard. Now they are thinking about the environment because they put all that cardboard into a dumpster headed for a recycling plant. One day, as I was carrying an armload of boxes to that dumpster, it occurred to me that instead of throwing these perfectly good boxes into the recycling dumpster, perhaps there were folks who might need a good card board box. I began collecting the boxes, all different size and advertised them on, a web site dedicated to reusing. Within days, I had given away over 20 boxes. One man sold things on ebay and needed boxes to ship his merchandise. Two other couples were moving. With almost no effort, those boxes got an extended life. This clinic also receives their medicines in containers that are full of ice packs, very nice, long lasting ice packs. These were ending up in the landfill until recently for the same reason. People always need an ice pack for their aches and pains or for their tailgating cooler.

My reason for talking about my experience with reusing is to show that reusing items is simple, if we just take a moment to think before we dump. Now I find myself looking for new uses for all my trash.

I challenge you to take the time to try to do just one of the three words in the Green mantra. You will find that once you start, it becomes easy and you find yourself reducing, reusing and recycling like it is natural.


Anonymous said...

congrats on your daughter's graduation. I have a daughter at university and she spent her third year in Germany where they are fanatics about recycling! Our school system has paper recycling bins in the parking lots and I have begun recycling all my paper. I had previously done newspapers at the municipal drop off and plasic bottles and cans (pop and food) on our garbage day. Last week, our family of 3 threw away one trash bag (medium size). Keep up the good work and encouraging others !!

Dez K said...

Hi! This is Arathorn from Rohan. Saw your link there and followed it. Loved your blog, read it all. You've a good idea and I wish you luck! :)