Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose

Growing up Asian means that not wasting (and by proxy, saving) is just second nature. Whether it is food, water, electricity, clothing or money, it was just drilled into me, waste not, want not. How convenient that when I was in high school, not only did being environmentally friendly become the right thing to do, it was also quite trendy. Of course I joined environmental activist clubs in school. Sorting your recyclable materials became the norm in the 90s, as was giving up aerosol cans (imagine that, right after the 80s big hair!) Back then, it was our way of showing we cared about the environment. Maybe a witty button on your backpack or something too. People said things like “save a tree” instead of using a piece of paper and inappropriately used the term “ozone layer.”

Years went by, and we learned there was a lot more to preserving our earth than just recycling. There was also reducing our consumption and reusing products. Then we learned about “carbon footprint” the cause to replace the ozone layer. With people still using the term wrong. It seems like it is getting harder and harder to care for the environment – maybe like being the parent of a teenager?

What I’ve started to take on as my new personal goal is: re-purposing. My reasoning behind this is that some of my actions have small benefits. I don’t know how much energy and manual labor it takes to sanitize bottles and jars for recycling, to recycle paper, or to manufacture new products. One could even loop in the carbon footprint idea here.

It has not been as easy as I thought it would be. There are lots of great ideas out there in books, blogs, and magazines. Some ideas are outright unattractive (who wants a scarf made out of an old t-shirt?) while some are functional and aesthetic. I can easily spot which items can be washed and saved but I don’t necessarily have the creativity to turn it into something useful. In my effort to try this, I’ve become more of a pack-rat than I’ve been able to help the landfills. The best I have done this year is re-use paper which had something printed wrong on the other side.

My new home resolution is to create a bin in the corner (there’s a huge junk room/closet) off the kitchen which I will use to save…. junk. I’ll need to keep up to date on web sites with re-purposing ideas and then go back to my bin o’ junk. Hopefully it will also satiate my craving to do crafts. Lastly, this re-purposing junk is a skill I should get better at, if I want to be a better early childhood teacher. I just admired some good ideas right here.

My question to you is, do you have any ideas for me? Any that you have heard about or have tried at home?