My mother is notoriously known for her inability to throw things away. It often results in less ideal situations at home, like running out of space for new things or a having nice, thick collection of dust in random corners of the house.
I may have grumbled at having to clean all that dust, but little did I (or my mother) know that we were being environmentally friendly.
We now live in a convenience-driven, individualistic world. It is easy to find items that cater to individual consumption to complement our hurried lifestyles. I can’t tell you how many times I have shrieked with excitement at the different ideas for convenience at the grocery store.
Unfortunately, these little conveniences lead to the use-and-throw mentality.
Think of the last party you went to. Where did you put your food? What did you use to eat it with? The convenience of disposable paper plates and silverware is undeniable. Buy a huge stack, use them and throw them out. Wash, rinse and repeat at the next party. You only end up with a huge pile of garbage by the end of the night.
The easily forgotten cost of these cheap conveniences is, of course, the mounting pile of trash that is generated and the continual need for resources to make more use-and-throw items. Yes, we know that recycling is the default answer to most situations, but the smarter thing to do for the sake of depleting resources and your pocket is to reuse.
Reusing is a smart way to keep materials out of the waste stream. Reusing reduces the need for more raw materials and resources to make new items. Reusing saves energy needed to make new items. Reusing reduces the production of hazardous waste. Reusing saves you money.
Granted, it may take some practice. When I first started weaning off bottled water, I constantly forgot my reusable water bottle. I refused to buy bottled water, which left me parched at the end of the day. That was a good lesson.
Now I have my water bottle by my side everywhere I go, even to, uh, bars. Bouncers take one whiff of my water bottle and glare at me, either from disgust of not smelling alcohol or from my odd habit.
To help you get started, here are some ideas: reuse plastic containers that you would get from buying a tub of butter or hummus. Reuse glass bottles from spaghetti sauce and salsa to store dry foods. Reuse wine bottles — use them as flower vases or rolling pins.
Reuse plastic bags and get a bag discount while grocery shopping. If you want to be more stylish, get a reusable shopping bag with cute designs.
The great thing about reusing is that it triggers your creativity. Take, for example, a Peace Corps volunteer who came up with an ingenious plan to reuse waste and build community in Guatemala. Laura Putner developed an idea to build a school out of plastic water bottles.
According to ABC World News, students in the local community helped materialize this dream by collecting the mounting plastic bottles in the area and then building a wall out of bottles stuffed with plastic bags and chicken wire. In the process, they helped clean up the trash in the surrounding area.
The Plastiki, a boat made of plastic water bottles, sailed from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia in six days. Designed by Adventure Ecology, the expedition aimed at creating awareness on how waste is a design flaw and to rethink it as a resource.
For my mother, this habit of reusing was just her overarching sentimental value attached to everything. It’s taken me years, but I’m beginning to understand the joy in reusing that old ribbon to fancy up a birthday gift. Now, let’s see what you can come with.