9 July 2007
The bungling zealot’s guide part 2: re-use
As part of our constant efforts to live more sustainably, we try to re-use all manner of things. In this regard I am pleased to report that we are pretty well organised.
The office at home is a surprisingly green place (and I’m not just talking about the colour of the walls). Any paper that is printed on only one side (letters, training handouts, publicity fliers, you name it) is kept in a box next to the printer for use as scrap or when printing anything that does not have to be beautifully presented. Go us!
We are also excellent at saving envelopes for re-use. I have a huge variety of envelopes in myriad sizes, including jiffy bags for the more delicate items, and labels made from recycled paper to stick on the front. Anything that comes through our letterbox is carefully opened then put in the box for use at a later date. I’m not saying that we never throw away any envelopes, but we are generally careful about keeping them.
Around the house we try other ways to re-use all sorts of things. Plastic containers from past take-aways are used for storing food. Glass jars from jams, preserves and sauces are used for flour, tea bags, sugar rice and spices. From time-to-time we do a ‘clothing audit’ and pull out whatever we haven’t worn in ages that is still in one piece, ready to give to a local charity shop. Old clothes not fit for donation to charity shops are kept for gardening or decorating (or both) or as rags for cleaning up after gardening or decorating. Those clothes that have gone beyond even gardening or cleaning use are stripped of their buttons which are kept in a useful little tin so that whenever one of us loses a button we should always be able to find some kind of suitable replacement.
There is, however, a glitch in our system. Let me explain.
That office paper I was telling you about? We now have the equivalent of three reams of it waiting to be re-used. It’s not that we get through lots of virgin paper in the first place and forget to use the saved stuff when we are printing things in rough or need to write shopping lists. It’s just that we are careful about what we print out and try not to do so unnecessarily. This means that we just don’t get through the saved stuff. I wouldn’t mind, but if it weren’t for the fact that I also have to shred a lot of my confidential paperwork (which goes on the compost, don’t worry) there would be even more of the stuff. The same goes for the envelopes. We use them when we can, but more envelopes come into the house than go out of it. This is even though we are signed up to paperless utility bills and with the mailing preference service in order that we don’t get junk mail. I’ve gone through phases of writing letters to everyone I know (no bad thing, I’m sure you’ll agree) in order to use them up, but I can’t keep up with the influx and the cost of postage nearly bankrupted me.
Too much supply, not enough demand, that’s our problem.
The clothes thing is not too bad, because neither of us gets through that many. Plus, thanks to our local charity shops, most of the re-use is done elsewhere. Assuming, of course, that the good charity workers of Kings Heath aren’t laughing at our donations or sticking their noses up in disgust and then burning our offerings. Confusingly, my tin of buttons is filling up but I can’t remember the last time I sewed a button back on any garment. I never seem to lose any from the clothes I do wear – how can that happen? Before I had a button tin I seemed to drip buttons left, right and centre. Now I can’t remove them from my clothes if I tug at them with my teeth or hack at them with knives. I’m sure the buttons in the tin are breeding. Fecund fastenings.
I think it might be a genetic problem. My grandmother used to save anything at all that might turn out to be useful – and I remember that she had an enormous tin of buttons. This was absolutely necessary during the war, of course, (the saving, rather than the industrial quantities of buttons) but also makes good sense in general when trying to manage the housekeeping, never mind save the planet. It is possible to take the saving too far. I know that when my Dad used to help her out in her flat fom time to time, he would find hundreds (no, I am not exaggerating) of plastic containers that she had kept because she might need them someday. He would get rid of them for her and make some space, and then the next time he went to help with the cleaning, there would be a new pile building up in the cupboards.
None of which is intended as poking fun at my Grandma (though she would probably have laughed like a drain at the story). The point I am trying to make, I suppose, is that re-using all these different items requires some imagination. Mel is absolutely excellent at this and I have to say that I envy her creativity. It’s something I could do with learning.
Because otherwise, if the rising sea levels don’t do for us all, the overwhelming tide of my buttons just might.
Filed under: Sustainable living — Clare @ 7:34 pm