But it’s not what you think; I’m not a shoe in for A&E’s ‘Hoarders’ or anything like that (nothing against ‘Hoarders’ – absolutely fascinating show, actually). You see, it’s not that I can’t get rid of stuff – I totally want to and can. But I can’t throw them out…not if there’s any chance in hell that it could possibly be used again. If it absolutely cannot, then I want to recycle it.
At the risk of sounding horribly old, I have to say that I’ve noticed we’ve become much more of a ‘disposable society’ since I was a kid. As the fourth child (and the third daughter), I grew up wearing hand-me-down clothes. Most of what wasn’t ‘previously enjoyed’ by one of my siblings was hand-made by my mother, who happens to be a very talented seamstress.
Looking back, I was pretty fortunate to have so many beautiful dresses and skirts made with love by Mom. At certain times, however, it just wasn’t very cool to have homemade stuff – like when Mom made me jeans, and everyone else was wearing Levi’s. Or that androgynous, green snowsuit (yes, she sewed me a snowsuit!) which caused me to be hurtfully mistaken for a boy on the skihill. Or when my friends got their oh-so-cool Cabbage Patch Kids – and hosted Cabbage Patch Kid-themed birthday parties – and I got a homemade Cabbage Patch Kid (yes, I am SO serious!).
Part of the reason I was raised this way was pure economics; as mentioned, my parents had four mouths to feed. I think it was also equal part cultural; growing up as part of a Mennonite family – with do-it-yourself parents who were raised on farms – it was very important not to waste.
While my parents would (and likely do) undoubtedly snicker at some of the ‘wasteful’ things I do – like paying extortionist prices for boneless, skinless chicken breast as opposed to chopping up a full bird myself – there are still remnants of my non-wasteful child-rearing days that have stuck with me, and I’m glad for it. There are really so many ways to repurpose our possessions, cut back on spending and reduce waste – if only we are willing to put in a little extra effort. A few of my geeky green tendencies include:
- Repurposing clothes: I’m lucky to have two girls, and for now the younger one hasn’t figured out that she’s getting the short end of the stick by wearing all of her sister’s ‘previously enjoyed’ clothing (let’s ride this gravy train as long as we can…Lord knows I’m screwed once she figures it out!). Once daughter #2 is done with an item – provided it’s still in wearable shape – I will gift it, donate it or consign it.
- Finding new homes for household items: I don’t decorate – or subsequently redecorate – our house as much as I’d like (although I’m sure my husband would argue the point). When I do, however, I take the same approach as I do with clothes; I’m always seeking to gift useable items to friends who can genuinely use them, or posting them for sale on Kijiji. And seriously – people will buy pretty much anything – I just sold the kids’ ducky-themed bathroom set for a sweet $25, which subsidized my $75 shopping spree for new bathroom accessories *quite* nicely.
- Recycling large & small items: It really does boggle my mind when people don’t recycle, at least the basics. How can you toss that plastic water bottle in the garbage, knowing that it will sit there FOREVER in a landfill somewhere? I just can’t do it. Ask my husband; I’ve been known to carry bottles and cans for long, awkward periods of time – resisting the suggestion of a trash can – until I can find an appropriate recycling spot to put it. But it’s not just the small stuff – it’s the big stuff, too. If I’m bothered by an empty water bottle going in the trash, you can imagine how frustrated I feel at seeing big items on the curb on garbage day. A BBQ. Perfectly-good furniture. You don’t think that someone could use that? I know, it’s dirty, it’s worn. But things can be cleaned, and there are people out there – not far away – who aren’t as lucky as we are; they might not redecorate their living room EVER.
A couple of years ago, the hood fan over our stove died on us. After replacing it, I couldn’t bear to put that huge hunk of old metal out on the curb. So, it sat in the garage for some time while I researched a place that would recycle it.
Enter Foxy Recycle, an Ottawa-based recycler of all electronics, metals and a variety of plastics. The good folks at Foxy took my hood fan for recycling – for free! More recently, I dropped off a dead microwave and a dilapidated coffee maker to them. Free, free, free. And foxy! I love the name; it’s so unexpected for the business they perform, yet it speaks to how I feel about recycling. So cool, so foxy.