Friday, September 3, 2010

Now That's Recycling

'Dad's String' photo by RLHall, ArtfulExpress

My parents were born in 1916. Having lived through the Great Depression, they carried many of the habits and traits they were forced to practice in order to make it through those hard times with them throughout the rest of their lives.

I especially noticed it with my father. Though I must say that my favorite carry over from that time period had to be the Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake that my mother often made, the recipe she used was passed down from my father's mother. She also darned socks, sewed clothes and used material from old clothes, curtains or tablecloths to make napkins or doll clothes. She canned foods and all of those kind of old fashioned household chores that saved money. She even saved toilet paper and paper towel rolls, tissue boxes, pretty papers from junk mail and those little swatches of material that were sent in the mail with men's suit advertisements for me to make arts and crafts out of.

My father could fix things, build things, invent things, and mcgyver things, but what really stood out to me was the way he reused simple things. Though he could be considered a pack rat, he always had something on hand to use in a pinch to accomplish what needed to be done.

Back when tires still used an inner tube, an old one might be patched and used for a swimming toy, cut up for rubber patches for other inner tubes or to tightly clamp around a leaking hose or pipe to temporarily slow the leak. He made huge rubber bands by cutting wide strips across the width of the tube. If a nail bent while building something, he pulled it out and pounded it straight again to use over. He saved twisties from loaves of bread, the bread bags, as well as net onion bags and found another use for them later. He washed foam trays that food came in from the grocery store, which he used again to pack meat for the freezer.

And then there was the string. I never saw him waste a length of string by throwing it away. Potato bags and dog food bags, were carefully opened by pulling a certain loop to unravel the stitching across the top of the bag so that it came free in one long piece. He tied them together end to end as he acquired them and kept them wrapped around a popsicle stick in the kitchen drawer. When the wad of string became too thick for the drawer he would take it to the basement to add to the larger ball he kept in an old metal cabinet. Sometimes if the supply of string had run out in the garage he would take the smaller collection of string out there and start a new one in the kitchen drawer. We never had to buy string, We used it to tie newspaper bundles together, wrap around packages, close garbage bags and make homemade kites. We even used the popsicle stick wrapped with string from the kitchen drawer to fly our kites. It may have had lots of knots in it but it was strong.

It seems that now, in this day and age, these types of habits are becoming necessary again, both because of the economic situation families face, and the need to protect our environment in order for life on earth to survive. These practices must remain habitual, for we have been wasteful for far too long. We need to reduce, reuse and recycle - like they did when my parents were young. It needs to become a way of life as it was with them. They didn't have much at that time, we need to appreciate what we do have before we lose it. Even if we have to reuse a piece of string to tie around our fingers to remind ourselves.

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