2007-10-10

re-use of old things

So, for Blog Action Day, we're writing about environmental issues. I decided to go for re-use of old things as my subject for the post. I have to admit, the day snuck up on me, and I am now writing my post right in the middle of the day, but hey, that's how these things go.

So, about re-use of old things. Particularly here in America, we live in such a disposable society. Things are made to be discarded, we tend to be extremely wasteful with materials and we have this insatiable craving to have the newest, latest, most hi-tech stuff. All of this results in environmental crisis, because so many things just get thrown away long before their usefulness is really spent.

This seems to run really deep in our culture. Having new things is a mark of being successful. So what happens? Our couches start looking worn around the edges and we take them to the dump, and buy a new one. Our PDA is replaced by a faster model, so we toss it and buy the new one. A new car comes out with lots of cool features, so we get rid of ours and buy it.

Not only does this cycling of things create a lot of waste that then often just goes to landfills and sits there, but it also uses a lot of energy, both to create the new products and to dispose of or even recycle the discarded ones. Besides that, it creates an atmosphere in our society that says that people who are able to afford the newest and shiniest things are better, more successful, etc.

So, here's my proposition. What if we made a point of re-using old things? What if we tried to change our perspective so that having the newest and most expensive things was not the model for society to look up to? What if instead of throwing away old things, we made a point of finding someone else who would use it? What if we looked for older things we could modify slightly to fit our needs rather than just assuming we would have to buy something new? Even older clothing can be modified to be something new, rather than simply discarding the entire thing. What if instead of using new lumber for building projects, we used reclaimed lumber that is still in good condition, or already existing sinks, cabinets, dressers, etc for home renovation?

I think this would have a number of potential impacts. First, we will save energy. There wouldn't be quite such a push to mass-produce the newest items, and there also wouldn't be the need to recycle as much, so we would save energy in both of those areas. Since the means for producing most of our energy causes pollution, this is a good thing. We wouldn't be filling landfills nearly as fast with non-recyclable (or too lazy to recycle, I do it too) items. We wouldn't be depleting natural resources as quickly by cutting down new trees and other things, we wouldn't have as much need to mass-produce cotton and wool and other textiles. I think there would be positive social change as well. It would help to lessen the wealth is worth mentality as well as saving energy and reducing pollution.

And who knows, you might actually begin to really like the older stuff that you end up with. The effort to modify it and make it just what you want might just make it special to you, in a way that something new and mass-manufactured wouldn't ever be. The older things might just last longer and wear better as well too. Try it out, see what happens :)

1 comment:

  1. I just love your view on this problem. Here in the Netherlands we have the same attitude towards new things, if you have the newest products you are more important in society. There is a new movement beginning here that's showing how fun 'old' stuff can be. Vintage clothing and furniture can look really nice. Even old paper and plastic is recycled in to bags that look nice. It's getting a bit of a hype really. Conscious food and furniture gives now some kind of status as a trendy. This causes that the stuff is getting as expensive as the newest things, too bad. Everyone is getting more conscious about environmental problems. Our government let people with energy saving cars pay less and gives people with big cars more taxes. So some good things are happening on our planet! I love it that you share this thoughts on your weblog, I think it's the best way getting people more conscious! Have a nice week, Lesley-ann

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