Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Taking Recycling to a New Level

We all learned in the first grade that recycling was good for the planet.

Recycle, reduce, reuse....and close the loop!

And I do take my plastics, glass, cardboard and junk mail to the recycling center.  I wash out glass containers and reuse them. I even have plans to build an entire house from recycled materials (I love what Dan Phillips is doing).

But wouldn't it be great if we stopped consuming so much to begin with?

Let's face it. There is plenty of stuff in existence in the world already. Walk into any major retail store and think for a minute about the gargantuan quantities of things there to buy.

Then think about the people who made them. Sure, most stuff is made in factories today, but factories don't run without people.

And they are not treated well, they are not paid well, and they do not work in ideal conditions.

And I don't mean 'not ideal' like that crappy fast food job you had in high school. (Granted, that's another story for another day).

I found a great article/rant on an online magazine called Snow's Cut that explained why buying a bunch of unnecessary plastic crap from overseas isn't in our best interest:
It’s bad for our country, our economy and our environment. It’s bad for our country because we’re sending way, way too much money to China. It’s bad for our economy because we’re squeezing out American manufacturing by buying this garbage and it’s bad for our environment because all this crap just ends up in the landfill – not to mention the pollution created by the factories that roll out millions and millions of plastic trinkets every day.
How do you suppose big companies can afford to produce their stuff so cheaply that they can still make a profit when they sell it to you for $2 or less?
Because Chinese factory workers are basically slaves. They make maybe $1/hour. Now you can’t fixate on that number because a meal at a nice restaurant there costs about 50 cents, but this much is true – they work long, hard hours, live in dormitories and are lucky to send a few bucks back to their families every month. 
One website I visited displayed the rules of a typical Chinese factory. Certain infractions could cost a worker anywhere from an hour’s wages to three day’s pay. My personal favorites:
  • “Putting personal objects on the work desk.” – 2 hour’s wages
  • “Plugging in electronics [using electricity] in the dorm room for personal use.” – 1.5 day’s wages
  • “Putting up personal notices…or handing out flyers.” – 3 day’s wages
Just some food for thought.

I was first introduced to these concepts in a major way through a documentary called What Would Jesus Buy? It's a rather strange film, but the concepts ring true and the facts are the facts. And ever since watching it, I have thought more than twice about the products I buy, the stores from which I buy them, the impact my purchases have on the environment, and the message I send with my life.

And so I've created a list of ideas for consuming less and recycling more than just plastic containers and day old newspapers.

5 Ways to Take Recycling to a New Level:

  1. Shop at thrift stores or second hand clothing shops like Plato's Closet or Clothing X-Change (locally in Nashville). I have found practically brand new, brand name clothing at thrift stores and some really great vintage pieces.
  2. Get up early one Friday or Saturday and hit some yard sales. One person's junk is another person's treasure. Yard sales are a great place to find furniture that can be repainted, gently used sports equipment, books, and kid's toys.
  3. Resist the urge to run to the store to pick up "just a couple things." Look around your house to find ways to improvise or use something you already own. You might just find you don't need said item after all.
  4. Host a trading party. Everyone invited brings all the stuff they don't need or want anymore to give away in exchange for someone else's unwanted stuff. Like a private garage sale, but everything is free! (What could possibly be better?!)
  5. Make art! Old, everyday items can be transformed into a masterpiece with just a little creativity. Paint on old pieces of plywood, turn earrings that have lost their mate into a pendant necklace, or make a mosaic from broken pieces of plates. If you're not an artist, donate your potential art items to a creative friend or an after school arts program.

Do you recycle? Why or why not?


  1. Love this. In the early '80's the slogan was actually REFUSE reduce re-use recycle. And then corporations stepped in and took off the first one because that was bad for the economy. You are spot on, sister! Thanks so much for linking in to Simple Lives Thursday!

  2. I agree! (And I still need to work on it.) Great tips. I'm clicking over to your pillow case skirt, too. :) Thanks for linking up to Simple Lives Thursday!


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