Reduce, reuse, recycle

Now that I am a mother, I am much more conscientious than I used to be. In days past, I couldn’t be bothered with a recycling regimen. It seemed too cumbersome, and to be honest, I was a little concerned that I’d become obsessed with recycling. Looking back, that was an appropriate concern.

I am active in local Freecycle and other recycling communities in which the goal is to reuse items and keep them out of our landfills. Just yesterday, I was continuing my mission to declutter our house and our lives by offering up a box of homemade hand soaps. It felt like a covert and sinister operation since my husband purchased them from a coworker, and when I asked him about it recently, he wasn’t ready to part with them even though we have no use for them here in our home. We all have sensitive skin, and we stick to the same trusted products. I gave him a few days to think about what he wanted to do with them, and then I quietly offered them up to my online Freecycle group. The interest was astonishing. People were willing to drive great distances to procure homemade soaps, and one woman came promptly to retrieve them.

Within the last couple weeks, I’ve had a couple items fall into disrepair, and I try to be diligent about getting them back into working order. The first was a digital food scale. One of the rubber feet on the bottom of the scale fell off, and the scale wouldn’t tare consistently without it, even after I repositioned the remaining feet to make the scale more balanced. I explained the situation to a customer service rep from the company, and asked if there was any way to get a rubber foot, which I’m sure cost only pennies. He took some of my personal information, and promised to make it right. The next day, I had a new scale in my mailbox. But being the person that I am, I am now finding a home for the other scale that needs a modest repair.

Also recently, my husband’s Carhartt duck work pants that he’s only worn a couple times in the several years he’s owned them incurred a surprisingly fatal injury. When I was washing them, I noticed that the stitching at the waistband had come undone, and since they’re work grade fabric reinforced with extra thick thread, I knew I’d snap several good sewing needles to no avail. When I contacted the company, they pledged to rectify the situation. Like the scale, my husband received a new pair of pants in the mail today, complete with retail tags. At least in the this case, my conscience is not burdened with trying to put the ripped pair back into service. But sadly, I can only assume that the company threw them out.

And within the last couple days, a vinyl roller shade in my son’s bedroom came crashing down when I tried to pull it down to cover the width of two standard-sized windows. The pin that fits into the cradle of the bracket snapped in half rendering the shade unusable. I called Lowes where I bought the shade a couple years ago, and they suggested contacting the manufacturer and provided a telephone number for customer service. Levelor, the shade maker, indicated that my only option is to buy a new one to replace it, and the polite woman on the phone did not know of a way to repair it. Google to the rescue! I found a video online that addresses this common problem with a quick solution if you’ve got the parts handy to fix it, which I don’t, but they’re easy enough to find when I pass by Lowes again.

I’m careful how much “stuff” I accumulate because when I ponder all the material possessions in my life, few things are truly valuable to me. In the last couple years, in part due to a drop in our income, I’ve stopped buying books almost completely. I am an avid supporter of my local library, and if they do not have the titles I want in their collection, they get them efficiently through the Inter-Library Loan, or “I-L-L”, program.

I’ve become that person I feared I’d become. My husband and I accumulate very little trash on a weekly basis — not enough to fill half of the bulky green trash barrel that he wheels to the curb on Friday mornings. Next to the green barrel on most weeks, we place a clear 55-gallon drum liner that is filled with either paper products, including cardboard, or a mixture of plastic, glass, and aluminum. And every week when that big red truck rolls up and the hiss of its air brakes announces its arrival, my son and I race to the window so that we can watch the technological marvel that we call the garbage truck. The moment it pulls away and continues its journey to another home on our road, my son and I are both a little sad. He wants to observe it just a little longer so we can talk about the moving parts, and I am envisioning the landfill where some of the trash goes, the recycling center that handles the rest, and the nifty sorting systems they use to process it all.

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