Saturday, June 19, 2010

Repurpose, Reuse, Recycle

Basic, right?

Repurpose, reuse, recycle is a fundamental mantra, or at least I thought it was. Now with all the accelerating horrors of overconsumption once again coming to the fore, I wonder.

Doesn't everybody already repurpose, reuse, recycle? Doesn't everybody make things last, make do, make the best of what they've got? I guess not.

I'm typing this on a ten year old laptop in a 110 year old house in rural New Mexico. I'm on a dial up connection. The phone/answering machine on the desk is one of the few "new" things in this house. The other phones are old. They have dials for cripes sake.

I'm listening to a live broadcast of a folk music festival in Albuquerque on a "new" radio/CD player sitting on top of a stack of old books in this room. Other "new" things in this house include a teevee in the living room (no reception though, because we're not connected to cable or satellite, and there is no broadcast teevee in this area, so we use it to watch videotapes -- yes, we have many of them, old, old, old -- and DVDs). A new heater was installed when the house was renovated. New double pane windows were installed then, too, for energy savings. A new stove was installed in the kitchen. I bought a new microwave when we moved in. The ceiling fans were installed when the house was renovated. I bought a futon new before we brought any beds here. Apart from food and supplies and some utensils, that's about all there is in this house that is "new."

Every other stick of furniture is old, some very old, and none of it was purchased new by us. All the rugs are old, none purchased new by us. The lawnmower is old. I did buy a new cord for it.

We reuse or recycle all our paper/cardboard, cans, bottles, plastics. Kitchen waste is composted into the -- eventual -- garden. It's just what you do. We do what laundry we need to do by hand because we don't have laundry appliances here. Not yet. I've found old doors and other old items on the property and I've reinstalled them or reused them where I can rather than buying new, or even buying used.

The van in the driveway is creeping up on fifteen years old, creeping up on 250,000 miles. Of course it does take some maintenance to keep it going, and it isn't the most thrifty possible vehicle I could drive, but it gets better mileage than the cash for clunkers program required for a trade in rebate.

It just seems perfectly normal to make things last as long as possible and to buy new only what is necessary.

Repurpose, reuse, recycle.

But apparently Americans are still somewhat leery of such basic formulae.


  1. Dear Che,

    A "frugal" mindset seems to have been developing over the last few years, especially in the last couple of years. I have no idea how widespread it is as it's hard to know when you only find/share information in the internet bubble ;). But frugality is something that we've become pretty adept at and are still learning.

    I just came to your blog from my favorite personal finance blog and the writer there has sentiments similar (or at least in the same spirit) as your post. So it must mean I am meant to chime in with my .02 this morning!

    I get frustrated when reading political blogs as there is almost always someone in the comments wondering "when will people realize..." and "what will it take to make people...blah blah". I wish more people would realize that a "revolution" does not have to happen in the streets. A revolution could happen right now if everyone would stop buying and especially stop using credit. Always buying new and carrying credit debt is a large part of what funds the status quo. I would much rather all of us ordinary people figure this out on our own than to have the eventual collapse do it for us.

    Anyway, hope I didn't cast a gray cloud on your getaway. Your place sounds lovely (I'm jealous), and, even better I'll bet it's quiet as can be too.



  2. Gwen,

    I honestly did think that "everyone" by now was following basic Triple R principles, that it was second nature.

    I'm not on a soapbox about it, but it seems like American overconsumption is once again being highlighted all over the media, including the blogosphere.

    What I'd really like to know is whether frugal living is still as rare as it was, say, in the 1980's. Fact is, some of us just never got into the spirit of heavy consumerism. And these days, many have no choice.

    Much as I tend to favor big ticket "actions" like general strikes and whatnot -- to knock some sense in to the overclass if nothing else -- much of the Revolution is up to each of us doing what we can to monkeywrench a wildly out of control system. One way to do that is, as you say, to stop buying, especially stop buying fancy new stuff on credit. Don't use banks. Buy what you need locally. Etc.

    These are all modest actions anybody can take and they do make a difference. They make a difference in one's own life, and they can make a difference in the larger context as well. I'd love to see some statistics!

    Meanwhile, yes, it's wonderfully quiet here. There are swallows nesting on the porch eaves, and many other species of birds visiting. The sky is incredibly blue and clear, the air is fragrant, and at night the stars shine all the way down to the horizon. Magical.