The three Rs are the creed of every environmentalist. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Before I "went green" a couple years ago, I had no idea that the three Rs were listed in order of importance. I generally ignored the first one. Reduce, schmoose. Bypassed the second one. And put all my energies into the third - Recycle.
Oh, I was a good little recycler. Every scrap of paper that journeyed through my home ended up in the blue recycle bin. Each piece of plastic that boasted a three arrow logo was placed in a brimming can marked "glass, plastic and cans." I figured out months back that our current system of recycling isn't the answer. Moreover, the economic crises has changed everything. The recycling industry has gone belly up and with it all those piles of thoughtfully separated bottles, cans and paper.
That means that I need to focus my energies on the first and second Rs. I'll write later this month about reducing. But this post, as if the title didn't give it away, is all about the middle, oft-overlooked R. Reuse.
If you are anything like me, you are about to embark on a post-holiday, welcome the New Year, pre-spring cleaning purge. My key to surviving it without a bulging garbage can is to be organized. If you give everything a place, you are more likely to reuse instead of lose it.
Every Christmas, for years and years, I've carefully stored the ribbon and gift wrap from presents we've received. The ribbons are neatly wound and tucked into my ribbon box. I recently read that 38,000 miles of ribbon (enough to tie the world in a bow) is thrown out every year. That's a good reason to start a ribbon box. Tissue paper, gift bags and wrapping paper are folded into Christmas gift box I received as a young adult. I haven't purchased wrapping material in over five years and yet dole out beautifully wrapped presents whenever the occasion calls for it.
Birthday and school parties yield all kinds of plasticrap. Whenever I come across a renegade plastic toy fitting the goodie bag description, I toss it into a ziplock bag that lives atop our armoire. A small plastic tub resides next to that bag and that's where the beads and marbles that roam our home go. Every six months or so, I take a bag full of toys to the dentist to add to their "treasure bin." I separate the beads and donate them to my son's school and put the marbles back with the marble maze.
I keep a reused plastic yogurt container - from before I learned to make my own yogurt - under the sink as a repository for wine corks. These I recycle (there's even a drop off at Whole Foods for them now) though corks can also be reused for craft projects.
In the garage, I keep a wine box and tuck our empty wine bottles in there. Once we've saved a couple dozen, I list them on Freecycle or the free section of Craigslist for art projects and home brewing reuse. Packing boxes and packing material are in a heap in the corner of the garage and we Freecycle them whenever the pile grows unmanageable. A "Goodwill" bag also hides out in the garage for clothes we've outgrown, books we've tired of, and other odds and ends we cannot use. I'll make a Freecycle or charity specific sweep of those items from time to time and, whatever's left, makes its way to the local thrift store.
I store my reusable shopping bags, produce bags as well as empty strawberry baskets and egg cartons in a desk drawer or on my car's passenger seat to ensure I've got them handy when I visit the farmers' market.
A mending pile lurks in the dark depths of my closet and I do, from time to time, venture back there to see what wonder I can work with a needle and thread. It's not much but it usually does the trick and keeps clothes from the rag basket, which is conveniently located above the washer.
One of the last stops before the recycle bin or landfill is the "Project Supplies" box. My kids know this box well for it holds all manner of treasures as well as glue and paint. Random bits of plastic packaging, broken pencil sharpeners, busted toys, googly eyes and pipe cleaners pried off of art projects, broken crayon bits, marker caps, they all end up here. The Bean Boys workshop. A couple times a week, my kids delve into the box, add glue and emerge with something completely unique and reused. Indeed, the Project Supplies come in particularly handy on holidays and have yielded the necessary ingredients for a homemade Halloween costume and a memorable Valentine.
As I pack away the holiday decorations, haul out the recycling, and greet the New Year with a little cleaning binge, I'm getting organized and putting everything in its place. That way, I can focus on reusing it, so that our planet doesn't lose it.
Have a Happy and Organized New Year.