Thursday, March 6, 2008

Life Less Disposable

Recently Colin at No Impact Man cited an amazing statistic by Heather Rogers, namely, that 80% of products sold in America are designed to be used once and tossed.

Now, I haven't read Rogers' book, Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage, yet, nor do I know where she got such a statistic from. At first it seemed like such an outrageously high number that I was inclined to dismiss it. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there's an awful lot of stuff out there that fits the bill: envelopes, scotch tape, packaging, cotton balls, paper cups, Biore pore strips, PAPER, etc etc.

Since then, I like to play this little game with myself. My mission in this game is to find ways to use things TWICE.

I mean, look, first of all, I try not to use unnecessary one-time use products. And there's a lot of "disposable" stuff that I use over and over again. Ziploc bags are a good example. But there's also a lot of stuff I'm just not going to use 20 times or even five times. But, I can maybe find a way to use them twice.

Like envelopes. If I get a manila envelope that wasn't actually sealed, but just held shut by the brass fastener, I'll throw a label on over where my address was marked, and send that envelope back out to someone else. If the envelope was sealed, I might use the back of the envelope to make a grocery list.

Since I can't recycle carbon copy paper, I rip it up and use it to mark the pages in my books when I read something blog-worthy.

Paper gets de-bradded and de-paper clipped before it goes in the recycling. Yeah, you can keep that stuff in, but why, when you can re-use it!

Packaging materials get saved. All of it. Boxes, ribbons, wrapping paper, bubble wrap.

I will even on occasion use one tea bag to make two cups of tea.

And every time I come up with a way to use one more thing twice, I get all excited, like I've just advanced to the next round of America's Next Top Re-user. What that says about me and my life (or lack thereof), I don't know. ;)


Anonymous said...

I also try my best to reuse. Old newspapers I use as seedling bags. Clean chocolate paper wrappers I use as stationery. Bubble wraps line my cabinets. I guess, imagination is our only limitation.

Great read. Good tips.


Anonymous said...

At work, I save all of my printed mistakes and then cut it in quarters and use the backs as scrap paper. I also try to stop and think before I hit print, which saves a lot of errors.

organicneedle said...

New to the blog. (Picked you up from Crunchy.)I really like your writing and your thinking.

I find myself shopping with second use in mind, choosing products that come in containers that will suit another need. What size jar do I need for those pickled pigs feet? (Just kidding. Who has time to pickle them?)

Paper is never wasted in this house. My two toddlers will doodle on anything. Including house guests ....if they're slow. Poor Nana.

*Could be me...but your comment thingy won't let me log in under wordpress*)

Sam said...

I read the Tightwad Gazette about 6-7 years ago and when I first read about reusing aluminium foil I thought it was a bit much (or bat shit crazy). I had the same thoughts about reusing ziploc bags...but since I don't buy ziplocs anyway...that idea was useless to me.
Now...I do reuse foil only to see how long a roll last me (ans: quite a while). Its actually a fun little challenge to see how long stuff can last. I recently started reusing the packaging of various products to write grocery lists on. I find it bizarrely exciting.

Chile said...

I'm crazy about re-use and re-purposing. But you already know that. Lately, my kick has been re-using water. Rinse dishes, water plants. Take a shower, then fill the toilet tank. Simmer orange peels before candying, re-use water for cleaning (cheaper than buying citrus cleaner!) Where will it end, arduous, where will it end?!