My late mother was a teenager during the Great Depression in the 1920s. She was the first person I knew who recycled things, all sorts of things, from last year’s calendar to last week’s orange juice container, and who rarely threw anything away until it could not be used for anything, ever again. Mom’s motto was “use it up, wear it out, and make it do” and, because I was raised with this philosophy, I have continued to follow Mom’s mantra in adulthood. Even though I have the financial means to buy just about anything I want, I invariably re-use and recycle things. It is common, even in my office, for paper used on one side to be turned over (even inserted into the printers attached to the computer network) and used on the other side. Instead of throwing away things many people would discard without a moment’s thought, I will: ask those around me if they know anyone who can use the beautiful artwork on last year’s calendar for a school project; donate a multitude of Mardi Gras beads to a nursing home to use as prizes for residents’ games; and return glass jars to the person who gave me homemade soup so that she can re-use them (hopefully, to give me more of her delicious cooking!). I have no idea how many times, in all kinds of situations, I heard Mom say “use it up, wear it out, and make it do,” but it has instilled in me the ability to see things in a different light than most people I know. So, next time you are thinking about throwing away something that could be used by someone else, consider this mantra and recycle!
I heard Melissa’s Mother say “use it up, wear it out, and make it do” more than a few times. And, while my upbringing was different than hers in some ways, I somehow also have always found ways to re-use or re-purpose lots of things. I keep a selection of boxes in all shapes and sizes that contained items shipped to me collapsed, but ready to use to ship something out. I use the backs of business cards of past employees as note cards on my desk. Maybe I’m being cheap because by re-using I don’t have to buy boxes or (as many) notepads, but in any event, I’m also killing fewer trees. And, my favorite thing to re-use, or re-purpose, is 35mm film canisters. As a photographer since 1978, I have bought thousands of rolls of film. The plastic canisters are perfect for storing small items like safety pins, coins, and the like. I am partial to those made by Fuji because they were semi-transparent. (Don’t tell Kodak, but I often put my Kodak film in Fuji containers.) Alas, my supply of film canisters is diminishing today, but I probably won’t ever run out. So, there are a myriad of ways to re-use items beyond their original purpose, all it takes is a little thought, and perhaps storage space. Re-cycle means more than just putting things out for collection.