This post is the third post in a multi part series on sustainability. These posts are meant to be guidelines on how to make more sustainable choices in your day to day life. Enjoy! You can find the series here.
We all know about the scarcity of resources, and this blog even touches on it quite a bit. You dont have the money do to all the things that you want, and if you did, you’d be Bill Gates, and then you’d run out of time to do all the things you wanted long before you ran out of money. Not only does scarcity apply to time and money, but it applies to resources as well. While the ways to get resources is constantly improving, therefore expanding the amount of resources available, the fact remains that there is a finite amount of resources available. While we cant change the fact that we need to use resources, we can change how much we use over time. There are of course multiple ways to do this, but today I’ll talk about just one: Reuse.
Once something is bought you cant take the materials used to put it together and put them back where they came from. Once some iron has been melted down and turned into a steel beam for a building, you cant get the iron ore back. At this point, you’ve got to work with what you have at the current time, not think about ways that you would have done things different if you were the builder – that could have been over 100 years ago. When you go to upgrade the building however, you can reuse the steel for something else. It’s not trash, it’s still a resource and it still has value – perhaps not as much value as it initially did, but there is still someone, somewhere who can reuse it.
Not only is this true for large scale products like steel beams, but it is true on a personal level as well. For instance, when I moved into my own house and became responsible for fixing up things that broke, I needed tools to do some of the jobs. Initially, I was thinking that I’d need a huge amount of cash to just get some basic supplies like a circular saw, a drill and a few other things. Buying those new would have cost a lot of money, and would also have taken quite a few resources out of the ground to build the new tools. Luckily, my dad had some old tools that he had replaced that still worked just fine, and asked me if I wanted them. Of course I jumped at the chance to abate a huge cost, and stop some resources from coming out of the ground that didnt have to. While I didnt get the newest equipment, what I did get works just fine and suits my needs perfectly.
Reuse doesnt just apply to durable goods – basically anything can be reused. I’ve reused my old t-shirts, old backpack straps trying to fix the dogs camping pack (don’t ask) old jeans and just about anything I can think of. You can reuse food scraps for stock of any type (Beef, Chicken, Vegetable, Turkey) or compost. Many things in your daily life can be turned in to multi purpose tools – even after they are no longer usable for the project you bought them for – you just have to keep an open mind and think about what you actually need when working on a project. Most materials dont need to be thrown away – if you cut them up or otherwise modify them, you can make something out of them if you’re thinking hard enough.
Even if you dont have a generous family member, there are plenty of ways that you can reuse items to save some money (usually a lot) and help out the planet. Here are a few of my favorite ways:
- Look for your item on Craigslist. There are plenty of other people in your area (most likely) that look at the item you’re looking for a useless junk in their house – offer to take it off their hands.
- Put the word out to friends/family. This can help as well for the same reason listed above, but your friend may just give it to you
- Garage Sales. Though this could be tough and you may not find what you’re looking for, you can often find some real gems at garage sales. Often times people are trying to clear out space and will get rid of some stuff that is oddly expensive (50 ft extension cords, for example) for a fraction of what they would cost you for a new one.
- Check the alleys/backroads. This may not be for everyone, but I’ve been doing it lately. I’ve been trying to find some borders for my raised garden beds and dont really want to waste new, good lumber on that (nor do I want to pay for it) so when I go driving around little used roads, I’ve been looking for scrap lumber that I can use.
While reusing wont always fit your situation (You may want the warranty that comes with the new item, you may want updated features, etc) often times it’s very overlooked – even by me. Getting your items used is a great way to keep materials from being used needlessly and save quite a bit of money.
Readers: Do you buy used items or reuse things? If so, what things do you reuse?
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