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Eco-friendly living for 2019 and beyond: Reduce-Reuse-Repurpose!
By Betsi Freeman
We’ve been logging forests for paper for 2,000 years, automating mass production since the 1800s, and burning motor fuel since the early 20th century. Yet the eco-friendly/environmentally conscious movement as we know it did not surface until the 1970s, when Earth Day was first celebrated (April 22, 1970) and the Environmental Protection Agency formed. With it came a call for public collaboration in stewardship of our planet’s resources, and the phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”
It’s been nearly 50 years since the first Earth Day, and citizens of Earth are collectively much more concerned about our planet’s sustainability. Although the exact origin of the “Three R’s” is not certain, the never-ending green-arrow triangle logo and the sense of responsibility they evoke are ubiquitous now. The “recycle” directive has taken root – 75% of people dutifully send their paper, plastic, and glass into a separate collection stream whenever possible.
But only 9.1% of the waste we drop into those color-coded bins is actually recycled – most of this bulky product still ends up in our landfills, meaning a constant vigilance and reassessment of our consumption patterns is needed more than ever as our population grows. “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” sticks in our minds…but there is still a lot of trash being accumulated going this route. So we at Stone Paper® propose updating the slogan with new vocabulary: “Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose!”
Repurposing is not a new concept – resourceful folks around the world have been using reclaimed wood in construction and sewing worn cloth into beautiful quilts for untold generations. In a wealthier, more mobile and tech-driven economy, it just takes more discipline to repurpose instead of acquiring new things. Over the years, feng shui, Henry David Thoreau and Marie Kondo alike have made simplicity attractive, holding out the promise of a quiet, joyous life.
Mason jars used as lamps, tires made into coffee tables – the visual cleverness of repurposing, coupled with thrift and sensibility, is only limited by the time and energy we can devote to it. With creativity, color, and skill, we’ve upgraded from simple ideas – like kids turning soup cans into pencil holders, or using the Sunday newspaper to wrap gifts – into more complex procedures. On the vogue end of the spectrum, Nancy Judd of Recycle Runway creates haute couture sculptures from items others would consider trash – starting eco-friendly conversations as well as art.
Repurposing can also be a great source of income for home-based entrepreneurs – we save tremendous energy when we can create goods to sell to the neighborhood, or in an online shop, perhaps from items we find at flea markets or thrift stores. Artisans may re-carve old furniture into new shapes or create mosaics from shattered glass – even kids can get involved in an enterprise like MagNutty, which sells magnets made from old board game pieces.
In a culture that is constantly synthesizing ideas, mashing-up videos and merging companies, repurposing also offers us a sense of comfort and stability- it’s nice to be surrounded by familiar things! And don’t forget the sense of satisfaction from a fuller pocketbook when you don’t have to take a shopping trip to supply all your needs.
At Stone Paper®, we consider it our environmental responsibility to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Repurpose, and we consider it part of our stewardship to spread awareness around this subject, in hopes that you might take action with us.