Sunday, 8 March 2009

Make Do And Mend

I don’t think that a lot of people – including the government – have quite got the hang of the 3 R’s yet. We have to re-use and reduce our use of products as well as re-cycle. And re-cycling isn’t just about sending our bottles – glass or plastic – to the bottle banks. The downturn in our economy is bringing back that old-fashioned concept – make do and mend.

If your mother or grand-mother was born before 1950 they would have told you a few basic facts. Don’t throw everything away. Re-use things. In those days it was inconceivable that the tin your shortbread came in would have been chucked. No way. It was used for the next twenty years to hold zips and elbow patches for clothing repairs.

Mend clothes? How do you do that? Surely you just chuck it away and buy something new. Nooooo…even if you’re no seamstress you can take it to the dry cleaners who will arrange for a new zip to be fitted. And those old T-shirts make great cleaning rags.

What about that sensibly sized plastic carton with the lid that the ice-cream came in? Mum would use it for the next ten years to freeze left-overs. Yoghurt pots, throw them away? Not on your Nellie. If Dad didn’t use them to plant his seeds the kids would swipe them to make something clever they saw on Blue Peter.

Jam jars. Of course there’s more to them than home-made marmalade. Jam jars are ace. What can be more useful than all those curtain hooks safely stored in a nice clear see through jar: not to mention screws, nails, washers, buttons and that castor that came off the card table. You have not only re-used the jars, you have done away with the need to buy screws every time you do another little DIY job.

My kids used to laugh at me – Mum, stop hoarding useless rubbish, chuck it away! But at last I’m not considered a sad old skin-flint – the R word means that I’m now ecologically aware! It’s pretty obvious that re-using is much greener than re-cycling. No carbon footprint whatsoever.

And why don’t people just stop buying drinking water in plastic bottles each week. What’s wrong with the tap? Filter it if you must, then re-fill that expensive Evian bottle. The woman next to you in the gym - and your intestines - won’t know the difference.

Then there’s the supermarket plastic bag conundrum: it’s true that in Mum’s day she had her basket or a fold-up nylon bag in her handbag and we should too. But Mum had the odd plastic bag too. Just banning these bags means that instead of them being re-used to line the kitchen bin, shoppers are purchasing other plastic products to do the same job! How much energy is that using: it’s crazy.

The government should have long ago insisted that all such bags were biodegradable (not to mention taxing unnecessary packaging). We could then use the bags in our kitchen bins for our wet food waste. And we could all stop putting clean dry rubbish in big plastic sacks: what’s wrong with putting them straight in the dustbin anyway? No big black plastic bag to sit in the landfill for the next 100 years.

I’m warming to my task now – time for my soap box. How do you reduce, re-use and recycle all in one? Compost, that’s how. Reduce the amount of stuff going to the tip in a nasty big truck. Re-use and recycle your green waste – teabags, coffee grounds, veg peelings et al – in a compost heap. If the garden’s not big enough for a heap or two use that old kitchen bin that broke. When it’s all rotted down it will feed your flower border better than anything you’ve used energy and money to buy from the DIY store. There's satisfaction in the 3 R’s and the culture of make do and mend.


1 comment:

Carla said...

I've done this all my life. Oh, dear, I might now be in line with a trend for the first time ever :-)