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Earth Friendly: Reduce, reuse and recycle items for projects

By By Kate Garcia
Nov. 21, 2013 at 5:21 a.m.

Kate Garcia

The weather is getting colder (or at least trying to), and pumpkin spiced lattes are popping up all over the place. These two things can only mean it is about time for us to build the float Santa will come to town on during the annual lighted Christmas parade Dec. 7.

For the past couple of years, Environmental Services, along with Victoria West High School's Team Lorax, has been building the Santa float, and we love doing it.

The project challenges us to come up with innovative ways to incorporate environmentalism with the holidays. While building a float (or anything for that matter) can be a blast, it can get expensive.

This made me think: Why buy new materials when were surrounded by perfectly good used ones in the garage? On my shopping list were various sizes of screws, 2-by-4 and 1-by-6-inch plywood and a bunch of other things I was glad my father had taught me what they were.

With every new item we put into the basket, the smaller and smaller our tiny budget became, leaving very little money for a very important part of the parade - lights.

It was time to problem solve. How can we get what we want and stay under budget? We needed to do what we do best: reduce, reuse and recycle.

Brand-new paint costs nearly $30 a gallon, but if you're not too picky, the stores usually have a stockpile of what we have dubbed "oops paint." You can typically find a color close to what you need for a fraction of the cost.

Next came the lumber. We determined exactly how we were going to use it. If we were going to cut it down short anyway, then why be concerned if the whole board was straight? In that case, we headed to the stock of wood the store had separated out that was less than desirable. Bam - more savings, and we were using things that would have been discarded anyway.

Then came a little trickier issue: screws. Again, each large box ran up into the $20 range. We bought the sizes we knew we didn't have and determined we already had hundreds of the sizes we didn't need to buy. Those sizes just needed to be reclaimed from prior projects we weren't going to use again. All it cost was a bit of time and elbow grease.

Lastly, there was a little thing I like to call "materials management." For instance, if we did buy something brand new, like a full sheet of plywood, let's buy a thickness that will allow us to reuse it for a future project, whatever it may be. You see, a lot of materials can have more than one life and more than just one use. Planning ahead this way can save you money in the long run.

I'm proud to say at least half of our float every year is created from reclaimed materials, but I bet you could never tell. You see, reducing, reusing and recycling is bigger than tossing a plastic bottle in a bin.

It's about giving more than one life to as many things as you can before determining when the item no longer has a useful life left. So join us at the parade Dec. 7 to see reducing, reusing and recycling in action.

Kate Garcia is the programs coordinator for the city of Victoria, Environmental Services.

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