Earth Friendly: Learn to conserve, recycle, repurpose

By Kate Garcia
Jan. 16, 2014 at midnight
Updated Jan. 15, 2014 at 7:16 p.m.

So, I don't know if this has ever happened to any of you, but last night, I went into a cooking frenzy. Hey, I cook when I get stressed and give it away. And, no, that was not an invitation to stress me out in an attempt to get me to cook for you, so please don't.

I admit, parts of my personality are a bit quirky. Take, for instance, my decision-making process. Sometimes, I look at a small tub of cottage cheese and convince myself to buy the large tub because our office is going to have a luncheon in a couple of weeks.

That gives me enough time to eat all the cottage cheese and reuse the container to pack the sliced tomatoes in because fajitas are on the menu. I mean, that's a perfectly logical reason to buy the bigger tub of cottage cheese, right?

Think about it - I'm using a plastic container that has already been made for one purpose and giving it another. Both containers were made for the same reason: to transport food. Plus, the cottage cheese container only costs a fraction of what actual Tupperware would cost, and it comes with food.

I've often wondered where I learned to repurpose random items, and the only answer I can come up with is Grandma. We stayed at Grandma's house instead of day care way back when I was still in diapers. Grandma would save containers like jelly jars, and Grandpa would use them to store nuts and bolts in his shop.

She also had one drawer specifically for plastic grocery bags in the kitchen. I kid you not - she even put the grocery bags in empty tissue boxes so they would dispense neatly instead of floating around the bottom of the drawer. Genius.

What makes my habits that have been passed down from my grandmother interesting is that recycling isn't a new concept. Places like Austin and California may have made recycling the hip thing to do, but the necessity has always been there.

In the 1930s and '40s, conservation and recycling wasn't a voluntary habit but a survival tool. Economic depression brought about rationing products like nylon, rubber and metal to support the war effort. Ultimately, people could not afford to buy new goods. Recycling was a way of life as a consequence of the events of the time.

As time went on, events shifted, and people got their purchasing power back, and conservation as a way of life fell to the wayside. Not until the 1960s and '70s did it become a mainstream idea again thrust into the public eye by the creation of the first Earth Day in 1970.

Regardless of whether conservation and recycling is a new idea or not, its place in society is often dictated by current events. Today, the trend is disposability.

This being said, if we don't manage our resources by reusing raw source materials, recycling can once again become a survival habit instead of just a voluntary one.

How can we ensure that doesn't happen? Participate. Use the city's curbside recycling program, keep the recycling market strong by purchasing items made or packaged with recycled materials, reuse something a few times before actually recycling it and, most of all, practice being a conscious consumer.

Kate Garcia is the programs coordinator for the city of Victoria, environmental services.



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