Recycling brings a sigh of relief

A some of you may know, April 22 is Earth Day, and many communities  plan events for environmental awareness. In my town, today was a big recycling project. People brought electronics, scrap metal, clothing, textiles, housewares,  books and paper documents to the park where their items would then be sorted and taken to a recycling facility.

This year, in addition to several years worth of old bills and stacks of paper we no longer needed to save, I was able to finally let go of something that brought a great sigh of relief…

A week ago, my youngest made his decision on where he is going to college this fall! It seems like this process of searching colleges, visiting campuses, writing applications and the waiting…. oh the agonizing waiting for responses… has been going on forever. In actuality, it started just 6 years ago- which kind of is forever in a parent’s mind. My eldest spent hours reading about schools and sending away for brochures. She also worked hard at her preparation for college and took SATs and ACTs multiple times. There was a stack of practice test books on the shelf — more than a foot wide. Then there were the AP exam books- World History, Biology, Calculus- and the SAT II Subject practice tests- Math II and English. Again, all of these added up to at least another foot of space on the shelf.     IMG_3179

 

 

Lastly, there were the books ranking colleges, advising how to write a college essay and hundreds of pamphlets, brochures and other promotional material that both of my children had accumulated either in the mail or during campus visits. I probably should have taken a photo of the massive amount of paper these items took up, but, truthfully, I was so eager and ready to get rid of it. I never considered I would want to see it again. These collective items only symbolized the ongoing process of getting ready for college and the enormous amounts of stress that were heaped upon all members of the family.

Anyway, my husband and I loaded up our car and drove to the park this afternoon. The man who directed us to the paper recycling location was a friend. When I told him what we were bringing, he agreed that we must be very relieved to have this process -of prepping our kids for college and actually getting them both into a school of their choice- behind us.

As I carried the huge armload of practice test books to the table, a volunteer followed me with the heavy bag of brochures. I placed the pile on the table for the other students to deal with and watched as the one carrying the bag dumped its contents into the giant recycling dumpster. I breathed a sigh of relief as I walked back to my car. I looked at my husband and smiled, “Isn’t it great to have this behind us!” He smiled as we drove away. “Happy Earth Day!”

 

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

I was setting up my deck last weekend, getting ready for a summerful of barbecues- kicking off this weekend with some friends and fried clams. I saw a huge hole at the top of my umbrella. Not a good thing to have in something supposed to protect you from the elements. I did what most of us would do, I checked my local stores for a replacement and when that failed, I went online to find the custom size I needed.

The cheapest model I could find would have been over $200 with shipping. Besides, I wasn’t sure how sturdy and reliable it would be. Our old umbrella has survived for 4 years and owes us nothing, but it really worked well and would be hard to replace. My husband started to dismantle it for the trash and discovered that the under layer was undamaged. It was only the top piece (18″x26″) that was torn.

Now I had a reusable solution in front of me. Instead of taking the umbrella to the landfill, I went to Joanne’s Fabrics and bought 1 sq. yd of Sunbrella fabric for about $10. I also bought a pillow form as I anticipated leftover material. When I got home, I took out my Singer sewing machine and got to work. In just over an hour, I had created a replacement top to my umbrella. My husband fitted a grommet on the top (coming up with that was a project of his own) and our umbrella was back in business. The next day, I made a matching pillow with the remnant fabric so that the furniture looks like a set.

Where did you get that awesome set of deck furniture?

Where did you get that awesome set of deck furniture?

The only part torn was the tan colored top. Don't you think this one looks better?

The only part torn was the tan colored top. Don’t you think this one looks better?

Now you may think that was pretty savvy of me, but it really seems like a natural thing to do. When I described my project to my mother she made me laugh by recalling one of my earliest “reduce, reuse, recycle” projects:

I was probably about 17 and I had a favorite pair of leather slippers. Over time, the insides had worn thin or torn. They no longer provided the warm, cozy feeling one would want in a pair of slippers. The leather soles were still in fine shape and I saw no reason to throw them out, especially given the cost of replacing them. I went to my local craft store and bought some fluffy faux fur for a few bucks. I tore out the old lining and stitched in the new one. I think those slippers lasted me another 8 years.

I still crack a little smile thinking about that project. But it is thanks to my resourceful parents and grandparents that I saw the value of saving things, by fixing and reusing them. From my grandparents I learned how to pickle and preserve food when my garden produces an excess. My grandmother and aunt taught me how to sew, which has allowed me to make everything from baby blankets to Halloween costumes. My parents showed me how to grow flowers and vegetables and instilled a sense of not wasting things. My sisters and I still like to tease our mother for saving wrapping paper to use over again.

This is a strong testament to how a family passes on its values from generation to generation. So even though I didn’t live through the wartime rationing, the energy crisis of the 1970’s made an impression on me. Nowadays, my own children are part of the generation to recycle waste and shop locally. They are both creative in their own ways, so maybe in a few more years it will become apparent how our family values manifest themselves as my children become adults. For now, I’ll just keep doing what I do and enjoy the sense of satisfaction of another successful project that saved both money and waste.

BTW, this pillow is more comfy than any of the store-bought ones. It will be my favorite spot to sit this summer!

BTW, this pillow is more comfy than any of the store-bought ones. It will be my favorite spot to sit this summer!