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Recycling, Old School Style

December 9, 2011

Growing up in California pretty much ensured I was well educated in recycling and caring for our environment, however, my parents found a way to take it to a whole new level. Here are the rules of recycling.

1. Sandwich baggies, contrary to popular belief, are not one-use-only disposable plastic. They are to be saved, brought home, washed out and used again. Only when they cease to be airtight, or used for a substance that even dad won’t condone putting a sandwich in afterwards, may they be thrown away. It is not uncommon to find sandwich bags draped over various things like the soap dispenser or the faucet.

2. The box a bible comes in has many uses. Every year, someone in the family receives a NIV Bible for Christmas, that is until they open the box and find something completely different inside. I was the last to receive a new bible and that was over 25 years ago. All those celebrity conservationists have got NOTHING on my mom.

3. When the dryer belt burned in half and started the load of towels in the dryer on fire, nothing was wasted! The towels were salvaged and used as shop towels for the garage (although, no one but my dad would touch them due to the smell) and the dryer belt was used as a cat toy. Mom draped it over the ceiling fan and it provided hours of entertainment for us as the cats chased it in circles. What? You think any member of the household was saved from snark just because they had four legs and a tail?

4. Being the youngest, I was well acquainted with hand-me-downs, even when it came to underwear. But what to do when even I couldn’t wear it anymore. Underwear dustrags! There was an entire drawer full of holey underwear in mom’s closet for battling dust bunnies. Who knew they succumbed so quickly to Hanes?

5. Wrapping paper has more than one life. I know the rest of you are thinking of all the wrapping paper you’ve used as fire kindling, but such was not the fate in our house. When unwrapping presents, one did so with utter care–dad preferred you to use a knife to cut the tape since mom taped EVERYTHING. Christmas morning, after all of the presents were meticulously unwrapped, dad would straighten and smooth out every piece and then roll it all up into a tube to be used for the following year. Mom let us know beforehand which wrapping paper she was sick of so we could “accidentally” rip it. If you’re in the market for vintage 80’s wrapping paper, slightly used, don’t even bother with eBay.

6. Even vegetable gardens were a source of recycling. It wasn’t mulch, but something far more “green” oriented. One year, mom planted a single cherry tomato bush and a zucchini plant. We enjoyed the crop that summer, but it the true big picture genius wasn’t discovered until the following year when, unassisted, four cherry tomato plants sprung up where the original one had been and zucchini plants took over the rest of the backyard. We had so much zucchini, people several streets away would close and lock their doors when they saw us coming with our bags and bags of zucchini the size of Hulk Hogan’s arms. The cherry tomato plants grew taller than the back fence and dad finally offered the majority of them to the grocery store right behind our house. But, the story doesn’t end here. The plants came back EVERY YEAR even after my dad rototilled the soil. Now that’s not letting any seed go to waste! My sister and I finally rebelled when zucchini pancakes were served for breakfast one morning. NOT the tasty morsals you’re imagining. Think rather of shredded zucchini in your Bisquick.

7. Toilet paper. Stick with me on this one. My sister and I are only a few years apart, so we were both in high school at the same time for two years. Which meant our house was TP’d once or twice. On one such occasion, the perpetrators went so far as to hold the end of the roll, while tossing the rest of it OVER our two-story house. They were THOROUGH. Our entire roof was draped with the stuff, and dad was LIVID–like purple face, vein in the middle of the forehead bulging livid. He cleaned it all up … remember the wrapping paper? He rolled it all back up. Into giant, mushy, grimy rolls. Put it all in a large paper bag and stuck it in my sister and I’s bathroom. For us to use. I mean, the man was obviously dedicated to recycling. Mom, figuring she’d helped reduce half a valley’s worth of carbon emissions with her zucchini, took pity on us and gave us fresh rolls.

As Christmas season approaches, I realize how much more I can do to live up to my green potential and continue the legacy. Does anyone have a good pattern for a Target plastic bag crochet rug?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 9, 2011 6:22 am

    Hahahahaha!! I’d forgotten about the dryer belt.

    • December 9, 2011 5:04 pm

      Poor Pitts would run in a few circles and then get tired. Then plot ways to bring about your demise. Especially after hearing you insulting her through the door.

  2. December 9, 2011 7:53 am

    WE DID THE ZIPLOC BAG THING TOO!!!!!! OH EM GEE! and here i thought my parents were the only half crazy ones. THIS IS WHY WE ARE FRIENDS!

    • December 9, 2011 5:05 pm

      We’re friends because we both share the commonality of being traumatized by plastic baggie reuse? Okay, yeah, I buy that.

  3. December 9, 2011 8:27 am

    LOL. I grew up with my grandma carefully collected all the bags and boxes at Christmas and birthdays to reuse at a later date. There are some still in use that are more than 30 years old. They made them sturdy back then. I do the same thing. Only when they tear are they thrown away and my kids know better. ; ) Plastic silverware is not disposable. It’s to be washed and reused. That way, if someone accidentally throws it away, it’s okay. I’ve gotten some strange looks when I’ve asked the host/hostess if he/she wants to save the plastic cutlery. However, the TP made even me gasp. See? We have even more in common than we thought. Confession? I’ve done the ziploc bag thing. I don’t wash them, but if I have half a tomato in one, I won’t hesitate to use the tomato and replace it with part of a zucchini or something. It’s not cheap, it’s being poor and creative. ; )

    • December 9, 2011 5:07 pm

      I love plastic spoons and forks. Not sure why, but I’d rather eat a salad with a plastic fork. And the TP thing … he was all alone in a house of females with CJ and I being teenagers at the same time. Some insanity is expected and forgivable.

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