During the Great Depression, frugality was considered a virtue and the phrase ~ use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without ~ was the way of life in many households. Nothing was wasted, turning printed chicken feed sacks into skirts and flour sacks into dishtowels.
With the onset of World War II, many challenges confronted the American people. The government found it necessary to ration food, gas, and even clothing. Americans were asked to conserve on everything. The war affected every single person and rationing meant sacrifices for all. The federal government needed to control supply and demand. Rationing would deeply affect the American way of life and was introduced to avoid public anger with shortages and not to allow only the wealthy to purchase commodities.
Even though I didn’t live through the Great Depression or World War II like my great- grandma and grandparents did, I learned by watching them and I recycle and reuse many things today where the world seems to be a lot more wasteful.
Here are some of the ways that my family recycles and reuses:
- Hair ~ My daughter has cut her hair and donated inches and inches of hair to Locks of Love or Pantene to be made into wigs for cancer survivors
- Plastic Grocery Bags ~ for garbage bags, given to food pantry, or recycled at Walmart or Kohls in their recycle containers
- Aluminum Cans~ donated to local churches
- Tin and all Other Metal ~ donated to metal drives
- Paper Items ~ burned in wood boiler and turned into heat for our house
- Pop Tops (from cans) ~ saved for the Ronald McDonald House
- Box Tops, Campbell Soup Labels, & Milk Tops ~ donated to schools
- Glass Jars ~ sauce, dressings, and jelly containers are saved and reused for canning
- Toilet Paper Rolls ~ stuffed with sawdust and used for fire starters
- Cover Sheets from Printers ~ cut up for grocery lists, quick notes, and game night writing pads
- Water Bottles ~ washed and reused
- Old Clothes~ rags are made with clothes that have stains or holes
- Buttons ~ cut off of clothes that are going to be used for rags, used for mending or projects
- Wool Sweaters ~ refurbished into mittens
- Leftover Paint Cans and Vintage Clothing ~ donated to the Children’s Theater
- Old Jeans/Denim ~ given to Sole Hope, where they are made into shoes for kids in Uganda
- Scraps from Colored Paper ~ punch out designs/flowers
- Old Eye Glasses ~ donated to Lions Club
- Books ~ donated to the school library
- Old Candles and Crayons ~ melted down to make new candles
- Food Scraps and Peelings ~ placed in a compost pile
- Old Toothbrushes ~ used for cleaning and scrubbing
- Art supplies, Crafts and Broken Jewelry ~ donated to Fearless Ministries, a ministry that uses art to heal broken women
My family and I are not the only ones recycling and making new uses for household items. While in the Atlanta airport, a display can be seen housing 21 runway sculptures made from 100% recycled products. The items recycled include: old uniforms, plastic bags, cable, phone books, plastic laundry soap bottles, plastic water bottles, tires, aluminum cans, and junk mail. Fantastic works of art were made from materials that often get thrown away. (find out more at: www.RecycleRunway.com/ATL)
In general, Americans are more wasteful compared to other countries. When traveling, it is easier to see the difference. My family and I traveled to Spain and we paid for every plastic bag that we used at the grocery store, most households didn’t have clothes dryers, and the water temperatures were hotter so they use less of it. Simple changes, that makes a world of difference.
Perhaps it’s time for you to brainstorm some ways to reduce, reuse, or recycle some of the items that you normally would toss away. Think of some crafts for the kids, donate items to others, or those in need, or be more conscious of ways you could use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!
Published in The Eau Claire Journal ~ April 2016