Reducing and Reusing—Recycling’s Less Popular Stepsisters

Recently Boy #2 (the second-grader) has been throwing around some “green” lingo, most likely spurred by a discussion at school about Earth Day and the importance of taking care of our environment. While I don’t disagree that we need to turn off lights when we’re not using them, and I agree that only having one car would be eco-friendly (albeit uber inconvenient), I can’t help but wish that environmental education focused less on recycling and more on reusing, or *gasp* not buying crap we don’t need in the first place.

This, my friends, is where the problem lies in our house. Not only having too much stuff, but also taking care of the stuff we DO have so that it doesn’t either 1) go to waste or 2) have to be replaced. And this is where my kids will feel it. Not that they don’t already whine when they’re asked to carry empty cereal boxes and milk jugs to the recycling bin outside; they think that’s some extreme manual labor. But when told we need to cut down on what we have (which uses energy and resources to produce, sell, and transport) AND that they need to respect and protect the things they own (which means don’t leave your Bakugan balls lying in the yard for 4 days or throw a Pokemon card in the toilet just to see what happens) — and being “environmental” is really going to mean something to them. They’re gonna feel it.

If you haven’t already figured it out, I’m not a jump-on-the-bandwagon environmental freak. I don’t think Al Gore has all the answers. I don’t buy into the global warming pandemic.  And I’m not planning on going dumpster diving so I can live with the Freegans in “zero waste-land.” However, I do think we should take care of our planet and our resources because that is the responsible thing to do — and because I believe that everything we have belongs to God and should be treated accordingly.

I try to reuse whenever I can. It’s not only better for the planet, but it’s also better for my checkbook. Plus, I have no desire to have the same clothing or home decor as everyone else. I like being a little different. Having all boys has been an advantage for me because I can hand down clothing, shoes, and toys. Thanks to my mother-in-law and a weekend spent in hand-me-down hell (otherwise known as my basement), I have also realized that it’s not necessary to save everything, especially if you can donate items to a family or a thrift store so that they can be used now as opposed to 10 years down the road when Boy #3 can finally fit into those size 16 jeans. And when I do need to buy clothing or shoes for the boys, I always check Goodwill first, or garage sales if we’re not in the dead of winter. Last weekend I stopped at a garage sale while in Rochester visiting family and scored a pair of men’s adidas golf shoes for Boy #1 that look like they’ve never been worn. The price? $10. Fortunately, the boys have gotten used to my secondhand shopping and don’t grimace when I tell them their “new” clothes aren’t exactly new. Even Husband has, I think, secretly appreciated my finds for him after realizing that I do have standards and won’t bring him home a patterned sweater from the 80s or a polyester leisure suit that smells like a mixture of Old Spice and mothballs and expect him to wear it to school. Nearly all of my clothes are secondhand. I love it when I get a compliment on my outfit and someone asks, “Where’d you get it?”

So I think, in honor of Earth Day, I’m going to make an effort to “reduce” and “reuse” this year, especially when it comes to the boys. And if it helps me keep my house picked up in the process, I’ll consider that an added bonus.

How do you approach “being green” with your family?

Image from eduardtrag

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