PET bottle art by Veronika Richterová

PET bottle art by Veronika Richterová

Thinking about and reading about re-using plastics I stumbled across an inspiring overview of re-strategies, published by TNO. This is the company my husband works for – TNO does strange, mad and magic things with techology. 

I like the fact that every strategy on the list is a re-strategy, and I’ve been figuring out how my family life measures up against it. For both charity and ecology begins at home. So, here goes:

  • recover: burn waste and recover energy – we have a woodstove and our woodbin is filled with wood my husband finds. Or wood we are gifted with when said husband makes his chainsaw useful. For the rest, we leave the burning to the professionals;
  • recycle: we do glass to new glass, paper to new paper; plastic to new plastic, old clothes to fibres for isolation material; shoes to wherever old shoes go; green waste to compost; I’ve even sourced an extra bin today so we can separate plastic from general waste in our bathroom. Drawback: when we have guests staying, getting them to opt in to our waste separation strategy is something of a challenge. 
  • repurpose: Have taken a stainless steel part that was redundant at our sailing boat and turned it into a closet roll holder. Also turned wool blankets into pillows, chair covers, rugs. Made a cat palace out of carton boxes; many more examples all through the house;
  • remanufacture: husband repairs coffee machines using parts of machines that he has given up on; 
  • refurbish: stripped a secretaire inherited from an aunt who loved painting and dotting – it now lives paintless in our living room; stripped an old wardrobe which now houses my husbands clothes; stripped a pine table and re-painted its top;  fitted a laboratory cabinet with plain glass instead of orange, it now houses my china collection; re-embroidered an existing throw, re-painted a collection of footstools; many more examples all through the house;
  • repair; ad nauseam – husband repairs bycicles, washing machine, dryer, coffee maker, vacuum cleaner, sewing machine, lock machine, garden equipment, garden furniture. Drawback: many machines go on strike when husband is away on a business trip.
  • re-use: everything we discard goes to the thrift store to get a second life – I have a ‘thrift store box’ that I fill religiously. Am getting better at discarding – the idea is that if I miss an item, I can always hit the thrift store and buy it (or something like it) back;  Do buy a lot of books and clothes secondhand. Also lamps, furniture, bed linen, blankets. Also bought a refurbished laptop (am typing on it now). Also sound boxes, storage containers, cutlery, candles, knitting yarn, 1950’s tableware, terracotta pots, birthday cards, vases …..  
  • reduce: use fewer materials to make a product – not applied this one yet. Maybe being on a diet counts?
  • rethink: share products or make products multifunctional – up until last year we shared a sailing boat; we shared childcare with another family; we share a shredder and we are silent partners in a tugboat; I am sure we could share more, especially tools and machinery. Would love to share cooking – there are some promising initiatives here but these haven’t reached our neck of the woods yet. 
  • refuse: don’t buy, don’t use, try something that is totally different – ok, what things do I not have? I did not buy a car but travel by public transport. I have no flatscreen TV nor do I want one. I have no houseplants. I (almost never) buy flowers as they are grown under very un-ecological conditions – I do not look gift horses or gift flowers in the mouth, though. 
  • re-grow yes! this is  my very own addition to the list!  I grow plants for the garden from seeds and bulblets and cuttings and finds. Also my gardening focuses on plants that come back year after year.

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