2008-08-12

#1 way to “help” the green movement: Reuse

(This is one of the articles I wrote while on vacation last week, so I am no longer in the Philippines even thought I am referring to it. I am excited about what I wrote over there and should have a new update everyday this week, so come back daily)

While waiting in Manila for a flight to Dumaguete, I have been reading the latest Dwell Magazine. This issue is about the popular topic of green building / sustainability and one article in particular sparked my thoughts about what is the most green thing one can do with building or buying anything. The article, about someone’s modern expansion and makeover of a home with new green, recycled, processed, and organic materials and its design process. It’s a very beautiful home but I can’t help think about all of the energy used to make these new recycled panels, parts, and materials, not to mention of the fuel needed to power the equipment used to build the house. Sure they utilized biodiesel fueled trucks, processed hay, denim insulation, special insulating windows, solar panels, and low-VOC paint but what if first they took a trip down to the local recycled materials store (KC Restore, etc) first for windows, doors, sinks, wood, flooring, and tubs. Reusing what isn’t “new” is the best way to keep trash out of dumps and not use time, money, and energy to produce a product. This obsession with “new” is what is truly wrong with the American lifestyle. We all are obsessed with “new”, you suffer from it, and I suffer from it. If we all just stopped at the thrift store first for some clothes, not all, but some, it would reduce some of that time, money, and energy needed to produce new clothes. Just being satisfied with the furniture we have or with the current layout of our kitchen, should be considered just as green, if not more so than some LEED’s certified property built from the ground up. Okay truly if we have to build something new, then using and investing in these new recyclable or more sustainable materials is great and needed, but not reusing older, perfectly fine materials and goods is just reckless, snobby, and wasteful.

Go back just 100 to 200 years ago to America and farmers would use as much wood as they could from the old barn to build the new barn, the old bath tub in the old house would get transferred over the to the new house, the old sink was the new sink, and on and on. The products were typically more robust then, usually made to last a little better than our current throw away society. Somewhere in Americana, we all started to want “new” and more “new”, and in order to afford the variety of more “new”, we needed cheaper and cheaper stuff. First came the old Sears and Roebucks and then came out Wal-Marts, providing us with all of the crap we want as cheap as it can get. At one time the little closets in the old houses Americans owned fit all of the clothes that a person held, all of them. Now we need so much stuff that huge closets and rooms are needed to pack all that crap in. More stuff, more crap, more space, and it all has to be “new”, that is the problem. Enjoying what we have, or reusing someone else’s perfectly good stuff, is the best, most green solution. Magazines may never write about it, media may never promote it, but there really is just no better thing to help the green movement than to reuse.

1 comment:

Mike said...

I couldn't agree with you more MJ, except we not only need "new" stuff, we need new and "improved". ;-)

I'm still kicking myself for buying new furniture a few years back. I can't believe how stupid I was for spending big bucks just to have new furniture, when I see even better used furniture for less whenever I walk through antique stores and consignment stores.

I just had to have "new".