I have cloth baby diapers I use for dish towels. I cut up holey socks and use them as cleaning rags. Now, some people might call that cheap and gross. I like to say I'm environmentally-conscious.
Okay, listen, the diapers were never used. I tried maybe once to wrangle those things on my baby, and then said, "Eh, no." So I had to find another use for them to ease my conscience. Voila! Dish towels.
My cheap environmentalism is why my brother-in-law, while visiting, held up a sliced peaches jar from Costco and said sarcastically, "Classy drinking glasses!" We weren't ashamed. By using those jars with their convenient measurement lines instead of buying real glasses, we had a multi-use, up-cycled item. They were measurement cups for baking, storage containers when we screwed on their metal lids, and lovely country-living tableware.
They were all that until I broke them - another reason this queen of disaster doesn't invest in classy or "quality" dishes too often.
However, my environmentalism doesn't just spring from my innate frugality (cheap is a rude word, friends) or mild anti-consumerism. It comes, too, from my obsessive-compulsive terror of landfills.
Don't laugh at me. We all have something. For some, it's emissions, and they'd rather walk barefoot to work both ways up a steep hill...in a dust storm...with no deodorant on....than drive a car. For some it's chemicals, and they'd rather pay their kids to pull every weed and be strangled by the Bermuda thatch in their borders than lift one finger to spray harmful weed killer on those pernicious plants or that devil grass. Or they'd rather use gallons upon gallons of vinegar trying to eradicate smells from their guest bathroom than pour one tablespoon of the readily-available toxic bathroom cleaner (the kind that has to be taken to a chemical disposal plant) in their toilet bowls. And, of course, there's the water-conservation issue. Some people actually tolerate xeriscaping or nonscaping, turn off the shower to shiver while lathering up, and only bathe their kids every other day in order to conserve water.
(Okay, all those people are me - except the driving thing. I don't drive much because I hate errands and there's plenty to do at home - all those weeds!)
There was a picture of a landfill in the newspaper that I meant to show my children in order to scare the carp out of them, but dang it all! I forgot and recycled the article.
I wanted to make a point about all the waste in the world, all the mountains of garbage.
Every time my kids break a hanger in this house, I make an example out of it as I say, "Do you know where this has to go now? Do you?" I wave the broken remnants around before I spit out, "It can't be recycled; it has to go to the landfill!"
It would help if they knew what a landfill looks like.
The idea of landlocked seas of trash puts the fear of junk in me. Goody bags from kids' parties make me crazy - all those cheap plastic "goodies" soon become debris. The rare occasions when we patronize certain fast-food restaurants, I refuse the toys that come with specific meals; if they give them to me anyway, I hand them back. I recycle torn, stained clothes in a textile bin. We have a toaster oven with a door that's been broken for years that we have to wedge closed while using. A 1970s TV stand given to us by Grandma is now our shoe closet, and we have a play-fort slide propped up against the tree limb in our backyard. (The play fort itself, having been through two families before us, became structurally unsound to the point where we considered having friends sign disclaimers before letting theirs kids climb on it. We got rid of it but kept the huge slide.) I am opposed to consumerism, because it breeds clutter and junk - stuff we don't need in our lives.
And yet...I am a huge hypocrite like everyone else. Every time I cook a frozen pizza - twice a month at least - I feel guilty as I throw away the plastic wrapping and waterproof cardboard box that can't be recycled. There's plenty of food packaging to worry about in this household, though we recycle what we can, and I do make homemade pizza and bread dough often....ish. And every time I forget to bring my own canvas bags to the store (which is every single time) I'm awash in guilt as I wonder what the heck I can do with fifty more bags.
But I'm trying; I'm trying. Because that picture of the landfill? Scary. Plus, we can only use it for another hundred years....