I must admit that many of our family’s eco-friendly life habits are motivated by the money that we save. As a child growing up I was taught the value of a dollar and how doing little things can help you be good stewards of the things you are given. I lived in a close knit neighborhood in downtown Sioux Falls where many shared the same values. One of our neighborhood caregivers who had three boys of her own, would watch all the neighborhood children at her home daycare. She taught us many things about recycling and making things instead of buying them out of things you already have. All summer long we would save cans we found at the park, or that we found on walks, or trips to various places. We were in charge of crushing them and often had fun practicing our math skills counting how many we found each week. We would then get to go along to the recycle center and we got to see how much money just picking up a simple can someone had tossed on the ground could bring when you put them all together.
By the end of the summer we would have enough money collected to buy our ride wrist bands for the Sioux Empire Fair. I remember collecting cans each summer until I was a teenager. It was one of these first lessons that fostered the idea that every little bit counts. We knew many others would never take the time to do things like this and that they were just throwing away their money, and not being good stewards of the earth at the same time.
As a child I remember a group of us picking up garbage that collected in bushes and putting it in garbage can were it belongs. I sometimes laugh at parents today who never in a million years would let their children pick up garbage off the ground. I think it is part of our responsibility to teach them that just because other people choose to put their garbage on the ground it doesn’t make it right. We do live in a world that a few people end up making the difference for everyone just like collecting a cans one by one can add up to big things. I am not above picking up garbage off the ground even if it is not my own. If everyone took the attitude of “It’s not mine.” we would be raising a generation to think that they don’t need to worry about our earth. Is that really the message we want to send our children? Where would that put us?
Things our family does these days also have their roots in saving money at the same time as saving the planet. We do a lot of thrift shopping in our family. Thrift shopping saves money but it also cuts down on the new materials that are produced. If there is clothing and toys that are in good shape and cost less than new, then for me it makes sense. Many of the thrift stores in our area provide goods and service to people who are in need. They provide jobs, and other job training programs for those in need, and many give money to charities. Shopping at thrift stores helps us save money, helps the environment, and helps others in need in our community.
Financially we don’t NEED to shop thrift, we CHOOSE to. We are fortunate that our family is not in financial strain of any kind. Thrift stores want everyone to shop. They are not only reserved for those in need, although many people have that stereotype, the local stores claim to have way more merchandise than can be sold. They encourage EVERYONE to come and shop because their profits help their programs.
Another thing I also have is what I call my “Creative Need”. This creative need has to be filled constantly. Now if I was your average ordinary run of the mill crafter this would become quite expensive. Craft supplies and fabric has become quite expensive these last few years. Thanks to my love of thrift shopping, and being taught at a young age that you can many times make what you want or need yourself instead of buying it, I tend to look outside the box when looking at a thrift store or even at the things I consider throwing away at home. I like to see new life in old things. Find something interesting and find a way to use it to make or create something else that is useful.
The fancy term for this in the environmental community is “Up-cycle” when doing this with clothing it is called “Refashioning” It is quite popular these days but has not caught on in our area as much as it has in larger cities. I also have my own blog that I keep track of all my crazy projects. There are over 65 projects on there right now that contain some supply that is reused from something else. Up-cycled, Refashioned, or Reused are labels you can find on the right side bar if you would like to check them out for ideas of ways you can do this at your home as well.
Everyday my kids learn that we can find things they want at a thrift store by being patient and looking. They see time and time again that they end up finding what they are looking for and they understand that it costs MUCH less than if they were to buy it new. They see that there is no packaging to throw away in the landfill, and when they are a little bit older they will have a better idea of the energy saved by not increasing the demand on new items. They understand that their money goes a lot further in thrift stores. They are being taught to be smart consumers. They also learn how to think outside the box and that they can sometimes make the things they want out of other things we already have. This helps the environment but also fosters problem solving and creativity. In a society where many people have issues with saving money, and out of control spending I am happy my children are learning at a young age the many benefits thrift shopping, and up-cycling has.
Find Kara at:
Do Re Let’s Play!
The Hood Magazine
Kara’s Creative Place
Just the “reuse” projects link: