Repurposing stuff

We have a lot of old stuff in our house, things that go through stages. For example, perhaps an item will be used for "good" but after a while, it is downgraded to a lower use.

Clothes are a good example of this, at least for everyday wear. Although a nice new sweatshirt, for example, might be suitable for wearing on an excursion, it might eventually reach a stage when it's only good for gardening. (And I actually have sweatshirts that are more than 20 years old!) However, I can't imagine when it would be a good idea to wear a worn-out suit, for example, to a less-important formal occasion! I don't know what you'd do with that.

Furniture can also fall into this category. A formerly-nice table, for example, might become worn, and instead of chucking it, we use it in a less-noticeable location. Although we're careful with things, it's actually much easier to live with furniture we don't have to worry about if it gets nicked.

There are a number of things that get reused out in the garden. For example, we don't throw away old sheets; we turn them into tomato ties or used to cover plants when there's going to be a frost.

I have to admit that this can be embarrassing. It's hard enough to collect logs, for example, put out to the curb, even though they're better used in our habitat garden (see Bees), but it's oddly uncomfortable driving up to put someone's old computer desk, for example, in the car. I say "oddly" because it seems that people should want these things to have a second life rather than going to the landfill, but if they thought that, they probably would have disposed of them in some other way. Maybe it's the derogatory phrase "garbage picker" that goes through my mind when we do this. At any rate, we do "rescue" stuff from the landfill, though there are more useable things we see in the trash than we can reasonably fit into our lives.

Urbanite ©Janet Allen
Urbanite: old concrete

Concrete is one of the most environmentally damaging products to manufacture, so it makes sense that, once manufactured, it's used as long as possible.

Our neighbors were replacing their sidewalk, so they broke up the old one into pieces. It just happened that we were building our wildlife pond, and it was the perfect material to use to reinforce the wall of the pond. (And almost ten years later, it's still solid!)

Of course, this isn't probably the highest use for this material since it's now hidden away underwater.

Urbanite wall(Enlarge) ©Greg Allen
Yesterday's sidewalk; today's wall

Many people, including our son, think of urbanite as a beautiful building material. This is a wall that he's building from broken concrete that was otherwise going to the dump.

Reusing heavy, resource-intensive materials like concrete has a much bigger impact than many reuse projects, such as the "turning old CDs into coasters" variety!

If and when we replace our sidewalk, we will at least offer the concrete on FreeCycle since we're no longer physically capable of handling all this heavy material ourselves.