General ramblings

Why Re-use for Zero Waste Week (and beyond!)

On the first day of this year’s Re-use themed Zero Waste Week, I thought it might be relevant to kick off by discussing why I think re-use is sooooo important.

During My Make Do and Mend Year, instead of buying new things, for a whole year we made things, we made do (re-used), and we mended instead.
And the habits have kind of stuck.
Actually, it’s far more than a habit now. I learned so much about how our consumption habits in the developed Western world are negatively impacting on our planet. And hand on heart, I can’t pack all those things back into the box where they came from, and go back to my previous unconscious consumption.
So now, we buy 90% of the things that we need secondhand. And the 10% we do buy new, we are much more thoughtful about. We put a lot more time and research into where things are made, what they are made from, and who has made them, rather than just trying to find the cheapest deal.
I call it “conscious consumption”.

Re-use is such a huge part of our lives now.
Being a big fab of Bob the Builder (!) and his “reduce, re-use, recycle” message, I was surprised to learn during My Make Do and Mend Year, that there are actually not just 3 R’s, there are 5:
Refuse, Reduce, Re-use, Recycle, Rot.
And we should all try to consume (or not) in that order. So refuse things that we don’t really need (free pens anyone?!), reduce our purchases (no BOGOFFs!), re-use whenever we can. And then recycle and rot (compost) are kind of last resorts.

The thing I love about re-using, is it’s probably the one of the five R’s that allows for the most creativity.
And it can be so incredibly satisfying re-using something again, and again. I get a perverse satisfaction seeing how many times I can re-use a plastic bag that once housed wraps for example..!

Plastic bag re-use1

By re-using something, you are saving things from landfill.
Even though it may ultimately end up in landfill, you are extending it’s life before it gets there.
I darned the toes of hubby’s work socks and extended their use by at least a year. And then once they are beyond darning, we can use them for cleaning rags. Before eventually consigning them to the textile recycling.

Day 6

By re-using something, you are also saving the resources that would have been used to make a new one.
And we are running out of resources, fast.
We in the West live in a time of apparent abundance.
‘Stuff’ is everywhere. And it’s cheaper than it’s ever been before.
It is often cheaper to buy new, than to repair something that has broken, and we are all losing the skills that our grandparents took for granted, that enabled them to repair things.
But despite this apparent abundance, the planet is running out of resources.
And it’s running out of space to put the stuff that has broken, or that we simply don’t want anymore.

Every year, some boffins somewhere calculate something called ‘Earth Overshoot Day’.
It marks the point in the year when we have used up a year’s worth of resources.
This year it was the earliest it has ever been: August 13th.
We’ve already sailed past it.
All the resources we use from now until the end of the year, we are effectively stealing from our kids, and our grandkids. They simply won’t be there for them to use.

So re-use is HUGELY important, and something we can all do more of.

Over the course of Zero Waste Week, I’m hoping to inspire some re-use, and to make re-use a little bit easier, so that hopefully, it becomes a bit more second nature for us all!
Over on Make Do and Mend-able, I’ve just posted a list of re-use organisations, that operate in the UK, to shout about the fab work that they do, and hopefully share some projects that you might not have heard of.
And then for the rest of the week, I’ll be doing some round up posts with re-use ideas for some common household items, to get us all re-using, upcycling, re-fashioning, and making do!

Have a great Zero Waste Week everyone 🙂


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  • Reply Vivien Parker September 29, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    Going zero waste is not only practical and environmentally friendly, but also something beautiful! I completely agree that reusing is that part of the movement which gives you enough freedom to put your creativity into work! My colleagues and I have joined the movement and do our best to spread the good news about it to our clients as well. It was pleasure to read your post as you’re one step closer to reducing our footprint onto our planet. Greetings!

    • Reply Jen September 30, 2015 at 10:17 am

      Hi Vivien
      Sounds like you are doing great work!

  • Reply Rachelle Strauss September 7, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    Fantastic post; you’ve put it far more succinctly than me. Thanks for encouraging people to join in the reuse revolution Jen – I hope you’re enjoying the week x

    • Reply Jen September 10, 2015 at 1:18 pm

      Loving thanks Rachelle! ThankYOU so much for all your hard work making it happen xx

  • Reply Nannie Mackinney September 7, 2015 at 9:32 am

    I love to sit and darn. I have a vintage wooden mushroom given to me by the Son of a friend who had passed away. Unfortunately my Labrador dog got hold of the mushroom and chewed the handle. I managed to rescue the darning mushroom before it was too bad. So now when I darn using my chewed mushroom – I remember my late friend and my beloved dog who left us in June.

    • Reply Jen September 7, 2015 at 12:14 pm

      That is just the loveliest story 🙂 When we re-use things, they always have a story, which is so much better than buying something new! Thanks so much for sharing!

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