Use and reuse what you have got

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In the 1960s and the 1970s this was the norm for almost all of us, bar the rich, and we had all, in general, a mixture of furniture in our homes that were handed down from parents, grandparents, and such like. And why not?

Kitchens were “free standing” in those days, as they were before then also, and even there almost everything was “mix and match” and often it did not match at all but no one really cared. All had a purpose and that's what counted.

Students and hippies furnished their digs and squats with things found and many carried this over to their first home.

Clothes too, at least as far as children were concerned, were hand-me-downs more often than not and again, as there was no running after the brand in those days no one bothered.

Then came the 1980s and the 1990s and we, well not all of us but most, tossed out all the “old” and more sustainable ways of use and reuse and began to buy new every year or so, and that on most levels.

Industry really cottoned on then and products became non-repairable at around this time too. A little later they started the built-in obsolescence that we have today.

In the 1960s and the 1970s radios, for instance, were repairable even if they were transistorized though most that were used in the home were still the old kind with tubes.

Every now and then a tube would burn out but all you had to do was to go to the store, buy a new tube, pull the old one out and plug the new one in. not much more difficult than changing a light bulb.

And like radios and TVs everything else could be repaired also and that often by means of D.I.Y. Now, today, in Britain, theoretically, you are not even permitted, legally, to change an electric plug on an appliance. You are supposed to call a certified – I would have to be if I did – electrician to do that for you, which would cost you around $50 each and every time. The alternative would be to take it to an electrical shop, if you can find one, to have it done there. That would be somewhat cheaper.

A lot of electrical appliances now also have plugs that are “welded” (moulded) onto the lead which means that a plug cannot just be unscrewed and replaced.

I do not think that we have improved and advanced at all in our so-called modern ways over those of our parents and grandparents; at least not in the sustainability department as far as using what we have got, reusing and repairing, until such a time that it really no longer can be fixed.

Everything is designed to be used (once) and then to be thrown away. It is wasteful and bas for our wallet and the Planet.

Even if, for instance, shoes or boots are well and properly made, with sewn uppers, mid-sole and all that, finding someone who actually can repair a seam on a boot is nigh impossible nowadays.

The lack of those old-fashioned “menders”, whether for footwear or other products, too makes making things last, by way of repairing, very difficult indeed on all levels. This is unless one has the the skills to do such repairs oneself.

However, regardless, the name of the game, so to speak, is to use and reuse what you've got and this requires a, for some new, mindset.

Using and reusing what you've got also applies to items of waste, such as glass jars, tin cans, one-side printed paper, etc. Our forebears did and so should we (again).

© 2013