Monday, November 22, 2010

Taking "Reuse" Too Far?

I hate buying things that I know are going to break. I just hate spending the money. It seems like such a waste to always be replacing things. It's especially difficult for me, feeling like I do, that our cushy, soft lives are going to become much harder in the not-too-distant future, and that we will need to be a lot more creative and learn to make-do, or do-without - neither of which are very popular choices for most "entitled" Americans.

It wasn't always this way, though. Americans didn't always have this sense of entitlement that seems so disappointingly prevalent these days.

I'm reading Margaret Mitchell's masterpiece Gone With the Wind, and while I loved the movie (still do), I believe that movie-makers often do books a great disservice, because there are things that just can not be portrayed on the screen with the same degree of intensity as can be shown in words. When I first started reading the book, Deus Ex Machina commented, "You're reading a romance?" I think a lot of people feel this book is about Scarlet O'Hara and Rhett Butler, which is what turns them off of reading it (because they have Vivien Lee and Clark Gable in their heads), but it is so much more than just a story about an empty headed cupie doll and a dashing, but dangerous, rogue.

As Ashley Wilkes tells his wife, it's about the end of the world as all Southerns knew it. And we could learn some lessons.

What's most interesting to me, where I am in the book, is the descriptions of scarcity to the extreme. During the Civil War, the North's superior Navy effectively cut the South off from the rest of the "civilized" world. Southern ships could not leave southern ports en route to Europe for trade without being attacked, and so the South, which had cotton, but no textile mills, found they had no cloth. They had no cattle, and thus, no beef or leather for shoes. They had no wheat fields, and thus no flour for bread, cake, or pie ;). Everything was scarce, including things as simple as buttons and hair pins, because the South didn't have any manufacturing infrastructure.

This is where we should start getting a little concerned about our own survival. Like the South, the US no longer has a manufacturing infrastructure. What happens when ...?

What's cool, though, is reading about how innovative the southerners were when it came to solving the problems of meeting their daily needs. No buttons? They made them out of acorn caps wrapped in cloth. No leather for shoes? They made them out of old pieces of carpeting attached to wooden soles.

It's this type of creativity and innovation that we should be striving to immulate.

We could learn a lot from war survivors. Indeed, this same sort of adaptibility is what got the Europeans through two horrific and devastating, back-to-back wars, and I've often posted a link to this list of 100 Items to Disappear First, as an example of things we will either have to stock up on or learn to do without (and eventually, depending on the circumstrances, if it's a consummable, regardless of how much we stock up, we'll more likely than not end up having to do without at some point). As bad as the recent wars have been for our military personnel, I think we, Americans, have no idea how bad war can be, and how much is lost and sacrificed ... and not just lives.

So, today, when one of the (cheap, plastic, made-to-be-replaced) rabbit water bottles broke, and we were thinking about how we'd have to buy another one, but I wasn't in a position to run off to the store this morning, but we couldn't leave the rabbit out there with no water all morning until Deus Ex Machina came home for lunch, I improvised a solution.

What you see here is a bottle that originally held lemon juice and was in the recycling. It has been repurposed to hold water for our rabbit. The opening was the perfect size for the drip spout.

We may, yet, decide to replace his broken water bottle, or when the other bottles break, we may just continue repurpose other plastic bottles as long as we can find a bottle that the drip spout fits.

So, if I were to add a bit of sugar to the rabbit's water, would this be an example of making lemonade when given lemons (juice)?


  1. I have done the same with our rabbits water bottles.

    Have a good day!

  2. Julze - Ah! What's that they say ... great minds ...?

  3. Not to mention, who doesn't enjoy water with a twist of lemon ;-)

  4. I've done the same with a ketchup bottle on the end of my watering can nozzle to make a "rose".

  5. Kaye - I'm hoping the rabbit doesn't mind a bit of lemon zest in his water :).

    Jessica - Sounds like a very creative way to make something mundane prettier - and really, life isn't just about "surviving", but about living, and pretty things are really nice to have around.

  6. No. That didn't go too far. It was quite a clever solution, in fact. I was thinking maybe you'd end up fishing a plastic water bottle out of a public trash can and using that. If you drill the cap just right, you could press-fit the old spout through it and it would be perfect.

    At least the south has cattle now. Wheat's a little scarce, but there's plenty of corn, and oak acorns can be rinsed (to leach the tannic acid out) and made into flour, so I'm told. (I'm going to try it sooner or later.)

  7. OMG! If you keep reusing things you could cause the collapse of civilization as we know it! Get rid of that makeshift rabbit waterer and purchase a new plasticky thing that will in turn disintegrate. That's the only way the economy will keep working. And it is working. Right?

    I love talking to people that came through the "Dirty Thirty's" They have a great deal to tell us about making do.

    And we will need to make do. Our current dalliance with planned obsolescence is doomed.