The reuse/recycle dilemma

06/29/2011 2:50 PM

06/29/2011 2:58 PM

As longtime readers know, I try hard to keep from throwing things away unnecessarily and am always looking for new ways to repurpose household items. You know the story: Our disposable culture is needlessly ruining the environment! We need to make resourceful reuse the norm (like it was for centuries)! There’s a trash heap the size of Texas in the Pacific!

O.K. Off the soapbox. And now I plead to you for help, because I am not sure how to keep two things out of the trash can: Broken plastic blinds and a broken wooden picnic table.

First, the blinds. I wasn’t sad when they broke. They were already in the house when we moved in, and I’ve always thought they were ugly. Once the baby started running around, I saw the cord, even though I tied it up high, as nothing but a paranoia-inducing strangle machine. But I’m stumped, and can’t think of anything to turn the blinds into. Weave the slats into a plastic placemat for the baby? Eh. I’ve seen some square-foot gardening technique enthusiasts reuse them by making movable grids that measure a square foot. Which made me think, come on, is it really that hard for people to do the math to plot out square feet? And then I had to take a long hard look in the mirror, and remember I am not who I once was.

Nearly 15 years ago, as a college freshman, I took the math assessment test given to all incoming students. I placed out of Calculus at Michigan. It sounded a little bad-ass at the time. But I didn’t pursue a math-y education, as you probably quickly guessed after seeing me use the word “math-y.” My skills went into a deep slide from lack of use. Then, as a journalist, if you so much as understand there’s a difference between percent change and percentage points, you’re like a young Matt Damon in the janitor’s uniform standing at the blackboard. Further skill loss. These days? I seriously fear that if someone told me to count from 1 to 10, I’d answer with: 1, 4, 5, 3, 4, 7, 12.

So maybe I do need plastic blinds to help me understand what a square foot is. But I don’t want them. What else?

Next, the picnic table. Also here when we moved, randomly hanging out in the backyard jungle. It’s wood, very old, and the legs are extremely wobbly, beyond repair. Now I could put this out at the curb, and someone would come take it and maybe reuse the wood for something. So that’s an option.

But I also love old wood when made into art. So maybe I could make it into art. I could cut off the legs and paint something really cool on the table top. It’d be a very big piece of art, and I have a sad, empty wall in the house that needs some way-low-cost art. Could be very two birds, one stone. Yet is it really wise reuse if to make it into the new thing, I have to buy other stuff, like a couple of paint colors? And buy wall-art-hanging-thingys? And, what’s strong enough to anchor a giant piece of wood to the wall? Will I end up ruining my wall? Also, even thinking about this project, I’ve been feeling paranoid about inhaling paint fumes. See, once the strangle-cord paranoia was eliminated, I had room for a new paranoia, although paint fumes are currently competing for attention with Is That A Fleck Of Burnt Toast Or Is That A Mouse Poop. I actually think I could create one of those desktop calendars, Paranoia of the Day, and sell a lot of them. Steal this idea and and something bad + you = happening.

This is why people just throw stuff out.

O.K., Ye Internet With All The Answers, tell me what to do. Pacific sea creatures need you.

Comment on Emily's blog post: Little House on the Southern Prairie

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