Our family has always been very conscious of how everything we do affects the environment- not just our immediate surroundings, but the world environment as well. The children don’t necessarily know the “Reduce Reuse Recycle” mantra, but they do understand the principles and practice these in their everyday lives. The most important “R” we practice, though, is to “Refuse.” We live very simply, and don’t clutter up our lives with lots of extra stuff. We choose what we buy carefully, with an eye towards conservation and how we can get the most use out of each purchase. To that end, we do an awful lot of “reusing” and the children are wonderful at coming up with ways to do this.
One of the best ways to reuse containers and packaging materials is to make toys out of them. The children in Yemen were so good at this. Toys were difficult to come by, and expensive, so most often they just made playthings out of what they could find on the streets. These things would go in cycles, with first one homemade toy and then another being all the rage. For awhile it was airplanes made very cleverly from plastic soda bottles, complete with propeller (sound was provided by the time honored blowing through pursed lips). Another time it was racecars made from cast off boxes or vegetable oil boxes that the children would race down the street. In Shihr, a fishing town on the coast that we lived in for two years, the kids would make push toys out of the spools that the fishing line came on. Dolls were made by stuffing old baby clothes with rags and tying the arms, legs, and neck shut. Whenever I see children in the stores whining for the newest princess doll or electronic car, I think of the fun that the Yemeni children had with things that other people would look at as garbage, and am thankful that we have taught our children the Islamic principles of simple living (az-zuhd) and gratefulness (shukr).
Our latest reuse project here focuses around our garden. We don’t have much money to put into it, so we used cast off lumber from house renovation as well as boards taken from windows that had been boarded up and made raised beds and a compost bin with them. (Actually, composting is reusing as well- using your kitchen scraps to make lovely, lovely dirt!) We are making underground watering containers out of plastic soda bottles, and a worm composting tower out of a couple of cast off storage containers. We are also figuring out a way to reuse sink and clothes washing water by filtering it and using it to water the garden.
How about you? Share some of your ideas and experiences with reusing with us!