Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Three R’s….plus one


When I was growing up in Louisiana the Three R’s were:




So it is no wonder, that Louisiana is ranked 49 out of 50 in education. We seemed to have such low standards--as long as we were ahead of Mississippi we didn’t care. I suppose if there were a fourth R to add to the Louisiana equation it would be Running because being good at sport is what matters. If you are captain of the football team, you are a God and can do no wrong and get all sorts of extra privileges and get away with all sorts of bad behaviour because you are a jock. If Louisiana had its way, Running would probably be miles ahead of the other Three R’s in order of importance. Who cares if you can read--can you tackle?


But that is not the Three R’s plus one I intend to discuss today. These Three R’s (plus one) are:





With the world being in the state that it is, these are so important. It can be difficult to do some of these depending on where you live. My Louisiana hometown *still* does not recycle. They tried once and less that 5% of the population did it so they quit. That was more than a decade ago and they’ve never tried again. Other cities such as Baton Rouge recycle, so why can’t Alexandria? In this day and age, it should not be an option. It should be the law. You have to. Because if  you are recycling, you are reducing what you throw away. But companies make that harder as well with excess packaging. So many things come in those plastic bags that can’t be recycled. We do try to reduce our packaging--we buy all of fruit except soft berries naked (without a plastic bag or box) and through recycling everything else we throw away a black bin bag about once a month. That’s one bag of rubbish a month--not several a week. When I think of how much waste we generated when we lived in Louisiana it makes me want to cry.


We have recently had our recycling upgraded to match surrounding counties. We used to be able to recycle kerbside tins (cans), glass and paper and cardboard but had to take plastic and tetrapaks (think carton of juice) to a collection bin behind the supermarket. It was easy, but for some people still too much trouble. They would do what they could outside their door, but not take it into town. So now we can  recycle plastic and tetrapaks kerbside as well.


It’s pretty easy to reuse some things. Most of our store cupboard ingredients like dry beans, lentils, rice or other grains is store in food jars (pasta sauce jars are great for this)  that I washed out and soaked the label off. Salsa jars are perfect for all sorts of things. Even just using a bag for life reduces the need to get plastic carrier bags. The kitchen at our Meeting House is being renovated and we took apart the bits that were going and divided them up to upcycle them into new things. I took the old curtains that were used to cover the pipes under the sink and plan to make some bags out of them to sell. My friend took the drawers from the cabinet that is being replaced and plans to put casters on the bottom so she can store items under her bed and then wheel them out easily. There are lots of creative ways to reuse packaging--yoghurt pots make good seedling pots for starting seeds. Toilet rolls make excellent cable tidies. FACT.


But the fourth R I was thinking of Repair. We are a throwaway society. When something breaks, we throw it away and get another one because repairing stuff is becoming increasingly more difficult. There is no repair shop to go to anymore. I can recall my first year at college (1987-88) bringing a pair of boots to a cobbler on Hwy 28 and he resoled them for me so I could keep wearing them. I think that has all but died out. I’m mentioning repair because we’ve had an incident and had to decide what to do.


As I have mentioned we’ve been eating lots of banana ice cream made from ripe frozen bananas. Suddenly, in the middle of a batch the food processor made a funny noise and the machine stopped working. The motor was clearly running, but the blade would not rotate. Spiderman took it apart and discovered that the belt was worn through. Whilst he searched online for a belt replacement I resigned myself to looking into a new appliance just in case it didn’t work out. To get one as good as our current one and from a brand rated as acceptable by Ethical Consumer Magazine would have cost us a minimum of £45. Plus we’d have to find the best way to get rid of the old appliance so it wouldn’t go to a landfill. Spiderman did find a belt for it at a variety of prices but we finally spent £5 (£3 for the belt, £2 for postage) and then waited with baited breath to see if it would actually work.


It did. Spiderman’s genius at taking things apart and putting them back together  worked its magic and now we can make ice cream again. But how many people would have searched online and ordered one? How many people would have tried to repair it? How many people would have just chucked it away and shelled out for a new one without a second thought? We spent £5 instead of nearly £50.   


So that’s the Four R’s. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Repair. Oh and Compost. Composting is a great way to reduce your waste. But Spidergrrl, I hear you cry, Compost doesn’t actually begin with the letter R. Well it would if Scooby Doo said it. “Rompost, Raggy! Rooby dooby doo!”


This is beginning to be like the Spanish Inquisition.

Cardinal Bastard: “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our three main ways of reducing your waste are Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!”

Cardinal Fang: “And Repair!”

Cardinal Bastard: “Oh yes, Repair. Our four main ways of reducing your waste are Reduce, Reuse and Recycle and Repair!”

Cardianl Biggles: “What about composting?”

Cardinal Bastard: “Compost doesn’t begin with R.”

Cardinal Fang: “well it would if Scooby Doo said it.”

Cardinal Bastard: “Alright. Start again! So the five main ways of reducing your waste are Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Repair and Rompost!


So do what you can. If your town still doesn’t recycle, contact them and ask why. Then sic the Spanish Inquisition on them.

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