There are three very popular quotes that I love to live by:
- Reduce, reuse, recycle, replenish.
- One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
- When life gives you lemons, make lemonade … or a repurposed wall hanging.
Ok, so I made up that last one. When looking back at my life, I have noticed that I have always been this way. I like to let my creative mind take charge, I do not like tons of useless “stuff” around me, and I never like seeing people throw perfectly good items away. I have loved finding ways to repurpose any items I can find. I always had my craft items out growing up -- my hot glue gun was (and still is) my best friend. I am definitely NOT an artist, a painter, or a wood-worker, but I love bringing new life to “junk.”
I was known by my roommate in college as the dumpster diver. I was not one of those individuals to get anything and everything out of the dumpster until there was nothing left … nope, too dirty. But if there was a perfectly good area rug sitting BY the dumpster that a lazy college student had thrown out simply because they didn’t want to drive five miles to the local thrift shop, then heck yes, I’m going to take that! Why not? Somebody is going to make good use of it, even if I don’t have room for it. Don’t worry, though, I draw the line at pillows and mattresses.
One of my other favorite ways to repurpose items and bring new life to them while saving money at the same time: THRIFT SHOPS! I am a thrift-shopping fiend. As long as I am willing to wait on certain items that I really want but don’t immediately need, I will eventually find it at a thrift store. All of my clothes come from thrift stores. If you come to the Center and see me nicely dressed, that is because my entire outfit probably cost me a whole of $10, shoes included. Oops, a vulture just puked all over me. I guess I’ll have to go back and buy another $3 shirt. Trust me; I would not be wearing those sorts of clothes to work if I paid $20 per shirt.
My philosophy is, why add to the potential waste by buying something completely new when you could give a used item new life? What baffles me if how much individuals can potentially put out with their trash, simply because they don’t want to make the small effort of putting it in their car and dropping it off at a thrift shop during their weekly errands. Thank you to those of you who do take their items for thrift shops (especially if you have taste so I can buy the stuff from you). The desire to save money is obviously very strong, but so is the desire to reduce waste as much as possible.
The trash that we throw away is astronomical -- and I am talking about the trash that truly is trash. But if you include all of the “trash” that could be repurposed, it’s overwhelming! Where do all these items end up? The landfill. We may generally think of landfills in a classic Disney landscape – picture Wall-E, with piles of trash in a brown atmospheric haze, with no living thing for miles except a single cuddly cockroach. The reality is that landfills can be home to quite a few species of wildlife. While landfills may offer a food source to a variety of wild animals, they can be pretty dangerous places too – potentially full of toxic substances, trash, and other hazards. A few months ago, I received a phone call about an injured Bald Eagle at a landfill in the eastern part of the state. Even though carrion is a large portion of a Bald Eagles diet, I was concerned that a majestic bird like that (or any bird for that matter) was eating a lot of items that it shouldn’t. Bald Eagles have enough issues getting lead in their system from the carrion they eat; I didn’t want to find one that had tons of trash in its system as well.
It’s a noble endeavor to keep the landfills as small as possible, and we all can play a part in that. I love that the Wildlife Center of Virginia is doing its part, beyond the basic recycling and composting. Many individuals have learned to graciously donate items that would typically be trash – old linens, pet food bowls, and even little things like empty tissue and shoe boxes, which are used for wildlife enrichment and baby animal homes. One of my favorite fun repurposing items used at the Center is retired fire hoses. When the fire hoses are old and fail inspection, they are donated to the Center so that we can craft them into fun and helpful enrichment for our patients -- the most famous being the giant swing in the Black Bear cub enclosure. Yup, entirely repurposed.
I love working at a location that embraces each other’s passions and appreciates the different actions all of us can take that can benefit wildlife and the environment. Whether it is going bagless at the store, making park benches out of recycled bottles, using repurposed wood when building a house, using “waste” to let some bear cubs have a lot of fun, buying compostable products, or making repurposed crafts -- it takes all of us to clean up this world for us, for wildlife, and for future generations. I guess that means I will just have to keep thrift shopping.