Reuse, Recycle, Upcycle, and Donations!

Our grandparents were amazing at this game of reuse and recycle. Hello, can we say button jars? And how many of you have seen the lids of glass jars nailed to the underside of a shelf for containing nails, nuts, bolts, etc.? After living in the ‘ham, I’ve really begun to re-evaluate my shopping decisions.

  • What happens to those non-recyclable plastic containers that deli and bakery items are packaged in?
  • If I buy all my items on-line, how much more pollutants are being put in the air by long-haul trucks versus me going to a local store?
  • If I am supporting local artists, does that help keep art alive in my own community?
  • How dependent on other countries should we really be?
  • Do I absolutely love this item I’m attempting to buy or am I buying it to fulfill some emotional need that I’m too scared to confront?

Many things factor into these decisions. Cost, for one thing, is a pretty major consideration for many people. Why should you choose to spend more money, especially if you don’t have the funds available, to buy something locally versus a mass produced item? One reason our mass produced items are significantly cheaper is because, yes, they were purchased in bulk and things like tooling and set-up fees are one time and thus the cost is reduced for every item. But, I think many of us are coming to a point that we just don’t want what everyone else has. Or, as I find, mass produced clothing (Ready-to-Wear) doesn’t fit well or at all! Hence, I often make what I need so I feel good in my clothes.

Then, I look at packaging. I’m starting to re-evaluate what I buy based on how it’s packaged. If I can avoid excessive plastics, I will. If that plastic, or other material, container can serve a second or third purpose in my home, then, often I will make the purchase. Let’s look at Altoids containers. I use the gum containers to wind up my ear buds and store them in my purse or bag. It makes them easy to find and I just love the cute oblong container. In the larger containers I store stitch markers, stickers, matchbooks, jewelry, fuses (for work), media cards (compact flash/SD), etc. Oh, and by the way, I want to be the singer, Olata Sweets, in this altoids ad! Hello!

Now, what kind of balance is needed for on-line purchases and local talent. When I’m at a bookstore, the cost of a book (at list price) is many times off putting as I can purchase it from for about 30% off. Now, I consider the addition of the shipping costs and envrionmental effect. Both on-line and brick & mortar stores have shipping costs. On-line you pay for it to arrive to your home. Brick & mortar you don’t actually see the costs – you pay for the item and tax. But, both have an impact on the environment. Yesterday, I chose to buy “Sew What! Skirts” at the book store. Why?

  1. The item had already been shipped to its current location
    1. I didn’t want to buy more books and often the “shipping is free” ($$$) when you buy X amount. I didn’t want to spend more.
  2. I was at the book store because it was near the fabric store and it was on the way home (don’t you just love sitting in the craft section and drooling over the latest books?)
  3. I could look through the book from cover to cover at my leisure deciding if the book really would fit my needs
  4. I’ve looked at the book 4 or 5 times already and found I was really looking for a book that wasn’t patterns, but how to make skirts with X amount of fabric to fit my body.
  5. By buying at my local book store, I’m helping to keep it in business so I can go back and visit again.

Though, all this has taken me several months before I considered purchasing. In fact, when I first browsed the book I thought, “I don’t want this book. I’ve taken plenty of pattern drafting classes and own many new and vintage skirt patterns. Eh! This is for newbies.” But, after much more thought and consideration, I feel it is a good addition to my sewing library. I enjoy their examples and photographs.

But, I’m also a HUGE fan of And I do buy/sell things on-line. I don’t intend to stop, just choose to make positive decisions about what I’m buying. I’ve made many, many impulse purchases. Having a positive environmental and economical impact on our world means taking the time to consider what your decisions affect. You have the choice to change your world. I can make attempts to persuade you and others around me (I do it all the time), but I can only change what decisions I make. The rest is up to each person. What kind of world are you choosing?

Now, dependency upon other countries is another “strike a balance” item. By buying items which are manufactured in other countries, under decent working conditions, we help support the livelihood of many families. Yes, our dollar is dropping in value, but it is still higher than that of many other countries. It also brings the world more closely together. They are dependent upon us to purchase their export items and we are dependent upon them for items we need. And, in some small way if that exchange is vital to their economy, then wouldn’t that be another reason why two countries could be forced NOT to go to war? This is a stretch, but I think it deserves some consideration.

At the same time, supporting local artists helps keep art alive around you. I know it’s the season when everyone thinks of giving. But, so what if it starts now around the holidays. That means we’ve STARTED! We’re thinking about someone or something greater than ourselves.

So, what am I doing? I recently moved. I have WAY too much stuff. Good Gods! I seriously want to have a space to art in. I have LOTS of art supplies I’m not using. My mom has said the same thing. And it’s truely sad that there are art supplies stuffed in a box somewhere when there’s someone who would benefit from it! I’ve researched where to donate Arts and Crafts supplies in the Seattle area. Wow, there are tons of places. For more info, see They need many things, not just arts and crafts supplies. There have been many times in my life where creating has saved me. I would not have made it through college had it not been for knitting. And, finally I understand angry art. Being able to make a collage which says, “… The f@#k I will!” really helps to release that anger. If that can help me, then I’d like to pass on the gift.

I’d love to hear your opinions on the subject. I’m always learning and re-evaluating how I live my life. If I’ve stoked a fire in you one way or another, great! That’s exactly what this post was all about. I want to get people thinking about their own choices. It’s NOT easy. Especially when you’re tired, overworked, stressed, or short on time. I still chose the easy route at times. But, everything we do has an affect on the world around us. What will you do to make it better for the next generation?

Got a creative idea on reusing? I’d be happy to link to your blog/idea or post about it here! Let’s get those creative juices flowing so more people can jump on the band wagon!


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Filed under donate, recycling, reuse, shipping

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