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  Tuesday January 27th, 2015    

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  (ARCHIVES)Back to Current
A hand-me-down society (04/11/2010)
By Janet Lewis Burns
Growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, the closest thing to environmental conscientiousness was when our parents reminded us to put our empty Pepsi bottles back in the case to take back to the store for a refund.

Environmental awareness is finally sinking in, thanks to dedicated individuals like Janine Benyus, 42, a biologist and science writer and an aggressive innovator, who teaches engineers, scientists, and inventors how to consult the processes of nature itself for sustainable solutions.

In an interview with Janine Benyus, by David Kupfer, in the September 2009 The Sun, she explains how she coined the word “biomimicry” to define the process of “borrowing nature’s design principles.” She goes on, “There’s no time for untested technologies that may not be a fit for the earth. We’ve got to use technologies that have already been tested by nature herself.”

Benyus stresses that nature knows how to use energy efficiently. “People think all we need to fix our predicament is a free source of energy, but I think we need to change our behaviors. More energy would just help us deplete the earth’s lifeblood faster.”

Back home, it was “waste not – want not.” You didn’t put more on your plate than you could eat. Leftovers were never wasted. What wasn’t saved for another meal, was fed to the family pooch. There was no gigantic bag of kibbles and bits of meat in the closet. A banged-up pie tin sat out on the back cement steps, where Fido waited for the smorgasbord of the day.

Hand-me-down clothes were no disgrace! My sister Mary and I eagerly waited for the cardboard box to arrive at the post office from Spokane, Washington! Our cousin Joanne Schultz was a beautiful seamstress! After she outgrew her wardrobe, she forwarded some of it on to us. Brothers and sisters passed down shoes and clothes to one another all the time. There was no stigma in that.

At that time, young people were too occupied with schoolwork, pulling pranks on each other, and getting their daily chores done so they could go outside and play in their snow forts, have a game of neighborhood softball or meet up with pals to hang out on sultry, summer days. Nobody cared what brand name was stamped on their shabby tennies or if the blue jeans had a certain label.

Young mothers back then were beginning to use disposable diapers. Those of us who didn’t were unaware that we were saving the environment, one change at a time. I did daycare in our Fremont Street home for five years, while our own three were little. That was one terrific load of cotton diapers and plastic pants a day! My clothesline out back saved on electricity.

Today consumers are encouraged to buy organic, to grow organic, and to shop from local producers. In defense of Lewiston townspeople, they patiently waited their turn for Harold or John Micheel to plow their garden plots for spring planting. There were scads of vegetables eaten fresh from the garden and canned for the winter ahead.

It’s hard to fathom that there’s a $7.4 million company today that makes products entirely out of garbage! You can read about 28-year-old entrepreneur Tom Szaky in April’s Reader’s Digest, in an article by Donna Fenn. Along with his partner Robin Tabor, Szaky is spearheading the new industry dubbed “uncycling.” (Another one for Webster!)

Waste comes from “fundraising collection brigades, operated by schools and nonprofit organizations and sponsored by packaged-goods companies like Frito-Lay” (and Kellogg’s and Kraft.) Kraft’s Jeff Chahley reported, “We’ve helped divert 50 tons of waste from going to landfill, and contributed over $250,000.”

Szaky’s 85-employee business, named TerraCycle, turns out such things as pencil cases made from juice pouches, kites out of candy wrappers, and shower curtains from snack wrappers.

With such new concepts as biomimicry andTerraCycle’s uncycling, society might be transformed into necessary resourcefulness. Go with the flow!

Janet Burns treasures the gifts each season generously continues to yield.

She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com.



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