Recycling, Going Green, Being Poor


I was going to write more about the insanity at Associated Content tonight, but every time I think about it, my eyes cross, my blood pressure rises, and the dogs start to howl.  Instead, allow me to share a simple little project which exemplifies how thinking green gets under your wallet & sometimes trips you down memory lane.

If my grandparents were alive today, they would be the greenest people on the planet. They recycled everything. Granny canned and preserved all sorts of fruits and vegetables, all which they grew. Everything got repaired by Papa. Trash was a rare thing. It was a very simple life they lived. They were farmers. They were poor.

By today’s standards they were very, very green.  Recycling was not a choice. It was a necessity. My dad was the same way and slowly I’ve discovered everything old is new again. I’m not near the pack-rat my dad was, but I’ve started to look at everything with a “how can I recycle this” attitude. It’s not that I’m a dyed-in-the-all-natural-sheared-from-free-range-sheep-wool Green freak. It’s just that I’m cheap. Here’s the project that proves how cheap I am.

Just as most people keep a grocery list and jot down items as they run out or just have a moment, I keep a Lowe’s list. You read correctly. I jot down items I need at the hardware store as I come across a repair for which I don’t have the correct parts. On that list I’ve had “hooks for hat rack” for the last couple of weeks. The empty wall in the laundry room was a perfect place to put up some hooks to hang my hats. I have about a dozen hats and the cheapest six-hook bar I found at Lowe’s was about $14. I intended to buy a couple and utilize that empty laundry room wall until I found something squirreled away in the garage.

While looking through scrap wood for a step stool I wanted to build (yet another item I didn’t want to spend $60 on and for which I found the boards from an old entertainment center I had disassembled), I found a tool bar. It was something I bought three years ago thinking I would hang the tools in the shed. I hadn’t thought that out very well. My shed doesn’t really have a vertical wall high enough to mount a board like that. But the cheap, green CFL light switched on over my head. This board-and-peg bar would make a great hat rack!

I grabbed some paint, gave it a few strokes, found some screws, tapped in the pegs, and woke my wife up at 10:30 PM with the noise from my power driver.

Standard tool rack
Standard tool rack
Now a lovely hat rack
Now a lovely hat rack

Since finding a new place to hang my hat, I’ve pried my wallet opened and sprung for a level. After using my new level to hang a couple of pictures, I decided to check my work. It turns out I have a pretty good eye. The hat rack was dead-on level.

A hat rack is a simple thing, but using what was supposed to be a tool rack as a hat rack and not cluttering a landfill with a idea gone wrong, is green. Before you toss it out, think about my hat rack. Think about my Papa. He’d be proud of such a simple thing. He was green before there was green, not because of his ideology, but because of his economy.

When green becomes economically feasible, that’s when it will really catch on. In the current economy simple things like converting a tool rack to a hat rack are becoming things of necessity. Forcing people to be green with guilt or taxes only pushes people so far. The average person will only find the green path if led by their wallets. Follow me! I’m so lazy and cheap, I’ll find the shortest, easiest path.

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11 Comments

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  1. So glad you wrote this, instead of about of AC. (I am tired of hearing about AC anyway.) Yes, my parents were green. I have most always been green because of self-employment, since payday does not always come on Friday! “No money” makes a person green quicker than anything else.

    I must confess, I am more “chincy” than cheap, which simply means I will spend big bucks on something that I really want! (Example being the Toyota 4-runner I wanted in 2000, and still drive today) I enjoyed this very much. Thank you.

  2. Tammy Waters May 15, 2009 — 08:44

    Smart thinking – I’m a tightwad and save everything (which probably explains why my house is so messy!). For me it’s not about being Green, it’s about saving green (money). I’m poor and I’m cheap. I don’t have a choice.

  3. Looks awesome! I’m also cheap…uh, I mean resourceful…LOL But, I’m also about being green, both for the resourceful reason, as well as for the Earth. :-)

  4. My parents and grandparents were the same way. My grandmother saved cereal boxes and whenever one of my brothers knocked a hole on the wall while tryout some crazy stunt, she would patch it up with a cereal box or larger piece of cardboard and use oatmeal boiled down to starch as glue. She would ask for the last of the “one of a kind” wallpaper rolls that never sold at the department store and get them for just pennies. Every room in her house had odd miss matched paper covering her cardboard and oatmeal patches. Cereal used to have a wax paper liner and she saved those to wrap chicken bones and other such food scraps before putting in the trash. (Vegetable peelings and coffee grounds fed the rose garden.) BTW her outside trash was only about the size of a large wastepaper basket with a hinged lid just for such trash that the sanitation dept picked up twice a week. Over the years my dad added on to our small house “recycling” windows & cupboards from the neighbors when they did remodeling. The four foot, florescent lights in our kitchen came out of a warehouse that was upgrading their light fixtures. Large casement window for the den came from a building that had burned down. The steel frame was blakened and the windows slightly warped but he cleaned it up with a wire brush and took it to the glass shop for new glass. I seldom open the windows because it takes two people to get them closed and latched due to the warped openings lol.

  5. Great idea! And yes, our grandparents and parents were better at saving pennies than we are.
    They hardly ever hired anyone to fix something; they learned to do the work themselves.They also didn’t buy a lot because they knew how to make things themselves.

    It’s a good idea to befriend a Contractor; they throw a lot of excellent material away, like smaller pieces of dry wall,timber, etc.Not enough to build a whole house with it, but great to have stashed away in your garage for other small projects.

    Other places to go are second-hand stores. Other people’s trash could well be your treasures.Doorhandles,light switches,furniture etc. usually goes for a song.

    When folks want to save money, thinking “outside the square” should become second nature; like what you’ve done with your tool rack.All in all it could save you a lot of money!:)

  6. Sounds like a great old house full of character and memories, Anonymous. I didn’t mention it in the article above, but my Grandfather built his house. In the days before social security, two elderly sisters asked him to live on their land and care for them. He & my grandmother cared for them and they willed them the land. That was back when character and deeds meant something.

  7. Wish I were more creative in recycling like this and definitely agree our grandparents and parents were better at it. Perhaps the recession will force me to be more innovative in the green department.

  8. So, do you really wear that hat on the left?

  9. E said: So, do you really wear that hat on the left?

    Indeed, I do. It protects my delicate features from the harsh sun.

  10. Ha! Thanks for writing this. My in-laws are incredibly “green”, they grew up with Polish immigrants who were in Great Depression mode. For decades, they had a compost, my husband picked up cans his entire childhood(before recycling was taken over by the government). They were persecuted for being conservative in the 60s and 70s by “enlightened” hippies. Now my in laws think its ironic that the true hippies (naturalist, frugal, earth-friendly) were them. They’ve lived long enough to see cycles repeat, so they don’t subscribe to this crap or global warming. They understand that this green movement is just about more government control. By the way, have you seen The Goode Family? Its by Mike Judge (King of the Hill)

  11. Sandy Petersen June 8, 2009 — 10:33

    I finally subscribed to your “Scribbles”. My Mom wasn’t green as much as she was and still is a pack rat. Her teenage years were spent during the Great Depression but that in no way accounts for the rooms of stuff she has where you can’t even get into them. I inherited that trait much as I hate to admit it. Does every empty corrugated cardboard box have a use? Can dried up ink pens ever be threatened enough to give up their final little bit of life juice? Those are the questions I ponder. Have a good one!

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