The Three R’s


“Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!” has become the trendy mantra of our times. Some of the youngsters among us probably think recycling is a new thing, exclusive to this generation. The motivation may be new but the idea is older than dirt.

With my parents’ history of the Great Depression experience, our family didn’t give much thought to “reduce.” It was automatic and assumed.

“Don’t put more on your plate than you can eat,” warned Mom. We had to eat what was dished up and she made soup out of the leftovers.

The ability to create transparently thin potato peelings was a virtuous skill to be practiced and cultivated.

We never bought paper plates, detergent came in a crushable paper box and hand soap was in a bar.  Diapers and towels were washed and baby wipes hadn’t been invented.

Mom reused practically everything, including newspapers to line the Guinea pig’s cage, coffee cans for temporary flower pots and mayonnaise jars to hold liquid leftovers. When they started putting margarine in plastic tubs, she filled the cupboards with them.

When I was a kid, we recycled pop bottles because we needed spending money–two cents apiece that would buy two pieces of sugary pink bubble gum. Ah, for the days!

Now we live in a big city and we have a special bin to recycle about half our garbage. My husband is an air conditioning contractor and he gets paid to recycle all the metal parts of the broken-down equipment he replaces. I “blove” it!*

I detest the plastic shopping bags all the stores are using now. They won’t hold half the groceries of a paper bag, offer no protection for breakable items and let everything fall over in a jumble. On slow days, when I think of it, I take my reusable bags. Most of the time, I have to placate my conscience by recycling the flimsy things.

Reducing the use of disposable things is not so easy nowadays. We eat a lot of fruits and veggies that don’t take much wrapping but what about rice milk, cereal, fruit juice, laundry detergent, motor oil and eggs?

Maybe the old-timers were better at it than we are. They squeezed their own oranges, returned milk bottles for a refill and saved cartons for the lady down the road who kept a flock of laying hens.

What do you think? Are we any better at The Three R’s than previous generations?

*Blove–See “Let’s Coin a Word” blog from June 29, 2012.

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About janets123

Children's writer, newspaper columnist, essayist, poet, storyteller
This entry was posted in Short Takes on Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Three R’s

  1. maragen says:

    Our generation is paying for reusable bags; our parents reused the bags that were given to them. I think the need to save money probably outweighed our desire to save the planet.

    • janets123 says:

      Yep. For some (like me) it’s more a question of habit & convenience. I HAVE the reusable bags but most of the time I forget to take them w/me. Any solutions for that? 😀

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