REUSE; Personal By Definition.

My son and I were recently talking about what the world would be like without the convenience and immediacy of Wikipedia. When I was growing up, my uncle worked for Encyclopedia Britannica and, consequently, our house was filled with all the latest editions. For anything I sought to learn, that was my point of reference. All of my early knowledge was drawn from single resources that seemed at the time rich in detail, pictures and, if you were lucky, really cool overlays.

In today’s world, nobody remembers Encyclopedias and Wikipedia is among the most top ten sites searched in the world. With that said, I was doing some research on “reuse” and wanted to share some basics from the newest source of all knowledge.

To reuse is to use an item again after it has been used. This includes conventional reuse where the item is used again for the same function, and creative reuse where it is used for a different function. In contrast, recycling is the breaking down of the used item into raw materials which are used to make new items. By taking useful products and exchanging them, without reprocessing, reuse help save time, money, energy, and resources. In broader economic terms, reuse offers quality products to people and organizations with limited means, while generating jobs and business activity that contribute to the economy. (Wikipedia)

I was actually quite pleased to see the simplicity of this contrast. However, there is one critical piece missing: the personal and human connection that occurs with reuse. By far, this is the most powerful element and distinguishes reuse from recycling in the most unqualified way. Yet, there remains confusion between the two concepts. This is particularly true with the reuse of clothing, shoes and accessories.  

By definition, the concept of reuse denotes a personal engagement or investment with a return that is enriching, smart and responsible.   Often without conscious regard or intention, when we engage in reuse of clothing, shoes and accessories, we are continuing the lifecycle of an article that we ourselves selected or which was selected for us.   In many instances, we have imbued these articles with a part of our personal history, stories or events that have had a meaningful impact on our personal lives. These personal memories have an emotional currency that is unique to our belongings and to us and certainly transcend any relationship we could enjoy with other recyclable commodities.   While our clothing, shoes and accessories provide a particular utilitarian purpose, they define our fashion interests, our growth and other important milestones. When we have determined that these articles no longer serve our needs or we have outgrown them in some fashion, reuse is by far the highest and best use for both personal and environmental reasons.

When we reuse our clothing, shoes and accessories, something fundamentally human happens. These items are handled and treated differently, as they are destined to be in the hands of someone else in the immediate future, with the specific intention to reuse them and carry on the lifecycle. The connection between and among people engaged in the Reuse Movement is paramount. This is a personal and human event that carries an importance that gains in value every time.     

In short, then, reuse makes recycling personal.

 

April 24, 2016 by Ira Baseman
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