Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Junkman's Daughter - Reuse Renew Recycle

I was an environmentalist like Ian Somerhalder before it was cool.  Well, not Quite.  When I was growing up my family picked up scrap metal. sorted it by type, and sold it to the scrap yards in Nashville, Tennessee.  We didn't do this because of a love for the environment.  We did it because we needed the extra money it provided to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads.

This early form of recycling/environmentalism wasn't appreciated by my fellow classmates.  It was, instead, something that furthered me as an outcast at school.  it was already looked down on for being poor, for being a weird withdrawn kid; but then to be seen by classmates while picking up metal on the side of the road was a death note to any chance I might have ever had of being accepted by my peers.

Our yard didn't help matters.  Some times my step-father would get permission to collect scrap metal from demolition sites, or where someone had moved out of a rental leaving a mess, and once from a burned out store.  We'd bring it all home to sort out, after enough had been collected we'd take a ton-truck load to the scrap yard that was paying the most on that day.  Until enough had been collected of of tin or iron or aluminum or copper or steel or brass, it would be there in our yard in piles.  We received complaint letter on a few occasions from the city demanding that the mess be cleaned up or we'd be fined.  This only gave further ammunition to my peers and their families.  Parents definitely didn't want some some child from THAT squalor  to visit their children.  That kind of parental rejection of my family was all that some kids needed to initiate tormenting ridicule that followed me throughout my formative years.

Today I am still a bit haunted by the taunting I received from my peers.  although I am past my days of regular scrapyard visits, i am not beyond the habits those early experiences taught me.  I recycle everything I can - paper, plastic, metals, glass, yard wastes.  I never throw out something that can be used by another.  I sell it or donate it to charity.  I'm also a proponent of repairing/renewing/upcycling items instead of trashing them.  Not only has this habit saved me money, it's kept items out of the landfills.  Lastly, my early education taught me to reuse items in unconventional ways.   Mom loved her flowers but didn't have the money for expensive planters or landscaping.  She used found items and made it work.  I have used an old rusted through bucket as a planter for my porch.  It looked fabulous with the blooming flowers.  I've done the same with an old piece of gutter, using it as a hanging (vertical) garden.  Old clothes, torn bedding, and frayed towels have even been re-imagined as altered clothing items, scrap quilts, rag rugs, and all purpose bags/purses.  Old wooden windows have become picture frames.

My days as the junkman's daughter were financially poor but rich in training to be environmentally smart.  There's much  about my childhood that I do not look back on fondly or with pride.  These are stories for another day.  I'll leave you with this :  If I had the opportunity to own that 2 acre plot of land that used to be my own private junkyard hell, I'd plant a tree farm on it.  That way the piece of land that used to be ridiculed could again be involved in environmentalism.

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