From Conspicuous Consumptionby
Maggie Van Ostrand
to Conspicuous Frugality
since Al Gore sounded the alarm about global warming, everyone on earth is aware
that mankind (an oxymoron if ever I heard one) must preserve itself and the environment
if it is to survive. We must waste nothing. These days, you don’t have to be a
member of the Corleone family to be in waste management. But it’s not normal for
people to practice abstinence, restraint, even self-denial, no matter how much
we hear about the planet’s impending demise, unless some marketing genius can
make thriftiness more appealing.
“You can threaten children with dire
consequences if they don’t clean their teeth … But give them a toothbrush with
a Chompy the Caterpillar handle and some multi-colored toothpaste and you’ve begun
to make tooth-cleaning more than just a resented necessity. You’ve begun to make
it attractive,” said Jeremy Bullmore, former head of J. Walter Thompson Ad Agency.
Mr. Bullmore must be Mexican, since nothing is ever wasted in Mexico.
Not shards of broken glass, bits of leftover string, or even methane gases released
into the air from flatulence. Seriously.
Landfill gas facilities in Guadalajara
and Monterrey capture methane and use it for power generation. An off-grid renewable
energy supply at a poor community in Nuevo Leon is expected to be completed by
2010. So just as you’re about to dig into those cheese-draped beans, think about
powering an entire town with the results. Makes you feel good all over.
what about old candy and gum wrappers? What do we do with them after they’ve been
torn off? We toss them into a trash can and sometimes, if we’re slobs, we just
drop the wrappers in the gutter, except in Mexico where a beautiful something
arises out of an ugly nothing, like a Phoenix from the ashes. They make purses.
courtesy New World Women, Taxco, Mexico http://artcamp.com.mx/nwwblog/
addition to incorporation into works of art, shards of glass are cemented into
the top of walls, points up. This is way cheaper than an alarm system and seem
to do the trick.
there’s the matter of left over soap bits that we throw away when they’re so small,
they look like a chicklet. Melt the bits in top of a double boiler (other methods
will burn the soap chips) until they soften. Press them together until you get
a whole new bar of soap, even better if you can find an old-time soap mould. It
may not be as pretty as a new bar, but then, you don’t wear it around your neck
to the Oscars, and it will get the job done.
“What about string?” you
may be thinking. If you’re smart, you’ll keep old bits of strong in one drawer,
and rubber bands in another – even those fat ones from bunches of broccoli. This
is the opposite of Conspicuous Consumption; this is Conspicuous Frugality. First
we tried to save trees by using recycled plastic grocery bags instead of paper
grocery bags. Then we learned that the plastic bags weren’t any more biodegradable
than are disposable diapers. What about eco-friendly, guilt-free string bags?
They expand when full and collapse into your palm when empty, and they’re reusable.
If crocheted or knitted from string bits you’ve saved, they won’t be as pretty
as the picture below, but they’ll be serviceable.
to the rubber bands, instructions on how to make a rubber band ball are at http://rubberbandman0.tripod.com/
or, if you’d like to donate some, contact RubberbandMan0@hotmail.com.
are gloriously ingenious when it comes to inventing things, which may be what
got us into this mess in the first place. Here’s what I figure --we must either
invent alternative sources of energy and products that we can enjoy as much as
what they’re replacing. Or we can just do as Mexico does, and waste not, want
Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand
Balloon In Cactus" January
8 , 2009 column