“Recycle" and "reuse" have become buzzwords that should remain with us for a long time, and for good reason. Remember the wise phrase "Waste not, want not"? "Recycle and reuse" comes from the same principle.
When we recycle, we process something to get more use out of it. There are actually two types of recycled items we use in our daily lives. Postconsumer is the type we probably are most familiar with. When we put glass, plastic and papers in the recycle bin, we are practicing postconsumer recycling. All those items can be processed for reuse. Glass items are the most valuable as they can be used over and over again, while plastic and paper items eventually degrade after they have been recycled several times. The good thing about paper, though it has a limited lifespan, is that it is biodegradable, so when its work is done, it is not harmful to the environment.
Then there are the preconsumer recycled materials. These are items that are collected from waste products, usually from the manufacturing process, then put to use as some functional product. Let's use glass as an example. A glass-manufacturing company collects broken glass from its workplace and recycles it into a new glass product. The textile industry uses preconsumer waste by-products by turning fibers, fabrics and trim into new raw materials for home furnishings such as mattresses and upholstery. Waste not, want not.
When decorating our homes, we should seek to use both postconsumer and preconsumer products. Search the Internet to see what items you have or can buy that originate from recycled materials. When you go shopping for home furnishings, the manufacturers will surely make you aware if their items are "green" in their construction.
As a spin on the reusing campaign, browse garage sales and thrift shops for hand-me-downs and heirlooms. As mentioned in previous articles, someone's used junk can truly become your treasured item.
When you start to decorate or redecorate, you can start by reusing and renewing, doing yourself and the planet a big favor.
Rosemary Sadez Friedmann, an interior designer in Naples, is author of "Mystery of Color."