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It's a houseful of opportunities to go green

Gail Diederich’s button box contains an assortment of buttons from old, discarded clothing. The box often provides treasures when she sews special clothes for her granddaughters.

GAIL DIEDERICH | Times

Gail Diederich’s button box contains an assortment of buttons from old, discarded clothing. The box often provides treasures when she sews special clothes for her granddaughters.

Anyone who's ever wiped down a slightly used piece of aluminum foil, thinking it could be reused, is aware that many were "going green" long before the term became trendy.

We all ought to do a better job of throwing away less, reusing more and being wise about those things that take decades, or even centuries, to disintegrate. This point was driven home recently when my son-in-law decided it was finally time for the old orange tree stump in the backyard to go. It had been there for longer than he can remember, and he's 35 and has lived at the same place since he was a small child.

He set about with digging tools, and after a while, up came the stump. Attached to an underground sprout was a tree identification tag, still readable — in fact, looking practically new. The tag had likely been there at least 25 years, a reminder that some of the everyday items we use have a very long life span.

I grew up with a grandmother who easily could have been defined as "extreme green" when it came to saving and reusing items. Considering she had lived through two world wars and the Great Depression of the 1930s, she'd seen tight times and knew conserving was the way to have things when money was scarce.

I've inherited some of her ways, though I attempt to be judicious rather than just plain weird about what to save and what is ready for a final journey. I've been called a "clean queen," so pack-rat tendencies don't apply.

I loved the fact that Grandma never discarded worn out clothing until the buttons were removed. Usually snaps and even zippers were also saved. She earned extra money sewing for neighbors, and these things can in handy.

I especially liked her button box and spent hours sorting the buttons into colors and sizes, dreaming of adventures the coat buttons had seen, worn during cold North Carolina winters, or admiring shiny ones with rhinestones, adornments on a "church dress" for special occasions. Such buttons come at a fair price these days, and I'd welcome another visit, if it were possible, to Grandma's button box.

I have my own button box but it's not nearly as fascinating, though often provides treasures when I sew special clothes for my granddaughters.

Grandma would meticulously take out seams in old clothes, careful not to break the thread so she could wind it onto an empty spool and reuse it. I've never gone that far, and the same goes for washing and drying plastic bags for reuse. My mother-in-law was notorious for this, and sometimes her kitchen counter was lined with bags propped wrong side out for drying. As youngsters, my children were amused with this oddity. As adults, they now understand it — though they don't copy it.

I took pride in nixing a highly touted nursery gizmo when the grandchildren came along and I gained the privilege of "Grandma-ing" each afternoon. I found that Times newspaper bags work terrifically for dirty diaper disposal, thus eliminating those expensive refill rolls of plastic bags for Diaper Genies.

I reuse gift wrapping paper when possible, and the gift wrap of choice for my son is often road maps.

The only drawback there is he, being a map lover, sometimes gets distracted with the wrapping and takes forever to open a gift. I've often wrapped kids' gifts in the Times comic pages, once again getting my money's worth from my newspaper subscription.

The aluminum foil thing? Well, I've yet to wipe down pieces for later use, but when Christmas baking time rolls around, the parchment paper that lines my cookie tins will get multiple uses before being discarded. Maybe that will score points for my "going green."

It's a houseful of opportunities to go green 10/19/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 9:50pm]

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