Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Repurposing Tradition

I read two articles on recycling this morning that impressed me.  The first was on the city of San Francisco and their municipal recycling programs and policies.  The mayor is clearly passionate about the issue, and is apparently invited often to other cities (and countries) to speak on the topic.  The other article was one highlighting options for recycling used garments.  According to the text, a little innovation and ingenuity can turn even the most tattered pair of jeans into something new and useful.  

These two articles illustrate two qualities that I revere: innovation and resourcefulness.  Demonstrated in business, and to a lesser degree, local government, they are also qualities that I think mark a modern housewife lifestyle.  Women, after all, have been cleverly recycling and repurposing things for centuries, sometimes out of economic necessity, and other times for the sheer enjoyment of creative expression.

One thing I was thinking of while reading the above referenced articles is that recycling requires a time commitment.  Sure, you can probably find a place to donate your tattered garments with holes and stains, but who has the time?  Isn't it easier to just throw it away?  The same applies to repurposing.  I mean, I love the idea of turning old fabric pieces into a quilted coverlet for my bed, but when I was working full time, there was no way I'd devote the hours necessary to actually carry out such ambitious deeds.  Instead (as mentioned yesterday), I'd just savor the article written about the idea, complete with adorable pictures of handmade quilts, and never actually follow through with real needle and thread.

My point is this: innovation and resourcefulness require a measure of creativity, and creativity requires time.  Time that most full-time working couples do not have.  I'm not saying that if every woman quit her job and stayed home that suddenly our landfills would diminish and our beds would be adorned with crafted quilts.   But I am saying that women working within and from the home have a long legacy of creative repurposing, and it is perhaps a tradition worth exploring again.  Furthermore, I believe that there is a lot of market potential in this type of "recycled" industry for savvy women with the time and inspiration.  (In other words, an entrepreneurial housewife might find that her knack for reusing things could generate some income in an age where recycling is hip, and people will pay for what they can't do themselves.)

I admire San Francisco's programs, and innovative businesses that turn used t-shirts into cleaning cloths for auto mechanics.  Even more, I think that within women lies a lot of latent potential to foster more of these ideas on perhaps a smaller scale within communities.  And I look especially to women choosing to stay at home to spearhead innovation and resourcefulness.

click here to read the New York Times article on San Francisco.
click here to read the Christian Science Monitor article on garment recycling.  

For more commentary on today's headlines, click here for Cigars in the Parlour.
For updates on the Claremont ladies (just for fun), click here.

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