Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, or Do Without

Guest Blogger

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average person generates 4.5 pounds of municipal solid waste per day. In 1960, that number was 2.68 pounds. Could we reduce our waste by turning back the clock on some of our habits? Our grandparents lived by the popular slogan of that time “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” in the wake of World War II. How can their actions inspire us today? 

Use It Up

Grandpa took a lunchbox to work every day. The lunchbox was durable metal that lasted many years. Inside was a sandwich wrapped in wax paper, a piece of whole fruit, a slice of homemade cake (also wrapped in wax paper) and a thermos of coffee. When lunch was over, he had nothing to throw away except two small pieces of wax paper and an apple core or orange peel. Today we could bring those items home and toss them in our backyard composter!

They reused items in creative ways. When a pair of nylons got a run, grandpa made them into large “rubber bands.” I think they actually invented liquid hand soap by putting small bits of soap into a squeeze bottle with water, rather than throwing them away. 

Wear It Out

Grandma made her own clothes. She knew how to sew and made simple dresses that fit her perfectly and lasted a long time. She could also mend torn clothes or worn out socks, or alter clothes when someone gained or lost weight. 

They took care of their possessions so they would last. Grandpa polished his shoes regularly and wore rubber covers on them when the weather was bad. They had a clothes dryer that was such an old model, it played a tune (How dry I am!) at the end of the cycle. They had it repaired again and again until they had no choice but to replace it. I miss that old dryer! 

Make It Do or Do Without

Our grandparents didn’t use more than they needed. They wore sweaters and shoes or slippers in the house so they could keep the heat turned down. They didn’t buy new clothes or furniture or cars just because of a new trend. 

Grandma cooked every day and baked every week. They ate dinner at home most nights and ate leftovers so nothing was wasted. Grandma made a cake every week and that cake was their dessert after dinner every night until it was gone. I don’t think they considered whether they were tired of eating cake. 

How I’m Inspired

My family has adopted some of my grandparent’s ways. Our thermostat is set on 69o and we definitely wear sweaters or sit under blankets when it’s cold. Our couch and chair have removable covers that can be washed or replaced instead of replacing the whole piece of furniture. We take clothing for alterations or minor repairs rather than buying new. And, we cook dinner at home almost every night.

As a participant in the 2019 Master Recycler program through the Solid Waste District, I learned a lot of new ways to reduce waste and reuse items that I may have thrown away in the past. Now, I better understand our systems for waste and recycling, and how important it is for us to do better.  

Okay, maybe it doesn’t sound so glamorous. But it makes a lot of sense. Being a little more like our grandparents reduces waste and just happens to save us money, make us healthier, and maybe even make the world a better place.  

About the Author

Kelly Savastano is a member of the 2019 Master Recycler class.