Going green: how we used to reuse and recycle

Before my mother died a year ago, when I visited her in the nursing home,
she would get most upset, with the nurses, who kept talking about,
how she should ‘go green to save the planet’.

All of this yuppie talk, about we must all go green.
What’s new about that, we asked ourselves.
We’ve been recycling all of our lives.

I remember collecting jam jars and saving sauce bottles,
washing and returning them to collect a penny each.
Soft drink bottles we treated the same, none were wasted,
it was like throwing pennies down the drain.

We would cut newspaper into squares, which hung on a string in our outside toilet.

We took stacks of clean newspapers to the fish shop;
we got some chips wrapped in newspaper as our reward.

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We rolled ‘fire lighters’ from the older newspaper,
to start a blaze, to warm the house as it was in those days.

Many things we saved for our future use jam tins for screw and other small bits.
Bigger tins were painted and adorn with baubles to make them look pretty
to store larger things in.
Any glass jar, particularly if they had a lids,
was saved for making jams, or poached figs.

Brown paper and brown paper bags were carefully ironed,
and then stored flat for another life, there was no scrap.

Clean string which the butcher tied tightly around the white paper he had wrapped
was saved in a jar to use at least once more.

Worn out hand knitted jumpers were all unraveled,
the wool washed before been rolled into a ball and stored ready for use.
Old clothes were carefully unpicked and cut up to make something ‘new’.

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Socks were darned, not thrown away.
We cut buttons off, to store in large glass jar,
so if you needed a button you didn’t have to look far.

Sides of double sheets, were sewn together to make singles and last longer.

Flour and sugar came in material bags, which could be reused over and over
for other uses.
Now everything comes wrapped in layers of plastic, or plastic wrapped around foam,
no use for anyone to use around the home.

Cars tires, had tubes which you could repair with a vulcanising patch that you lit with a match. Even when for the car they were no good, as kids we would patch them,
pump them up and take to the creek to float along.
Then after that we still cut the tubes in strips, and tied between a Y shaped stick cut from a tree, to catapult stones into the air.

Push bike tubes if they couldn’t be repaired and reused, were utilised to pull the gate shut behind us as we passed through.

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From old pram wheels and old bits of wood a billy cart we would make,
to race down the hill, near our front gate.

We would grow our own veggie’s, and the peels and tops,
would be put back into the ground, to help with the other crops.

Coolgardie safes were luxuries, a sparkling innovation.
Water running down, the hessian sides, cooling by evaporation,
no power was wasted as it is now.

You see we have done all this, so wastefully we have never been.
So I’m sure that we have earned our little piece of green.


Do you do your bit for the environment? Which line of this poem rings most true for you? Tell us below.