Monday, April 25, 2011
Yeah, I know, an architect musing on Earth Day and the responsible use and preservation of the environment. Building construction uses exorbitant amounts of energy and resources, and we're all looking for ways to be more environmentally-conscious with what we build and how we build it. It's the kind of thing that makes me think about my Mom.
My mother is possibly the most unintentionally-environmentally-conscious person I know. She had fixed and repaired cars with her own two hands over and over. She has repaired small appliances and mechanical items numerous times, scavenging parts from one machine to fix another. She gave my sister a vacuum cleaner back in the 90's to use in her college apartment. When Miss Kitty took it to a repair shop, the technician informed her that it was actually made up of three different types/brands of vacuum cleaners--behold the FrankenVac. (At Mom's and El Seebeno's farm, they mow the lawn with FrankenMower and Bride of FrankenMower.) My mother used wood scraps off a job site to make beds for Kitty and me when we were young (after she and Dad divorced and she had little to no furniture), uses other scraps of wood and tin from home repairs and roof patches to make sheds, doghouses, bird feeders, and St. Thomas knows what else. She uses fabric that other people give her to make clothing and linens for herself, her family, and for anyone else who might be looking for a particular garment or other cloth item (tote bags, tablecloths, etc.). She and I have used the same cardboard box to ship stuff to each other twice each. (She finally put the box in the compost heap when she received it a few weeks ago. It was pretty beat to hell.)
The thing is, Mom did all of these things out of economic necessity. Driving into town cost time and gas money, and buying another yard/sheet/box of something was more money. If she could make do with what she had, be it fresh or leftover materials, then she would. She was and is the ultimate recycler/repurposer. I think about this as I look across the room at my pitiful exercise ball, which Someone Furry With Sharp Little Claws decided to pounce on last week while I was doing crunches, causing it to release air with a sickening wsssssh as I tried to polish off three more reps. An online search for repair materials revealed that an exercise ball repair kit is $24, while a new ball is $19. Really? So it's cheaper for me to put this ball in the landfill rather than fix it? Are you kidding me?
It's the same thing with a blender I've had for about 13 years now. To get it fixed, I have to drive to the nearest KitchenAid repair shop in Denver, which is a twenty-minute drive via interstate and four-lane city roads (they won't ship you repair parts). The last time I had it fixed, the repair guy said, "Okay, I've patched it up again, but after this...I dunno..." REALLY?! I'm driving way out of my way to bring you some business (however small it may be), but you might even refuse to fix it when it messes up again in three or four years? There's a mall within walking distance from my house where I can go and buy a new KitchenAid blender--is that what you're implying I should do, sir?
Until our culture and economy makes it cheaper to fix rather than replace, we're going to be hard-pressed to really embrace Earth Day every day, not just on April 22. The saying is "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." I'm trying to reuse as much as I can, but it's awfully hard when "Replace" is so much less expensive and less hassle.