Waste not, want not

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Many of you may remember the 1970s television commercial in which a man
dressed as an American Indian sat on horseback and scanned a landscape
littered with trash. A lone, large tear ran down his stoic face. Now, there
was a picture worth a thousand words.

In the more than 20 years since that silent message, the waste has not
subsided: it has increased.

In the early part of the 20th century, garbage was not nearly the concern
it is today. In those years, there was very little packaging, no plastic,
and most major items were built to last a long time. Today, everything is
over-packaged, bubble wrapped and plastic-coated.

As modern technology and medical advances improve our lives, other parts of
our lifestyles suffer.

Everything from clothes to cars is built to become out-of-date and
obsolete. Shopping seems to devour all of our time and energy these days.
It is hard to imagine a world without plastics, but the truth is that
because they are non-biodegradable, bits and pieces can last practically
forever.

Many forms of waste are mixed together. Household and industrial materials
are typically buried in landfills and dumps, a dangerous practice because
the waste gives off noxious gases as it decomposes underground. These gases
often leech into the ground water, polluting streams and rivers. Burning
waste releases pollutants into the air.

Even the seas are not safe. A lot of plastic and garbage drifts across the
oceans and is not only ugly, but dangerous to marine life, birds and
animals.

"Waste not, want not" reminds me of another phrase I was taught to live by:
"Use it up, wear it out, make it do." The idea of tossing perfectly good
clothes out just because they were out of style, was not the option it
seems to be today. If a button fell off or there was a tear in a piece of
clothing, you repaired it by sewing. The ends of bread were considered the
basis of delicious French toast.

String, elastic bands and even used tea bags were recycled. In another
time, our ancestors used every bit of the buffalo or other mammal they
hunted. They did not take more than was needed, a practice still followed
today.

This is not enough in today's world. The world population uses more energy
today than did all humanity in the last 50,000 years. Just think of any big
city's skyline at night. It's all very scary: global warming, climate
changes, air pollution and all the other ills. Our mother, the Earth, must
look to science and global cooperation in the future.

More people care about our environment now than ever before, and that in
itself is hopeful. What can we do as individuals?

Being more aware of what we use and throw out is a beginning. Spread the
word and help where you can.

Use it up, wear it out and make it do.