BEUSCHEL: Penny wise, pound foolish

Oct 20, 2011


Well, I’m not so much given to thinking that they will bring me luck, as that they will be there for me in my coin cup when I do go through the drive-through and the total is an odd amount like $1.56. 

I mostly think of my penny-picking as a method of recycling: better my coin cup than being swept up and sent to the landfill.

My recycling has extended itself in many minor ways.

I have a drawer in my house with baggies full of rubber bands, paper clips, twisties and thumb tacks. I collect the tabs from pop cans and give them to the American Legion in Grand Haven, since they recycle them as scrap metal and donate the money to buy hospital equipment. I wash out my resealable bags and reuse them. I turn my worn-out towels into “rags” — and, when my clothes get too dingy to be presentable, I turn them into “around the house” clothes. 

Things I can’t find a further use for or another home go to Goodwill. 

Of course, I recycle bottles and cans, given our current state directive. I’ve not been inclined to buy bottled water since tap water is what I have drank all my life. So I just continue doing that and thereby I am not contributing those empty bottles to the landfills.  

I’m trying to use the library more, and I buy most of my books at garage sales or Friends rooms at the library. When I’m finished with my Friends books, I return them so they can be sold again — hopefully not to me. However, it has happened a few times when I’ve forgotten what I’ve already read. I have taken to using a reading log to solve this problem.

I donate all my plastic groceries bags to the library so they can hand them out to people like me who check out more books then they can manage at one time.
I’ve driven my van for 250,000 miles and just recently had to replace it with another “newer” old van that has only 150,000 miles on it. I heard that this is a form of recycling also. Rather than put useable vehicles in the junkyard, we should keep them in use as long as possible. It’s a trade-off between better fuel-efficiency and growing junkyards.

At school, I make note paper out of my scrap paper. I pick up pencils, crayons, markers, erasers or rulers out of the custodians’ piles of floor debris at the end of the day, if I spot them. I put them into my recycled gallon ice cream containers and use them throughout the year with my students. I turn down my blinds and open my window to keep my room cool on a sunny day.

I may not be the traditional tree hugger, but I’m trying.

My husband has gotten into the recycling act, even if it was for self-preservation. Since we have a big yard with lots of trees, he found a way to not have to rake, bag or burn them. It’s called a mulching blade — and so he happily rides around on his John Deere in the fall, mulching the leaves as he goes. No more getting on and off repeatedly to empty the bins of leaves on back of the lawn mower. This is a win-win-win situation for him, the lawn and the landfill.

But sometimes I see things on the news that make me question why I even do these recycle activities. What difference do they make in the face of barges full of computer equipment going to swamps in Third World countries? How many park benches can we make out of recycled VHS containers? How many newspapers can we recycle into housing insulation? Did those trees I cut down years ago really contribute to the melting of the polar ice cap? Doesn’t the landfill in Coopersville seem to be getting higher and higher?

This is certainly some crazy-making stuff! At the rate that “stuff” is being produced these days, how can we ever keep up with the issues of what to do with it when it is outdated or not working? What are we going to do with the old plasma TV screens or iPads? What do I do with my old portable tape player? If I dwell on this long enough, I usually wind up not wanting to buy anything, because I am wondering, “What am I going to do with it when it wears out or I don’t need it anymore?”

My thoughts of not buying anything so I can save the world from too much “stuff” fly right out the window when I get to a dollar store. Oh my goodness! It’s a grandmother’s delight. I can actually enjoy buying things for my grandchildren that look like fun and don’t cost more than a dollar. There’s plastic soldiers, pink hair extensions, 500-piece puzzles, snow globes, stencils, etc., etc., etc. And best of all, I can just let my children figure out how to recycle the stuff when it breaks or dries out.  

Wait a minute! Is that a penny I see on the floor? What luck!

— By Janice R. Beuschel. She can be reached on her website:


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