Anne Horrigan Geary: Lessons in reuse for a little blue scrap

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DALTON >> I have a whole bunch of bookmarks, but never enough it seems. True, I read several books simultaneously, and bookmarks often slide right out of their appointed places. Even the bookmarks with clips attached have been known to escape the page they were intended to mark and end up on the floor or under a chair or the bed. Naughty little notions! So often I grab whatever is at hand when the phone rings and I have to put a book down.

Sometimes I use scraps of paper, sales receipts, coupons, or edges torn from a magazine I am also reading. There are also handy little hang tags cut from clothing, address labels, or photographs. Recently, I found a whole stash of old photos in a book I was about to weed from my overcrowded shelves; included were studio photos of our elder son when he was two or three. I need to organize my library a little more often!

Last week I started reading one of my Christmas gift books, a continuation by another author of Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander novels. When I had to leave my blue wing chair, I needed a bookmark and grabbed whatever was handy. In this case it was a one by four inch scrap of fabric leftover from a recent sewing project. In the days following, every time I opened the book I fingered that little bit of blue and white striped cotton.

I liked the smooth feel of the shirt-weight fabric and the triangle-shaped piece looked like the sail of a sleek yacht which we often observed streaking across Nantucket Sound in the summer. This tiny shred of woven cotton thread had most recently been part of a man's shirt, which I had reconfigured into an apron. The scrap had somehow escaped a trip into the wastebasket I keep beside the sewing machine, and now that it has a new purpose it will avoid a ride to the landfill in a bright blue trash bag.

As I admire the narrow blue and white stripes, I think about the history of this cloth and its long, strong threads. Not much cotton cloth is manufactured in the US anymore, although the Berkshires and southeast Massachusetts have a long history of cotton manufacturing. This swatch probably endured several ship and tractor trailer voyages from cotton field to factory and retail outlet before it arrived in my sewing room. It's a durable and useful bit of goods, and has lots of life left in it. I hope it enjoys lots more pressing between the pages of my endless supply of books.

Reduce, reuse, and recycle are a trio of waste-reduction strategies. As the new year begins, it makes sense to take a look at how we can improve the health of our ailing planet.

We have cloth totes for grocery store shopping and trips to the farmers market. Fruit and vegetable scraps are composted for the garden. Such practices have become routine, and we probably should look for more opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint.

Now is a good time to clean out closets and reduce the number of unused items packed inside. Food pantries can use your excess packaged goods (if the use-by date is in the future), and thrift shops are glad to accept your outgrown or unloved clothing. Why I even know of a goat farm which is waiting for leftover Christmas trees because apparently the goats consider them a delicacy.

Look around and see how much simpler you can make your life in 2016. Take baby steps perhaps, but keep moving forward. We all know how quickly babies and their steps grow.

Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.


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