Reuse, Repair, Recycle

January 30, 2007

My refrigerator died.  This is not the first sign of trouble.  The automatic ice dispenser in the door randomly shoots ice across the kitchen as if it is possessed.  We had to unhook the automatic water door dispenser after waking up several mornings to a flooded kitchen when it decided to turn itself on.  

After much thought, debate and consideration, we made the hard decision not to repair it again but to purchase a new one.

So now we are taxed with figuring out what to do with this refrigerator.  Bulk trash collection is coming but I cannot stomach the thought of putting a fridge into a landfill when it is in basic good shape but clearly needs someone with more mechanical skills than us to keep it going.  Instead I am listing it on our local Freecycle site and our local Craigslist site.  I am sure someone out there can repair this thing and get it going again. 

I love the concept of these two sites.  Bartering in the 21st century.  

When I began gardening, I posted a wanted on these sites for a pitch fork.  I could have bought a pitch fork but I thought it would be better to see if one was lurking in the back of a garage that was no longer needed.  The one we found has slightly bent tines and therefore isn’t “perfect” and is limited in its use but it can do its job of turning a compost pile.   That pitchfork request led to another email  from someone offering left over wood pieces from a remodel project to build square-foot gardening boxes.  When I picked up the wood, the giver offered me an old redwood bench that needed to be put back together.  Once reassembled, it will serve as an excellent potting bench.  As we discussed beautiful her water gardens, the giver found a knife and began dividing up beautiful plants that were aggressively taking over her pond.  

We didn’t just take these things because we are cheap.  They were freely offered and were no longer useful to their previous owners who wished to remove them from their homes.  We provided a new home, new uses and new life to each of these items that were destined to fill a landfill site somewhere.

Lest you think I am advocating getting things from people without giving, I have one caveat to using a barting system.  It is never good to just be a taker.  In order for a bartering system to work properly, you must also give.   Over the years we have found a great many things we no longer need like outgrown sports equipment for our fast growing son, outgrown bikes, appliances that were replaced with newer more efficient options and books we acquired through garage sales, used book stores and handmedowns from family members who love to read. 

The give and take of this old fashioned bartering system restores a sense of balance in the acquisition of goods.  I like putting that pitchfork in my hands and knowing that this one thing was saved and its use restored.  I like knowing that in acquiring a pitchfork, I did not use any raw materials for a new item.  I like knowing that I saved $30 I would have otherwise spent buying a new pitchfork.  I love watching my garden grow from plants given to me, lovingly dug from their own backyards or cultivated in their own water gardens.   And I equally enjoy setting a box of books on my front step and seeing someone pick it up to take home and enjoy or a small child trying on a set of newly acquired baseball cleats or sitting on the seat of this new bike.  I like knowing that an appliance that served us well will be repaired and go on to serve many many more. 

There is something right and good about bartering over buying. 


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