Last Thursday I was asked to comment on local radio about the report that we throw away the same weight as 90,000 elephants [makes a change from double-decker buses and football pitches, I suppose] of perfectly good items every year.
I thought I was going to talk about re-use and instead I was asked to talk about repair – a subtle but important difference. I managed to gather my thoughts for a 5-minute plug for our Royston Repair Cafe but it meant my notes about re-use became redundant. So I’m re-recycling them (geddit?) now.
It got me thinking about the need to learn a new lexicon to change attitudes to consumption and waste. Normally I’d advise against anything that smacks of jargon but I’m making an exception here because the goal – a healthier planet – is worth it (not to mention helping people to save money in hard times).
My marketing background has long advocated using ‘affordable’ or ‘good-value’ instead of ‘cheap’ when you’re selling. Even £1 shop customers don’t want to be regarded as cheapskates.
So what words can nudge people to reduce waste if used carefully?
An earlier guest blog talks about ‘repair’ as the forgotten ‘r’ alongside the ‘reduce, re-use, recycle’ trinity, so I won’t dwell on those words. Enough to say you should recycle as a last resort – because it reduces our carbon footprint the least of the three.
Just one more ‘r word’ to include here – restore – which I like because it could equally be applied to our health as well as inanimate objects, showing how the wellbeing of people, products and planet are inextricably linked.
Here’s your homework for today. Learn to re-use the following ten words/phrases in your everyday conversation and together we can cut waste.
Recycling centre – instead of local tip. Our’s changed its image almost overnight (and sounded less smelly) by changing its name.
Pre-loved – instead of second-hand or cast-off. Quite a number of furniture re-use schemes/projects/facilities having been using this term for some years. And while we’re on the subject of furniture…
Shabby chic – makes a fashion statement by being old and…er… well worn. In an earlier blog I mentioned my appreciation of the Magpie Co-op’s cleverly-named re-use facility in Brighton – Shabitat
Austerity chic – 60’s and 70’s money-saving gadgets (Sodastream – DIY fizzy drinks, and Hostess trolley – for entertaining at home etc) making a comeback – harking back to the good-old-bad-old-days.
Retro-chic – see the other ‘chics’ above – appeal to people’s nostalgia for a simpler past life. Think of my ten year old mobile that I can use for making phone calls but little else.
Antique – confers quality and value on something; both of which are so subjective you shouldn’t end up in court under the Trades Descriptions Act. My wife’s wedding ring was described as ‘antique’ – sounds better than ‘second-hand’ (which it literally was!) and, to continue the bodily associations, it cost me an arm and a leg.
Vintage – see ‘antique’ but I tend to associate it with clothing (and Wayne Hemingway – one of my heroes)
Thrift – making a virtue out of getting or making something at no/low-cost. Even Kirstie Allsopp is at it (and ‘respect’ to the wonderful Max McMurdo @maxreestore). And talking of Wayne Hemingway, did you know that 25,000 people visited ‘his’ free Festival of Thrift in Darlington last year? Look out for the 2014 Festival on 27-28 September.
Up-cycle – a somewhat ugly word for something much more attractive. The textbook example is turning a man’s shirt into a woman’s skirt, but my favourite is turning old jeans into an apron (suitable for woodworkers – Men’s Sheds rule) but it doesn’t have to be clothing.
My champion up-cyclers are your final ‘r’ word for today…
Recover – I keep banging on about these folk in Welwyn Garden City so I’ll just refer you to my earlier ‘experts by experience’ blog about them https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2014/02/19/the-art-of-adding-value/
Royston Repair Cafe www.facebook.com/RoystonRepairCafe
Local Government Association waste reportwww.local.gov.uk/documents/10180/5854661/LGA+Routes+to+Reuse+FINAL+FINAL.PDF/5edd19ba-7c13-47c5-b019-97a352846863