The Academy Awards are popular, and so is “being green”. I’m not terribly interested in either thing. I’m talking about kids emulating Oscar the Grouch.
“Being green” is a fad, as far as I can tell. Of course, there are admirable aspects. But in some of its present uses, “green” has become a marketing adjective. The “green” laundry detergent I see on a supermarket shelf in St. Louis is probably not any more meaningfully “green” than the pasta sauce eight aisles over is “homemade”. All the easy “green” tips for saving the planet aren’t necessarily going to help us save the earth. But blanket cynicism and stereotyping will not get us anywhere either. For a way out of this conundrum, I turn to the wellspring of art and youthful creativity.
Angie Geiss is one person who is doing something positive with used products for kids in her local community. Loosely similar to Oscar the Grouch, these Ontario youth are using once discarded materials to make things.
“Geiss is in charge of a new pilot project that turns unsaleable items from the local Salvation Army into works of art, with the help of Niagara artists and student volunteers from area high schools.”
“Recycling With An Artistic Component” by Matthew Van Dongen The Niagra Falls Review
You can read more about the project by clicking the article title. Some call this “upcycling”, others say it’s simply reusing. Whatever term you use, it’s a great idea in my mind. I don’t think it’s part of any carefully orchestrated plan that will turn around the tons of items that humans discard daily. And though there is no immense immediate practical result, this project is great because it will have unforeseen benefits. Who knows what these youth will go on to do? Who knows what important lessons they will recall to the people of their communities?
Connecting youth in a positive way with “waste” is just as important in my mind as allowing them to be connected to the sources of their food and other products. The “waste” you discard goes somewhere. This is simple conservation of mass. Trash doesn’t just get thrown “away”, disappearing from the planet. It ends up somewhere as a real consequence of consumption. But maybe that’s not the end of the line. For the Niagra Falls youth mentioned in this article, they are making something new from what’s discarded. It’s the kind of renovation that can move people’s hearts and minds.
Are people doing things like this in your area? Go find out. In the St. Louis region, there are several examples, one of which is the Upcycle Exchange. This group is geared towards indie artists and crafters, but there are many opportunities. I think most people could design something new with used items if they really let themselves be open to it. We can do a lot of great things we never expected we could do, even if we feel a bit grouchy about it at first.