I am a loyal fan of sustainability in general, and of reusability in particular. I try to answer the question, “paper or plastic?” with “cloth.” So it’s a bit surprising that I’d be talking about disposability as a good thing.
Let me explain how this could make sense. During our time in Spain we’ve resisted buying household things that we’d need for only half a year. What we’ve been doing instead is perverting the accepted disposable order of things by pressing into service things that thought they were done. By treating disposable things as reusable things, when it comes time to depart we’ll be poised to make disposable again the small pile of bits and pieces not going into our suitcases.
Most people can see doing this to some degree. We just tend do it to an extreme degree. I’ll skip over the sorts of things you could easily imagine (tops of water bottles used as funnels, yogurt containers to hold office supplies), and include the less usual hacks. For example, here’s what we’ve done with a variety of “experienced” materials:
Corrugated cardboard: risers for stuff in kitchen cupboards, steam-punk goggles and a helmet/bowl/mushroom sculpture (see above), a trivet, el Guapo’s standing desk*
Asceptic packaging: cutting boards, el Guapo’s credit card wallet (also featuring duct tape)
Wire hangers: frame for a loaf pan (co-starring with some foil that either wrapped a big bar of chocolate or a doner kebab sandwich)
Egg-crate cardboard flats: cooling racks for bread, muffins and cookies
Styrofoam: a stand for an auxiliary computer screen, a step-stool (in combination with some cardboard) so Ninja is tall enough to wash the dishes more easily, a soap dish (half of a bait box that I found at the Mediterranean one day, which perfectly fit the bar of laundry soap I found a different day)
Closed-cell foam: insulation for the mop-bucket yogurt maker, anti-fatigue floor mats for keeping el Guapo comfortable while he stands at his cardboard desk, swords for battle practice or bats/racquets for an invented game that el Guapo and Ninja like to play
We’ll let that list suffice.
Artists and sculptors dignify this sort of thing by using terms like “found objects” and “mixed media.” Maybe it would help our credibility if I described this thing we’re doing as “installation art” on location in Valencia, using “mixed media and found objects.” Do you suppose we could get a grant?
*El Guapo’s standing desk, built of salvaged computer boxes and a couple of planks we found tucked behind the bed in one of the bedrooms, doesn’t come across as a jumble of boxes because we wrapped it in several rescued tablecloths I found one day when I was taking out the paper recycling. I know pitching the recycling is not usually meant to be an exchange kind of thing, but there they were, probably tossed by the kitchen staff at the restaurant next door, 8 cranberry colored tablecloths (made of a non-woven fabric similar to interfacing), some of them perfectly clean, the others cleanable. Employing some gift-wrapping skills and a few straight pins, we created a desk that looks better than it probably deserves to.