Extreme Craft guru and CRAFT pal Garth Johnson just curated a show based on his 1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse book, called Renewal Notice:
Recycling sucks. This is an odd rallying cry for the 21st Century, but it makes a great conversation starter. Designers, policy makers and consumers are moving beyond recycling to embrace more ecologically holistic concepts like “cradle to cradle” and building deconstruction. Recently, I attended ReuseConEx, which is the first conference dedicated exclusively to reuse. Even though I wrote a book about creative reuse, my eyes were opened to many of the benefits of reuse, rather than recycling.
Reusing objects and building materials keeps them out of landfills, as well as saving the time and energy that it takes to break them down into their component materials during recycling. At ReuseConEx, I was excited to find that artists, politicians, sanitation workers and building deconstruction experts are all talking to each other and finding increasingly sophisticated ways to find uses for materials rather than relegating them to landfills.
Artists have embraced reuse from the very beginning. Ancient cultures from Egypt to India regularly “recycled” their buildings, sculptures and objects out of convenience and necessity. Whenever resources become scarce, creative reuse becomes second nature.
Does this mean that the objects represented in Renewal Notice will save the world? The answer is a qualified yes. Although artists save a relatively tiny amount of waste from the landfill, the art that they create becomes highly visible–a reminder of the broader efforts playing out in houses and statehouses worldwide. By purchasing reused items, or better yet, making things yourself, you are striking a tiny blow for reuse. Whenever you put on that repurposed outfit or piece of upcycled jewelry, don’t feel smug about how green you are–use it to remind yourself about how much more is left to do.
The show is part of the American Conservation Film Festival and runs through Sunday.