This time of year I always feel a little sick to my stomach, and not just because of those midnight romps at the dessert buffet with the bottomless glass of Prosecco. (Do they make a combo antacid headache tablet?)
I suffer from that other brand of post-holiday consumption bloat. Even though I— like most consumers, judging from the season’s sorry retail numbers — have cut waaaay back on gift buying, I feel icky as I fill my recycle bin with ransacked shipping and gift boxes.
The task makes me vow for the thirteen-thousandth time that, starting this nanosecond, I am going to buy even smarter, waste even less and re-use more.
Only this year, I found inspiration from a company whose business it is to do exactly that.
Damon Carson, owner of RepurposedMaterials in Denver, is the type of guy who drives down the road, sees a billboard and rather than dismiss it as another splotch on the landscape, thinks: “That perfectly good billboard will one day be torn down, and all that useful billboard vinyl will get chucked in a landfill.”
Why? When the UV-protected, industrial-strength, waterproof barrier could enjoy a new incarnation as — and here is where minds like his take off — a super-sized tarp; a pool or pond liner; a cover for a hay stack, wood pile or boat; protection for a baseball field; a Slip ‘n Slide.
Thinking up new uses for old things doesn’t come naturally to me. I mean, if I need a cheese grater I tend to ask myself: “Where can I buy a cheese grater?” When really, I don’t need to look any further than my elbows.
“The key to successful repurposing,” Carson says, “is finding materials that are generic and versatile.”
He dismisses, for instance, old ceiling fans, refrigerators or toilets. Though all can be reused, they will function in their second life as they did in their first. Repurposing means using retired items in totally new ways.
“Like when you turn an old fire hose into a boat-dock bumper,” I say, as I surf his website, repurposedmaterialsinc.com, riveted by reuse.
“Garbage management is who I am,” said Carson.
This is actually Carson’s second foray into the waste stream of America. Before launching RepurposedMaterials in 2010, he owned a traditional trash pick-up company, which he sold.
Then, an off-hand remark from a painter working at Carson’s home (“Hey, if you ever get an old billboard vinyl they make great drop cloths.”) turned the entrepreneurial light on in Carson’s cranium.
Sales in 2012 were double those of 2011. Clients include farmers, ranchers, landscapers and DIYers.
“So you take Dumpster diving to the next level,” I say.
“Our slogan is ‘Got byproducts?’” he says. “Every day I get inquiries from industries asking if I can help them keep their waste out of the landfill.”
The day we spoke, he had just sold 3,000 used burlap sacks to a crab fisherman who wanted to soak them and cover his crabs while he fished.
If you, too, want to resolve to use more old stuff in new ways in 2013, note some of the clever ways Carson’s company helps customers repurpose:
If all that doesn’t get your brain bristles turning and churning new uses for old stuff in 2013 I can’t help you.
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through marnijameson.com.