Recycle, reuse, reduce, repurpose

For many years, I worked in the US National Parks.  No, I was not a Park Ranger, although many of my friends were.  I worked for Xanterra Parks & Resorts, which was, for many years, the largest National Park concessionaire in the US. 

Concessionaire, you say.  You mean like they sold popcorn and peanuts at concession stands?  Well, maybe.  But being a concessionaire in the National Parks means running all those operations that the National Park Service [NPS] doesn’t want to operate.  You know, the hotels, the restaurants, gas stations, and a lot of the gift shops. 

Because we Xanterrans were answerable not only to NPS, but to the public as well, we not only jumped on early to the recycle, reuse, reduce bandwagon, we actually tried very hard to truly ride it.  And in most cases, even though we lived in “the middle of nowhere,” we were successful. 

So when I moved to Mexico three years ago, I carried that ideal with me.  It’s a noble cause which more of us should probably adhere to.  But, at least at Lake Chapala, the trash guys, or hombres de basura, are not really ready for that.  The local expat population has tried to change things, but it’s not easy.  Recycling requires time and money. 

While the hombres de basura may have the time to do it, the local governments don’t have the money to pay them to do it.  So most of us still just put out our trash the old fashioned way.  Everything in the trash can and the trash cans dumped into the truck.

Nonetheless, I noticed that the trash cans weren’t heaped up to overflowing like many US cans are, and I started thinking about the differences between here and there.  And one of the things I realized is that, while Mexicans may not be so hot at recycling, they are experts at reusing and/or repurposing!

Given that, at the beginning of this year, I decided to start living more of a Mexican lifestyle.  And one of the things that Mexicans do is to purchase their cleaning supplies from from a street vendor or from one of the local “refill” places. 

Since I don’t seem to have a street vendor where I live, I found a place just down the street from me where I could get my cleaning supply bottles refilled.  So when I’m out of floor cleaner or bleach or shampoo, I take my empty bottles down to my local lady and have them refilled instead of buying more plastic containers thereof.

As you can see, if you don’t have your own bottles or jugs, she can provide them.  She primarily uses empty milk and juice jugs since she has a large family and probably has a lot of containers she can reuse.

She has so many things for sale.  These are shampoos and conditioners.  The first time I went there, she touched my hair and said, basically, “Oh, honey, you really need some of this!” 

So, while in Mexico we may not recycle like all you good folks NOB, we certainly do reuse and/or repurpose. 

And if you’ve ever thought that it’s hard to get your kids or grandkids to understand why it’s so important to recycle or reuse, maybe you should put a “Super Mario Brothers” game or two in your refill station:

And maybe, just maybe, the kids will “get it,” too!


About Barbara

in april of 2008, i moved from the united states to mexico. during my working days, i held lots and lots of jobs....almost all chosen because they were fun or interesting instead of how much they paid. when i started thinking about retirement (in my 40s), i realized that i would never be able to retire to a country where english was the native language. and although i had traveled to every state in the US -- and lived in lots of them -- i had never been outside the country with the exception of canada and mexico. and since you now know that i could never afford to retire in canada (even to the french-speaking area), mexico won by default.
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6 Responses to Recycle, reuse, reduce, repurpose

  1. Gigi says:

    Yes, this is great! You make me miss Mexico!

  2. Barbara says:

    gigi, i know you thought this post would be more about repurposing. trust me, there WILL be postings about that, too, because folks down here are so good at it!

  3. Reusing and repurposing is so much better than recycling anyway. It takes resources and money to recycle, but reusing it easy! Our entire drinking glass collection is made up of food jars. 😉 And I miss Mexico too, even though it’s only a half hour drive away. We don’t cross anymore, due to the terrible situation in Juarez. :~(

    • Barbara says:

      TAD: at some point, i’m going to have to address “the elephant in the room”….the narco problems in Mexico. here in the lake chapala area, we are, for the most part, pretty much removed from it. but it’s certainly something in the back of our minds.

      i’m sorry that you can’t visit Mexico anymore, but i certainly understand your concerns.

      and i’m glad that you, too, know how easy it is sometimes to take the small step of reusing and/or repurposing.

      thanks for writing.


  4. judy says:

    my friend and i were just having a conversation about this the other day. my family is from mexico and i just came back from a visit. i was reminded how clever the people there are when it comes to repurposing what we would call “trash”. they are truly experts at it!

  5. Barbara says:

    Judy, not only do they repurpose, of course, but i’m always amazed at the creativity of using resources on hand instead of rushing out to buy something. one of my favorites here in Mexico is hanging your wet laundry on bushes or fences to dry. it says a few different things to me. first, you don’t need to use propane or electricity for a dryer. second, you don’t even need to buy a line to hang the clothes on or clothespins. and third, that it’s safe to hang your clothes out where any passerby could steal them if they’re of a mind to do so!

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