Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Deer mosaic 

by Cappi Phillips
In the United States, more garbage is picked up on the first "trash day" after Christmas than at any other time. Of course, that's due to all the wrapping paper, ribbon, and cardboard and plastic packaging that people throw away after the holiday.

It seems such a waste to discard materials that can be reused or recycled, so in this issue of The Re-Source, we plan to focus even greater attention on the four Rs: rethink, reduce, reuse, and recycle.

We'll discuss how today's poor economy is affecting the sale of recyclables, and how you can help turn things around. In fact, we'll introduce you to someone who decided to personally do something about all the trash he generates.

You'll find some great online resources in our section about creative scrap exchanges, and speaking of creative, you'll see examples of beautiful art and fine crafts created by artists who reuse materials and exhibit their work in The Imagination Factory's Green Gallery.

If you're looking for some new art/reuse ideas, we have some wonderful book titles to recommend. Finally, be sure to check out the recipe for sawdust clay, and enter our latest contest to have a chance to win a great environmentally-friendly prize.

Pictured above is Cappi Phillips' mixed media assemblage entitled "Oh my deer, where did you get that dress?" The deer head is newspaper mache' covered with reclaimed objects, and the body is a re-purposed 1950's dress form that's enrobed in hundreds of silver plated spoons acquired at a yard sale. Cappi's work is featured in The Green Gallery. See more of her wonderful, repurposed creations at
What's In This Issue

Winter 2008

Trashing Recycling

According to a New York Times piece that was published in December, 2008, the United States' economic downturn has had a tremendous, negative effect on the market for recycled materials like plastic, cardboard, metals, and newspapers. This is due to the fact that items such as cardboard are turned into boxes that package new goods, and metal is made into car parts.

With a slowing in the economy and production down, there's no need for scrap. As a result, trash is piling up in the warehouses of recycling contractors. Many recycling centers have stopped accepting certain materials, so the main solution to the disposal problem is to truck items to the landfill. If prices for scrap continue to be low, more and more solid waste management facilities will be forced out of the recycling business.

What Can One Person Do?

While the three Rs used to stand for reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic, today they refer to ways we can manage solid waste. We like to add a fourth “R,” so our list, in the preferred order of handling solid waste, reads like this: rethink, reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Most people think of recycling as the main solution to the problem, but it's really the least desirable of the ways to manage solid waste. This is because recycling uses energy and natural resources to make new products.

The best method of managing solid waste is to rethink purchases. If you buy fewer things, there obviously will be less trash. The next way you can help control solid waste is to reduce consumption. For example, when making a small purchase at a store, you can ask the clerk to not bag the item, and just give you the receipt.

Trashmatcher LogoReuse is the third most desirable way to manage solid waste. As you can see by glancing at the long list of items in The Trash Matcher, art activities featured at The Imagination Factory involve reuse. Finally, we come to recycling, and while it's the least efficient way to manage solid waste, it still beats burying stuff in the landfill.

So, you see, even though recycling has fallen on hard times, there are still plenty of things you can do to help save energy, precious natural resources, and landfill space. Remember, rethink, reduce, reuse, and recycle, in that order.

Sustainable Dave and

365 Days Of Trash

If you're like most of us, once you put the trash out, you don't give it another thought, but have you considered what happens to garbage after it's buried in the landfill? You may think it decomposes, but without oxygen and water, it just lays there, mummified for hundreds, maybe thousands of years.

Packer Truck at LandfillThe thought of not taking personal responsibility for what he discarded bothered one California man so much that he began an experiment to see just how much stuff he bought, used, and threw away. Starting at the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2008, Dave Chameides began a project he calls 365 Days Of Trash. His experiment came to a close on New Year's Day this year.

In creating the project, Dave decided that he could control some of his wasteful habits by rethinking what he consumed in the first place, so he simply cut out some things. He thought about sustainability or using resources that can be replenished for future generations, and he saved items for recycling. Finally, Dave was left with the trash over which he had no control, so he collected it for disposal.

You may be wondering where he kept all this stuff! Well, if the waste could be composted, Dave fed it to the critters in his worm bin. Everything else went to the basement. Check out 365 Days Of Trash to see Dave's self-imposed rules of collection, photos of the trash, and to find answers to frequently asked questions.

While this is the end of his experiment, we have a feeling that it's really just the beginning of something bigger. In fact, you can visit Dave's new site, Sustainable Dave, for updates about his project. If you'd like to share how much trash you generate in a week or so, he's interested in hearing from you. Just contact him via one of his sites.

Thanks, Dave, for creating such a unique project. We hope others will be inspired by your example, and maybe parents, teachers, and kids will be encouraged to set up similar experiments at home and school.
resource logo
by Marilyn J. Brackney

Newsletters Archived by Topic

The link above will allow access to dozens of Imagination Factory art activities and articles that appear in all newsletters.

world hands

How To:

Cover your work area with newspapers. Combine the sawdust and flour.  Add more of the mixture or water, depending on the clay's consistency.

Knead the clay until it's easy to shape, and then work with it on a sheet of wax paper. Place the finished forms in the sun to dry. When they're no longer cool to the touch, they can be painted. adding flouradding waterkneading flour water and sawdustsawdust clay mixed

Sawdust Clay

Fine Sawdust from a sanderSawdust is a natural product, so it's biodegradable and not harmful to the environment. However, using it to make your own modeling clay instead of buying something at the store will help save money, as well as the energy and natural resources that would have been used to make a new art material.

You'll need:

Tips and Tricks:

sawdust clay turtle Pieces that don't stick together well after drying can be fastened with white glue.

If you wish to paint the finished work, use liquid acrylic paints, and spray with clear acrylic to seal the piece.


Block of aluminum cansBirdhouse prizeThere are 734 cans compressed into this metal block that measures 8"x12"x12". How many total gallons of gasoline can be saved as a result of recycling these cans into new ones? Send your answer to us at

The contest will close on March 21, 2009, and Greg Hartwell, Bartholomew County Recycling Educator, will determine the winner. The member who is the first to submit a figure that's closest to the correct answer will win a cool birdhouse made from scrap! Created almost entirely from clementine crates and other scrap wood, the bird abode, seen here, was handcrafted by webmaster Larry Brackney.

Art and Craft Books that Encourage Reuse

While many people turn to the Internet for information these days, there are some terrific books available that are sure to stir your creative juices. The ones listed here are in our personal library, and since we plunked down plenty of coins to buy them, we won't hesitate to recommend them to you! You can follow the authors' directions to reuse materials to make art and crafts, or just be inspired to come up with your own creations.

Altered Book JacketAltered Art by Terry Taylor ISBN 1-57990-550-1
Has directions for reusing materials and altering books, boxes, tins, cards, and tags.

Brown Bag Ideas from Many Cultures  by Irene Tejada ISBN 87192-247-9
Uses sacks to make many things. Great resource to use in studying Native Americans.

Creating Extraordinary Beads from Ordinary Materials by Tina Casey ISBN 0-89134-763-1
This book can be the springboard for your imagination for coming up with ideas for many projects besides bead making. For example, several of Casey's techniques can be used to make game pieces if you wanted to make a chess set.

Decorating with Giftwraps by Carol Sterbenz ISBN 0-8019-2427-7
Has directions for making lots of unique home accessories and gifts using wrapping paper.

Making Books by Hand by Mary McCarthy and Phillip Manna ISBN 1-56946-328-4
Shows how to make art books, journals, scrapbooks, photo albums, scrolls, box books.Book 

making bookBook cover

Making Books that Fly, Fold, Wrap, Hide,
Pop Up, Twist and Turn
by Gwen Diehn ISBN 1-887374-023-2
The book's title says it all. Kids will love these ideas!

Model a Monster by Colin Caket ISBN 0-7137-1672-X
Making dinosaurs from everyday materials.

Papier-Mache Today by Sheila McGraw ISBN 0-920668-85-2
Has great directions for making lots of animals and monsters.

The Fine Art of the Tin Can by Bobby Hansson ISBN 1-887374-02-7

The Art and Craft of Jewelry by Janet Fitch ISBN 0-8021-1464-4
Great book with directions for making jewelry from wire, glass, wood, plastic,
paper, fabric, and more!

Tin Can Papermaking by Arnold Grummer ISBN 093825101-5
How to recycle all kinds of paper to make new paper. Uses tin cans as a
replacement for the traditional deckle and mould used in papermaking.