There is No Away and Earth Day

April begins the time of year where people really start spending time outside. Spring! At the end of April is one of my favorite holidays, Earth Day! I released “There is No Away” when I did so that it would be out and available in time for people to have for Earth Day. I wanted families, teachers, and libraries to be able to have this book available on a day where we focus on how we can take care of our home. It’s a great book for that. There is a little boy who learns about what happens when we “throw things away”, and how he can make a change so that he isn’t just making a giant pile of garbage somewhere. He thinks of ideas. We can do those things too!

1) Give Things We Don’t Use to Someone Who Will Use Them

This is one of the most basic ways we can make a difference. In the book, Vee has a shirt that doesn’t fit anymore. At this time of year, with spring cleaning, putting away winter clothes and getting out warm-weather clothes, this is a problem we are all very likely to run into. And, like Vee, in our busy lives, it’s easy to get into the disposable mindset, and toss out things without even thinking about it. In the book, his mom speaks up, but weather we have a partner who speaks up in those situations, or we are the partner who speaks up in those situations, I feel like Vee’s mom is also the voice of our conscience, we almost forgot to listen to. “Don’t throw it away!”, she says!

Giving things to others when we can’t use something or don’t want them anymore is fantastic. We can be like Vee, and give to friends and family. We can join social media groups that share in our neighborhoods and communities. Not only does this help you keep things out of the trash, but when everyone shares, it means you save money because people share with you and you don’t have to buy things as often when you need them. There are groups like freecycle. And of course there are charity’s that often take things, depending on the item and the quality of it. While that may be more time consuming, I encourage you, if you are able, to explore these options as well. Maybe children in foster homes could use the toys your child outgrew. Maybe women in a Domestic Violence Shelter could use the pants you don’t need anymore after you starter running and lost weight. It connects you to the people in your community, and it helps the planet.

2. Repairing

Another option Vee explores is using his shirt to make something new. This is a perfect idea for things that are too worn out to give away to someone else, but are still functional. Vee has a shirt that is too small. What if it was stained. Or torn? There are plenty of things to do! You can dye over a bad stain. And, why stop there. You could try vegetable dyes. Or tie-dye. Or vegetable tie-dye. When you work on these with kids, it’s not just a chore, it’s a fun science experiment where they get to learn about how things work and they get something that is new to them in the end! Teaching things like dying, sewing, darning, isn’t just a fun way to spend time for kids. Those are valuable skills!

3. Making Something New Out of Something Old

Another idea Vee has is to make something entirely new from his old shirt. These kinds of ideas work especially well after you, or the kids have learned some of the other basic skills, such as sewing. A great way to start working on this is to go into the first couple projects knowing it might not turn out perfect. Look up ideas, in books or on the internet. Look at pictures, and patterns, and see how those are differently shaped from the material you are working with. For example, does the shirt in the picture on the internet have long sleeves and you’re working with a short sleeved shirt? Will this change it? ALWAYS bee careful working with pins, needles, and scissors with children. That doesn’t mean children can’t use them, it just means, be careful 🙂 Also, sometimes, you, or the kids, may want to just make up your own project or pattern. Go for it. Be open to experiments. Remember, even if it doesn’t turning out the way you wanted, it doesn’t mean you messed up, and it doesn’t mean you wasted that shirt, or pants, or whatever you were using. You used it to practice valuable skills. Maybe it’s still good for something else later, and maybe not, but learning is never a waste. Save the scraps, take notes, learn, and have fun. This goes for everything from sewing, to using a hammer and nail to make a bird house from an old section of fence.

Have fun, and get yourself in the mindset to not look at things as trash. Could that thing you were going to toss out, reasonably be anything else? Could anyone else use it?

I’m working on a series of DIY projects inspired by “There is No Away” with instructions and pictures. The first is posted to my Pinterest with more to come this month. Also on Pinterest are coloring book pages, and instructions for making paper or felt dolls.

Think outside the box, have a great spring, and have a great Earth Month! 🙂

Ariel Shultz

artist, educator, environmentalist, sailor