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Trash lives a second life as art

Canada's recent ban on plastic baby bottles containing BPA was one of those events that highlights the wisdom of keeping a green lifestyle. Unlike a statistic about climate change, this story was about the other endangered planet that each of us must protect: the human body. It reminded me of a Chris Jordan lecture I attended last year, where he revealed photographs of landfills clogged with all the plastic bottles disposed of each year; except in the case of BPA the trash is building up in human tissues. Buying BPA-free bottles is one solution. Whether pollutants harm our health or the environment, we have all the more reason to ask, "What else can I do?"

The glass juice bottle I've been washing and refilling for about a month counts as reusing. I guess I could learn to crochet a bottle holder for it, since I've already used the bottles to hold flowers, coins, laundry detergent, sugar. Yet I still buy more bottles than I can possibly use. In fact, the folks at GrassRoots Recycling Network, whose motto is "Reduce-Reuse-Refill," propose that we move back to refillable glass containers as the most energy-efficient option.

That makes a lot of sense on a big scale, but are there ways to reuse all the containers around the house? I remember a fascinating method of repurposing trash from New York City's East Village, where the fence of the Armando Perez Cultural Center on the corner of 9th Street and Avenue C is adorned with the most beautiful flowers made from aluminum cans, flowers full of life. These instructions for making your own aluminum flowers tie them to the Mexican tradition of using found objects in art, but there is also a growing "Recyled Art" movement in the US. In fact, some communities have scrap reuse centers where inpiduals and businesses can donate everything from paint to old toys--to made into art by schools and artist workshops.

Whether taking on our industrial container options or making recycled art, the important thing to remember that there are creative options available for dealing with large-scale problems. The revitalized Living Green Below Your Means blog will be exploring new ways to address the issues we all care about. Feel free to share your innovative ideas or suggest topics for future posts.

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