The twenty-third day of Lent

Monday after 4 Lent

It has been reported that the typical American throws away 40 pounds of clothing every year--much of which is either useable as is or at least recyclable. The sheer waste involved is staggering. The Environmental Protection Agency calculates that this amounts to nearly 12 million tons of clothing going into landfills every year. That is just in the United States--imagine what the figure must be for the rest of the "developed" world. There was a time when clothing was passed down the family as one child grew out of things and they were saved for the next child or given to another family with growing children. Clothing that was no longer wearable was put in the scrap basket to be re-used for other purposes. Some fabric found its way into colorful quilts that continued to provide cover, warmth, and decoration in a different way for many years. Other fabrics were cut up to be braided or hooked into rugs. And at the end of the food chain otherwise unusable material ended up doing service cleaning the house or stuffing mattresses. Nothing went to waste.

Waste of this sort is one of the consequences of a materialistic society that values appearance more than substance, where being in style is more important than being concerned for one's neighbor or for the environment. Lent is the season of getting back to basics and here is an area where we can accomplish a great deal. We can begin by going through our closets and drawers and pulling out everything that we no longer need--whether it does not fit, is too worn, or for any other reason. This process of simplification is worthwhile in itself as an exercise in simplification. But what follows is just as important. What other uses can we find for these things we no longer wear? If it is still serviceable clothing, it should go to a homeless shelter or some other agency that provides "gently used" clothing to the needy. If that is not appropriate, can it be recycled in some other way? Do you know people who quilt? We have a farmer friend who makes blankets for calves out of old scraps. Be creative. Take up a craft that reuses fabric yourself. Check with local agencies about programs for recycling fabric--even synthetic fabrics are recycled. Finally, there is the scrap bag: cut your use of paper towels (another drain on the environment) and use discarded fabric that can be used, washed, and reused, for a variety of cleaning jobs. Practice the most basic kind of good stewardship of the good earth which God has given us and let nothing go to waste.

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