What can you do to recycle materials and conserve energy? Well, you can't melt down your old refrigerator or make plastic into sweaters! But there are a lot of things you can do.
A compost heap
Farmers have recycled their waste for thousands of years. They grow food for their animals and use the dung for fertilizer for their fields. If you have a garden, you can recycle household and garden waste to make compost. Compost is a wonderful natural fertilizer. It helps plants to grow, it does not smell bad and it does not damage the environment. A bag of compost is expensive to buy, but almost twenty-five per cent of ordinary household waste will decay and produce good compost. Bacteria in the earth cat the waste and make it into compost.
Compost containers are expensive to buy, but you can make one out of waste materials. An old wooden box from a fruit shop makes the best compost container. You also need a piece of old carpet to cover the container.
Recycled fabric is not a new idea. For thousands of years, people have cut up their old clothes and reused the fabric. Every small piece of fabric was valuable. Carpets made from wool rags were beautiful as well as useful. When a woman's dress was too old to wear, she made it into clothes for her child. When those were worn out too, she cut the fabric into small patches and sewed them together to make patchwork. Nothing was wasted. Friends and neighbours often exchanged patches too.
A hundred years ago, when a girl got married, she took several patchwork quilts - bed covers - to her new home. There were no sewing machines in those days; every centimetre was sewn by hand. Some women sewed 'crazy quilts' from pieccs of fabric which were too small to cut into ordinary patches. Nothing was wasted.
Some patchwork quilts were really beautiful. Every one had a name. There was 'Dolly Madison's Star' (named after an American President's wife) and 'Flower Basket'. There was 'Nine Squares' and 'Wedding Ring'. You needed to plan your patchwork quilt very carefully. Then you cut hundreds of small paper shapes and the same number of fabric shapes, a little bigger than the paper ones. You sewed a paper shape inside each fabric patch. Then you sewed the patches together. The paper shapes
A rag rug
A rag rug were almost always made from reused paper. Sometimes the same papers were used in several different quilts.
Today, you can sometimes find patchwork clothes and quilts in the shops, but modern patchwork is not often as beautiful as those old quilts. Most people today are too busy or too lazy to spend all their winter evenings planning a quilt, cutting patches and papers and sewing them all together.
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