Sustain.Crafts, Sustain.Environment

Reuse: A Historical Perspective

Product reuse can be fascinating. There are so many creative, inspiring artists, bloggers, and creative types out there that can take an ordinary object, like a used CD for example, and turn it into art.

But historically reuse is nothing new and, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. For centuries people have not had the financial flexibility or relatively cheap markets necessary to sustain constant replacement of goods such as clothing, cooking utensils, and other household items. Clothing could easily be passed from one generation, or one sibling, to the next. Inheritance, especially for women, often included the contents of her mother’s wardrobe. And, as a result, skirts lasted generations rather than seasons.

Traditional Chinese dress, an example of heirloom clothing. Image courtesy of

Today’s lifestyle in developed countries continues to trend away from these historical values, however. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Clothes fit differently than they did 100 years ago. Men and women wear outfits that are tailored to suit their appearance, that compliment their image, and present onlookers with a perception of who we are and how we want to be seen. We live in a fashion-forward society where Armani belts cost hundreds of dollars and Old Navy t-shirts are marked down to less than the cost of a gallon of milk.

And while we have made steps towards total waste reduction, in part due to the economy and loss of total expendable income, most people can do more to find opportunities to be more consumption-conscious, to conserve resources, and – more importantly – to find creative ways to reuse every day products in a new and creative way.