The other day I read about a company which was going to discontinue putting cardboard tubes in the middle of toilet paper rolls. It made me reflect on all the uses we had as kids for them. And then I thought of many other items which we happily reused for craft and toy projects. With the exception of apparently disappearing toilet paper cardboard tubes, all these items have vanished from our shelves, having been replaced by plastic. Near our home a large craft store sells kits to make the things we used to make for free from discarded packaging.
Metal coffee cans had numerous uses. The most common one when I was young was as a base for stilts. Turned upside down, equipped with loops of rope, two cans made simple and sturdy platforms to stand on and stomp around. Smaller ones were used in the kitchen to steam brown bread and in the work room to store nails and bolts. An old neighbor used many for picking huckleberries. Now coffee comes in plastic, of much less practical use.
Cardboard egg cartons went to school to be cut apart and made into Christmas ornaments. These hung from pipe cleaners, taken from home from our fathers’ supplies. No modern colorful pipe cleaners sold not for pipes but solely for crafts, ours were always white. The plastic egg cartons sold in my store are simply tossed out.
Baby food came in little glass jars. These were highly prized by teachers, Girl Scout leaders and Sunday School teachers. They could store individual colors of poster paint. They could be filled with rocks and sand to make tiny landscapes. We used them to contain homemade candles. Discarded baby food pouches of today have no utility.
In addition to these, we used the cardboard from my father’s shirts for many projects, his wooden cigar boxes for treasure chests, wooden fruit crates for toys and dismantled and reassembled many other things we found around. We spent time rubbing crayons on paper placed over the embossed front cover of old books. And of course our Halloween costumes were never purchased, but always hobbled together from old clothes.
Was it better in the “olden days?” It was certainly less expensive and obviously, though inadvertently, very Eco-conscious.