Conservation and Recycling

Posted on July 18, 2019

by Faith S

Can conservation in the days of World War II help us understand and implement ways Americans can recycle more effectively and easily today? During the second world war, used resources were collected at stations and homes in an effort to preserve valuable resources needed to aid the war effort. Items such as paper, metal, food, cloth, and other items were collected and reused on a large scale before green recycling efforts and initiatives were implemented in the 1960’s and 1970’s. While the movement wasn’t to save the earth, the impact of reusing these materials in an effort to conserve material for the war effort is something we can learn from in an era of over consumption and excess.

Tips found within The Ladies Home Journal discuss the ways in which women can conserve paper through using canvas bags for shopping. Instead of paper we face a far bigger issue at the grocery store, plastic. These tips can help us look at ways to avoid the age old question, paper or plastic, and instead allow us to say neither.

Tips for Conserving Resources

  • Using old picnic or produce baskets laying around the house or at goodwill. While this may seem a little over the top, the picnic basket is an effective way to keep precious items such as eggs, bread, and produce from being smashed or broken as they can be in a bag. It also is an excellent way to keep items cold or warm since you can line the baskets with cloth.
  • Old bulk rice or potato sacks. While many potato sacks are plastic these days, rice can still be found in some cases in cloth. Using these sacks as bags to carry groceries out of the store once they are empty can be very valuable since they are able to be used over and over.
  • Old awnings, tarps, and tents. All of these require a bit of sewing which you can do by hand or machine. These do not require too much skill but I would recommend not carrying the heaviest of groceries if you are not skilled with the basic stitches. Using these old materials you can make totes that are sturdy and easily used when you’re out and about. These bags allow for the recycling of material that won’t break down in landfills as easily as paper, cloth, or other non-plastic based materials.
  • Mesh orange bags. Those net bags that you get from buying bunches of oranges, onions, and some cases firewood are great for carrying small purchases in them, weave ribbon or string through the top after cutting open and use like a drawstring. The plastic is strong and can be used for a long time; however, once worn there are other uses for the bags and can make great scrubbies for washing dishes when folded and bundled together.

A first in a series of articles, the journal gives readers tips on how to handle the conservation that was happening across the country. Americans planted gardens, saved materials, canned food for later, lived off of items that they had used before, and turned in items they no longer needed or simply could do without. Conserving the amount of things we use could save us money and the planet. Our rate of consumption and overuse of materials will be disastrous for the environment if we can’t learn to do as our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents did before us and conserve. This practice isn’t new, and it certainly isn’t hard. We have done it before and we can do it again.


Frances Allen. “Paper Bags are Fighting Too!”. The Ladies Home Journal, LXI, No. 10, Oct. 1944, p. 179.

Additional Resources

Lucas County Recycling List

Recycling Basics from the EPA

What is Upcycling?

Books About Reusing Materials
Upcycle! : turn everyday objects into home decor : 50 easy DIY projects / Sonia Lucano
DIY rustic modern metal crafts : 35 creative upcycling ideas for galvanized metal / Laura Putnam of Finding Home
Trash to treasure : a kid's upcycling guide to crafts / by Pam Scheunemann
Upcycling: 20 Creative Projects Made from Reclaimed Materials by Max McMurdo
Retrash: Upcycle, Repurpose, Reuse and Recycle by Nathan Devine

Featured Image Credit: Image by annca from Pixabay.

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