TREASURE HUNTING

It’s a family affair, it makes all of us happy. My sister, mother and me, we are extremists. In my opinion it is slightly different for my brother and father but we all love to find a good second-hand treasure. Whether it’s online, a second hand shop, or outside on the street somewhere; there is no wrong place to find second-hand treasure.

For me and my siblings it makes sense that, when something is broken you first see if you can fix it. If that is not possible, see if you can find a second-hand replacement. I can’t really figure out how this came about in our upbringing. I would say it’s my mother who passed down the second-hand-hunt-passion and my father gave us the fix-it-philosophy. Growing up, these attitudes were sometimes irritating. I am the youngest of three, and wearing my brother and sister’s hand-me-downs didn’t always make me happy. I could not yet appreciate the bigger picture of the second-hand and fix it philosophy. And I couldn’t say whether this attitude evolved in my parents because there was simply not enough money for brand new or it was motivated by the desire for a better environment. But whatever the motivation, I’m glad it was part of my upbringing.

The philosophy has been in the back or front of my mind for years. In my cooking I try to use everything and create new meals from leftovers. I do my best to use as little plastic as possible, although society makes this difficult by cramming cucumbers and eggplants in plastic condoms. I separate my waste as much as possible, which is something pretty normal in the Netherlands, and something most of us see as standard. We have a bin for paper, one for plastic and one for organic waste.  In many countries this waste ends up in landfills. 

For a few years now, Germany is top of the list when it comes to recycling. German households recycle 65% of their waste. In the Netherlands we are not doing so badly either, as we rank 8th, but unfortunately we produce more than average waste. The average European throws away 480 kilograms of household waste while the average Dutch person sits at 550 kilograms. There is still room for improvement. 

And a number of countries are on a zero-waste mission. Sweden is frontrunner; they are almost zero waste after a real waste revolution. They now recycle 99 percent of all household waste and turn it into new products, raw materials, gas or heat. The Swedish government makes it as easy as possible for residents to separate waste. Attention is not only paid to the recycling of waste, but also to the reduction of waste. There are various national campaigns that encourage residents to throw away less and in the long run, there will also be a tax benefit for repairs. I love it! 

Recycling but also reuse and the philosophy and attitude that goes with it is interesting to me. Why do we call something that is slightly damaged broken? Have you ever heard of Kintsugi (translated as golden connection)? It is also known as Kintsukuroi, or ‘golden repair’; the Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics with gold or silver lacquer or glue. It stems from the Japanese philosophy that traces of age, breakage and repair contribute to the beauty of an object. In this Japanese tradition, the traces of age are cherished by emphasizing the cracks and damage by filling them with gold or silver and an ordinary utensil suddenly becomes a beautiful eye-catcher. When one of my second-hand treasures is damaged, I also use this technique. 

As far as I’m concerned, the weathered look is often what makes a product, but also a person, unique. The wrinkles on your face narrate the story of your life. Just like the little damage to a product narrates where it has been and how it was used.  Why not consider, or at least take a minute to ponder its story before you throw something away? But also; can I use this for something else entirely? And in case you personally do not see a future for your broken or useless thing; take it to the thrift store, there is always someone out there who will.

 

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