Times of crisis mean disrupted supply chains and resource shortages. In World War II US, that meant metal and rubber drives to collect scarce resources to be recycled for military purposes. Salvaged kitchen fat used to produce glycerin for drugs and explosives; pots, pans, car bumpers, and toys being melted down for steel; and “victory” or “war” gardens planted on private yards and public parks produced 40 percent of the country’s fresh vegetables. Those are extreme examples from extreme times (keep your car bumpers on), but they speak to the point that America can recycle and at one time had an established cyclical economy.
COVID19 – as I’m sure you’ve caught on – is a time of crisis. Just consider how our nation is sourcing its masks. Citizens are donating respirator masks they already had to hospitals. People are going out of their way to sewing surgical masks out of extra cloth they have for nurses, neighbors, and relatives. Companies, hospitals, and universities are sterilizing N95 masks for multiple, prolonged use. One surgeon even designed a reusable respirator meant for multiple uses out of a full-face snorkel mask. And the Surgeon General is showing everyone how to make one out of an old tee-shirt.
We’re not getting into the politics of how we ended up here, but it goes without saying that most of these aren’t ideal methods. But in a time with limited grocery runs with product shortages (RE: Toilet paper) many people are getting a crash-course in the three R’s as a way to stretch everything bought further. Hopefully, our crisis doesn’t get worse, but generations that go through crisis generally carry some of those values and habits with them as life returns to normal. And in the decade of action against climate change – we could carry those lessons we’re learning with us forward.