Waste-not Lifestyle Part Of Growing Up For 72-year-old

January 09, 1991|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff writer

Environmentally conscious people urge us to recycle the cans in which we buy our vegetables and soda, to reuse bags, bundle newspapers and put less waste in the landfills.

But Lewis "Buss" Shafer hasn't bought vegetables in all his 72 years. The retired farmer still keeps a garden, and each fall he puts up the surplus in glass jars he reuses year after year and in reusable plastic containers in a large freezer chest in the garage.

He buys super-concentrated frozen orange juice to which he can add five, instead of three, parts water. He doesn't drink much soda -- only when company comes. Coffee or water are his daily beverages.

Instead of spending money and energy on an automatic dryer, he hangs his laundry in his warm, dry basement. He does his own cooking from scratch, again with an economy of ingredients: The same large drum of Quaker oats from which he gets his breakfast can also figure into meat loaf for dinner and oatmeal cookies for dessert.

Visitors who carry away his cookies, zucchini bread and spice cake are likely to do so in a plastic bag once used for something else.

Instead of bringing home potato salad in a plastic deli container, he just makes up a big batch at home, using his late wife's recipe.

"And I have potato salad for the week," Shafer said. "I'd rather cook myself -- I know what I'm eating," he said.

Shafer wouldn't call himself an environmentalist, nor a senior citizen, for that matter. ("I don't think I'm old enough," he said.) This is just his way of life.

When asked why he doesn't buy vegetables, his simple answer is "I don't have to."

Like most of Shafer's generation, which grew up during the Depression and World War II, he always had a no-waste philosophy of life,said his friend Leona Dell. Bags, whether plastic, paper or canvas, are used until they fall apart. Aluminum foil gets washed and reused. String, rubber bands, margarine containers -- everything that can be used again gets saved.

Shafer's generation also grew up during a time when getting rid of trash wasn't as easy as putting it out on the curb and letting the garbage truck haul it away.

"All the years I was living on the farm, I didn't have a garbage man to pick it up," Shafer said. For farmers and even some town residents in the county, garbage was a responsibility they couldn't leave to someone else.

During Shafer's childhood and younger adult years, any leftover food scraps went directly into the cornfields and eventually became fertilizer, he said.

Newspapers were bundled and sold to the junk man, who sold them to a paper mill -- recycling in its earlier days.

Any other leftover paper just got burned in a barrel outside.

As for plastic, there just wasn't any back then, Shafer said. Now, he uses his plastic grocery bags for trash -- filling one a week. Any leftover bags carry his extra garden yield to friends or just get stuffed in a bin for whenever they're needed.

Once a year, the Shafer family would butcher a steer and divide the meat with two other families,he said. The hide was sold and any other parts sent to an animal rendering plant that made products ranging from pet food to soap.

Despite all the saving and re-using, Shafer's home is neat as a pin. Bottles and cans to be recycled are neatly tucked in a milk crate under a bench in the basement.

While Shafer's waste-free way of life is just natural for him, seniors at Carroll Lutheran Village have made aconscious effort to be more friendly to their environment.

Margaret Tucker, a retired teacher and homemaker, started a recycling program among residents there after noticing that garbage was getting way out of hand in her home county.

"I just heard it on the television, radio and newspaper about all these landfills being filled up around here," said Tucker, 80. "I was born here. I can't imagine where all that trash comes from."

She said she couldn't stand the thought of more of Carroll's fertile fields becoming landfills, so she became an avid recycler, and got her fellow residents to join in.

The complex, with about 350 residents, now has an all-volunteer recycling crew. One person on each floor in the two apartment buildings takes a grocery cart by once a week, picking up the newspapers, bottles and cans residents leave outside their doors.

Then the volunteers sort them in a clubroom and take them to a county recycling bin. The city of Westminster sends a truck by to get the newspapers, but residents used to drive the papers out to the recycling barn on Route 97.

Tucker said one volunteer even goes down to where the trash chute empties, to pick out any newspapers the less enthusiastic residents throw away.

Many seniors there don't generate much trash and even conserve newspapers and magazines by sharing them, with one issue going up and down the hall before it gets recycled, said Mildred Harris, 76, a retired teacher who joined Tucker's recycling crew.

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