The term leftover takes a bad rap in our society. But that’s because we have options to disparage valuable used materials in favor of new. With fewer options, you make other choices.
While running a Folklife program for a federal agency, one of my staffers gave me a gift made by Indonesian youth. It was a sort of lobster made from egg crates and other bits and pieces. It scuttled around realistically when manipulated with a string. Next year I found some neat little autos made from cut-up bits of soda cans.
After my federal job went south, I learned first hand the need for using leftovers. As a woodcarver with a very marginal business, wood was my most considerable expense. I found a local mill that produced large amounts of cherry, oak, and maple flooring and paneling. They sold their “shorts” – pieces too short for their use but too long for scrap. They also gave the waste away as firewood. Their waste-stream fed directly into my product stream.
A favorite dish in our house is my wife’s Shepard’s Pie. It has a crusty covering of biscuit. Beneath the biscuit is the filling made from leftover dishes we’ve had that week. It’s forever variable, filling, and always a culinary opportunity to enjoy.
So the problem isn’t with the material; it’s with the mindset. The leftover is the opportunity.