True Salvage?  No Such Animal!
Apr 23
I have a friend who can fix just about anything. His wife once famously said, "He is especially good at changing filters." I laughed for two days. I suspect he's good for more than that, but changing filters is a really big deal.

(Originally posted in 2012)

My fave story about this particular friend involves a hot tub. He and his wife and another couple rented a house in Sunriver in the winter. It was snowing, and the house had a broken hot tub. (I don't understand it, but people really like to use hot tubs when it's snowing.) However, the rental company said the hot tub was out of commission and they were not to touch it - they were absolutely forbidden to try to fix the hot tub. So my friend went under the house and fixed the hot tub. They used it all weekend, and on Sunday night he went back under the house and re-broke the hot tub, locked it up, and they left. I love the subversiveness of that story - the thumbing of his nose at authority.

A bunch of us were discussing the upcoming salvage tour and the houses on that tour. I'm not on the tour, because I break out in hives at the thought of strangers paying money to walk through my house in little paper slippers and opening my cupboards when no one is looking. It's too bad I am limited in this regard, because my house rocks with salvage.

My ├╝ber handy friend put out an opinion: he felt that the rest of the houses on the tour mainly used antiques in design rather than salvage. For example, using an old sink for its intended purpose (as a sink) is buying and using an antique, not salvage. Salvage is something saved and used for other than its intended purpose. I love this kind of conversation - friendly arguments with a favorite topic being discussed. So I replied, I am calling bullshit on that kind of talk, Mr. Fix-It. An antique is just something salvaged from someone's house. (See my old sink in the pic above - is this salvage or an antique?)

In any case, the point of the salvage tour is to showcase the use of alternative products, not new stuff. The old wood, the antique stoves, the ceilings covered with cupboard doors - that's all an alternative to new-out-of-the-box. I would like to look at the impact here as opposed to terminology. While there might be an argument that an old sink used as a sink is re-use versus using salvage, what does it matter?

Sometimes I think about words, and how much impact they have. People use words for power, to make themselves sound like experts, to obfuscate (just typing the word obfuscate is obfuscating), to confuse, to make an old idea sound like a new one. Sometimes I like to use words to bullshit, to dazzle, or to misdirect, but in this case I just want to keep the goal simple: to reduce my impact on the environment. I do that by reusing, recycling, re-purposing, up-cycling, and digging through scrap piles. Apparently those words all have distinct definitions, but you couldn't prove it by me. Up-cycle versus recycle? I don't give a shit. If you're working to reduce your impact, hats off to you.


Nancy, I just love your entries! Besides being such a wonderful up-cycler and master of salvage, you're also a marvelous writer. Keep doing it! smile

By Julie on 08/10/2012

Love it! Semantics can drive you mad or be hugely liberating. Have you ever read Toni Morrison's Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech? The ways she approaches & uses language is phenomenal.

By Betty Abadia on 09/10/2012

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