Recycle, Reuse, Restore the Earth

5 min readJan 20, 2022

The Patriotic Scrap Drives and Gardens of World War II Repurposed to
Save the World Today

During World War II, we Americans saved string because it was a patriotic duty. Also bones and rags, paper bags, tin cans, pots and pans, silk stockings, nylon hose, used rubber, old clothes. The U.S. Government rationed war-effort necessities and urged people to grow Victory Gardens to supplement our diets. Posters urged the people to “Grow Vitamins at Your Kitchen Door.” Americans planted 20 million gardens and cultivated nearly half the nation’s vegetables in our backyards. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt planted a Victory Garden at the White House.

In the 1942 scrap metal drive, people donated pots and pans, farm equipment, bumpers and fenders, Civil War cannons, iron fences, keys and metal toys. Communities held competitions to produce the most scrap, and threw town parties with oratory, bands, and Hitler metal tosses — you got to cast your kettle at a bust of Hitler set up in the town square.

So what’s that got to do with today?

While we aren’t in a declared war on global warming, we surely are in this war, and we — all beings — could easily lose. The planet can’t carry us all at our current rate of consumption. By the several definitions of sustainability, we are living unsustainably. We Homo sapiens need to change our ways to meet the war effort.

Fortunately, we can change our individual ways without undue effort. In the past five years, reuse, recycling, buy nothing, buy sustainably, and hundreds of similar flowers have bloomed. Let’s take a look at what we can do instead of what we’ve been doing.

Wake up, roll out of bed, you’re looking at a plastic mouthwash container, toothpaste tube, tooth twine, toothbrush, shampoo, soap, disposable razor, deodorant — or not. You could try Package Free,, where you can buy 100% package free and plastic free goods. (The containers for your vitamins, medications: no alternatives yet, alas.) Makeup: Kathryn Kellogg has 17 zero-waste brands of makeup.


Award-winning wildlife and nature photographer (, retired from California PUC, EPA, NOAA. Recovering journalist.