A couple years ago, I went into my neighborhood dry cleaner with a stack of used wire hangers I had accumulated from clothes that I had gotten laundered or dry cleaned from them. I handed the stack of hangers to the proprietor and suggested that she could reuse them. She looked at me with a confused look on her face as she obviuosly thought about whether to take the stack from me or not, because she hesitated.
As I continued to hold the stack of hangers in front of me, she finally took it from my hands, looking like she wasn’t sure what she was going to do with it. I continued, somewhat oblivious to her dilemma, saying that I thought she should encourage her customers to save their hangers and return them so they could be resused.
At that comment, she laughed nervously and said about a person I had never seen there before, and who just “happened” to be there at that exact moment that I decided to bring in the hangers. She said to me, “Our hanger rep is here right now and I don’t think he would like that too much.” I looked at the man and he looked at me as if I was encroaching on his territory or on his sales, which perhaps I was, and said, “That would not be a good idea,” to which they both laughed.
It wasn’t until I got home that I realized the “dilemma” I had put her in and I felt bad for her for putting her in a position and also felt bad for the world, that this simple gesture, that could help the planet, was such a foriegn idea to her and the sales rep.
I continued to keep my wire hangers and return them for a while longer, but eventually started going to the dry cleaners less and less, opting to save on not only the wire hangers but the plastic, and even more importantly, the chemicals they use to clean the clothes.
I had successfully cut my dry cleaning down to zero and have been dry clean free for about a year. I had also changed my dressing habits a bit. But recently I have been wearing items that I don’t know how to wash or clean at the moment without a dry cleaner. And last week, I didn’t have time to go to the more environmentally safe dry cleaner that is a ways from where I live, so I made my way to the neighborhood dry cleaner again, to have a shirt dry cleaned.
This morning I picked up the shirt and took it off the hanger to use it and to my surprise, there was something written on the paper wrapped around the hanger. First off there was a globe in blue with three green arrows around it, a symbol we have come to know as the recycling symbol. And then, there were three circles with images in them and words written underneath each circle. In the first circle was a test tube and a flask and the word “Reduce” under it. In the second circle was, of all things, A WIRE HANGER, and underneath it, it said, “Reuse.” What? Really? And then int he third cirlce there was the image of the plastic bag that clothes come in from the dry cleaner, and underneath that it said, “Recycle.”
And finally, at the bottom of the hanger was written “You Care About the Environment… We Care About You.” Well, I was happy to see it, to be sure, and I remembered my “weird” act of reusing, long before it was “fashionable.” But I also thought about this, are the words at the bottom of the hanger saying that the dry cleaner doesn’t care about the environment, nor possibly the hanger manufacturer, but since we care about it and they care about us, they are doing what we want?
Okay, I’ll take it, it’s a start. And if they are doing what we want, then I’m going to continue to do “weird” things, or things that might be before the time that others are ready or comfortable doing, because if I don’t, how will the dry cleaner or the manufacturers know what we want, so the can “Care About Us,” and do what we want? So, life changes, because of us. I feel good about that. And I also feel a greater sense of responsibility.