Blinded by the Utility of Trash

I hate to waste anything. Granted, this is the battle cry of a problem hoarder. But I am one of those problem people, or fortunate urbanites, who pulls trash from the dumpsters to give some small fraction of potential landfill addition useful life. With so many apartments on the block, there is always someone moving out, discarding perfectly good items that they just don’t want to bother moving or selling.

Today the case in point, the The Object at Hand, is discarded mini-blinds. It doesn’t matter much whether they are pure vinyl, or coated aluminum. Both have their uses. Although the aluminum properly should be recycled, eventually.

Vintage grass shears make mini blinds into labels

Vintage grass shears make mini blinds into labels

As a gardener I find a couple of different uses for these usually dirty, bent, and/or broken window appliances. The cords and support ladders are polyester string, a strong and very weather resistant material; longer lasting than the more popular nylon or polypropylene for exterior use. Thus I extract and roll up the strings to use as needed; like to tie things up tree limbs, loose fence boards, sagging gates, hanging plants, etc.

But the pure gold of the mini blinds is that they make excellent plant labels. Anyone who lives with perennials has two needs for these. First, to mark where things will pop up. It is too easy to forget by springtime where the summer plants will emerge, and end up planting something else on top of it. And secondly to label all the plants that we have to divide each year to give or sell to new homes.

But, you may protest, labels are so cheap! True. My argument is that this is both an act of consumerist defiance, to use discarded material in place of virgin plastic, and a zen gardening exercise. When one tires of digging, weeding, tying, and sweating, here is a project — and excuse — to meditatively sit in the shade and relax.

I start by stacking a few blinds, and cutting points across the string holes. This gives me nice, consistent, short labels from the end pieces.

Cross Cut

In order to have uniform longer labels, I balance the remainders on the edge of the shears, and then cut. This particular set of blinds was perfect for these. Sometimes the center sections are too long for a single pair. Then I make a cross cut at the balance point, and then the balanced across cut.

Balance Cut

The final task is to write the label text. You may note the permanent markers that live in the mug with our now ready to use labels. And some labels from earlier blinds.

Ready To Use LabelsOh, you noticed the black one? For longer lasting labels, use aluminum blinds, and embossed Dymo (or equivalent) labels. I got an excellent vintage labeller at an estate sale, with interchangeable font wheels and carrying case. But you can still get them online. With these bright labels, blinds of any color will do. And when the label color fades away after a few years of sun, you can still see the raised letters, and even somewhat revive them by rubbing with stain.

The pure vinyl labels are fine for a year or two. But then either the ink spalls off (or fades away) , or the label itself breaks. We use vinyl to indicate to or from where things need to be moved, or as labels for outgoing plants.

Here is a simple comparison, one in a to-sell tray, the other in a keeper plot.
Compare Labels

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