One Man’s Junk…

Dear Blog,

A boy from Malawi learns to write with a stick in the dirt. He copies the Chichewa letter ‘e’ that he made from termite hill mud.

You know how they say, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure”?

Well, that’s what I want to talk about today.

In this bad economy, what do you have that you can reuse or recycle? Have you ever thought about the impact of all the stuff we buy and throw out on our live? I know I just spent a week clearing out the play room to get ready for our new dog. It took me a week to decide where to put thousands of Legos, crayons, rocks, magic wands, swords, action figures, books, pencil stubs and other treasures that belong to my 8-year-old.

In my latest book Laugh with the Moon, the 13-year-old protagonist from the U.S. goes to Malawi, Africa and is amazed to see how her peers there–in one of the poorest countries in the world–use what they find in the environment to make their own toys and learning materials for school. In the story, Clare, who becomes a teacher for younger students, learns to use the mud of termite hills to teach them the alphabet. You can read more about that in today’s guest post on The Children’s Book Review.

You may have also heard about William Kamkwamba, who was a teen in Malawi, when he used the items he found in a junkyard–old bicycle parts, tires–to build a windmill. The windmill generated enough power to provide electricity to his whole village and ultimately, helped them to eat. You can read the whole story in William’s amazing memoir The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

Someone else who talks about learning to live with less stuff is Katy Wolk-Stanley. Her motto is “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Or do without.” Katy has vowed to do The Compact, a world-wide movement where people make a one year commitment to stop buying new stuff. She writes about her fascinating journey on her blog, The Non-Consumer Advocate. Check it out.

A fascinating and controversial video about the impact of all the stuff we consume is called The Story of Stuff.

I’ve been thinking–what would my life be like without so much stuff? What would the world be like? Would you ever dare to commit to The Compact?  I’d love to know what you think.


Posted in Shana's Posts, That's Life on 07/28/2012 10:00 am


  1. Valton Acree

    Hey Shana!! Can’t wait to read the new book!

  2. Can’t wait to read your book either!

  3. Rita Painter

    Hi Shana, I love your new book! It’s definitely going into my school library!

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