Culture At Large

Recycling as a calling

Kristy Quist

Recycling takes on a whole new meaning for Michigan's Laura Muresan, who has made a career out of selling things that other people have given or thrown away. Here's what she had to say about her efforts and their kingdom implications.

Q. Explain a little bit about what you do with Laura's Last Ditch.

A. Laura's Last Ditch is the name of my Ebay store. I sell mostly vintage kitchenware and small appliance parts, my main product line being good quality vintage kitchenware and hard-to-find small appliance replacement parts. My slogan is, "Let Laura help you in your last-ditch effort to find that special something."

Q. Where do you get the goods you sell on Laura's Last Ditch? A. I shop thrift stores, which are run by Christian schools, and garage sales. I get cast-offs from family members and friends, and I have also been known to do a little "curb shopping." You wouldn't believe the things people throw away.

Q. What's the oddest thing you've sold?

A. I’d had an empty Lip Lickers lip balm tin since I was a kid. Sometimes I like to list something just to see if it will sell. I auctioned it, and it went for $21.50. I told a friend because I thought it was odd that something like that would find multiple bidders. She had the same tin, which still had product in it and was in better condition, and hers went for $150.

Q. What's the greatest joy of what you do?

A. I love it when there's someone who's really, really happy because they were able to get something they never thought they'd be able to find. I had a woman once who wrote me a thank you note because I helped her get a vintage popcorn popper like her terminally ill brother had, and it made her think of him. I have a 9-year-old son who likes to help me pack the items I sell. He goes to lots of thrift stores and garage sales with me, sometimes picking out things on his own that are eBay-able. He's on a first-name basis with the people at the post office. I like that I can do something I really enjoy and involve my child too.

Q. How has your business been inspired by "Living More with Less" by Doris Janzen Longacre?

A. "Living More with Less"explores the environmental and spiritual implications of consumerism, North American-style. The choices we make often affect the poor in other parts of the world ... just so we can buy a bunch of stuff that, most of the time, we don't even need. There was an anecdote in "Living More with Less" about how visitors from Indonesia went to a church picnic, wondering what they were supposed to do with their disposable plates, just to be shocked that you'd use a plate once, then throw it away.

I've chosen to sell items that help people avoid purchases of new, throwaway items replete with their wasteful packaging. A Teflon pan contributes to high cancer rates among those both in and near the factory where it’s made, yet it wears out and you'll trash it. Why not a vintage pan, which, if it's lasted 50 years already, likely will serve another 50 more? What a light we Christians could be if we'd take stewardship more seriously and put the money toward something durable, even if not of the latest style.

Q. How long have you been selling this way?

A. I've been selling on eBay since 2003. I started by liquidating my musical equipment. I used to be a professional bassoonist in the Omaha Symphony. By the time I ran out of my own things to sell, I was hooked.

Q. What else can you tell us about yourself and your work?

A. I’m married to Calin, from Romania, who grows a huge garden and plays the cello professionally. We do lots of canning and urban homesteading-type activities, and cook practically everything from scratch.

We're very frugal and have our house paid off. It takes a few months for us to fill a trash bag. I don't like to think in terms of environmentalism, but rather stewardship. People can treat creation as a god, referring to creation as "Mother Nature." But you can believe God's covenant to Noah that there will always be seed time and harvest, yet still want clean rivers, fresh air and an end to premature deaths from cancer. I use reclaimed packing materials, giving a second chance to packing peanuts and boxes; the only thing I buy new is the packing tape.

Kristy Quist is the Tuned In editor for The Banner, where an extended version of this interview originally appeared.

Topics: Culture At Large, Science & Technology, Environment, Theology & The Church, Faith, Evangelism