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One of the hallmarks of hustling is improvisation and waste reduction. Hustlers are forever looking for alternative uses for containers, wrappers and even ordinary items like charcoal.

What the affluent consider garbage is gold, particularly for rural hustlers. Oil cans become lamps with pieces of old blankets as wicks. Old plastic oil containers become water containers. There’s brisk business for such containers in dry parts of Kenya. 

The hustler thinks long term in their purchases – and the packaging industry took note.

Why use steel wool to clean utensils when charcoal will do? Why buy toothpaste when chewing one end of a stick will yield a very good toothbrush? Leading toothpaste-making companies used to give us free toothpaste many years ago, but without toothbrushes at home, many kids would just eat it!

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Why buy a comb when you can make one from wood and avoid plastic? Why buy plastic chairs when blocks of wood would serve the same purpose? Have you been to Njuguna’s in Westlands? 

Car tyres

Sugar dishes and salt containers are made from bamboo or plastic containers. Even shoes can be made from car tyres. The same tyres make great water troughs for domestic animals.

In the past, makuti, grass and fern made great roofing material before Decra, mabati and brick tiles took over. Interestingly, the mzungu was quick to learn from us. Geoffrey Buxton built his house from mud in 1906. It still stands in Nyandarua’s Happy valley. The British settlers also used shingles for roofing. Cedar used for such shingles is rare today. 

Frugality is the hustler’s game . Who said you must have bathing soap and washing soap? Why not use one for both purposes?

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Hustlers are often appalled by the waste the affluent display. If allowed into their dustbins, they would probably leave them empty. No wonder dumpsites are lifelines for lots of people. 

In every facet of their lives, hustlers try to recycle materials, reducing waste and environmental pollution. They also do a lot of improvisation, which is interpreted as a lack of sophistication, and no one thanks them for all that. Yet, through improvisation and recycling, hustlers are the warriors fighting global warming and environmental pollution. You never find plastics and other waste in rural rivers or forests. Such waste comes from urban areas.

Urban hustlers are great polluters and do little recycling or improvisation, unlike their rural counterparts. Urbanites are less concerned about pollution – they can pollute the water outside their house, and get clean water from rural areas. Why doesn’t Nairobi get some of its water from Nairobi River? 

One could argue that low purchasing power, a diplomatic term for poverty, forces hustlers to improvise and recycle. But why must wealth and waste be correlated? Can’t we develop while closer to nature? Paradoxically, as we become wealthy and affluent, we want to live in the leafy suburbs, close to the nature that we pollute!

Without a voice and despised, hustlers continue taking care of this small planet in their small ways. The Earth is the only habitable planet so far in the vast universe.

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I will thank all hustlers and say out loud: keep up the good work. This planet is our only home.

[XN Iraki; [email protected]; Twitter: @Hustlenomics7]  

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