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Umbrella Recycling

blackumbrellas.jpgJust in time for Earth Day I thought I'd share my own form of conservation of umbrella resources. I don't own an umbrella. I have, in the past, owned a panoply of crappy black umbrellas that you can pick up for $5 or so, but I always end up losing them or leaving them places, which has led to my current practice.

If I ever really need an umbrella, which is very rare, maybe once a year or less, I simply walk into a nearby restaurant or shop and approach the cashier and say, "Hi! Can I check your Lost and Found? I think I left a black umbrella the last time I was here." Almost invariably there is a black umbrella in the Lost and Found and the clerk is more than happy to get rid of it.

Now, for those of you who will immediately say this is unethical I'd agree that, nominally, there is some prevarication involved but, in its favor, I'd posit the following.

First of all, it's sustainable. Reusing otherwise idle umbrellas languishing in some Lost and Found cuts down on capricious use of resources.

Secondly, it passes Kant's categorical imperative. What if everyone did this? Well, that would mean that umbrellas would actually get used and people wouldn't buy umbrellas that they didn't need. Eventually it is possible that Lost and Founds might divest themselves of umbrellas, and then the market will correct itself with people buying more umbrellas, but I really don't see that happening in my lifetime. So, in my opinion, if everyone did this it would be a net good.

Third, it's not like I haven't invested in the umbrella economy. I have, in fact, donated many umbrellas to the glut of abandoned umbrellas that clog Lost and Found boxes.

So be kind to the earth and check your local Lost and Found for an umbrella next time you need one.


I don't know. How would it go over if you said to the person, "Truthfully, I never lost anything in your restaurant, but I'm wondering if I could just have one of the umbrellas in your lost and found, because it's raining outside and I don't have one."

Actually, that would be a fun breaching experiment.

You know, if the umbrella had been there a really long time, chances are good someone would give it to you without the "story."

And lest someone worry that the person who lost the umbrella should reappear to ask for it--the places I have worked (libraries, large museums, restaurants....) all had a policy that the lost and found would be purged at the end of a certain period of time--generally the contents would be tossed or, if they were good quality, given to Goodwill or another charity. They can't possibly keep everything they find indefinitely.

Lying because it's good for the environment. You've morphed into Al Gore!

It's not because of the environment. It's because I don't like being wet.

Silly Ben.

Your first justification was sustainability, though, when you're lying out of a baser desire to increase your own creature comforts.

At this point, I again reference my "Al Gore" remarks. :-)

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