The mornings have been brisk and cold most of the winter. Recently, there have been days when the temperatures only varied a few degrees from morning to night and were below freezing. We have been having a real winter.

A group of us were talking about recycling the other morning. We are so pleased that Empire District burns old tires in one of its generators. This makes sense, but so does most of the “reuse, reduce, and recycle” programs of today.

This conversation started me thinking about reusing things. When I was a kid, we didn’t have to recycle much. Most items we bought came in paper, and it was used to start fires in the old wood cookstove. Tin cans were saved and used to store bolts, nuts, screws, and nails in the shop.

Our home had a section of flat roof which needed to be tarred every couple years. We recycled the old tar buckets. In fact, they were treasured items with much use on the farm.

When the tar bucket was empty, a little kerosene was poured in the bottom and it was set afire in the middle of the yard. After the bucket was “burned out” and rinsed, it was used to carry feed and water to our animals.

I didn’t like the common T-shaped milk stools made from a 2”x4” and a 4”x4,” so I sat on an old tar bucket when hand milking the cows.

Our soda pop came in recycled bottles. We bought it by the case and returned the wooden case full of empty bottles when we bought the next batch. Kids would hunt for pop bottles in road ditches, as each bottle brought a nickel refund.

Those who lived in town bought bottles of milk which were used and reused time and time again. Memory Lane Dairy in Fordland, Mo., still bottles its milk in glass. Memory Lane Dairy milk is now available in some of our local stores.

One of the most common trash I see as I walk each morning is plastic bottles. Some states require a refund on each plastic bottle. I recently read a problem has developed with refunds on plastic bottles in towns near state borders. People in neighboring states collect large volumes of  plastic bottles and take them to states with refunds to collect the money.

Take a walk, look around, reuse, reduce, and recycle as much as possible, use those signal lights, and see what you notice or think about while walking along your own Wildcat Boulevard.

Russell Hively writes a weekly column for the Daily News.