Artifact: Voigt Cream Flakes Box
It seems a bit silly to be writing a whole entry on an old box. Even as I type this I can imagine readers saying “Really? Out of all the cool things you could have chosen … you chose a box?!” And I can confidently reply – Yes, I really did choose to write about a box. But, if I may defend myself, it’s not just any old box. It’s a historical box used back in the late 1800’s (and through the early 1900’s) for Cream Flakes (cereal) produced by the Voigt Cereal Company.
Although the Voigt Family has a special place in the heart of Grand “Rapid-ians” due to their contribution to food production and the, now, famous home, I chose this box for another reason. I could have scoured the museum achieves for day’s looking for the perfect item. Maybe one of the pretty dresses, or a tea set, or even an old armoire. But this box (and many others like it) stood out for two reasons … material use and reusability.
The box, as you would expect, functions to ship the individual boxes of cereal from location to location – just like today’s boxes right? This box, however, is made of wood, so it stands up to weather conditions and, as my second point, is reusable! It ceases to amaze me that most aspects of the big “Green Movement” we’ve all been hearing about was actually a way of life 100+ years ago. People were conserving their resources and investing in quality products. They didn’t do it to keep up with society – it was simply how people lived.
These crates saw multiple shipments throughout its life span (unlike the cardboard boxes that often get thrown away after one use) and could be re-purposed at the end of its life. Like so many other things from this era purpose was breathed into everything that was made. Society didn’t have time to mess around with meaningless trinkets, like banana slicers (yes, it’s a real thing) or poorly made furniture from the chain store that will only last a few years. Many people from this time really invested in things; they purchased and valued what they had.
Although I have a pretty strong opinion on investing in quality products, I tend to fall short of the goal. Most of the items I have are low-quality, cheap, and from the chain stores. I try to convince myself that it’s “Ok”, because I’m still a college student trying to work her way through school, however that’s really not a good excuse.
So now my question to you: Why spend money on an item that will only last a year when you can invest in more expensive solution that will last 2, 3, or even 4 times longer?
I moved to Grand Rapids, MI three years ago to attend Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD). In the past three years I have gotten involved in many community engagement events, have been introduced to the world of sustainable practices, and have attended both Grand Rapids Community College and Aquinas College as a guest student. I currently am the president of the Kendall Green Council (https://www.sites.google.com/site/kgreencouncil/) and work with the Community Sustainability Partnership (www.grpartners.org) through my work-study with Gayle DeBruyn. I have also become involved in several churches in the area and have most recently become a strong supporter of the Omega House. These opportunities have all come together in my blog in an effort to share my experiences with others (www.sustainingknowledge.blogspot.com). I’ve been fortunate to receive many opportunities through my move to Grand Rapids and look forward to advancing in the community as a professional.