We’ve all heard the old saying “waste not want not,” but what exactly does it mean? Are we talking about food, clothing, nature, or what? This phrase applies to all resources, and I will break it down for you.
The proverb waste not want not refers to using resources appropriately to prevent being without them. Characteristics include resourcefulness, good stewardship, and reduction of wasteful usage. Various people coined the phrase for many years and applied it to many things.
Did your parents ever use to say “waste not want not,” and you wondered what that meant? Have you ever thought about how we get our resources and how that process affects other resources? Let’s dive into the meaning of this famous phrase and some benefits of not being wasteful.
What Does Waste Not Want Not Mean?
Waste not want not is a proverb that means if you use your resources appropriately, you will never require those resources. It applies to many things, including household food waste, décor, time, clothing, and much more. Think about what the phrase “waste not want not” means to you.
Characteristics of Waste Not Want Not
Regardless of what resources come to mind when you think of the saying waste not want not, there is a fundamental principle. It’s about not wasting resources. Characteristics of waste not want not include being resourceful, restricting usage or reducing wasteful usage, showing gratefulness for resources through good stewardship, and using resources wisely.
This is all because resources are finite or limited in all cases. So it is essential to ensure proper and efficient processes to collect these limited resources and use them appropriately to prevent wasting those resources or anything related to those resources.
The phrase “waste not want not” came from playwright Richard Edwards in 1576.
Benefits of Waste Not Want Not
When we follow the proverb waste not want not, we can reap many benefits. These include but are not limited to the following:
- Saving money
- Saving space
- Increasing mindfulness
- Increasing sympathy for others
- Being environmentally friendly
- Producing less trash
- Lowering carbon emissions
- Having a healthier atmosphere
As you can see, this is very broad, but these are all great benefits for people, animals, and nature. So where did this phrase come from, anyway?
Who Said, “Waste Not Want Not?”
The phrase “waste not want not” came from playwright Richard Edwards in 1576. It was in an anthology of Elizabethan verse published over several volumes and over 30 years. Originally it was stated that “willful waste makes woeful want,” meaning that deliberate waste of resources would lead to desperately wanting those resources.
The phrase was so vague that Maria Edgeworth further coined it in 1800 in her book The Parent’s Assistant. In this book, she wrote of the motto in a family member’s house that was interpreted negatively and positively. Later, in 1932, the same phrase was included in Gregory Y. Titelman’s Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings in a passage by T. Smith.
Common Waste Not Want Not Categories
Researchers Philippidis, Sartori, Ferrari, and M’Barek of the European Commission Joint Research Centre related “waste not want not” to household food waste reductions and supply chain, but because the proverb is so vague in its interpretation, it might help to narrow it down with some specifics. We’re going to look at some common waste not want not categories.
Being more mindful of what we do with our time can prevent us from wasting time with meaningless processes, wasteful practices, and distractions.
Waste Not Want Not Food
According to Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, the proverb waste not want not refers to more than food and wallets — it’s our health as well as the health of our environment. Think about the produce you buy and how often? Does it sit for too long and then start to go bad?
Then once you remember you have it, it’s no longer suitable for eating, and you want it more but can’t have it (without potentially getting sick, anyways). This also applies to animal products like fish, beef, and poultry. If we use these things in a wasteful manner, we’ve basically thrown away money!
Waste Not Want Not Décor
Décor is another interesting category when it comes to waste not want not. You might even look at it in a couple of different ways. If you have a great deal of space to dedicate to décor, you might be inclined to fill up all that space, but that could lead to a cluttered home and a great deal of money spent.
The other way to look at it is to use the actual phrase on a sign hung somewhere in your home as décor. This can serve as a reminder to use your resources wisely. Think of all the money you could save!
Waste Not Want Not Time
One of the most common things we waste is time. We waste time through social media, binge-watching tv episodes, and playing mind-numbing games on our smartphones. Where does that time go? It is wasted. We may look back someday on these wasted periods and think if only we could have that time back.
Being more mindful of what we do with our time can prevent us from wasting time with meaningless processes, wasteful practices, and distractions. So don’t waste time with meaningless routines and wasteful processes — refine and redefine!
Waste Not Want Not Clothing
Waste not want not clothing: many resources are utilized when creating clothing pieces. From cotton to polyester blends, these resources can be considered wasted when so many articles of clothing are designed in a way that is not sustainable. The item breaks down after a few washes, leaving you wanting more. It’s a vicious cycle when you buy “fast fashion” that wasn’t built to last.
It also depletes natural resources like farm fields, contributes to carbon emissions during manufacturing, and affects wildlife through waste products. Then, much like with décor, you might consider a shirt with the phrase “waste not want not” to remind others to practice purchasing more responsibly! Again-think of the money you could save with more responsible clothing purchases!
This helpful video explains how technology and science have teamed up in various ways to help companies work on ways to alter how we store and waste our food.
Who coined the phrase waste not want not?
The phrase “waste not want not” was initially coined by Richard Edwards in 1576. He was a playwright who wrote “The Paradise of Dainty Devices,” an anthology of poetry and Elizabethan verse.
What type of sentence is waste not want not?
Waste not want not is a proverb that refers to appropriately using resources such as time and food. This leads to less waste of resources and decreases the need for more.
Where Real People Apply the Waste Not Want Not Philosophy
I asked friends and family to list something they feel they could apply “waste Not want not” to. Here is a table representing the percentages of their responses and what I learned from the poll.
|Where to Apply Waste Not Want Not|
|22% of people polled said they could apply time to “waste not want not”|
|25% of people polled said they could apply food to “waste not want not”|
|11% of people polled said they could apply Earth’s resources to “waste not want not”|
|21% of people polled said they could apply money to “waste not want not”|
|11% of people polled said they could apply nature and animals to “waste not want not”|
|5% of people polled said they could apply the fishing industry to “waste not want not”|
|5% of people polled said they could apply everything to “waste not want not”|
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Because there have been so many different interpretations of the phrase “waste not want not,” it can be viewed in both a positive and negative light. It should serve as a reminder that everything we do potentially affects others, the resources we use are finite, and we need to have a deeper appreciation for nature and what it provides us. When we are more mindful of these things, we lead our children by the example of using resources more responsibly.