Thursday, April 22, 2010


Growing up I have very specific memories of my Grandma and Grandpa (my dad's parents) and my Nana and Papa (my mom's parents) and the way they ran their household. There are things they did on a regular basis that were good for the environment before "being green" was trendy and cool. If I had to guess, they did these things because doing so saved a little money or helped someone in need.

My Grandma and Grandpa always saved food scraps in a cardboard milk container. They kept it in the freezer and when the containers got full they gave them to my Aunt Linda to feed to her dog. Aluminum cans were crushed using a hand crusher, saved, and then taken to the recycling center in exchange for a few dollars.

In the summer time there was an abundance of fruit and veggies from their garden. I remember their patio table being full of some of the biggest, juiciest tomatoes I had ever seen and tasted. Tomato juice was made and put in the cellar for winter, along with spaghetti sauce. There were enough tomatoes to share with neighbors and friends. I also remember helping to put up pickles and making jam out of strawberries from the garden. If there wasn't enough strawberries, we would go to a strawberry patch a few miles out of town.

Back then, I think they did it because that is what you did. You kept a garden so you could help feed your family. I was just home this past weekend and when I went to visit my 78 year old Grandmother in the afternoon, I found her in her garden harvesting the asparagus. Her garden is about 1/2 of the size it was when I was growing up. But it is still there, and she is still growing things with the help of my uncle who lives with her. I find myself moved by this. For some reason, it matters to me. Perhaps because it such a part of who I am and I cannot have a garden of my own because we rent and do not have any yard space. But someday, we will. And I hope my grandchildren will grow up with the same fond memories of my garden that I have of my Grandparents.

My Nana and Papa did not keep a garden, but were/are "green" in other ways. For as long as I can remember, we've have always used cloth napkins at their house. My Nana and Papa love to shop at tags sales and consignment stores for items they need before purchasing new. In most cases they do not purchase new items unless they have not been able to find them used elsewhere first.

In fact, my Papa lives for salvaging items that people have thrown out for the garbage man. My Papa is a great woodworker and carpenter and often picks up dressers or other pieces of furniture, refurbishes them, and then donates them to local charities as items to be sold in silent auctions. He has quite a name for himself doing this and his pieces often sell for several hundred dollars. When my high school ripped out their old wooden bleachers from the gym, he got the wood, and has used it to make everything from bookcases to shadow boxes to benches.

Both my Grandmother and my Nana used cloth diapers on their kids, as did my mom with me. Malone is also in cloth diapers. He gets one disposable diaper that is used overnight. My Grandmother and Nana didn't have a choice, but my mother and I did. I don't know what my mom's motivation was to use cloth on me. I like to think that she knew the environmental impact but if I had to venture to guess, I would say that it probably had more to do with finances. Either way, I'll take it.

I spent a little bit of time today reflecting on the things my family is doing to keep the Earth a happy place.

Today, as with all days, when it came time to run our errands I planned out our route so that it was the one that required the least amount of gas. When we went to the market, we used reusable grocery bags and several of the items that were purchased were grown/manufactured within a 100 mile radius of where we live. And, while I was tempted to purchase a bottle of water in the check out line, I opted instead to drink water out of my reusable water bottle. This afternoon, Mike came home from work for lunch. When it was time to go back to work, we carpooled into town since Malone and I were heading in for a meeting. At dinner tonight we used our cloth napkins which is a habit we need to get into instead of using paper. I have a whole stack of recyclables that need to be rinsed so they can go into their bins. Finally, as with everyday Malone wore cloth diapers instead of disposable ones.

Could we be doing more? Certainly. I would love to compost and have a garden, but as a renter I don't see that happening until we buy a house of our own. I would also love to be able to hang our laundry out on the line, but that will also have to wait. But for now, we'll keep on doing what we do. Every little bit counts towards a brighter future for my children's grandchildren.

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