Today there is a lot of hype on saving the environment...the hot term is “Green” talking about using renewable resources that do not pollute our world or use irreplacable elements from nature. Lost in all the interviews with builders and big time recyclers is the the simple truth that going saving the environment has to start on an individual level and move up the chain of bureaucracy – rather than start with new laws imposed on businesses and individuals.
Both of my grandmothers were “green” before the term was ever coined to mean enviromentally friendly. Grandmother Elliott made quilts from sewing scraps and the “good” fabric left in worn-out garments. She crocheted rag rugs and chair seat cushions from old nylon stockings, from worn out socks, and from truly worn out clothes. She called it “getting all the good out of it” - be it a garment, household utensils, or other items. She shared what she had with family and friends as well as those in need. After she died un-expectedly, my mom found in her house her closets and dresser drawers had only the clothes she was really using – no worn-out underwear in the back of a drawer or dresses long past wearing. Her cabinets only contained dishes, appliances, spices, foods that were used daily. When she had used something up – it was really all gone with very little left for the trash can.
Grandmother Gramling was just a frugal in the kitchen and around the house. She cooked creatively and often planned meals around several reincarnations of a main dish. The last bit of any leftovers went into her freezer soup container until the container was full – then it was time for homemade soup from the tablespoons of beans, carrots, meats that were in the quart container frozen in layers as they were added. All sorts of glass jars were saved and used to can vegetables and store home-made jams and jellies. Grandmother's Pear Honey Preserves in a recycled mustard jar sealed with parafin wax with the original lid screwed on as added sealing was a special gift when I first got married. Tin cans were used and reused for pressure pot canning. Grandmother had a device that cut off the old lid and made the tin can top ready to put a new lid on the can – with each use, the can got a little shorter and held a little less. Neither of my grandmothers needed any one to haul off their trash. What little actually got thrown out was sorted by what the chickens would eat, what the eats and dogs would eat, what could be added to the compost pile, what would burn, and what needed to be put in the rubbish pile. A 55 gallon barrel in the back-yard served as trash incinerator.
Grandmother Gramling frustrated her family because she would not use a gift item – be it clothing or linens or household appliance – until she had worn out whatever it would replace. Growing up she would often point out items in her hall closet – gifts that had been opened but were still in their boxes complete with gift card – and remind me that if she died before she got to use any of those gifts the person who gave the gift should get it back!!! When she put a towel or dishcloth in the rag bag, you can rest assured it was really worn out. Having lived and kept house through the depression, her motto was use what you have for what you need – use it up – wear it out – make it do – rather than replace or purchase new.
Living green before it was the “in” thing to do. Combating today's problems with inflation and economic uncertainty by following Grandmother's advice from the 1950's to see what is on hand that might fill our needs – reuse, recycle, make it do, then use it up before buying new makes sense. Don't buy it – saves more money than the best sale around!!
------------------------Laura G. Carlson, July 17, 2009