Earth Day revisited – waste not, want not.

Over the Easter weekend, I visited with the very first environmentalist I ever met. Actually, I don’t think there was ever a time when he was not in my life, reminding me that resources, natural or otherwise, were not unlimited. Some could call him an environmental pioneer, ahead of his time.  Others could say he was only the latest in a long line of people who reused, recycled and repurposed. To me, he’s just Dad.

I’m the sixth of seven children born to parents who grew up during the Great Depression. Actually, they were born into it, my Dad in 1930 and my Mom following in 1931. And immediately following their first decade of life, they were introduced to rationing during World War II.  You know how we often hear  our grandparents talk of how they walked to and from school, uphill both ways, in a blizzard? Well, that’s my Dad. But he didn’t have to elaborate.  I remember complaining once about having to share a room with my sister and my Dad reminded me how he had slept on the living room table. Seriously, how can you top that? I’m not kidding. A table. When it came to bourgeois teenage angst, there was no winning. He had me beat every time.

So over the years my Mom and Dad repurposed, recycled and reused, primarily for financial reasons, and inadvertently lived a green lifestyle. Who knew? We reused clothing, we just called them hand-me-downs. And if an item of clothing was worn out to give to another family, or if it was an old pair of Fruit of the Looms, it was repurposed into a dust rag. I thought everyone used old underpants to dust with and never understood why someone would go out and buy a feather duster. And not just clothes, when the older siblings out grew bikes and toys, they were magically transformed into a new one because whoever was getting it, it was new to them. We recycled plastic containers food came in to make giant ice cubes instead of buying crushed ice. We recycled, reused and repurposed pretty much everything.

Over Easter weekend, I saw the return of this environmental pioneer, asking his grandchildren, “who left the light on?” and shaking his head when we used a new teabag instead of the “two perfectly fine used ones going to waste.” The man once packed fifteen used coffee cups from McDonald’s when he moved from his last house to his current one,  citing they all can still hold coffee. I believe the one he currently uses is two years old.

Now I try to be green but he always manages to make my efforts seem so very un-green.  I purchased a package of environmentally sound dog poop bags when I first adopted Sadie. I have yet to make it through the initial package thanks to the insane amount of plastic bags my Dad saves for me – bread bags, plastic bags, produce bags, chip bags and even cold cut bags – because they are going to be tossed anyway, might as well toss them with poop. The man is old school green.

So this week, I will obsess. I will obsess over how I can use the crap out of everything. I will obsess at how much waste I can manage to not create. I will obsess on how I can be green environmentally and green financially. After all, the two, as my Dad has often taught me, are not mutually exclusive.

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