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Monday, August 18, 2008

My Naturally Green Mother

My mother doesn’t go out of her way to buy organic products or sustainable clothing but she may still be one of the greenest people I know, without even trying. She just lives her life as she always has; doing what is naturally ingrained into her DNA.

My mother is almost seventy one years old. She was born in 1937 to a poor family, during the Great Depression. She was a child during WWII, during the time of rationing. Being thrifty and making do with what you had was a natural part of life for her from the very beginning.

Her world was not the disposable one we live in today. Back then when you had something you took care of and made it last because it wasn’t likely that you’d get another if something happened. My mother still has precious items from her childhood like her baby doll buggy and a couple of her dolls, even a small wooden child’s table that was passed to me and now on to my children.

Some of my earliest memories of my mom are of her in nature, gardening. She worked the ground and planted food for the family along with her pretty flowers. I don’t know if she was trying to be an organic gardener or if it just came naturally. She didn’t use pesticides or synthetic fertilizers she just worked with the resources she had on hand. She doesn’t grow a whole lot these days, maybe a few flowers and tomato plants but she still gets out there and weeds everything by hand.

She was also an avid Ms. Fix It; from electrical wiring to woodworking my mom could do it. Even today at seventy she tries to repair things herself before paying someone else to do it. She hates to throw anything away and even once something is broke she’ll find a new use for it. If it’s not broke she donates unwanted stuff to Goodwill, The Salvation Army or Saint Vincent DePaul. She also hates to see anyone else throw out perfectly good stuff and is always dragging something home that she pulled out of someone’s trash.

Disposable items aren’t even disposed of easily in her home until every bit of life has been used from it. Plastic butter bowls get reused as water catchers under her potted plants and storage containers for buttons, screws and other little what- nots. She doesn’t buy many garbage bags; she reuses all the plastic bags she gets from the stores as garbage bags. Microwave dishes get reused as outdoor food dishes for her cats, newspapers get used for all kinds of things from shredded paper for cat boxes to mulch and ground cover for the garden.

When I was working on a book about green weddings she didn’t even know what that meant. She asked me “What’s a green wedding?” She isn’t hip to all the lingo and trends of today. She didn’t even know what it meant to be “green”. I think that’s funny because she is one of, if not, the greenest person I know and she doesn’t do it because it’s cool or trendy, it’s just natural for her.

She still does things the old fashioned way, buying from local markets, cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients, preserving what she has. She makes things last and holds onto everything. Her house may be a little cluttered but it’s full of a lifetime of memories that aren’t disposable. I’m proud of my naturally green mom and I try to pass on some of her thrifty green ways to my children.

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