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January 25, 2008

'Green' grandmas

Deep in a discussion about the environment with friends recently—specifically, how much we’d be willing to change our daily habits—one observed that if we just ran our homes like our grandmothers did, we’d all be making big improvements. Now, these women are of an age that our grandmothers kept house during the Depression. Here’s some of what we recall:

•Turning plastic bread bags inside out and washing them for future storage.
•Using string bags for shopping.
•Saving jelly glasses for use as juice glasses.
•Fusing slices of almost-gone soap bars together.
•Washing aluminum foil and reusing, reusing, reusing.

So it’s no surprise that my eye was caught by an essay in last Sunday’s Chicago Tribune, "A post-Depression environmentalist.” This tribute to his mother, who died recently, by Martin Fischer included a remembrance of “her darning our socks, a repair-and-reuse process for hosiery that she would maintain until failing eyesight made it too difficult.” And I saw again my grandmother sitting with her darning egg (a wooden tool with an oval on top a handle) making finely woven patches on the heels of our socks. I wonder what happened to that tool?

I think many of us would recognize our mothers and grandmas in Fischer’s observation: “My mother did not participate in the city’s recycling program. She did not think of herself as an evironmentalist. But her thrifty lifestyle could be praised and emulated by those of us who now worry about the excessive consumption that has been linked to global warming.”

Now, I’m not about to head to a flea market in search of a darning egg, but I think I will take another look at the Web of Creation, an on-line resource for our day that offers inspiring and practical ideas to support our “efforts to live, work and pray in ways that promote eco-justice.” It’s the creation of ELCA pastor David Rhoads, professor of New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

I’m a grandma now, myself, so it’s certainly my responsibility to carry on “being green”—easy, or not.

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