Recycling was somewhat of a fad. I’m not sure if it’s dying down some now, or if the message has gotten into our sub-conscientiousness, and our habits, so that we don’t notice as much. But, it still humors me when I think of the big deal that was once made of recycling, as if it were a new idea. My parents and grandparents had a saying for recycling. I’ve heard many versions but here’s the one I like best, “Wear it out, fix it up, make it do, or do without.” What I learned from that generation didn’t have anything to do with saving the planet, it was just common sense to not be wasteful… with anything. As I was growing up, our version of saving the planet was every week when the milk man came (yes, came) to deliver the milk he took the old milk bottles, made of glass, so they could be washed, sterilized, and reused. There were no disposable diapers. They were absorbent cotton, and they were washed. One set of diapers would last through several babies. There was no disposable…. anything. Grocery bags were made of paper, and got used until they were unusable. My grandparents bought flour in 25 pound bags made of cloth. The bags came with pretty designs on the fabric and the material would often get made into play clothing for the kids. Or, if you were poor, clothing for school. Growing up we didn’t throw four items in the wash-machine and run it. The laundry was once a week when a couple of full loads could be run. And the dryer was not electric or gas, it was solar powered….. on a clothes line. A trip to the store didn’t happen every time you open the fridge and something was empty. You waited until the weekly grocery shopping trip. Maybe it’s just the nostalgia of remembering being young, but life felt simpler then.
I’m not suggesting we need to go back to where we were. The progress we’ve made, due to capitalism, and our drive to improve, is unparalleled to any time in history. But, I am suggesting that maybe there’s something we can learn from earlier generations about being conscientious, taking personal responsible, and wisely using resources.
The picture above is from my dad’s garage when I was recently going through things since he passed away. Dad saved everything, and everything seemed to have a place which I’m certain that only he knew. If there was a left over piece or wire, or used car part, he would just find a nail and make a special place for it. I had a good laugh when I really noticed all the stuff he had stuffed, and hung everywhere. I found a box of used spark plugs that was probably every spark plug he replaced over the last 10 years. I can’t image what he saved them for, but in his mind, “there might be a use for them someday.” Or maybe, like in the picture, a use for an old ball bearing, or a spring. So many fond memories, but more important, so many valuable lessons of not being wasteful.
Do you have a story about learning these values? I’d love to hear it. – Dennis