When I was in Jr high, I did my own laundry if I wanted it done at all, and sometimes it didn’t get done until I had absolutely nothing left to wear! One night I was getting things ready for the next day and realized that the shirt I wanted to wear was dirty. I grabbed one out of the hamper and tossed it in the washer, and then the dryer all by its little old itself. I didn’t think much of it. I was a typical teen, thinking more of myself than my parents finances, much less the earth!
My mom walked in, looked at my empty load with one lone item and said, “Vicki!” with that look of shame that she is so good at.
“It is a waste of water, a waste of electricity and of time that we could have had a full load of laundry put in with it. If you don’t have anything else that needs to be cleaned someone else around here does.” Needless to say, I felt pretty bad.
Before “green” was popular, this is one of the many ways we were to reduce, reuse and recycle when we were growing up. We walked or rode our bikes to our friends house or to the store instead of getting a ride in the car. That would have been a waste of gas. We were taught to turn off lights when no one was in the room, and to actually unplug the TV and other items when they were not in use, not just turn off the power. We lived in one house with 16 kids and were told how every little bit helps.
Exterior doors were to be kept closed to keep in the heat or cool where it was supposed to be depending on the season. The heater was kept on low in the winter, and we had a wood burning stove, that we had to feed with wood if our parents weren’t at home, if we wanted to stay warm and cozy. Sometimes we would forget and suddenly be chilly and have to start it up again. Personal fans or space heaters would have been considered a luxury.
In addition to these things we always reused grocery bags until they had too many tears to be used again. We reused our personal bath towels, hanging them to dry in our bedrooms. We were taught not to be wasteful with water from the tap, and especially not to be wasteful with food. These are teachings that have been handed down from an era when there wasn’t so much excess as our families have today. At the time people weren’t really thinking about the impact on the earth, the landfills, and the ozone.
We try to teach our children all of these things not only for the goodness of the our Mother Earth but as a way of showing an appreciation of what we have been blessed with. We now make an even greater effort to recycle whatever we can and cut down our waste, as well as conserve water by having a time limit on showers, being responsible in watering our yard and even teaching the kids to use a minimal amount for brushing teeth, shaving, etc. I have even cleaned out and reused zipper lock bags for leftovers, and sometimes even disposable drinking cups, especially the good quality ones. There is something in me that won’t let me throw things away that can be reused. Even when I donate clothing and other items to the local thrift store I rack my brain to see if I can drum up any ideas for re-purposing any items for another use.
We recently asked our kids to submit any ideas they could come up with to recycle, or reduce use. Allie had the idea of reusing plates by flipping them upside down. We let her know that was great thinking but a little overdone. We had ideas from removing some of our light bulbs in areas were we don’t need all the light, to collecting all of our cardboard for separate recycling. The little girls even decided to “upcycle” come items for Christmas decorations. Feel free to share any ideas that have worked for your family.