Earth Day was every day when I was growing up. Since I am even older than Earth Day has been around that may be a little hard to believe. But Earth Day is a reminder to care for the Earth and the environment we have been given. It is a time to celebrate those things in the past that we and others have done to reduce, reuse, recycle and to become less harmful to the environment. The funny things is, I didn’t know about Earth Day, or “going green” when I was growing up, but maybe in some way my parents did. Because many of the things they taught me I am now teaching my children in an effort to reduce our carbon footprint, to become more aware of the environment and the part it plays in our life and our health. Here’s the funny thing about growing up green, in our family is was all about saving the green!
So what did my family do to make Earth Day every day?
In the winters, my father would place seals around the bottom of the doors. He would seal edges of our windows with plastic wrap, and we used the fireplace whenever possible.
Did you ever use your aluminum foil and plastic sandwich bags more than once? We did in our house. And it wasn’t the only thing that was recycled or reused. Paper bags, envelopes, bottles, and bags could all find at least one other use before it was considered trash.
I know you have heard your parents, like mine say, “Close the door we aren’t heating/cooling the outside!” or “I hear that faucet still running.” “You’re wasting . . . (insert your choice here) water, gas, power, electricity, money and so forth.”
Summers we would open windows, use fans and try not to use the air conditioner, saving money, energy and eliminating toxins like freon from leaking into the environment.
Apple and pear trees, corn, squash, carrots, green beans and so much more of our food was grown in our own garden and canned in reusable Mason jars.
Have you heard about having an “unplugged” night? When you turn off electricity and play games or spend time together? We did that long before it had a name or a special hour.
Have you been on an eco-friendly vacation? We did, a vacation that held no distractions and involved hiking, fishing, swimming, and camping. Not only were we to leave the world as we found it, but hopefully better.
We picked wild foods, like strawberries and blueberries.
Before visiting the mall, we stopped at garage sales, consignment stores and thrift stores like Goodwill looking for the things we needed.
I remember my father telling me about keeping a balance in nature, that hunting, fishing and foraging carefully during in season is important to keeping that balance.
Our household combined driving trips, worried about gas mileage and adjusted our thermostats to save electricity.
“There is another side to that paper,” and I caught myself telling my four year old the same thing the other day. Maybe this also explains why my coupons are printed on flyers sent home from my children’s school.
Were my parents thinking about saving energy or the environment? Were they considering renewable energy or creating an earth that would be there for future generations? Probably not, so how can you explain being green before there was a “green?”
My parents, maybe just like yours come from an era where anything that could be used more than once was. Adults weren’t thinking about their carbon footprint, but they were definitely thinking about their bottom line. My parents learned about being self-sustainable probably long before it was a catch phrase. They learned that consumption can also equal financial disaster. They learned things like “waste not, want not.” They learned that “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Not only did they learn it, but they taught it to me.
With that example, how could I not turn out caring for the environment and trying to make the most of whatever I can both for the earth and my children?
Now, with more experience and awareness I can not only share the benefits of Earth Day every day with my children, but hopefully teach them that Earth Day can also be part of their future. Remember “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” ~Native American Proverb