The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Was Grandma Right After All?

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1991

Issue: April, 1991

For the last few years there has been another day named to observe. It isn't exactly a holiday, sort of a "reminder" day. I'm talking about Earth Day.

It's a good idea to remind us to take care of our planet (it's the only one we've got), but it seems a shame that we have to be reminded. If we lived by the set of standards our grandparents did, it probably wouldn't be necessary. They never threw away anything that could possibly be used again. They hardly knew what a disposable product was. Things in their day were made to last, and such items as disposable diapers, as convenient as they are, weren't even invented yet.

While we wouldn't want to go back to the inconvenience of outdoor plumbing and kerosene lamps, our grandparents seemed to live without items in spray cans and do just fine. They lived without plastics and Styrofoam. Most of their things were stored in glass reusable jars. True, they did have to contend with tin cans, but even then they didn't discard them if they could figure out another use for them.

They were taught "waste not, want not," and lived by it. They saved everything from string to tin foil. They repaired anything they possibly could instead of throwing it away and getting a new one. Granted, for the most part, they did this out of economic necessity, but they did it.

Most of our grandparents made their living from the land and they respected it. (They also hadn't invented so many fancy fertilizers and chemical pesticides yet either.) If an apple had some bad places in it, Grandma just cut them out and used the rest of the apple. They expected insects to take a certain toll of their produce. These days, it seems like it's more important what our food looks like than what's in it. (I'd rather eat ugly food and know it wasn't going to give me cancer ten years down the road.)

In short, it is strange how our grandparents in their innocence, with all the faults of their ignorance, could do less to harm the planet than we do - we, the generation with so much sophisticated knowledge at our fingertips!

Yes, if we want to be kinder to the planet, we would be wise to take another look at some of our grandparents' ways of life.