Sunday, April 20, 2008

Earth Day is Everyday

People get fired up for Earth Day, they start composting, reusing plastic bags or use reusable ones, and perhaps fill up that handy plastic water bottle from the tap or distilled water. Kudos to them.

But in my childhood, every day was earth day. This was nothing to be complimented, it just was a way of life. Never light a fire or candle from a match if there was already a source of fire already available—my mother would use a twig and catch a flame from the wood stove to light a candle. That was a match saved.

Peelings from carrots and potatoes and other vegetable matter was either fed to chickens or composted to help build up the soil. Even left over tea leaves from the pot were returned to the earth. In one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, she mentions when out on the prairie her mother carefully buried the shells from boiled eggs, because it was important not to leave trash or a “footprint” where we have been on this earth.

The “junk drawer” at our house turned into a junk box, hidden under a small table in the kitchen. What a resource for any project or problem! Balls of twine, half candles, odd nuts and bolts and of course, rubber bands and twist ties. Popsicle sticks and the button box could be found there too. And of course we reused wrapping paper and bows. Nothing was wasted.

Even today I am reminded of her recycling as I search through her recipes for a special one, and find it written on the back of a used envelope.

To justify getting a plastic bag at the grocery store, mother felt she had to use it 9 times. “Just like the nine lives of a cat”; it was our responsibility to extend its usefulness in this world.

Her overriding philosophy was, if you wasted something in this life, it would be a part of your personal hell. She pictured being in hell needing a plastic bag and the devil laughing and showing her a time when she used a plastic bag once and threw it away.

So happy Earth Day to all. My mother did her part for everyone. Now it is our turn.

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