Sometimes it’s hard to make the right decisions in favor of the environment. Sometimes it’s hard to even know what the best choice is for the environment. Cath from VWXYNot posed the question about what kind of “Mind Games” we play to help us make those right choices.
When I was a teenager and faced with a tough choice, I would think about my parents. Would they be proud of my decision? I’d also think about how I would feel when I looked back on the situation as an adult. Would I be proud of myself? These questions helped guide me to the right choice. Well, usually.
Now, as an adult, when I have to make tough decisions about anything, including the environment, I still wonder: Would my parents be proud of me? I know that my parents are proud of the choices I make. Sometimes, they think I’m a bit extreme, especially when they come over and our house is too cold. But they know that I make conscious decisions to better the environment. My dad offers advice about wood furnaces and apple trees, and my mom has even gone to the Island School Teacher’s Workshop with me. (The Island School is a sustainable school in the Bahamas. Read about our experience here.)
Part of living more sustainably is living an old-fashioned, simpler lifestyle, like our predecessors. I’ll often think of my grandmothers and great-grandmothers when I think about living sustainably. I’ve been very fortunate to have strong relationships with both of my grandmothers throughout my whole life.
Mema (my mom’s mom) lives simply on a former dairy farm/current horse farm. When I was growing up, I loved to go to Mema and Pa’s house to visit. Growing a garden for much of their own food, drinking the milk from their cows, and sewing much of their own clothes is a part of Mema’s life. Mema cooks on a woodstove and makes the best soup I’ve tasted, and doesn’t forget to save all the kitchen scraps for the barn cats or the chickens. Mema taught me how to sew, knit and crochet, and I remember watching her freeze corn and can tomatoes when I was little.
Golligol (my dad’s mom) is also a farmer’s wife, and we all lived on the farm as one big family: Golligol, Pa, my parents, my brothers, various aunts, uncles and cousins, and us, until Ed and I moved off the farm a year ago. I’ve spent many hours alongside Golligol working in our family’s farm market. She taught me how to wait on customers and make change in my head. She taught me how to bake pies and sort through all kinds of different produce, making the displays of corn, strawberries and tomatoes look appetizing. She’s been a proponent of local food since way before the locavore movement, but she’s happy it’s bringing in new customers.
My great-grandmothers, Grandma Rose and Grandma Gedney, were also a big part of my life. Grandma Rose was what I would imagine to be the traditional farmer’s wife. She sewed quilts for us, was an excellent cook, kept a neat house despite all the kids and dogs that visited, and loved to get outdoors to her garden and walk around the farm. Grandma Gedney was very different from Grandma Rose: she had a driver’s license. She loved to have fun and drive around town, and she wore the most beautiful jewelry. I admire both of them for what made them different: Grandma Rose’s traditionalism and Grandma Gedney’s independence. I miss them both, but I realize I was very lucky to know them, especially since Grandma Rose lived until I was in high school and Grandma Gedney lived until a few years ago. Most women don’t get to know their great-grandmothers that well and for that long. I like to think that the way I live my life now would make them proud.
What does this all have to do with environmentalism? These women are my role models. When I try to make an important decision, I wonder what they would do. All four of my grandmothers and great-grandmothers would live simply, avoid being wasteful, value the work that goes into growing , cooking and preserving their own food, and have a strong love for animals and the outdoors. I think those are pretty good guidelines to follow.