Conscious Environmentalism

This post is my contribution to the January APLS Blog Carnival, which will be hosted this month by Cath at VWXYNot and posted on January 22.

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.

7 Comments

Filed under Sustainable Living

7 responses to “Conscious Environmentalism

  1. What wonderful role models you have and had, Abbie. Your grandmothers and great grandmothers sound like they’ve had a huge impact on your life.

  2. My Grandma, called Grandma except by one snooty cousin who insisted on calling her Grandmother. She lived the farmers wife life until they moved to Seattle in 1950, She then went to work at Boeing, Smoked, played bingo.I dont ever remember grandma being a great cook- but that was probably because she retired when I was 7 or 8 and gave up cooking day to day. And I don’t remember her being too crafty either. But if you did any of those things she was right there, giving out advice. She always thought it was funny when I would complain that her recipes didn’t give temperatures- she said if you cook enough you should know the right temperature. Grandma always made great Jello Salad and was a great bread/bun maker though.

  3. Excellent thought-provoking post! You are so lucky to have had an adult relationship with both grandmothers, and to have met your great-grandmothers. I lost both my grandmothers before I was an adult, and never knew either of my grandfathers or any of my great-grandparents.

  4. GB- Thanks! Yes I’m very lucky to have a close family.

    Rob- My Grandma Rose was the same way, no temperatures or times on her recipes. It was all in her head. And that makes it so hard to replicate anything!

    Cath- Although I left my grandfathers out of this post, I feel very lucky to have known both of my grandfathers and one of my great-grandfathers, too. Hopefully, the longevity in my family is genetic!

  5. Wow! I just finally now took the time to really read and absorb your post! I always felt that we were so lucky to have your grandparents nearby, but maybe I didn’t realize how much of an influence they have been in your life! You are so reflective and I’m so glad you see this and have shared this. Sometimes, we get so busy with day-to-day pressures (I know I do!) that we don’t always have a chance to step back and reflect. I’m so glad that your grandparents and great-grandparents have provided such wonderful role models for you to aspire to live like—because I’m not sure I’ve always lived as “wholesomely.” Growing up with a wood stove for heat (and VERY cold bedrooms upstairs), handmade clothes (or hand-me-downs), mostly hunted and grown food, I used to think my parents were just plain CHEAP, not GREEN! I know once I started making my own money, I was pretty extravagant, perhaps to make up for things I thought I had done without. It’s funny that it’s taken another whole generation to realize that living simply is living more fully. I have learned so much from YOU! But . . . can I live more frugally and still have my license, drive my Mustang, and paint my own nails?

    Love,
    Mom

  6. I wasn’t as fortunate in my family’s green background so often look the other way on my family tree when making decisions. I instead ask myself if I want to expose my children to that action or behavior.

    I hope when my daughters are grown that we can have the same level of respect that you and your mom clearly have for each other.

  7. My grandparents on my moms side are a big part of my life. As I grew up a lot of my firnds made a big deal of how wired it was. But more and more people have more of a wistful tone about them when they say it. I think I’m really lucky to know them recently my fathers parents dide and I found out lots about them from visiting and taking care of there affares with my dad. They may have sucked as parents (belive me when I say this) but as people they were great. Grandpa actually quit a luctritive job as a hospital administartor to go to Afganistan and help spread knolage about birth control. He realy wanted to help make the world a better place. And my grandma did all kinds of thing to help people and was well loved by many people. just not so much her kids.

    In a way I wish I had the chance to know them the way I know my moms parents. ANd I would really love to have met my great grandparents too. Also I think its cool that your grandparents have special names to be called.

    Thanks for a wonderful post.

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