Over the Christmas holidays, I spent a little over two weeks in England with my Grannie, the first time I had been without my family. This time around, I found myself experiencing a lot of her to day to day life and I was very impressed (and a little shocked) with all the things she did to cut down on waste. We often think of our grandparents generation as sustainability illiterate. Car-loving, climate skeptics who don’t know what recycling is, right? I am pleased and a little alarmed to report that, rather, we should be taking our environmental tips from Grandma and Grandpa.
One of my fondest memories of my Grandad is, on Christmas Day, waiting in anticipation, with a gift of mine at the ready, as Grandad painstakingly removed every piece of tape on his gift and carefully removed the paper, ready to use next Christmas. At the time, it was a strange and uncalled for delay to our Christmas proceedings, but now I can see what it was worth. Throughout my stay with my Grannie, I was able to take note of many other ways that she lived in the spirit of sustainability out of habit rather than conscious effort.
As I hovered over the garbage can with a plastic bag from a magazine she received in the mail, I was surprised to discover that she keeps those for “bits of food that weren’t quite finished”. Great! I always wondered what to do with those! Putting a bucket in the sink to use less water and turning the heat off at night were all things she has done her whole life as well.
If you ask her, much of what she learned about living without waste and excess was learned growing up during the war. Food was rationed. People dug up their yards to grow food. Everyone donated any metal in the house to the war effort. This taught her to value the things she has no matter how small so much so that I have seen her collecting bits of string from parcels in the mail to be reused when she gives away parcels herself. Living in that time, made it so that when things went back to normal many people, like my Grannie, just carried on what they’d always known.
This may be true, but it may also be related to simpler times when balloons remained unpopped after parties and were kept as treasures and grocery shopping didn’t involve buying exotic fruit such as bananas. Either way, I encourage anyone reading this to spend some time with your grandparents and, if yours are anything like mine, learn a thing or two about keeping stuff out of the landfill.
I’ll finish with my Grannie’s favourite quote. “I didn’t get where I am today, (fill with any wise words of advice on not being wasteful).” I think we should all lend more of an ear to our elders and find out how they got where they are today and see what we can do to bring back some of these habits into our future.