What would Grandma do?

I’m thinking about my grandmothers, each now transferred to the Church Triumphant, about their thrift in home economics. (But be warned; this post has been a draft for about a year and half. It is not Ash Wednesday. Call it recycling.)

Elizabeth of elizabeth’s little blog has written about her year-long attempt to not buy any new clothing; she alludes to a (not) recent article in the New York Times about the perils of “fast clothes” (akin to fast food) and how wasteful they are. She’s right and I hope she gives us updates.

Being Ash Wednesday, I have thought about the sin of ostentation. Surely not buying new clothes for a year is not ostentatious. The Amish and Old Order Mennonites can’t be called ostentatious (and I gather would rather be left alone in their peculiar habits) and having reviewed clothing price lists for the Old Order trade, I know some of them wear hard-wearing polyester and poly blends. People who make a public virtue of their “greenness” can be very ostentatious and defeat the purpose of using less and making less of a footprint and blah, blah, blah. Nobody likes a prig.

(Back to 2008.) Hubby and I have watched a lot of shows on the new Planet Green cable television channel, but, if you’ll excuse the phrase, the habit’s not sustainable. There are a few good ideas and news pieces but many more situations that are simply laughable, misplaced or self-deluding. Nobody’s going to save the planet by reducing dry cleaning by a third. I don’t care that mannequins can be recycled. No house is really green if it’s 6,000 square feet, has three occupants, is miles from town and sits in an ecologically fragile area.

Instead, when I try to use less, reuse more or adapt to situations, I think of my grandmothers. Here are some parts of the grandma test.

  • Is it practical or not?
  • Is it ostentatious?
  • Can I make this change a habit? Is the effort for something extraneous?
  • Can I learn something from changing a particular consumption habit?
  • Can I use or reuse something I already have?
  • Could I avoid the problem (or could I have avoided it) by retraining myself at some earlier time?
  • How would I feel if everyone acted the way I chose?

2 Replies to “What would Grandma do?”

  1. How much of a “pass” do we get for not having children? Seriously? In all the “how big is your carbon footprint” self-assessments that I see, there’s never a place to check how many children one has brought into the world.

  2. I liked this post. Really, I’m too slack about buying new clothes — somewhere in the MBTI book, it says something about Ns taking it as almost a personal offense when clothes wear out, and I’m textbook on that. I hate shopping for new ones, but if I can spin my laziness as environmentalism, I’m all for it. 😉 Seriously, though, it’s more than that: my parents are long-time advocates of the philosophy that cheap isn’t really cheap. Europe is way ahead of us on this, but my family has always supported the concept of buying a few well-made garments rather than many “disposable” ones.

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