My Dad, the Environment, and Why You Should be Green Whether It’s Easy or Not

February 26, 2009 at 5:36 am (Uncategorized) (, )

January at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

It was the first week of college, and I was walking down 3rd Street with this guy from my dorm. All of a sudden I saw an aluminum can right in front of me. I stopped, squashed it, picked it up, and tucked it in my bag to recycle it later. Normal, right? Not to this guy, who was shocked by my actions. He accused me of being some kind of self-righteous, environmental martyr-weirdo, making some big statement. I was trying to make plenty of statements in college, but that wasn’t one of them. I was just doing what came naturally.

I can remember my dad picking up cans and bottles to recycle my whole life. I think I was an adult before I learned that not everyone considered a plastic bag to be a necessary accessory for a walk…especially if you’re not walking a dog. I can remember him washing out sandwich bags, drying them, and reusing them. I can remember him cutting most of the top off of a bread bag and sending our sandwiches in that for our school lunches. (That was the WORST! my fragile ego could not handle that mortification…and now I do the same thing to my kids). My dad still engages in all of those practices by the way. He was green when green was still just a color, not a lifestyle.

A lot of it is because my dad is frugal. He was born September 20, 1929. Remember what happened in October? And I guess my grandfather, who I never met, was famously frugal. I’ve heard stories about Lester checking for coins in any pay telephones he happened to pass by. So Dad comes by it naturally too.

But it’s more than just being careful with money. You can see it in his face. My dad hates waste. I mean, really, really hates it. He’s a humble guy, and not too judgmental, so he probably wouldn’t couch it in these terms, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my dad thought waste was sinful.

That’s harsh, but polar ice caps melting, ocean levels rising and widespread environmental degradation is pretty harsh too. That’s why I’m glad that the pope keeps speaking out about protecting the environment and reversing the effects of climate change in moral terms. If you believe God entrusted us to be stewards of the earth, that’s the only sensible position to take. So,you know, the next time someone accuses you of being holier-than-thou with your hybrid-driving, reusable-bag-carrying, composting self, take it as a compliment. I know I will. And thanks, Dad.

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3 Comments

  1. Emily said,

    Your dad would like Germany 🙂

    I think a lot of the criticism people do of tree-huggers/recyclers is out of guilt. But I also think that guilt is a productive kind of guilt, so I don’t mind inspiring it.

  2. batsinthebelfry said,

    I have a friend who said that she has felt for a long time, like, um, eight years? that she really belonged in Europe…now she, and I! are optimistic…

  3. New Mama said,

    I agree with your dad. I wash out baggies and re-use everything I possibly can. We have two composters and a rain barrel and I do all sorts of weird things in the name of conservation. I honestly feel as though I don’t have a choice. And someday, our children and their children may not.

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