Sunday, April 13, 2008

Proverbial Wisdom

While making my son's bed last week, I noticed a tiny tear in his fitted sheet - a brightly colored array of helicopters and dump trucks that we bought at a neighbor's garage sale. I made a mental note to mend the sheet the next time I pulled it off the clothesline. It took a total of three minutes to sew the hole and, as I put the mended sheet back in the linen closet, it occurred to me that a stitch in time does save nine (or a trip to the landfill).

Our forbears, in large part, lived simpler lives than our own and they seemed to have an adage for every aspect of that life. Somewhere along the way, we forgot what those sayings truly meant and we strayed from the simpler life. We now find ourselves in a land of busyness, clutter and climate change without a map home. As I mentally tick through my ancestors' maxims, though, I realize that they are our compass. To get back onto the right path, all we have to do is to follow the advice of our great grandparents, to embrace proverbial wisdom.

If you think I am overstating the matter, consider the following examples:

A fool and his money are soon parted: This month we celebrate Crunchy Chicken's Buy Nothing Challenge. That's right, we are supposed to buy nothing, or at least nothing new. One of biggest roadblocks to living a truly green life are consumeristic tendencies. The "green consumer" is apparently a pipe dream. Really. The easiest way to live green is to hang on to our hard earned cash.

Buy the best and you only cry once: If we are going to spend money, though, we should buy something that will last for generations. That way, we won't have to spend money on constant replacements.

Clothes don't make the man: While this is true, I don't relish the idea of pants up to my armpits (yes, those again) and a boxy white shirt. There is no reason to trudge around like a dowd when you can buy everything you need at your closest thrift store or trade clothes with friends or complete strangers.

One man's trash is another man's treasure: And boy oh boy, is there alot of trash around. Lucky for us because we can get all we need for free from someone's trash and still live a very stylish life.

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade: Make do and repair what you've got - even if it is a cheap plastic laundry basket that you could replace for $5 at Target.

Variety Is the Spice of Life: Over 20% of American emissions involve food production and transportation. That is equivalent to emissions generated from vehicles. The solution is easy and, thankfully, delicious. Farmers' markets, CSA boxes, gardens and buying clubs brim with local foods that shifts with the seasons. Instead of eating bananas and apples year round as in my former life, I float from fruit to fruit and vegetable to vegetable. Just as I tire of persimmons, they are gone and citrus have taken their place. As citrus make their exits, strawberries wait just off stage.

Garbage In, Garbage Out: Or, we are what we eat. The busier we get, the more we turn to convenience food - be it restaurant meals, take out or prepackaged meals from the supermarket. Indeed, Americans eat so much in the way of high fructose corn syrup and other corn additives, that Michael Pollan in The Omnivore's Dilemma, dubbed us "processed corn walking." Home cooking, even if you can manage it only once or twice a week, is healthier, is made of ingredients we know and control, generates less waste and just tastes better. Beware, though, before you know it you'll join the Slow Food contingent and be baking bread, hand-making pasta and churning butter just for fun.

Birds of a Feather Flock Together: Going green is increasingly popular. Book clubs, simplicity circles and garden groups are forming to bring like-minded people together. When you have trouble connecting in person, however, there is always the green blogosphere to turn to - a place so crowded with eco-nuts that we can all feel at home.

Beware of the false prophets: With the increased interest in living green, also comes more marketers feeding on environmental concerns and in some cases "greenwashing" their products. In other words, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Don't Throw Stones if You Live in a Glass House: Living green is a journey, a series of small steps. Every traveler you meet will be at a different point on the path than you. We are all in this together so let's support each other in our efforts to tread more lightly.

Out of sight... Out of mind: Unfortunately, this adage holds too true. Our world is one small planet but we tend to think only about what we can see. Mitigating climate change and environmental destruction will be a global effort. No country or region can be left out. The community we build must extend beyond our neighborhoods and touch people in the far reaches of the globe.

Silence Is Golden: Our great grandparents did not know a life, such as ours, forever disrupted by the blare of cars, the hum of the computer, the din of the television. Occasionally, flipping the switch on technology reconnects us with our friends, our families and ourselves.

He who lives too fast, goes to his grave too soon: This one is self explanatory. Live simply. Embrace life's smaller pleasures. Feel blessed.

The squeaky wheel gets the oil: Individual actions only take us so far. We need more people - particularly the decision makers - on board. Sign petitions. Write letters to companies and politicians. Send back unwanted plastic. Force our politicians to act according to our values. Be heard.

Actions speak louder than words: Enough talk. At some point, we need to get off of our computers and practice what we preach. We need to plant victory gardens. Spread the green word. Put our money where our mouths are and buy our food from the people who grow it. We need to get our rear ends off the couch and on a bike seat. Line dry our clothes. Live differently.

Waste Not, Want Not: When candidates running for President call America "a wasteful culture", the problem clearly is epidemic. From garbage to water to food to gasoline to electricity, our society throws away too much. If we were to embrace just one piece of proverbial wisdom, this would be the one. This one alone could be our ticket home.

The journey to a greener life was once well worn. The clearly marked signs that ushered our ancestors home are still there; they are merely shadowed by overgrown trees, hidden by reaching ivy. We can find our way, though, if we just follow the advice of those who walked before us. If we just listen to proverbial wisdom.


Fake Plastic Fish said...

I love this linky post of proverbs. It must have taken a lot of time to put together, and gives us quite a bit of food for thought. Take a break now while we try and digest it all!


Burbanmom said...

Great post, GB! I think you hit 'em all!

PS... I lost another handle on my plastic P-O-S laundry basket. I am still using it. Because now? It's personal. I'm not getting a new one until this bastard disintegrates before my very eyes!

MamaBird said...

This is so comprehensive and wonderful. Thanks for taking so much care and time to put it together - I'm going to bookmark it and read it more carefully later tonight.

arduous said...

What a lovely post. I love how you managed to synthesize so many different concepts into one nice succinct post. This is a great one to print out and hang up on the bathroom mirror or something!!

I just want to quickly touch on this, "The easiest way to live green is to hang on to our hard earned cash."

This is something I've been thinking about ever since you wrote your credit card post. I haven't amassed HUGE savings from my non-comsumerism, but it's starting to slowly add up. But I haven't quite figured out what to do with that money. I have been giving a lot more money to causes and charities than before, because I can afford it more easily, but in terms of my personal savings ... I'm not sure where to put it. I don't think it's particularly green of me to have my money invested in regular old mutual funds. OTOH, I want to protect my investments and so I need something that isn't high risk.

Now, there are some big changes going on that are probably going to render all of this moot, at least in terms of MY savings, but if you or anyone else wants to do a post on investing greenly I would love love LOVE to read it.

arduous said...

Oh, and while I'm being all demanding and requesting posts, I also noticed that in your "I'm living lighter" section it now mentions yogurt, so I assume that you have succeeded at making your own yogurt??!!

Can we get a post on that too, please?! I want to hear all about the valiant battle between Green Bean and yogurt and how you ended up winning the struggle in the end.

Fake Plastic Fish said...

Hi Arduous. I found a socially responsible investment broker in Berkeley who is helping me invest my IRA money. They are called the Social Equity Group, and I found them from a link on the Calvert Funds web page. Calvert is a socially responsible group of mutual funds. Anyway, I'm sure you have somebody like Social Equity Group down your way.

Natalie said...

My husband and I were just talking last night about how smart our grandmothers were!

As snotty teens we assumed they were just "naggy" old ladies. In our early twenties technology started advancing so quickly that those old ladies seemed even more irrelevant by the day. Like, how did they know anything about living in *our* world!? Of course, we grew to appreciate them the older we got - especially after having children of our own.

To be fair, we always respected our grandmothers. And I think both hubby and I could appreciate and identify with what they were saying. But they seemed to be saying it so annoyingly, that the message was lost.

But, last night, it was like WHAMMO! Our respective grannies were elevated to BILLIANT status! We lamented about ignoring them for so long.

Turns out that granny was just sounding the alarm bell!

kendra said...

Great post! I commented to my mom a while back about how I had to patch the hole in my son's pants and she said, "you know, you could just go buy a new pair." Well sure I could, but it takes me 15 minutes to patch them and it would take me over an hour to drive to the store to buy them. In addition to saving time, money and resources, patched pants on a three year old looks so cute.

Jessica said...

Great ideas and resources. Thanks! It's neat to see how you have a community of bloggers talking about similar ideas.

Jessica said...

Forgot to post my blog site, in case you are interested.


arduous said...

Thanks Beth!! I aappreciate the info!

CindyW said...

Love the proverbs and all the links you kindly and patiently wove in. Particularly I like "Garbage In, Garbage Out." It seems to be a universal truth that applies to almost everything. So let's treat our bodies better, treat our minds better, treat our lives better and treat our world better

Green Bean said...

Beth: Thanks for the green investing info. That has been one of the next things on my list - you made it easy!

Erin: keep it going, girl. You can make that sucker last til the next century.

Mamabird: You're welcome! It is a lonnng list.

Arduous: I too have been trying to figure out how to invest more greenly. It's been on my husband's "to do" list for about 7 months now so I'd better reclaim now that Beth (ain't she handy!) has filled us in on what to do with our hard earned cash. As to the yogurt, yes, I did finally win the war! 4 times and counting. I'll have to post about it later this week.

Natalie: Ain't that the truth? I was just like you. I didn't truly cherish my grandmothers and then they seemed so out of touch and lost. For goodness sake, you can't work a VCR! But it turns out they knew what they were talking about. I wish I'd listened more.

Kendra: good comeback. I never think that quick on my feet but, even if replacements are cheap, it still takes time to go and get the replacement. Often, repairs can take a matter of moments - all from the comfort of your own home.

Jessica: thanks for visiting. I'll have to pop over and check you out - when it isn't almost midnight!

Cindy: It is wise, indeed. Now, does garbage include those chocolate chip cookies I bought at the farmers' market? Yes? How about the rice pudding I made at home? Hmmm?

happyhippychick said...

"Buy the best and you only cry once"

Oh yes - I was only thinking the other day about my kettle - it cost a couple of quid from Tesco and is scaled up, replacing it would be cheap and easy but I used white vinegar and it is sparkling new - this made think... as a child I only remember us having one kettle, it had been a major purchase... nowadays a lot of things that were once big purchases (or wedding presents) can be picked up so cheaply from large supermarkets that it makes me cringe

When did things that used to be expected to last for years suddenly become disposable? It worries me :(

kale for sale said...

I've read this blog twice now (it's a rich one!) and this morning I'm talking to myself and it's my Grandmother's voice - A little goes a long ways. And I felt reassured. Thank you for these.

Going Crunchy said...

Aw, seeing "Tesco" rang the heart strings.

I think some of the problems also stem in that we are actually quite a young country in the scope of the world. You can look to the natural ecocentric behavior of a young child and directly compare it to how the U.S. acts. We have resources, but not wisdom yet in many respects. Most kids grow into empathy and respect for others, and I'm hoping that is the direction we can shift to.

Just by many of us blogging and writing about it shifts our cultural paradigm.

Once again you got my juices of thought going.....I'll must and write on this. With a multi-cultural marriage we muse on these things frequently.

And yes, I try to channel my Granny and Grandmaw as much as possible now. Having a WWGD moment!?!

Jennifer said...

Perhaps these need to be on my fridge. Thanks.


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