My parents were at the forefront of green living in the 70s: decades before Whole Foods existed, people drove electric cars, or divided their weekly garbage into three neatly color-coded bins for trash, compost and recycling. They never uttered the words: sustainable, organic, green, eco-friendly, compostable, or recyclable. It’s just how they — and by default we — lived.
For my parents — who lived through the Great Depression and parted with their belongings en route to the internment camps during World War II — living an environmentally friendly life was a commonsense way to live on a tight budget. It is probably something my parents learned from their parents, and their parents learned from all the generations, which preceded them.
My dad fished as a hobby and a means of sustenance. He and my mother planted fruit trees, which supplied us with apples, plums and persimmons. They were also skilled at growing tomatoes, green beans, zucchini and strawberries. I remember my mother standing in the middle of the kitchen, holding an overflowing colander of yellow and green zucchini, proudly announcing, “We have a bumper crop this year.” I knew this meant zucchini: sautéed with onions, stuffed and baked with ground beef and tomato sauce, breaded and fried, and grated to make bread.
In addition to eating organically and sustainably (as we now call it), my parents were easy on Mother Earth’s resources. We had one car for most of my childhood, which my dad drove to work. My mother, with three kids in tow, would walk or take the bus. My mother had the luxury of a dryer, but hung the laundry on a line in the backyard to “air dry” during the summer. The laundry didn’t really “air dry” like dryer sheet commercials would lead you to believe. Instead the freshly washed clothes would bake under the scorching sun and become brittle, scratchy, and smell like powdered Tide.
I know my parents didn’t think about the environment, as we do today. And, they would laugh at the thought of being labeled environmentally friendly. They did what they could; with the limited resources they had, which I guess is the essence of environmentalism.
Updated: 4.27.14 at 6:06pm