7 Things Your Granny Taught You About Being “Green”

We tend to think of being “green” (environmentally responsible, sustainable, all that) as some newfangled, hip thing.  Well it’s certainly popular but it’s not new.  Your parents and definitely your grandparents know all about conserving and the green mantras — reduce, reuse, recycle and buy local — and they taught you all about it.  But you may have forgotten these things especially as you grew up and discovered this nebulous but shiny thing called “progress.”  Now is a good time to reach for that knowledge though: the Earth is hot and mad as heck, fuel is expensive and a finite resource + the places where it’s plentiful are often in a spot of bother, good, healthy food has become scarce or a prime commodity instead of the norm.  Worl’ ah go dung!  It behooves us to reach into our memories and traditions to find and use the things that still benefit us.  Pick them up, dust them off, and implement 21st century style.
Newspapers are great for cleaning mirrors and windows.  Reuse, recycle…reduce the use of paper towels or cloth towels.  Just dampen a few sheets and wipe…your mirrors and windows will be streak free.  Then, you can drop those used sheets into the recycling or into your compost heap. Your green friends (smile) will be impressed, you can save on Windex, and your windows may be so sparkling clean that you can tan from inside your apartment.  OK, maybe not…how about extra money for happy hour?  All thanks to your Granny.
Those Chiffon butter containers were great for holding everything from leftovers to dog food.  Did I date myself by saying Chiffon Butter?  OK, OK, fine:  yogurt, take out, pasta bottles, and Smart Balance containers then.  If you have empty pasta sauce bottles use them to store juices, homemade flavoured liquors, or as your mug…apparently this latter use is now so hip that bars are serving your drinks in mason jars.  Get jiggy at home.  Reuse plastic items to carry a serving of nuts or granola, to store safety pins or hair thingamajigs, as a shower washing aid, or even to begin seedlings for your kitchen garden.  Speaking of…
Start a kitchen or home garden.  This is one of the only ways we can guarantee the quality of our food these days.  Your garden doesn’t have to be big; try sweet peppers, scotch bonnet or other hot peppers, garlic, scallion, onions, herbs (thyme, rosemary, mint apparently grow easily), ginger and tomatoes.  Grow the things you eat regularly and that grow easily.  If you have a bit more backyard space go for callaloo or spinach…maybe carrots.  Heck the folks at the White House have a kitchen garden!  Apartment dwellers you aren’t off the hook either: certain varieties of tomatoes (like “Better Boy” and “Better Girl”), onions, garlic, thyme, rosemary, mint (especially Jamaican mint) can grow easily indoors with adequate light and air.   Not enough light? Invest in a UV lamp.  Get a baker’s rack or some similar shelves to house your garden, then prepare your soil (no, you can’t just go dig up dirt from outdoors) and get growing.
No space or green thumb? Then buy local.  Surely your Granny visited the market for local produce.  My Grandma used to frequent Miss Ivy’s stall that was set up right outside the supermarket…in fact our little neighbourhood supermarket didn’t even sell produce smartly ceding that market to Miss Ivy.  Buying locally and at a market is often much cheaper than imported or other well-travelled food and it tastes better.  Plus you can probably buy smaller quantities than in a supermarket thereby easing the burden on you pocket.  This also forces you to buy in season and not fall prey to strawberries in October.  And you support local businesses.  
“Don’t stand in front of the refrigerator with the door open!”  Um.  I heard this often because I thought, miraculously, that the food I wanted would appear the longer I stared into the open fridge.  Of course I quickly complied with the command but reluctantly and thoughtlessly.  It wasn’t until Physics class that I realized she wasn’t just being an annoying adult: keeping the fridge open raises the temperature thereby requiring more electricity to cool down again.  Well, since we’re all Muggles staring into the fridge does nothing but run up your light bill.  Why give more money to JPS, ConEd, or *gasp* Pepco? Cool down with ice water instead…and go cook. 
“Turn off the light when you leave the room! Whampon yuh han’ join church?”  My nose was often in a book and I am/was absent-minded.  So, yeah, make it a habit to turn off the lights when you leave the room.  Even if you’re just running from one room to the next it all adds up…plus sometimes you don’t make it back to the lit room when you mean to and then sit in another room with another light on…
“Yuh not using this anymore so put it up.”  Happened with my microscope and tea set.  Apply this to plugging things out.  Plugging electronics out whether you’re away from home or simply not using them saves on your electricity bill.  If you can’t be bothered to plug things out then get power strips and simply switch that off.  Big or useful things like your wireless router, alarm clock, and refrigerator need to stay plugged in but your TV, desktop, iPod docking station, phone charger, toaster oven, microwave, and fan, do not.  You could save up to a third on your monthly electricity bill.  Even in Jamaica.  There’s even a term for this: energy vampires.

I’m sure there are more but you get the idea.  Being green isn’t new and it is not hard.  It is beneficial for so many reasons and easy  to begin.  Mostly, you don’t need to invest anything but some time and attention to your routine…develop some new habits and save yourself some money, safeguard your health even.

Thank your Granny.

3 Responses to “7 Things Your Granny Taught You About Being “Green””
  1. petchary says:

    Excellent advice! And it’s common sense… My grandparents (and parents) too, back in England, always taught me these things, too. It was just a normal thing. Every garden had a compost heap, for example, and a small greenhouse where we grew tomatoes etc. As you say, it’s not hard – it’s just a habit you get into. Oh and by the way – in Kingston you CAN now recycle plastic, glass and newspapers – we take the latter to the JSPCA who always need plenty. Jamaica Environment Trust is our drop off point for all kinds of plastic and glass…

  2. bethpow06 says:

    You are so on point – I always said my mother was the original recycler. Mostly due to need – who didn’t have a drawer full of re-usable string, paper bags, and tin foil. Packing could be used in the most creative way along with empty typewriter ribbon spools (typewriter?) to make a toy truck! And who hasn’t used an empty cheese pan to scoop up water to bathe when water lock off! We have become such a wasteful society, creating more garbage to clog up the universe. Hopefully we will take your advice and one by one become green tinged.

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