I have been thinking about writing this post for a long time. Now that I finally have the venue, I’m ready to share it with the world. In my opinion, which is based solely on my life experiences to date, there is a direct correlation between poverty and green efforts. I was green long before energy conservation, global warming, and Al Gore were hot button, election-shifting issues.
At 25, I can say with absolute certainty that I have been poor entire life. Some working class / working poor parents do a very good job at masking the level of their modest means for their childrens’ sake. My mother did a damn good job. I didn’t know I was poor until I got to college. (And when I found out I was spitting mad. Not at my mom, but at the fact that I was living and going to class with over-privileged white kids when my ass had been working since I was 14 to pay for the things I wanted. I digress.) Regardless of how well parents mask it, when you are poor you are aware that everything has a cost. Therefore, you don’t waste water. You don’t waste electricity. And you REALLY don’t waste food.
Wasting food was (and still is) a cardinal sin in my house. In my house, you take what you’ll eat and leave what you won’t. If meals were not served buffet style, you sat there and ate everything on your plate regardless of whether you liked it or not. No excuses. My grandmother loves butter beans (lima beans) and they were served at least twice a week. Like any good fat kid, I’ll eat anything, but lima beans are where I draw the damn line. I choked them down time after time because I don’t waste food. I did it because I had to. Now that I’m grown, those evil legumes are not welcome in my house.
I tweeted this idea late Thursday night and the responses only served to support my point.
@Holdthegluten said, “now that I think really about it, we were SO green growing up. We also gardened & composted b4 it was ‘in.’” Case in point. When you’re poor, you don’t waste anything. I grew up in South Jersey and we always grew our own food and bought produce from roadside stands. Sometimes we bought produce in bulk from Colombus Farmers Market. Why? Because it was always cheaper than buying it at the grocery store. My favorite thing in the whole world is stopping to buy HUGE Jersey tomatoes from the side of the road on a sunny summer day. It brings me great joy. It brings me even more joy to then go home and make tomato sandwiches. (I’ll post that recipe this summer.)
We didn’t know what we were doing was reducing our carbon footprint. All we knew was that keeping the doors shut when the air conditioner was on, washing our clothes in cold water then line drying them, and using the leftovers from the oven stuffer roaster to make chicken stock and eventually chicken soup, saved us money.
You don’t waste money in my house and you never, ever waste food.
***My mom read this post and she said the following: “I think you have a little confusion in your statement, just because you are working class does not mean you are below the poverty level…. I was a single mom, but not at the poverty level… I was working and making it in a modest manner. I think your idea is meant to make it known that you were not born into privilege. Just a thought.”
She is absolutely right. I was not born into privilege and I HAD to eat those damn lima beans. Thanks for the reality check, Ma.