On Going Green and Becoming My Mother

As a child growing up under the tutelage of a single mother, I quickly learned the value of a dollar. My mother could stretch her resources like no other. Grocery shopping with her was a lesson in purchasing the highest quality at the lowest price. There was no junk food, and pizza was not a meal!

I was very young when I took my first job because I couldn't bring myself to ask my mother for money. The concept of "I pay, I say" was clear, and I wanted nothing to do with it. When I made money, I saved some (for good measure) and blew the rest...and it felt so good. I had mistaken my mother's lack of financial means for being just plain cheap.

Financial precariousness was the hallmark of my childhood, and I swore that indigence would not characterize my adult life. I went to school and then found work. I often chose work based on salary rather than on whether I liked it or not. I soon discovered that if you don't like your work, you're not going to do it well and you won't be happy.

As I acquired some creature comforts, paid off my student loans and found a job I liked, I noticed waste all around. I sold my car and started cycling for all my errands. It's not that I dislike driving, it's the parking I hate. I started to bring my lunch to work because the food was usually served in unrecyclable polystyrene at the food court. I started to bring a commuter cup because I was disgusted by all the discarded single-use cups lying around downtown. In addition, we are city dwellers and space is an issue. My husband and I have been forced to purchase only things that are necessities. We also have limited recycling space, so when we make purchases, we often chose products with the least amount of packaging.

Are we too pious for our own good? No, we're just trying to simplify our lives. But the most surprising aspect of reducing waste is all the money we have saved in the process. In fact, this is the only money-saving method that has ever worked.

When I stopped to compare my life with my mother's, I realized there were more similarities than differences. My mother didn't buy anything she didn't need, nor do we. She brought a lunch and her coffee, so do we. However, the determining factor in her purchases was cost, whereas ours is the amount of packaging or waste our purchases create. In dollars and cents (sense?), it comes down to the same thing.

"But is pizza a meal?"you ask. Sometimes it is, but we wish the box was recyclable and it didn't take up so much space in the trash.


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