At one time or another, most of us have heard some of the old proverbs about frugality:
‘Waste not, want not.’ ‘Fix it up, wear it out, make it do, do without.’ And one my great grandmother taught my mother: ‘A woman can throw more food out the back door with a teaspoon than a man can bring in the front door with a shovel.’
Now it seems that being frugal has become ‘fashionable’, although for many of us it has been in style for a long time. But honestly, there’s frugality and there’s pointless frugality. For instance, sure, in our home we clip coupons and buy on sale, recycle passionately, and so on. And we don’t have trouble wearing old clothes. We wear simple styles, and when our clothes get worn, they become housework and gardening outfits, and are replaced by more of the same. But we do try to avoid cheaply-made stuff; it’s just going to wear out faster, while decent tees and so on, bought on sale, can last a long time. I have tees at least as old as my sixteen-year-old granddaughter, and almost as old as my nineteen-year-old grandson. The great thing about old clothes is that they’re very comfortable, right in there with the comfort of old friends. And realizing that we were using a shocking amount of paper towels, we’ve started limiting their use and using inexpensive washcloths from the big box store for wiping up in the kitchen, and old dishtowels to drain washed fruits and veggies.
Then there’s recycling, which we’ve carried to the level that if we drink sodas or water in cans or plastic bottles while on the road, we put them in a bag we carry for the purpose and bring them home to our recycle bins. Doing that is far better than experiencing the guilt of just pitching something in the trash we know can be recycled. We’ve heard the argument that recycling materials uses energy and is not all that beneficial, and we just don’t agree, for the simple reason that disposing of trash also takes energy and land, but with recycling, so many materials can be turned into usable objects. We have doormats, made of old tires, that look good, and all kinds of materials are now used in road paving and reusable shopping bags (which we use and like) and many other ways. We use newspapers sometimes to mulch flower beds and then cover them with mulch; everything breaks down and goes back to nature, all the while smothering weeds and keeping plant roots protected. And we’re enthusiastic composters; all kitchen refuse except meats goes into a bin; coffee grounds go on the flower and vegetable beds.
All these habits have been going on for years, but now, with water at a premium in our part of our country as well as many other areas of the world, and watering outside with sprinklers limited, it finally occurred to me one day that a lot of water was simply going down our drain. Now we also empty any leftover tea directly into the flower beds and we heat water in the kettle rather than running the faucet til the water turns hot. Then I had the bright idea of emptying the water from the colanders, after washing the lettuce or fruit, into a bucket and pouring it on a needy flower bed. It was kind of shocking to discover how much water is used to wash salad greens twice, or strawberries or any other fruits and vegetables. We’re talking a gallon here, a gallon there. The point is that helping to save the planet might be as simple as the way we drain lettuce.