Didn’t our baby boomer generation launch the movement to Save Our Planet? We think we did… but how well did we do? Sherry Vondy Beaver of Eugene, Oregon, doesn’t give herself an F… but she doesn’t give herself an A, either.
I have a trifecta of guilt when it comes to waste.
My mother, who grew up the during the Depression, taught me that failure to eat every scrap on my plate led directly to starvation elsewhere. I’m still haunted by that TV ad in the sixties with the Native American man crying about litter. I’ve been fretting about reducing garbage since baby boomers first championed Earth Day in 1970.
Personally, I live in Eugene, Oregon, which had curbside recycling before the invention of curbs. At work in Eugene, one expects a public shaming if you’re caught at the office copy machine printing single-sided. So, when the letter came from our trash company, I was flustered. “When in doubt,” it said, “throw it out.” It explained that by trying to save the wrong kind of yogurt container I’d actually been wasting resources.
My worldview shook. Maybe recycling wasn’t the only thing I got wrong in my quest to help the planet.
There was the unseasonably wet summer I tried to save four pounds of dinky green tomatoes. A smart business person would have cut her losses. She’d have ripened a few for salads and thrown out the rest. Not me. I decided to make green tomato chutney. The recipe required two pounds. So, naturally I thought, if I double the recipe, I can use all of them!
There’s an old saying, “Double the batch, double the trouble,” and this adventure was no exception. While I tediously spent hours trying to peel those small green rocks (because the recipe said this would make a “noticeable improvement in the flavor and texture”), my poor husband made numerous trips to the store. First, it was for white wine vinegar and raisins. Then, when we couldn’t find the canning pot, he drove around town looking for the cheapest possible replacement. Finally, about midway through the never-ending cooking process, I noticed we had the wrong size jar lids. Out he went again.
The chutney was delicious, but heaven help us if we fire up either of those canning pots again. We could have gone to India for as much as those six jars of sauce cost.
Yep, over the years I’ve spent a lot of time and money trying to avoid waste, but sometimes, if inadvertently, I’ve instead been wasteful. Fortunately, we are never too old to change. Here’s what I vow:
- I will stop saving things I think I’ll use “someday” and will donate or toss the bulk of such items stashed in my garage.
- I will not use gas to save 10% on Capri pants or return a $3 sack of sweet potatoes.
- I will not “buy one/get one free” when I don’t even need one.
- I will throw out the egg whites if I only need yolks. I will not use them to make an entire lemon meringue pie.
So, get ready, Earth. I may not save you, but I’m doing my part to reduce, re-use, and recycle. With fewer blunders.