Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Green, Before Green Wasn't Cool

Since today, April 22nd, is Earth Day, I thought I'd post about my great-grandparents and how they lived a "green" lifestyle.

Therese McGinnis Austin and her husband John Ralph Austin moved from New York City to a small town named Grahamsville in Sullivan County, New York around 1947.

The house they had bought was an old farmhouse which had been build around 1900. From excerpts of my great-grandmother's diary of that period, there are many passages recounting how they dealt with all the changes involved with moving from city life to country life. There was only a wood stove in the kitchen and a water pump. If you needed to use the "necessary" you had to go outside to the outhouse. This was pure rural living.

But my great-grandmother seemed to be the one who could adapt easily to the new surroundings. This included learning about living with nature and not just using nature. By the time I arrived and was old enough to ask questions, I could see that Grandma and Grandpa did things differently than most, at least back around 1970:

- All newspapers were bound into flats and tied with string or they had a contraption that would roll them into very heavy "fire logs" - the logs had to be tightly woven in order to burn slowly and they were almost always burned along with wood.

- There was no garbage collection service and you had to take your refuse to the county dump which charged by the bag. This meant sorting all garbage, taking the bottom lid off of tin cans, and flattening the can. The goal was to make that bag as small and as tight as possible.

- All organic matter (vegetable peels, scraps, etc.) was placed in a compost heap out behind the house.

- Grandma was particular about what she used for housecleaning - especially since there was a well and a septic tank on the property. I remember her using vinegar, baking soda, and plain soap for her chores.

Looking back to that time, I now realize that my great-grandparents were pioneers in terms of being green. They were very careful about their consumption of goods and how to dispose of them.


Laura said...

I can't recall the title, but I read a book about the history of garbage (I am weird, I know it) and it made the point that a century ago people were way more green without calling it that- selling and reusing old rags, and bottles, and all sorts of other ways too.

Linda said...

In my environment science class, the teacher discussed the latest solutions to garbage. One was to send them in a capsule towards the sun. This is not a joke, trust me.

Apple said...

I have rolled newspaper into firelogs. They actually burn quite nicely. We are pretty green here but it is easier when you live in the country.