What is a mother to do with all of this stuff? If you asked me a few years ago, I would have responded that I threw things out like a mad woman or bagged it all up for the Purple Heart pick up. But, then I bought more stuff. I would have also rushed out to the store the very instant I felt that I needed a new spatula, shirt, snack, dish, candle, towel or cookie that I felt I must have right there and then. It wasn't a sustainable life and it really wasn't much of a stress-free life either.
The burden of stuff kept me running. To the store. To the school. To the mall. To the warehouse club. To the sporting goods shop. I was tired.
As the awareness of our environment grew in our family, we recycled more. Then we realized we were recycling too much. Why have a bin full of empty glass iced tea bottles, plastic milk jugs and aluminum cans when you could make your own tea or lemonade and have your milk delivered to your doorstep in returnable glass bottles? And so ended my need to run to the store to buy tea the very minute we ran out. I simply opened the cabinet and made some more.
That felt good, so we thought about what else we didn't need to rush out and buy. Why not make your own cookies, waffles, pancakes and lunches? Why not mend the lunchbox, patch and re-inflate the shrunken soccer ball, donate the DVDs to the school, take the unwanted video games to a resale shop to trade for new ones, hand down the bikes to neighborhood children and scout Craigslist for new ones? And we did.
Then we got excited. What else didn't we need? Trading stuff for time was like a drug and I was hooked. Making cookies with my son was better than shopping for cookies with a crabby toddler. Showing my older boys my 'mad computer skilz' when laptops need fixing is more rewarding than dropping them off the store to be repaired. My husband teaching my sons how to use tools to fix broken household items, sports equipment and cars will provide them skills for their future and memories of time with their Dad.
Sustainability has been a journey. Sustainability at times has been a challenge. More often than not sustainability has been a compromise. With middle school aged kids sometimes you allow the iPod, but shop for clothing from the thrift shop, buy used video games and find hockey skates on Craigslist. And that's the key.
My sons are learning how to live sustainably in a disposable world. They think twice before tossing away a mechanical pencil that can simply be refilled with lead. They appreciate a better quality used hockey skate from Craigslist over a poor quality new hockey skate from a discount store - for the same price. They consume less, yet expect more. That doesn't mean they don't want a new iPod, I'm sure they do and a whole lot more. They have just learned to value what they have, buy only what they truly desire and make a smaller impact on the planet.
Living sustainably is for me, a learning curve and sometimes a challenge. For my sons, it will be a way of life and their benchmark for normal. Knowing that I have passed this practical sense of living on to my children to in turn pass it on to future generations means sustainability is achievable. One small step at a time.
Note: This is my post for the August APLS Carnival, if you want to submit your post on sustainability, you don't have much time! Post by Aug. 12th and email your post to aplscarnival (at) gmail (dot) com. Or, if you simply would like to be added to the bushel basket and prepare a post for next month's carnival, that's OK too. Hop on over to the APLS blog and hang around awhile!