Going Green - Not Just for People with Money


My Grandmother is 97 years old and one of the most environmentally conscientious people I know.  Walking through her kitchen, I’m always amazed at the number of items she’s managed to wash out and repurpose: yogurt containers, plastic cereal box linings, and jars.  My personal favorite is zip lock bags, something which I admittedly throw out without a second thought.  Although my grandmother’s daily practices would most certainly make any environmentalist smile, she has not “gone green” to satisfy any political or social agenda.  She does it out of habit born from necessity.  As someone who lived through the Great Depression, she has seen firsthand that our resources are not endless!  Her life experiences have altered the way that she views the world and have influenced her to act differently.  Thankfully, my grandparents do not have to scrimp and save today as they once did during the Great Depression; however people are creatures of habit.  Despite having ample resources to get by today, she continues to repurpose whatever she can.  To her reusing is simply a way of life.

Several weeks ago, I heard the story of another person who has discovered the financial benefits of going green.  A member of Ebenezer Church in Washington, DC described his church’s tireless dedication to serving the homeless population.  Over the years, they have done their best to open their doors to people in need.  In particular, they have taken special care to ensure that everyone who comes to them in need has had a warm meal and access to fresh, clean water.  The member explained that at one point, the church was having a great deal of difficulty purchasing all of the food and supplies for the homeless population they served due to limited financial resources.  The church realized that if they wanted to continue to provide these services, they needed to take a long hard look at their budget and cut out anything they could.  Another member of the church suggested that they substitute the Styrofoam cups used to serve fresh water with clean, washed, re-used yogurt containers.  Although this was a small change, in the end it made all the difference!  Ebenezer Church was able to save enough money to balance their budget.  The church member went on to discuss how this small change in action benefited his church as well as the surrounding community:  there were no longer Styrofoam cups littered throughout the neighborhood.    

After listening to this man’s story, it occurred to me that if we want to make a significant environmental impact, we do not need a social revolution.  What we need is to reframe our thinking.  I can’t deny that paper plates, plastic forks and Styrofoam cups make for an easier cleanup than real plates and silverware, but it can really be worthwhile to use more sustainable methods.  Both my grandmother and this member of Ebenezer church were motivated to change their ways for financial reasons but realized they were able to make a big environmental impact by doing so!  Going green is good for the environment and your wallet!


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