Terre Haute Living January/February 2019 - Page 11

UPFRONT columns ECO JUSTICE MARY RILEY Be like ‘The Bernice’ Mom’s recycling effort doesn’t come from wanting to lead ‘green’ life W e recently got in a new product, Bee’s Wrap, at The Farm Store at White Violet. It’s this really cool cloth treated with beeswax that you can use in the place of plastic wrap to cover bowls or wrap up leftovers. Candace, our garden manager, was excited to try it out. She told us how she saves clean plastic wrap on the bowl of her stand mixer so she could eventually reuse it. This made me think about my mother who for some reason or another, my friends refer to as “The Bernice.” My mother, Bernice, is sometimes exas- perating. She is one of the most stubborn people I have ever met. She refuses to throw things away. I always found this pretty an- noying. Now I’m not talking about a hoarding problem. You see, my mom often saves items that the rest of the world sees as disposable. She’ll show up at my house with an empty coffee cup from a fast food restaurant, rinse it and set next to the sink. She then makes sure we all know that this cup is special and not to be tossed – usually in the form of some kind of announcement. She just likes drinking her coffee from this type of vessel. Maybe it’s the lid. I don’t know. She’ll use this cup for several days before she even thinks about throwing it away. But that’s not all. She always washes out those famous red cups you find at summer barbecues. Plastic baggies are cleaned and saved for another day. Sheets of aluminum foil are neatly folded and put away in a drawer. The list goes on. Bernice’s recycling effort does not how- ever come from her sense of responsibility to lead a “green” life. My mother was born in 1937, toward the end of the Great Depres- sion. People who lived during this time had to adapt their lifestyle to their new economic situation. They grew their own food, patched worn out clothing and just made due with what they had or could find. Growing up, my mom was expected to be frugal. Leftovers, if tribstar.com/terrehauteliving there were any, certainly did not go in the garbage. They were saved and eaten at another meal. Food containers from the market were not thrown away. They could be used to store other things. Imagine the fun of growing up and find- ing stuffed cabbage when you thought you were getting dessert! I even remember one time to my embarrass- ment that my mother actually wrapped a wedding gift up in an empty box that was used for what the marketing experts deem as “feminine protection.” Bernice believes that everything always has a second or even a third life. Her dad, my beloved Grandpa Joe, also always uncycled or as he liked to say, “tinkered.” Of course back then he didn’t know he was upcycling. He was just using what he had to make things he needed. I remember once he created an apple picker. He took an old coffee can (remember those?) and sharpened one edge. He attached the can to a long pole. When he reached up to the tree with this device he would use the can edge to cut the stem and the apple would fall neatly into the can. I thought he was a genius. I called Bernice recently to talk about her resourcefulness. I’m not sure she ever really thought about it before. It’s just what she has always done. She did immediately remind me that my grandpa, her father, always used to cut his paper towels in half. He thought a full sheet was extravagant when most of the time you needed just a small piece. Wouldn’t you know that now most brands are sold that way. I told you he was a genius. As it turns out – and I should have rec- ognized this a long time ago – my mother is right. There is absolutely nothing wrong with washing out your plastic cup and using it again and again and again. In fact, there is something really right about what my mother, The Bernice, does. Of course in a perfect world we would all avoid disposable items as much as we can. But at least when you’re using single-use items beyond their intended lifespan, which is probably no more than 15 minutes, you’re reducing the amount of what does ends up in landfills. Waste is an inevi- table part of life, but being wasteful does not have to be. We can do better. And maybe as we roll into this new year we can all do our part and start being a little more like The Bernice. Mary Riley is the marketing manager for several ministries of the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the Woods. They include the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, tours and volunteers. January/February 2019 • Terre Haute Living 11