Brown paper bags from the grocery store were turned into garbage bags, covers for our school books, and paper to cover packages shipped back to Ireland. . . .
It would be that young woman from a small village in Ireland who would have more of an affect on me than the subsequent 1929 Depression had on the United States. This 19 year old woman would become my mother and usher me into New York with an awareness of conservation of energy and resources as well as a strong sense of family and community that she brought with her across "the pond". As we face this current financial crisis those same conservation efforts and sense of family will bring us through these difficult times.
Until I tried to wrap a sandwich with a piece of waxed paper cut too small, I did not appreciate my mother's knack for getting just the right amount of paper to cover whatever needed protection, but never too much to have excess. No paper plates or plastic glasses in either my house or on my mother's table. I adapted her use of cloth napkins and tablecloths for everyday meals. Not only did that make the meal for the family gathered special, it was just a few more items in the laundry and a lot less paper in the landfill.
I'm old enough to remember wringer washing machines. but also the hanging of laundry on the line in the backyard because there was no dryer. The side effect of that was wonderful smelling laundry. Hanging laundry is an activity that will give you exercise; weight bearing - carrying a wet laundry basket, and bending and stretching as you pin the clothes to the line. My neighbor and I in New York soon realized the calm of hanging laundry. The children would leave you alone for fear you would give them a chore and the sheets and towels would smell of the outdoors even if they were in the linen closet for months.
My mother did have a compactor for all boxes and packaging - her children. We all got the opportunity to flatten them by stomping on them before they hit the trash can. We thought we were doing a very important service. Brown paper bags from the grocery store were turned into garbage bags, covers for our school books, and paper to cover packages shipped back to Ireland. I stopped using paper towels in my house on Long Island when I found my husband and his sister could not conserve. We used rags, which were made from discarded clothing instead of being bought at Home Depot.
If we walk to the corner store instead of jumping in the car for every errand we will become more involved with our neighbors and improve our sense of community while saving energy, reducing our carbon footprint and improving our finances. These little changes will make it possible for us to say to the next generation "I lived through the Recession of 2009".