I recycle, I turn lights off when I leave a room, I unplug things we aren't using, but I wouldn't say I was saving the planet. I like to take long showers, and I'll do so while the washing machine and dishwasher are going. Sometimes I hang out clothes, or I might be using the dryer during the least energy efficient time of day. If living green meant the amount of veggies I eat per week or the amount of green accessories I have, then yes, I live a green life.
But seriously, I don’t like to waste things. I am usually the one who finishes the leftovers, the ketchup, scrapes the jelly and mayonnaise jars clean. I’ll use the broken slimy little piece of soap and rescue it from going down the drain if it escapes my washcloth. I'll use my solid deodorant down to the plastic or until the small solid chunk falls to the floor and breaks to pieces. I mix water in with the bottle of liquid laundry detergent to rinse the residue out for one more load of laundry.
The word residue is one that I can remember asking my mom, “What does residue mean?” She was cooking and I was helping. I remember that it was cream of mushroom soup. As as exclaimed that I was finished, she said, “That’s good, but you have to get the residue out like this” as she proceeded to clean the can with the spoon. I repeat, you have to get the residue out, in my head, in her voice, every time I am scraping a can clean.
When I was in high school, I earned a generous allowance with chores that included doing the dishes and ironing my brother's clothes for school. With my allowance, I learned to budget and save. My allowance combined with a $2.50 an hour paycheck from my job was to pay for my clothes and entertainment. I never had to ask my parents for money.
At the time I was wearing a hairstyle where I shampooed my hair everyday (uncommon for black girls). I would use the conditioner twice; once to soften my hair and then again to rinse it out slightly (a leave in conditioner effect). This gave my hair a naturally curly appearance as it dried. I guess excessive use of the products I shared with my mom was getting out of hand. She came in my room with a bottle of conditioner and asked, “Did you put this in the trash?” I replied, “Yeah it was empty.”
I don’t remember how she demonstrated that the bottle was not empty but she said, “If you are going to waste shampoo, you can start buying your own shampoo and conditioner with your allowance.” I said, “Fine”, like it was no big deal and I started buying nicer shampoo. Remember the Jhirmack hair products? This was during the time of Dallas, and Victoria Principal was in the Jhirmack commercials.
I started buying all my toiletries. It was at my expense so I could pick what I wanted and no one could tell me how to use them. Here’s where the learned lesson came in. When I got to the bottom of the shampoo, conditioner and lotions I had purchased, I turned them upside down until I couldn’t get anymore out. I never wasted a drop of a good product. I won’t discuss all the hair products I have wasted money on over years. That would be contradicting myself.
Christopher has been at the bottom of his toothpaste for about a week now. Groaning on Monday morning about going to school, he was tired of hearing how there was still more toothpaste in the tube. He couldn’t get it out. I squeezed the last of it out, demonstrating how as I worked it from the bottom to the top. He was not impressed.
When he came home that afternoon, from the direction of his room, I heard a happy, “THANKS MOM!” as if I had left him a surprise. I said, “What?” He said, “For the toothpaste!” I had been to the grocery store.
Here’s the thing… I bet my mom didn’t know she was teaching me a a life lesson. I wonder if I am teaching Christopher one now?