green guilt, green quilt

June 22, 2011|Posted in: crafty, fabric, family, frugal, green, My World and Welcome to It, no waste, plastic, quilts

The book, Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, has been recommended to me a couple of times and I wanted to offer it in case anyone else wants to read it. It’s on my request list at the library; I’ll post a review when I have read it.

Yesterday was a hot one — hot and smoggy, so they declared it a Spare the Air Day: don’t drive, don’t BBQ, don’t have wood fires, and try to keep energy use low. But I was in my car, driving up the highway to meet the roofer at our soon-to-be house, and man, it was really and truly hot on the road and smoggy in the air. I felt “green guilt” about the driving and have realized once again that my eco-lifestyle has become my new religion. As a recovering Catholic, I’ve noticed this before, and I won’t say a lot about it, just that I notice similarities in “doing the right thing,” “green guilt,” knowing “the litany” and “the sins.” Purging plastic is akin to a Lenten purge, isn’t it? Or maybe, since it’s supposed to be for life — a vow of celibacy from plastics? Something to think about as I ponder (pray?) over my choices and light candles instead of flick on a light switch.

On my journey through Sonoma County yesterday, I visited my parents, and my mom gave me some of her childhood toys to sell at an antiques dealer here in town. Apropos to our current conversation here about toys and plastic, it was interesting to see what her toys were made of:  paperboard puppets and doll furniture; Halloween masks made from starched and painted cheesecloth/muslin layers; aluminum and wooden pots and pans and rolling pins; cloth doll clothes and bedding; wooden beads to string. And the toys are still in good shape. Although there were choking hazards and perhaps lead paint in these older toys, at least they have held up over the years (70+). And they’ll eventually go back to the earth, since they’re all made of organic materials (the aluminum may take a little longer).

Chatting with my parents, who are children of the Great Depression, reminds me again of how many ways there are to do things: to save, to reuse, to resuscitate and revive. My father is an inveterate straightener of nails. My mother makes award-winning quilts (look for hers at the upcoming Sonoma County Fair) for the family, and as part of the Santa Rosa Quilt Guild’s ongoing mission to make baby quilts for the homeless or less fortunate. My parents use what they have, either in the barn or in the fabric stash, to make their creations. If you’re looking for inspiration on how to live with less plastic, look back a generation or two in your own family or neighborhood, and see what you can learn from our elders. (Feel free to post what you’ve learned in the comments section.)

For the past 18 or so years, I’ve slowly been working on what is perhaps the world’s ugliest quilt. I chose some rather bold purple, green, and hot pink fabrics back then, and set to work on it when Ana was a baby. Ana is 19 now, and I finally finished what I could with this ugly thing. I took it to my mother’s and we looked through her stash of fabrics, found some calmer green for the sides and back, and a friend of Mom’s is going to quilt it and finish the binding for me. There were several leftover squares from this Ugly Quilt (it’s so vivid that it will scare the beard off my husband when he sees it). My clever mother took the “orphan” squares and made a couple of baby quilts, using her fabric stash and some very calm lavender and dark green. The result of my mad fabric purchase from two decades back is that two babies will have handmade, warm, soft quilts to sleep in, besides the finished cover for our bed in our new (old) house.

There’s no plastic in this story, but there’s also no waste. There’s no trip to the dump, there’s no plastic bag, there’s no shipment from China, there’s no toxic side effects, and there’s no mountain of refuse. There’s fellowship, years of quiet handiwork; there’s the creative act and the act of sharing and giving. There’s the handing down of tradition, and the act of generosity toward others with less in their lives. I can’t think of a single negative in this story. And that’s a success, in a month of purging plastic or any time.

Guilt or quilt? I think I’ll take the latter.

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Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of "Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop" and "Veronika Layne Has a Nose for News" (rep'd by Booktrope). She is the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. Her articles have appeared in Thrillist, Quill, Paste, San Francisco Chronicle, and in many magazines; her latest poetry appears in The East Bay Literary review.

5 Comments

  1. noreply@blogger.com'

    Jon Spangler
    June 23, 2011

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    If there is any “guilt,” it is your self-confessed “sin” of driving to Sonoma on a Spare the Air Day. I have found myself driving long distances on previous STADs – including the 400-mile one-way trip to visit Linda for a few days when she was working in LA a few years back.

    Overall, you probably do less driving than most people, however, so you should feel OK about your choice. At least the inversion sis not last very long this time…

    My parents lived through the Depression and I am now appreciating anew some of my mother’s
    “quirky” habit of saving and reusing all kinds of “junk.” As I learn how to channel that borderline “hoarding” instinct more effectively the impulse to save things can become more positive….

  2. noreply@blogger.com'

    Cathy
    June 23, 2011

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    I am lapping up your no plastic month series. Wrestling with the details and the struggle itself is the main thing. Of course, I am a sap for anything from the Depression, the gold standard of how to make the absolute most of anything you have.

  3. noreply@blogger.com'

    Jon Spangler
    June 23, 2011

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    I think it’s always harder to be blazing the trail than to be one of many followers, and you have, once again, been out in front of the curve, leading by example. A prophetess pursuing a vision not shared by many people will be rather lonely, by definition.)

    Thank you for being willing to come up against – and find ways around – barriers that the rest of us did not even know existed. This kind of “bushwacking” cross-country to establish the trail for the rest of us is critical work, and I want you to know I appreciate – at least a little bit – how hard that work is.

  4. noreply@blogger.com'

    Penny in Australia
    June 25, 2011

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    I just saw this article on TV, about a woman who is ALLERGIC to plastic! Thought it would be of interest to you 🙂

    http://au.tv.yahoo.com/sunrise/article/-/9149228/allergic-to-plastic/

  5. noreply@blogger.com'

    Penny in Australia
    June 25, 2011

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    And just came across this too:

    http://holykaw.alltop.com/zero-packaging-grocery-store-opening-in-austi?tu2=1

    My first time commenting on your blog, and I have two things to say – I’m on fire today!

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