I am at a season in my life where I am enjoying the fruits of my labor. I have taught others about green building and green living so long that I am called the “Grandmother of Green”. At first, I was taken aback by the idea that anyone thought me old enough to be a grandmother. Then I remembered how much I had learned from my Mamaws. So, it is with respect and honor to my roots that I have embraced my Mamaw Love.
The concept of “green living” has been around for several decades. Over the years, it has meant different things and called a variety of names. Today, the popular catch phrases are organic, local, zero waste and sustainability. In the past, it was vegetarian, hippie, environmental and tree hugger. Whatever term is popular right now, it all comes back to the core concept that humanity and all of nature do better when we are in harmony with one another.
I realized my direct connection with the earth as I grew up on a farm. Today, my family would have been referred to as sustainable farmers. Back then, we were just poor dirt farmers who didn’t have enough money to buy those fancy fertilizers and pesticides. My extended family, especially my Mamaws, showed me that nature was abundant as long as we understood and worked with her natural cycles. We planted with the moon, saved seeds and used our farm animals’ manure to enrich pastures and gardens. We canned, froze, dried, smoked and stored our seasonal harvest.
For me, nature, the woods, creeks, trees and rolling meadows were my playground as well as a safe place to escape. When I climbed to the top of a tree and silently swayed with the wind, I became one with something so much greater than I could express. When I crawled inside a dark small cave, I could feel the heartbeat of the earth. Those moments were when I knew my true self and understood the connection of everything.
As I grew, I learned more about what we considered progress, and the good for humanity often have unforeseen consequences. I loved science and the cause and effect of everything. I felt a deep sense of responsibility to honor the earth. On one of my hikes in the woods, I came across an old paved road. Pieces of black top were staggered between dirt, grass and weeds. It occurred to me that the earth didn’t need saving, it would be fine if we left it to do its natural thing. Mother Nature just wants us to pay attention to how we interact with the planet and with each other.
Society’s denial of how everything is related often frustrated me, and I was delighted when Environmental Science became a field of study. Finally, there seemed to be a logical connection. However, I was frustrated as we broke into specialty areas without showing how they interrelated. For years, the main jobs you could find were chunked into waste management, nuclear, and air pollution.
When building science became a field, I was hooked. I loved the idea of seeing a house as a whole system – the work every step of the building process. It thrilled me to know we could now create buildings that utilized nature’s building process. Plus, there were all kinds of cool tools that gathered data to prove how these processes all work together. Building science had the formula to create a sustainable world!
For me, the concept of “Green Living” just comes naturally. It is so much more than conservation or alternative energy. It is more than how to build a house or live on the land or reducing plastic. It is also about social justice and honoring the process of where we are as individuals, communities and as humanity. “Green living” is also about looking to nature to find strength and connection. We as human beings are part of nature. Individually and collectively, we can create amazing, wonderful, positive change for the earth and for each other. Our journey through life always gives us opportunities to see how we are all One. Nature, the woods, sunshine, flowers, food, animals and humans all give us a chance to see how we affect each other. “Green living” is our opportunity to thrive as we all learn how we interconnect.