|My grandmother's sadly neglected clothesline. I don't|
even know if she still has clothespins.
I did say to her one day, "But you've earned this stuff!" And I do believe she has--she was born during the Great Depression, and lived the first 50 or so years of her life well within the mantra I try to live by now: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." So when it comes to her twilight years, I'd argue she's earned the right to do whatever she wants--and she is, truth be told, still living very lightly upon the planet.
There's a goofy little bit of apocrypha that wanders the internet, and I shall not repeat it in full here because it annoys me, but it begins with a young person suggesting that perhaps if older folks had cared more about the environment we wouldn't be in the mess we are now. The older person responds with a list of all the earth-friendly things she did when she was young, thus absolving herself of all responsibility for any current earth-unfriendly-ness. That's all well and good.
My issue is that these skills weren't passed down, and while the generation that lived through the Depression could justifiably embrace things to make their lives easier, as a society we lost sight of a non-disposable lifestyle. I laugh when I see friends within 10 years of my own age passing along this little fable like it applies to us. We're making our way back there, with the rise of durable reusables and the positive peer pressure to take your own bags to the store or walk for short trips. Or the resurgence in at-home canning and clothesmaking. A downturn in the economy also gives an (unfortunate) boost to practices that happen to be earth-friendly as well as budget-friendly.
But still, I'm not there yet. My life will never be as light on the earth as my grandparents', partly due to my love for occasionally hopping onto airplanes to see other places. And so I'm not as willing as my grandma is to use a machine when I could use my body. After all, she's earned it. I have not.