Made from bri-nylon underskirts in the 1960s, this item is a living testament to the “mend and make do” culture of previous decades. A lady that knew my grandmother crocheted and sold them. They were her side hustle for extra income. I was very happy when Mum gifted it me last year.
I’ve known this bag all my life. It carried glass bottles of pop (soda) from the ‘offy’ (off licence / licquor store) on Friday nights. Dad would rent a VHS player and 2 films, for the weekend. It carried the picnic on woodland walks, our slippers on holidays and our beach stuff, when we headed for the sands.
The handle is fraying a little (some cotton tubing will reinforce it), though considering it’s over 50 years old, it’s holding up well, at holding stuff. My Mum has re-usable shopping bags and wrote the year that she bought them on the side – 1998. This year the handle finally gave up on one, so she replaced it (the handle not the bag). It’s funny – the shock and awe – when someone asks about the number. They’re called ‘bags for life’ and it’s not wrong. This blue and white beauty has been passed down 3 generation, is an antique and it still works.
It’s great that the R’s (refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle and rot) are commonly known. There are people whose way of life wasn’t disrupted in the last few decades by consumerism. Indigenous tribes and island communities whose carbon footprint is almost non-existent, despite the fact they are bearing the brunt of the damage caused by human-induced climate change.
We can avoid the con of everything new, just so it matches. Using things that ‘make do’ makes life colourful… a wooden box I made with my grandfather that holds candles, outgrown winter hats – their plaits tied to form a handle – holding cleaning cloths. Beaten-up Tupperware that will forever smell of instant coffee, housing odd nails. My kids have traced with metallic crayons, stored in my school geometry tin. It’s dented and plastered in faded band stickers, though still serviceable.
No amount of filters and hashtags will make some of these things look good. They work though and that’s all they need to do. We make pretty a lot these days, with the help of technology and storage containers that match (bamboooooo!). Though sometimes the fact something does what it needs to, after all this time, is enough. And is beautiful.
These ideas aren’t new – I grew up with zero waste habits living a mostly blue zone lifestyle – as many do. These terms, new to us in recent years, grow from the rich soil of families and communities of the past. For my part, it was what Mum did because that’s how she was taught or how Nonno lived. We all have wisdom around us – we grow strong by encompassing everyone. It doesn’t matter who plants the trees – just that we keep planting them – so that everyone can stand under them.
That’s what we’re all doing with these habits – taking cuttings from something established and helping new shoots to grow. Whatever you do to celebrate Earth Day, have fun! Whether it’s run errands with a 45 year-old bag, eat dinner by candlelight or plant something. Celebrate nature. She fills our lungs and our bellies, quenches our thirst, gives us materials for shelter and much more. All of humanity aligned with Earth – THAT is a beautiful thing.