The Man Who Wasted Nothing

Me at 6 months, going off with Grandpy for a morning stroll. June, 1992.

Me at 6 months, going off with Grandpy for a morning stroll. June, 1992.

This Thanksgiving I unfortunately had to say goodbye to my amazing grandfather.  

Needless to say, it wasn't the most lighthearted, or celebratory holiday for my family. 

My grandfather was an amazing man, he was an intelligent, patient, level headed, and an incredibly loving person. But if I try to write a post about what a superlative he was, it will go on forever. 

So, instead, I want to write about one aspect of him that I didn't really start to appreciate until recently: my grandfather's refusal to waste.

My grandfather, or Grandpy as he was known, was an engineering professor at UCONN for many years, and had an aptitude for numbers, logic, and practicality. He didn't waste time, or things. 

In many ways, Grandpy was an old school zero waster, he just used some different reasoning and justification for his practices. He and my grandmother were "depression babies," as she would say, they grew up in a time where you had very little, so you did not waste.

This philosophy was driven first by need, then by practicality as our country recovered and the two of them took a few steps up the economic ladder. 

Going through his old books I learned that he used to home-make wine. My grandmother also informed me that they kept all their used coffee tins and stacked them as a make-shift wine holder. 

They arranged for reclaimed wood to be used in the building of their house. The beautiful, exposed support beams came from an old barn in Maine, while the wood paneling in their living room came from an old tobacco farm.

He grew a variety of vegetables in his garden during the spring, summer, and autumn months to help feed the family.

He home-made speakers for all of his kids in his workshop, using wood, glass tubes, and canvas covering. 

He and my grandmother always saved wrapping materials like boxes and tissue papers to reuse for different gift giving events. 

Over the course of his life he would plant approximately 6,000 trees in and around his property, most of which are still standing today.

He utilized his clothing to it's full extent. One of my favorite examples of this came to light in the days before his passing.

The Fleece


We, his children and grandchildren, spent his final days siting at his bedside, often with photo albums laid across our laps.  It was during one of these reminiscing sessions that one of my uncles commented on the printed fleece that was draped over his bed.

"Isn't there a picture of Grandpy teaching Julia to walk in that?"  

Julia being the beautiful 22 year old woman standing alongside us. With a little digging through the albums, we indeed found a picture of 1 year old Julia, tightly gripping Grandpy in an effort to hold herself up, the printed fleece zipped up snugly around Grandpy. 

The fleece in question is an L.L. Bean creation. It's at least 22 years old, but we all suspect it's even older. It had been an item that caught my eye when I was in college, mostly because of how fashionable I thought it was. It has a very similar Peruvian style print to my own recently purchased Patagonia fleece. And looking at Grandpy's fleece, though it was very well used, you would never have know that it was probably made about the same time that I was. 

Julia learning to walk with Grandpy wearing his fleece.

Julia learning to walk with Grandpy wearing his fleece.

Grandpy, though he cared deeply about our natural world, was not driven to use reclaimed wood, hold onto his clothing, or upcycle his coffee tins by a fear of plastic pollution or overuse of our environment, he was driven by pure practicality. He was the embodyment of the belief that one doesn't need to live in excess to have a wonderful life, filled to the brim with love and happiness. 

He treated everything, and everyone in his life with patience and love. 

That's one of the many lessons he taught me during our time together, and I feel it's a good way to move through life, whether you are striving for a zero waste lifestyle or not. 

I hope you are all having a happy holiday season, and that you are treating everyone and everything in your life with patience and love.