Has Mom Been Teaching Me to Go Green?

By Wesley Cronk

Wesley Cronk is the Sustainability Director for the SEEC Foundation.  

Has Mom Been Teaching Me to Go Green?

Writing a paper about sustainable development the other day, I reached the conclusion and needed one final sentence to tie everything together. Struggling to come up with something witty I was picking every last corner of my brain until out of leftfield an old piece of parental advice came to mind: treat others the way you want to be treated.

Actually using this phrase as the last line in my paper would have been a disaster so I left it out. Put in context it made absolutely no sense. This did give me the chance to stop and wonder for a while though. Could my parents have been giving me better advice than I had realized this whole time? Have they been giving me tips for being green this entire time?

After spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about this vague possibility, I realized that a lot of “momisms” are surprisingly applicable to living sustainably. Here are some of the better ones:


·      “Treat others the way you want to be treated”: Exact opposite of the “not in my backyard” mindset that Americans often possess, consciously or not. The perfect example of this is in China, where workers wearing little protection process 90% of the electronic waste that we produce. Laden with toxins and heavy metals, the recycling process is extremely hazardous. Mom would not like the way we are treating the developing world.

·      “Money doesn’t grow on trees”: Mom’s way of condemning deforestation? Sounds like it to me.

·      “Close the door behind you, we don’t live in a barn”: Sometimes accompanied by the “we aren’t air conditioning the neighborhood” line, Mom was teaching me energy efficiency before I knew what energy was. My parents being serious about weatherization could explain why we had so much caulk in the garage.

·      “I’m not your personal taxi service”: Mom was apparently preparing for climate change before Al Gore. Explains why I rode a bike so many places when I was younger.

·      I brought you into this world and I can take you out”: This was less motherly advice than it was a reality check for when I acted up. Regardless, it holds true on the largest scale. Earth has nurtured humanity to this point and has the ability to wipe us out. Lucky for me my Mom couldn’t punish me with climate change.


I admit that the entire concept of this post is a bit of a stretch but I wanted to follow through with it because I did come to some realizations during this exercise. American society has developed an out-of-sight, out-of-mind attitude that has let us stray from some fundamentals. Would you be upset with China dumping their toxic waste in the park near your house? I’m sure they aren’t happy with us when they get cancer from ours.


Mom was right about more than I want to admit. If you are ever trying to think of a way that you can live ‘greener’ try going back to the basics and consider that motherly advice you stored away in the archives of your mind. Just don’t tell your Mom that she was right or you will get a momism that you don’t want: “I told you so.” 

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