When my grandma moved out of the home she raised her six children in and into an apartment for the 55+ age group, she had a lot of downsizing to do. She donated many of her clothes, years worth of kitchen supplies, and even her beloved sewing machine. Some of her children took old furniture and helped her move in. An organizational fiend, she put labels on everything and categorized all her possessions. It drove my own disorganized mother nuts, but it was certainly an admirable trait for a woman who pretty much single-handedly raised five boys and a girl all in very close age ranges. A needed trait, you might say.
So when my grandma arrived at her new place and set out her (labeled) recycling bin next to her trash can, she was astonished to discover her apartment complex--which had more than 100 units--didn't have recycling. "No recycling!" she exclaimed to my mother over the phone. "We'll see about that!" To a woman who weathered through the Great Depression, who handed out labeled cups at family reunions and instructed all of her grandchildren to use just one cup the whole week, who saved food scraps to pour into soups and stews ... to this woman who reused all of her aluminum foil until it crumbled apart in your hand, who scrimped and saved, who sewed and mended day and night, who made all of her children's clothes by hand--she could not comprehend the idea of not recycling. And she did something about it.
Circulating a petition among all of her new neighbors, my grandma garnered enough signatures to raise management's eyebrows and cave in. In her mid-80s, she still had the power to persuade and the will to act on her values and beliefs. Grandma became known as the recycling-bin lady.
My grandma died Thursday morning at a hospital in Norfolk, Virginia. She was 87 years old. And today, I walked by a full recycling bin in the lobby of her apartment building.