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Issue 28: Sustainable Genes

Living a Sustainable Lifestyle is Part of My DNA
By Jordan Rubin

You may not know this about me, but living a sustainable lifestyle is in my blood; in fact, it is part of my DNA—and I have a grandpa Rubin to thank.

My father tells me that his family grew up in Floral Park, New York—a suburb of Long Island—without any grass in their backyard. Grandpa ripped out the lawn to cultivate a vegetable garden, using every available square inch to plant cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce. Peach and pear trees delivered scrumptious fruit by the bushel. The soil was incredibly fertile because of the compost pile that took up a good corner of the yard. Dad says he can remember approaching his father as a four-to-five year old boy—this had to be in the mid-1950s—and asking, “Daddy, how do you know the soil is so rich and wonderful to grow plants in?”

Grandpa replied, “Just put your hands in the soil, son, and let is slide over your hands. Don’t you feel the richness and life in that soil? It’s a feeling! The deep, dark, almost black color means the soil is rich in nutrients.”

Dad was too young to comprehend what nutrients were in those days, but he knew he could kill twenty worms when he jammed a spade into the black earth. My grandpa was such a conservationist that he had their family of four share the same bathwater! “That was his way to save water,” my father remembers. “Disgusting!”

But it didn’t stop there. Grandpa couldn’t let all that gray water run down the drain, either. No, they got a bucket brigade going and dumped the dirty bathwater on their compost pile. “We had the largest tomatoes in the neighborhood, “ my dad said with a tinge of pride.

When Dad was entering high school, Grandpa had him read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a book widely credited with launching the environmental movement and inspiring widespread public concern over pesticides and pollution. “He told me that what Rachel Carson wrote would come to pass if we didn’t do something and make a difference.”

As a result, my father walked to the beat of a different drummer as he came of age and married. He and Mom were among the first of their generation to pursue a hippie-like “natural” lifestyle, as it was called in the 1970s.

And that family tradition continues with me. In turn, I am passing off these principles and more to my children—in hopes that they will continue the legacy.

What about you? You can start a family legacy, too—one that gives your children and grandchildren a chance at a healthier and more sustainable future. It’s never too late to start, but starting sooner rather than later can have a greater impact on future generations.

Go ahead. Get a “green blood line” going in your family. Your family--and this world-- are worth it!


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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