Read: Wouldn't Mama be proud
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I have heard all of my life that cleanliness is next to godliness. Those words have often been spoken by grandmothers, teachers, parents and just about anybody who has attempted to get a kid to clean up their act or at least wash their hands before they eat.

All the years of my childhood, I had adults telling me that the best way to be a good boy was to have really clean hands. I still attempt to be godly as much as possible, but there are times I have to ask for forgiveness when it comes to clean hands all of the time. Farm living doesn't always lend itself to really clean hands and fingernails, but soap with plenty of hot water still is a main necessity of farm living.

However, there is something to be said for being clean in our own personal hygiene, our environment and the way we all live our lives. In a church bulletin recently, it was reported that Pastor Tim, who has a web site of good clean humor, said, "That if you took the same excuses that people use for not going to church and apply them to reasons for not washing, you'd realize how inconsistent we can be in our logic for not being in church on Sundays."

His top ten reasons for not washing and comparing them to reasons for not going to church were:
1. I was forced to as a child.
2. People who make soap are only after your money.
3. I wash on special occasions like Christmas and Easter.
4. People who wash are hypocrites - they think they are cleaner than everyone else.
5. There are so many different kinds of soap, I can't decide which one is best.
6. I used to wash, but it got boring so I stopped.
7. None of my friends wash.
8. The bathroom is never warm enough in the winter or cool enough in the summer.
9. I'll start washing when I get older and dirtier.
10. I can't spare the time.

We all use inconsistencies in our logic at times when we really just don't want to do things the right way. Air quality is also an important part of cleanliness and at times the things that we do without thinking may affect the cleanliness of our air quality in Tennessee more so than not washing our hands.

Growing up in rural Middle Tennessee thirty, forty and even fifty years ago, we used to burn anything at anytime we wanted to. However, those days of burning trash in the backyard and those empty fertilizer sacks in the field are gone. From now until mid-May you have to have a burn permit to burn brush to prevent forest fires and you get those through the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, but there are other things you just can’t burn these days at all.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) suggests that limiting our open burning is an important element to improving air quality. It is also against the law and there are items that are illegal to burn at any time during the year to protect our air from pollution.

In Tennessee it is illegal to burn:
• Tires and rubber products
• Vinyl siding and shingles
• Asphalt shingles and other asphalt roofing materials and demolition debris
• Building material, construction debris and mobile homes
• Plywood, oriented strand board and treated wood, including railroad ties
• Asbestos-containing materials
• Aerosol cans and food cans
• Copper wire and electrical wires
• Plastics and other synthetic materials (that's the fertilizer and seed sacks I mentioned earlier)
• Paper products, cardboard and newspaper
• Household trash
• Leaves, branches and trees not grown on site

It’s just good sense, as well as environmentally safe, to be involved in recycling and composting as alternatives to open burning. However, if you insist on burning your trash outback instead of taking it down to the county convenience center, then state law allows some pretty strong fines for violation of the Air Quality Act.

Several individuals including farmers, builders and homeowners have found out the hard way by a simple anonymous phone call from an unhappy neighbor and fines have been levied against individuals not knowing the law. After writing a check for a few thousand dollars they have made sure the air stays clean around their places.
So maybe cleanliness is next to godliness as we have been told all of these years. I plan to watch my burning, recycle and to use my county convenience center correctly. Air quality is something we can do to help others just as easily as washing our hands. Wouldn’t Mama be proud?

Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.
He may be contacted by e-mail at


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