Now that so many people are thinking green, taking their own bags to the grocery store and driving ecologically friendly cars, I wonder if I can pass off my clothes as environmental statements?

Now that so many people are thinking green, taking their own bags to the grocery store and driving ecologically friendly cars, I wonder if I can pass off my clothes as environmental statements?

Not that my clothes are biodegradable, though a few of them are proving to be. A couple of my oldest and most faithful T-shirts are slowly decomposing, not in a grisly way but with graceful resignation. One day they're intact, then I see that large portions of cotton have become translucent, and after that the fabric simply disappears.

Even then, of course, I don't throw away the shirt unless wearing it to walk to the mailbox might constitute a misdemeanor. When a person lives in the country, out of -- what's the word, eyeshot? -- out of eyeshot of the nearest neighbors, she inevitably collects an at-home wardrobe that neither she nor anyone else would dream of wearing in public: old boxer shorts, old T-shirts, pajama bottoms in patterns and colors that leave no one wondering why they wound up on the clearance rack in Old Navy. The only real question has to do with what on earth the buyer was thinking.

But I didn't come here to talk about those clothes. I'm thinking about my real clothes, the ones I wear out in the world. So many of them are, well, really old. Worse, they're clothes that once belonged to my daughters.

Anyone who has daughters will understand how it works: The daughters grow up and out of diapers and clothes marked 2T and 3T, and pretty soon they're wearing clothes they've shopped for themselves. Cute clothes, frankly. Great clothes.

Then they depart for college -- the daughters, I mean, and some of the clothes -- leaving behind closets full of also-rans, clothes that didn't make the cut. Losers.

But the clothes don't look like losers to me. They look like perfectly good shirts and tops and sweaters and what's this? a necklace? It's mine now.

I can't wear their size 0 cast-off jeans, it goes without saying. And don't get me started on the psychological nefariousness of calling a jean size "zero." No one should be able to wear a zero, but of course many, many girls do. And heaven forbid they should balloon --that would be the word they'd use, "balloon" -- to a size 2. A size in the lower single digits! Who wouldn't be depressed?

And where do clothes manufacturers go from zero? What if they want to make jeans for girls who are smaller than that? Do those girls wear clothes labeled "less than zero," or "below zero"? Maybe clothing manufacturers use negative numbers: minus one, minus two and so on. Would that make a minus nine smaller than a minus one? I hope so, because it would help the clothing wearers get used to seeing reasonable numbers on their clothing tags.

Anyway, I can't wear the jeans, but I can and do wear almost anything else my daughters have abandoned in closets and drawers and boxes.

Today, for instance, I'm wearing a T-shirt that is certainly older than my daughters' college degrees. It's so old I can't recall which daughter first brought it home or where it came from, though if I had to guess I'd say it came from the secondhand store my older daughter liked to frequent when she was in high school. That was some time ago -- it was in another century, in fact -- and yet I didn't hesitate to pull that shirt over my head this morning.

Why didn't I hesitate? I had several good reasons:

1. I'm sick of my other tops.

2. It was clean.

3. It matched.

4. I was running late.

Until now, I was satisfied with those four reasons, but it has occurred to me that by wearing my old shirts, yea, even until they become transparent and melt into nothingness, I'm doing my part to save the trees. Or the sheep. Yes, wear your children's cast-off clothing and save the sheep!

Don't tell me the hand that cradles the rock rules the world.

Margo Bartlett is a ThisWeek staff writer: E-mail mbartlett@thisweeknews.com.

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