I recently came across an article on Mother Nature Network that discussed things our grandparents did that we all could take a lesson from. Especially those things that saved precious personal and natural resources. This got me thinking about things my grandparents (and parents for that matter) did that I really need to rediscover and recommit to. When you think about it, our parent and grandparents did many “eco-friendly” things long before we knew our ecology even needed a friend! Yet another case of “everything old becomes new again.”
“Eco-Friendly” Things Our Grandparents Did
Used A Clothesline For Drying Clothes
Clothes dryers have come a long way in energy efficiency over recent years, but the average home clothes dryer has a carbon footprint of about 4.4 lbs. of carbon dioxide per load of laundry. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, “the biggest way to cut the environmental impact of cleaning clothes is to stop using a clothes dryer.” Besides, there’s nothing better than sheets and pillowcases hung in the sun to dry. Clothes last longer when they air dried too.
Grew Their Own Food
Not only is there an incredible sense of accomplishment in growing your own fruits and vegetables, but you also ensure that your crops aren’t sprayed with pesticides and you can control the types of seeds and transplants that you sow and grow. Choose heirloom varieties whenever possible. My grandparents ALWAYS grew their own food. All you need is soil, water and sun!
Preserved Their Own Food
Canning the food your grow in your garden is a great way to preserve fresh foods without having to invest in an enormous freezer. I would love to have a “root cellar” full of home-canned goods like my grandmother did. Very little food was wasted. If people today practiced even a portion of what our parents and grandparents did, there would be a lot less food going to waste.
A rain barrel will save most homeowners about 1,300 gallons of water during the peak summer months. Also, diverting water from storm drains can alleviate stressed water systems and conserve limited resources, especially if you live in an arid climate (like I do!)
Note: Several states have introduced rainwater collection laws, including Colorado, Illinois, Arizona, Ohio, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington and Virginia. However, these laws don’t prohibit the collection of rainwater but rather outline allowable collection methods and usage. The regulations are there to prevent people from ‘diverting water’ in large quantities, as well as to prevent the sale of rainwater for drinking without proper treatment.
Cooked At Home
Nothing beats a home-cooked meal, and preparing your own food benefits the environment – and all of us, by extension – by saving money and reducing our carbon footprint.
Home cooking gives us the opportunity to choose component ingredients over processed meals, which cuts down on packaging. Buy those ingredients from local farmers or grow your own, and you’ll make an even bigger impact on the environment by significantly reducing the amount of transportation required to get food to your plate.
Saved Eating Out for Special Occasions
Nowadays, it is not uncommon for people to eat out several times each week. For our grandparents, eating out was saved for special occasions. Even fast-food, which wasn’t as common back then, was considered a treat. My parents even packed food for our road trips, no fast food stops, just roadside picnic tables.
Entertained at Home
Today we spend lots of money going out. Our grandparents spent more time outdoors during the day, and in the evenings their families enjoyed playing board games, reading, and time devoted to hobbies. Going to the movies or to a concert was considered a luxury. By finding more free activities to do and spending more time at home as families, we can save a lot of money and maybe even get to know one another better.
Drank Water From The Tap
When our grandparents were thirsty they drank from a tap instead of drinking from a plastic bottle of water shipped from the other side of the world. Bottled water would have seemed ridiculous 100 years ago, but now people take them wherever they go.
“Brown Bagged” It
When grandpa or grandma went to work, they took a packed lunch from home – they didn’t eat out during their lunch-break from work. Leftovers became a whole new meal.
Fast food and fast casual restaurants often serve meals in single-use, throw away packaging that ends up in landfills or sometimes on the side of the road. Taking your lunch to work saves money and reduces waste. With little effort, taking lunch to work can be easy, inexpensive, healthy, and green.
Played More Games
Bridge, checkers, hearts, scrabble, crosswords, red-light/green-light, jacks, hide & seek, roller skating, hopscotch…..and on and on and on.
Being outdoors helps children connect with nature and the environment around them. Outdoor play develops disposition for the outdoors, for physical activity, and for care of the environment.
Our grandparents spent less because they didn’t buy as much as we do today. If something had a hole in it, it wasn’t thrown out–it was patched or mended. Instead of always buying presents for Christmas or birthdays, gifts were often homemade. Things were frequently handed down from child to child to save money. The kids didn’t always get new things. These practices not only saved money, but they were eco-friendly, too.
Spent More Time Outdoors
In our grandparents day, being indoors meant you were grounded or sick. The outdoors was everyone’s playground from dawn ‘til dusk!
In this technological age, it is hard to have quality family time without everyone being attached to their devices. Spending time in nature is a great remedy to combat being gadget dependent for everyone in your family.
There was no Facebook, there was no reality TV. Grandma and Grandpa just talked to people in actual reality. About real stuff.
Research shows that connecting with people around you makes you healthier and boosts your lifespan and gathering on front porches creates a feeling of community and family.
Used Home Remedies
Many of us have been taught home remedies that have been passed down from generation to generation. Learn how to combat a cold with garlic, ginger, and onions. Soothe a bug bite with Lavender essential oil or a plantain poultice.
Made Their Own Cleaning Products
This is something I have already embraced that my grandparents did. Have you looked at the ingredients in the cleaning products that line the shelves of your grocery store? Can you pronounce any of them? Say goodbye to toxic household chemicals and say hello to baking soda, vinegar, lemon, castile soap, and essential oils for most of your cleaning needs.
Relied on Traditional Modes of Transportation
It was common for many of our grandparents to walk or bike to and from work, and more people used public transportation because they didn’t have a car to drive. People took the bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of moms turning into 24-hour taxi services.
Our grandparents didn’t have a single-stream-recycling center in town, but they knew how to make something into something else. Dresses became quilts. Coffee grounds got added to the next day – not brand new ones every time you made coffee. They returned milk bottles and soft drink bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed, sterilized and refilled, so they could be used again and again. Everything had a secondary use and nothing of value was thrown away.
There you go….17 eco-friendly ideas from the past that were born out of necessity but that we would all be smart to adopt today!
What eco-friendly actions did you learn from your parents and grandparents?