Learn from the past

on Thursday, October 21, 2010

As a vintage/history enthusiast, it is often funny to me how my generation takes credit for ideas, products, and even ways of life that are decades or centuries old. Spanx? Yeah. Thats a weak girdle.

Most people who grew up during the depression or the war are the "greenest" people you'll ever know. Only they didn't call it "green", they just called it life. It was a necessity for saving money, and making the most of rationed materials and guidelines. I know there are many ways modern culture uses the resources we have to conserve energy on a large scale: solar power, recycling plants, etc. But as far as having a green way of life, those people can tell you young whippersnappers how it's really done.

I have a few knitting and sewing books from the 1940s, and they are full of patterns for non-wasteful everyday things. Lots of reusable market bag patterns for instance. Plastic grocery bags were not in existence until the late 1970s, until then there was paper, and whatever cloth bag you brought with you.

Making new clothing out of old frocks was a necessity for almost everyone during WWII. It's now a fun way to take old unwanted clothing and make them into something new, but back then, it was the only way you would get a new dress, blouse, or hat. There are even patterns and how-to booklets for turning old into new, it was especially popular for women to take their husbands, fathers, or brothers suit, and turn it into something for themselves.

Homemade cleaning supplies are nothing new. They did wonders with vinegar, baking soda, and lemon.

Canning, buying food locally, purchasing dry goods in bulk, growing your own vegetables, keeping chickens, It's all been done.

Saving the last bits of soap bars, drying laundry on a clothesline, mending good clothes. They did it first.

My favorite online resource for helpful domestic tips and tricks from a pre-Martha Stewart era is Things Your Grandmother Knew. It is full of snippets from old magazines that will make you go "Oh! Thats amazing! Why didn't I think of that!"

Also check online, antique shops, and thrift stores for little booklets and hard back books that contain a wealth of "Make do and Mend" knowledge.

Honestly I think it's more difficult now to live a wasteless life since we live in a disposable world. We no longer have milkmen to drop off bottles of milk in the morning. Our flour no longer comes in cotton bags we can turn into blouses and dishtowels. Our snacks are conveniently pre-packaged in little plastic bags. Even our fruit can come individually wrapped. Toys come with a crazy amount of packaging, even books, books come wrapped in plastic.

What are your "green" methods of living?