Friday, 21 September 2012

We Can Learn From Our Elders

In the past being sustainable was not a choice it was the only option, especially if a family was large and low on funds.  As each generation grew so did wasteful habits. Having more stuff, the latest gadget and a big house full of electronics was a way of showing wealth and it still is. The problem with this way of showing wealth is that most people accumulate stuff to just throw it away, and where does this thrown away stuff end up?

In landfill where it can take decades to break down!

These days nearly everything is made from toxic plastic and materials that are not sustainable, most are designed just for one use. Really what is the use of that? Doesn’t it make sense to purchase something that you can use over and over again or keep for a very long time?

Here are some ways that our elders were naturally sustainable and maybe we can learn a thing or two.

Back then, people returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.

Grocery stores bagged groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for use by the school) was not defaced by  scribble.

People walked up stairs, because they didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. They walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two blocks.

Back then, people washed the baby's diapers because they didn't have the throwaway kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -- wind and solar power really did dry clothes back in the early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

Back then, there was one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room.  The TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Western Australia.  In the kitchen, people blended and stirred by hand because they didn't have electric machines to do everything for them.  Back then people would grow their own food and what you didn’t eat for dinner one night was kept for lunch or dinner the next day. Take out was a treat and not a staple diet.

When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. 

Back then, they didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. people used a push mower that ran on human power. People exercised by working so they didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

People drank from a fountain or tap when they were thirsty instead of using a plastic cup or bottle every time they needed a drink of water.

People refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service.We understand safety on the street has changed over the years and it's more important now to teach your children how to be street smart.

There was one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And they didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

If our past generation survived so can we, our elders were the thriftiest and most sustainable bunch that we can learn from. Being thrifty does not mean you are poor it actually saves you money for the better things in life like a holiday and also helps to preserve our environment for future generations.

Both of our parents were born in the 40’s and they lived the life above. Both our parents were never wasteful and saved money for things that lasted. We did not feel poor as we were growing up, we always had food on the table, clean clothes and a neat house (that was not the size of a supermarket) the best was getting out in the garden with our parents and learning about growing our own food.

We think that in order to move forward we should take a few steps back, learn sustainable habits from our elders, then take that knowledge into the future.

Let us know your thoughts

Thank You For Reading

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