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Learn from the past

Everything that is old becomes new again, and so many of the tips we've shared over these past 100 days were regularly practiced and part of everyday life for our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. If we all paused for a bit to reflect on how life was back then, we're sure we could learn so much from those who came before us; and many of the answers we look for on how to live more sustainably can be found in how they led their lives each and every day.

Maybe our parents and grandparents really did know best...

  1. If a household item broke, such as a toaster, it wasn't thrown away and another one purchased. Instead it was taken to a repair shop or fixed at home. It saved money and it kept so many still usable items out of the landfill.

  2. They grew a lot of their own food at home (Day #87) and shared favorite seeds with friends and family (Day #79).

  3. They used a clothes line (Day #29).

  4. They knew how to sew. They often made many of the clothes for the family and certainly knew how to fix a hem and sew on a button. They wore their clothes until they were worn out, and then they were turned into a quilt to keep the family warm.

  5. They reused jars and tins. A used peanut butter jar was never throw away. It would be given a new life to store items in their pantry, such as flour and sugar or it might become a button jar for the buttons that were removed off worn clothes.

  6. If you left for a trip, there was always a picnic basket full of sandwiches, pickles, fruit, homemade cookies and a thermos with water, lemonade or iced tea. When you got hungry, you stopped at a roadside rest area to have your meal instead of driving into a fast food restaurant and filling your car up with single-use garbage.

  7. They used items multiple times. They used handkerchiefs instead of disposable tissues (Day #61), rags instead of paper towels and disinfecting wipes (Day #17), and cloth napkins instead of paper napkins (Day #37).

  8. When they got thirsty, they got a glass out of the cupboard and drank water from the tap instead of opening a plastic, single-use bottle. In public areas there were water fountains and you didn't have to buy a bottle of water when you were thirsty (Day #4).

  9. They made their own cleaning products out of baking soda, vinegar, lemon, Castile soap and other regular household items that weren't harmful to the environment (Days #33, #47 and #65).

  10. They spent more time outdoors and children learned about and connected with nature, the environment, and their community. Adults worked in their yards or sat on their front porches where they could see and visit with their neighbors and form strong communities.

In our quest for modernization, we seem to have lost some of life's simplicity; maybe one of the most important things we can do to live more sustainably is learn from the past.


We were at a meeting a year or two ago, and someone read this to the group. We really liked it and have thought of it often since that meeting. We don’t know who wrote it, but we hope you enjoy this little story.

We Didn't Have the "Green Thing"

Back In My Day

In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that plastic bags weren't good for the environment. The woman apologized to her and explained, we didn't have the "green thing" back in my day.

That's right, they didn't have the "green thing" in her day. Back then, they returned their milk bottles, Coke bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, using the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But they didn't have the "green thing" back in her day.

In her day, they 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. But she's right. They didn't have the "green thing" in her day.

Back then, they washed the baby's diapers because they didn't have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts. Wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that old lady is right, they didn't have the "green thing" back in her day.

Back then, they had one TV, or radio in the house not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a pizza dish, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn't have electric machines to do everything for you. When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used wadded up newspaper 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. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They exercised by working so they didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she's right, they didn't have the "green thing" back then.

They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty, instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. They refilled pens with ink, instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But they didn't have the "green thing" back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar and kids rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. They had 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 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But that old lady is right. They didn't have the "green thing" back in her day. Gee!!! That was MY day too!


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