Climate change, Crafts, Food, Home & Garden

Returning to Past Habits (Climate Change Collective Post 9)

This is my contribution to the series being run by the Climate Change Collective.

The Climate Change Collective was born out of an exchange between Michelle over at Boomer Eco Crusader and Jamie Ad Stories. They both care deeply about the impact of human activity on our planet, as we all should, and wanted to find a way to keep the climate change message right at the forefront of all our thoughts.

I think we don’t need to preface my thoughts on this topic with any justification or acknowledgement of climate change. We all know it’s a bad thing and that we should be doing out bit to try to push our planet back in the other direction.

And “back in the other direction” is where I’m going with my post. I think that there are many lessons and habits that we can learn from our forbears when it comes to how to live in a sustainable way, minimizing our impact on the world we live in. I’ve always had an interest in family history (of which more another time), I think that the ways that my great-grandparents lived and even how my grandma lived as a child (she’s 98 and tells me all about it sometimes), can guide us in protecting our planet. So many of the detrimental actions we take are intrinsically linked to modern life. Looking back to a less-technologically-driven era, can help us make more sustainable choices. For our ancestors, their reuse, recycle (make do and mend) mindset wasn’t driven by a consciousness of environmental impact, it was about economics and availability.

Here are some of the things that my grandparents and their parents did, and which are gaining popularity again today as we try to use less.

Grow your own

At least two of my great-grandfathers were productive vegetable growers. They either had big gardens or allotments and grew flowers, vegetables and kept chickens or other animals that might provide food. My grandma lived in a 3 bedroom terraced house where her father kept pigeons on the roof – for food – and rabbits in the backyard; jugged hare (rabbit) was part of her childhood diet.

Today, waiting lists for allotments are long and many of us grow our own vegetables when and where we can. Whether that’s tomatoes and herbs on the windowsill, a veg patch in the garden, or chickens at least for eggs. Whenever I go for a long run, I pass at least three houses selling their excess eggs.

Draft excluders

So simple! Money saving too! As energy prices have risen, the market for draft excluders is increasing. I did a quick search on Etsy to see some options and got totally sucked into browsing all the fabulous, but oh so simple, solutions out there. I remember my paternal grandparents having a “snake” that sat below their living room door to keep the drafts out. Now my parents have one too. Highly recommend!

Wear a jumper

This is a bit of a mantra in my house. Whenever someone complains that it’s cold, or puts their hand near the thermostat (including himself), my first questions are to check for a warm jumper, socks, and slippers. Indeed, we now have three fleece blankets in our living room for the evenings. Even though our heating bill isn’t ridiculous and a couple of extra degrees on the thermostat wouldn’t bankrupt us, snuggling with a jumper and a blanket is just so cosy – as well as saving money and energy.

Reusing water

I know that in the “olden days” bath water was probably reused, not just for several people having a bath in the same tub, but also to subsequently wash down floors or water those vegetable gardens. We don’t quite go that far, especially with so many people taking showers these days. But keeping the water from cooking pasta or rice and from washing up or washing down outdoor furniture, to use on the garden is just one quick and easy way to reduce our mains water supply.

Even better, in the UK, if you don’t send surface water to the sewers, you can get a reduction to your water bill.


Preserving is one of my absolute favourite ways of being less wasteful or reducing consumption. I don’t know the last time I bought jam, chutney, or fruit gin, because I make all my own. I use recipes for some things that have been handed down the generations. My mincemeat recipe was my great grandmother’s.

When I’m growing vegetables, there’s an inevitable glut of courgettes at the end of summer. Sometimes, I give them to friends but even they can only eat so much. Chutney is a great way of not wasting the harvest and provides a lovely gift for teachers, reuses empty glass jars, and means I never have to buy chutney – so economically frugal too.

Jam and jelly in jars
Jam and jelly

Repair community groups

My town recently started what they call a “repair cafe”. Essentially a group of volunteers are available once or twice a month to help fix the bits and bobs from our homes that might go wrong. Rather than replacing a toaster because a wire came lose, take it along and they’ll fix it and you’ll get years’ more use from it.

(Toasters might not be the best example, I’m sure there’s a Douglas Adams quote about someone repairing a toaster and always being left with spare screws, but I can’t find it.)

They also service bikes at special events, we’ve had the gears sorted on one so that we got an extra six months’ use from it and were able to sell it on; rather than replacing it earlier and scrapping the old one.

Scrap metal

I think that, for a long time, if we had metal stuff that was broken or no longer needed, we would just take it to the tip and let someone else deal with it. Now, maybe it’s a result of my town no longer having a tip, but we now have at least two scrap metal trucks that do the rounds, probably weekly. I regularly hear one of them with the megaphone blaring “any old iron”.

Harking back to the days of Steptoe and Son, we’re now arranging with the scrap men to pick up the totally-unfixable bike, the the old light fittings and curtain pole that were left in the garage by previous owners, the rusted and unsalvageable patio furniture. None of that is heading to landfill any more. Well, I hope not anyway. I wonder what they do with it all?

Keeping clothes until they’re worn out

The opposite of fast fashion right? I remember my grandma marvelling at my need to take a whole suitcase for a weekend away – why didn’t I just wear the same jumper and have a couple of different scarves or brooches. Well, not really the thing to wear these days, but her point was that we have too many clothes when we really only need a few.

She’s right you know.

Do I really need another pair of jeans? No, not really. Actually, I did recently buy some new jeans. My favourite big baggy pair from Next, that I bought in about 2005, had finally died – holes in the cuffs, the knees and eventually the thigh too. I wanted to replace them with another pair but of course you can’t buy “boyfriend” fit anymore. Instead, I saved money and went up to the men’s department, buying their smallest size and coming home with comfy, baggy jeans that are thick and durable and have deep pockets! win!

Back to my point though. I kept those old favourite jeans for 18 years because they were amazing and they still did their job. They didn’t need replacing until they really failed. Even then, I could have patched them, but didn’t.

Another way we can contribute to the reduction in production of new clothes when there are plenty of serviceable garments out there is to buy from charity or second hand shops, or even car boots. We just need to see the potential of things. Several years ago, I upcycled an old skirt of my mum’s and it’s fabulous – a pair of scissors and a single hem and bingo.

shortened skirt, hand me down
shortened corduroy skirt

The end

That’s my head emptied on the subject of drawing inspiration from the past to combat climate change. Thanks to all the other lovely members of the collective for letting me join in.

Love from Smell xxx

15 thoughts on “Returning to Past Habits (Climate Change Collective Post 9)”

  1. Wow! I learned a lot through this. I must look into reducing runoff into sewage drains as never heard of this. I recycle as much as possible and am starting to grow more in the garden. You have inspired me to make an effort with this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for this informative post, Smell, and thanks for being part of our collective. I love these ideas, and it’s true that our ancestors knew how to live sustainably. It seems “progress” isn’t really progress after all. (Hmm…perhaps a good title for my follow-up post.)

    P.S. I had never heard the term “draft excluders” before. When I read your description, I remembered we had these when I was a kid in England but we called it something else that I don’t remember now. Maybe it’s because of our harsh winters, but Canadian homes tend to be well insulated and drafts aren’t a big issue for us. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we can take a lot of wisdom from our forebears. All the technical advances cost energy and use up resources because they’re so reliant on plastics and electronics. There are simpler, natural solutions to so many of our problems that are more durable, easier to replace or mend, and cheaper.

      Liked by 1 person

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