Sustainable Lessons from our Grandmothers

“A house needs a grandma in it.” ~ Louisa may Alcott

Recently, I have been reading the excellent book, Barefoot Blogger: How To Save The Planet by Karin Kloosterman. In her book she reminds us how our grandmothers are good examples of green living.

This brought back memories of my great-grandmother. Shortly after the birth of my daughter, I went to visit my great-grandmother, who would have been 80 at the time. She said to me, “I have something for you” and up the stairs she went.  Most of you who have 80-year-old grandparents know they are not as agile as they used to be. When she came back down, in her hands she held a small plastic baby clothes hanger. Just one, that is it. She thought I could use it to hang my daughter’s clothes on.

I was amazed that she had gone to the trouble to save this one hanger for me. She had put it away and then remembered to give it to me the next time I visited her. Even though I had no shortage of hangers and didn’t really need it, I gladly accepted it from her. She never knew that what she really gave me that day was a lesson that I have never forgotten: being mindful of the things we buy and consume, and not being wasteful.

A rocking chair with a quilt draped over itThere are several more sustainable living lessons that can be learned from my grandmother. She never owned a car, even though she lived outside the town limits. She walked as her mode of transportation. She also used scrap material to make quilts and gave them to all the family members. I have saved one of her quilts as a memory of her.  Another one of her traditions was to buy rocking chairs at auctions to refinish and recover them for the new moms in the family. She believed every mom should have a rocking chair. She had a large garden in her yard and she preserved the fruits and vegetables from the garden.

Green Baby Adventure blog also has some great reminders about how our grandparents lived sustainably.

I have also come across a website called Elder Wisdom Circle in which you type a question and an “elder” will respond to you with a suitable answer.  Even in this digital age, the wisdom of grandparents is vital. Grandmothers provide knowledgeable experience to their family members.  There are so many practical things to be learned from them: living within one’s means and conserving resources are just a few!

What green living lessons have you learned from your grandparents?

“We must strive to be good ancestors.” – Ralph Nader

About Shirley McLean

I am the Supervisor of Solid Waste Planning at Halton Region. My educational background includes a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering from the University of Guelph. My career focus is to work on programs and policies that lessen the environmental impact of waste on our earth.
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5 Responses to Sustainable Lessons from our Grandmothers

  1. carl says:

    It seems that our society has shifted, and everyone is into becoming greener, reducing their carbon footprint, acting in a positive social manner, and promoting sustainability at every corner. That’s all well and good, but in business first you have to make a profit, and if you can’t make a profit all that other jazz doesn’t really matter because you will not be in business long enough to talk about it.

  2. Nice story, Shirley. Thanks.
    On the flip side, something that puzzles me about people in that age group is that they often have two or more refrigerators – even when they live as couples or even singles.
    What’s up with that?

  3. Shirley McLean says:

    I recently came across this website for The Wisdom Institute,, that shares the belief that wisdom is available to everybody and we can practice to increase our own wisdom in our daily lives and defines wisdom as “having sufficient awareness in various situations and contexts to act in ways that enhance our common humanity.” We can all strive to be wise elders for our children.

  4. Pingback: Earth Day: Save money by shopping like Grandma |

  5. Pingback: Le Jour de la Terre : Économisez en magasinant comme grand-mère |

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