History lessons sometimes get lost to time, and then history repeats itself.
Once an event happens, there’s short-term change. We react. We feel things deeply. But those senses dull over time. Things tarnish—even our memories. Then one day we forget about the pain. Sometimes we minimize it in our mind or make excuses for it. We move on.
While I think it’s an admirable quality of the human spirit that we are so resilient, particularly in the face of tragedy, I sometimes think that our memories are far too short. We begin to write off previous generations as if somehow we know better. We think we’ve got it all figured out, and so we ignore their wisdom and forge ahead making old mistakes that are new only to us.
The Great Depression was less than a century ago. The most recent economic recession was far more recent. Just from an economic perspective, we seem to adjust how we live during these times (tightening the belt, so to speak) and then forget those lessons entirely in better times. But I wonder if we wouldn’t be better off applying at least some of that resourcefulness during hard times to our everyday lives to reduce waste and to live more simply.
Here are nine examples of ways we could do this:
- Plant a Depression-era style Victory Garden. Growing our own fruit, herbs, and vegetables can be a wonderful way to help provide for our families, spend more time in nature, and experience the joy that comes with growing things. A small garden can supplement our normal grocery shopping and be immensely rewarding. For those of us who love planting flowers too, we can make sure that we plant the kind that attract bees and butterflies so that we can help contribute to our ecosystem in that way, as well.
- Reduce garbage by recycling, upcycling, and composting. Since I’ve started to recycle, I’ve found that I’ve reduced the amount of garbage in my household by at least half. Most packaging is recyclable. Anything that can be recycled is recycled in my home. I never let recyclable material head to the local dump. Additionally, there are old items that we can upcycle rather than throw out, like turning an old book into a new clock or another such Pinterest project. Then there’s composting. Instead of chucking everything into the trash, there are things we can compost with little effort like apple rinds, eggs, orange peels, banana peels, and coffee grounds.
- Be innovative with leftovers. I’m not just talking about leftover food, although there are many recipes out there for a “kitchen sink” soup where leftovers can be creatively made into a whole new meal. But there are other ways to look at leftover things. Apple rinds and orange peels can be combined with cinnamon sticks and heated for aromatherapy. They can also be made into an herbal tea. It’s delicious sweetened with honey. When we have fresh cut roses in our homes, we can take the petals before they wither and turn them into rose petal baths, homemade potpourri, or a number of homemade beauty products.
- We can upcycle things we might normally discard. Our old wine bottles can be upcycled as vases. Old jars can be made into toy storage or gift containers. If we think about different items before simply discarding them, we may be able to reduce much of our waste. Even old gifts can be upcycled. Take Valentine’s Day for instance. I’ve written an entire article on what we can do with old candy boxes, balloons, and greeting cards.
- We can pause before making purchases. Is what we’re buying meaningful in some way? Do we love it? Does it add value to our lives? Or are we just impulse buying or jumping on a sale while we can? If it is a necessary item, is there a similar item in our home we can donate or recycle now that we have this new one?
- We can go through our homes and look for ways to minimize our possessions. Most of us have far more than we need. If we’re in a financial pinch, what might we be able to sell? If we’re in a place where money is not an immediate concern, what could we donate to a worthy cause?
- We can figure out how to barter. Whether we’re trading babysitting days with a friend or swapping chores, we can utilize a bartering system to get things done. This can be a great way to get our needs met without spending extra money.
- We can save our pennies. Literally. We can collect change and save it up. We can use it to pay down a debt or to save for a desired trip or item. We can even download coupon apps to help us make our dollars stretch. Whatever we save could always be put back toward a goal.
- Walk or bike more, drive less, and carpool. When we make an effort to use our vehicles less, we tend to be healthier (with more exercise), and we also cut down on carbon emissions.
I don’t want to romanticize economic hardship, particularly as living in poverty can be a gut-wrenching experience. But I feel that we too often forget that our waste contributes to greenhouse emissions that are directly linked to global warming.
What we do matters, even if we’re not doing it for financial reasons. When we take a conservative approach to how we live, we’ll only increase our abundance. And, as the saying goes: When you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman