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Green, Frugal Living & Yesteryear

Updated on December 28, 2015

Yesteryear's Green Living

In my world, chunks of green living laws and frugality are inexorably intertwined, but a recent comment from a friend made me think that it may not be so for others.

Our relentless search for the many items that make our lives easier or more interesting, the newer and better, the next big craze, are the very things that bring on our environmental headaches.

We used to be a lot greener when I was young, but it just didn't have a label.

  • We had bottled things, such as milk, beer and cool drink bottles. These were always returned to the store, you obtained your deposit, and the repeatedly used bottles were sent back to the dairies or factories. Our food was not prepackaged in plastic either, so we didn't have the build up of plastic we see today.
  • We used to walk to the shops, not drive the car. Clothes dried on a line outside in the sun along with the rest of the washing.
  • Clothes were always handed on, if it wasn't going down, it went across to the charities.
  • Vegetables mostly came from the veg patch or garden, shelling peas was my job. Vegetable peelings were put on the compost heap to enrich the soil.
  • Sunday's roast chicken was still scratching around the yard in the morning.
  • Eggs were collected daily, the chickens happily producing what we call today jumbo eggs, in those days they were normal eggs.
  • Percolated coffee was on the stove, and if you wanted anything chopped, mixed or blended, that is what you did by hand - machines were not on hand to do everything for you.
  • The lawn was cut by a push mower using manpower. Rainwater collected in tanks to be used in the garden or land when the rain had left us. We didn't need the gym, as we naturally got a lot of exercise working at home.
  • Children played in the sand, there weren't many toys, an imagination was required to play. We walked or rode bikes to a friend's house, parents were not used as taxis. The imaginations of yesteryear, were fired by books, not by the contrived story lines of video or computer games.
  • Aerosol cans were not the norm, and simple things like vinegar, lemon and bicarbonate of soda, were used to clean. If we sent a parcel, we padded it with old newspapers not bubble wrap.
  • Electrical equipment such as fridges, vacuum cleaners or washing machines lasted for at least 30 years. My Gran had a Kelvinator fridge for 40 years!
  • In order to create work, we became a throw away society and built a limited life-span into our equipment including cars, which gives us a mountain of metal to re-cycle.
  • We only had one television, with a not very large screen, we filled our pens with ink, used a map to go somewhere we didn't know, and had telephone conversation with family who were far away rather than bouncing their messages or faces off one of the satellites orbiting earth.
  • We did not have much, if any, electronic equipment in our homes - so trying to dispose of its' toxicity correctly was never an issue.

Life in America in the 1950's

Green Living and Frugality

We have had to expand the environmentally friendly recycling programs, rethink appliances, waste alternatives and products.

How can we help and at the same time put cash in our pockets?

Electricity and Water:

  • Heating - wash in cold water and in full loads only, it is better for your clothes. Dry them on the line, they smell fresher and keep the electricity costs down.
  • Shorten your showers from 10 minutes to 4 minutes and cut your monthly water waste from 700 gallons to 300 gallons.
  • Lower your thermostat a little in winter and raise it a few degrees in summer will save on energy costs, and emit less carbon dioxide.

10% of your electricity bill can be saved by unplugging unused appliances and electronics. Toasters, hairdryers, printers, electric toothbrushes, cell phone chargers, coffee grinders etc.

Make your Own Household Products

Not everything in the home needs to be sanitized off the planet, we do need to develop immunities. DIY cleaners limit the exposure of toxins and polluted air for children and pets.

  • Four Tablespoons of baking soda in a quart of water, will clean most spills.
  • Half cup of baking soda, one cup white vinegar and one gallon of boiling water mixed together and poured down the drain will clean it.

Life in America in the 1960's


Beauty on a Shoestring
You can replace many of your beauty and health products with homemade solutions, and there are many sites, here on Hubpages, promoting effective and simple to make products.

Clothing from secondhand or thrift stores are only lightly used and always laundered. You could find higher quality merchandise, which is more resistant to wear and tear, at a huge discount. Donate your old clothes back for another family.

Paper & Plastic

One single mature tree can absorb as much as 48 lbs of carbon dioxide each year and release enough clean oxygen into the atmosphere to sustain two people for life.

As 900 million trees are cut down annually to serve the US paper industry and nearly 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide, change to reusable to save on landfill. As many stores now charge per bag, this will also keep some money in your pocket.

Paper Wastage:

  • The average employee goes through 10 000 sheets of paper a year, the same amount one tree produces. When printing, choose recycled stock, and ensure the margins are narrowed down, which will reduce your page count.
  • Receive and pay your bills on line, and ensure your name is removed from lists you're not interested in.

Before you Throw it Away

Electronics are an absolutely essential item to recycle, they contain toxic chemicals that should not be leaked in to soil. If the product is functioning, donate it to charity. Many places like will pay for your old electronics.

Share or Borrow

A more simple solution is to borrow it. Pool with your neighbour to buy a ride on lawnmower or a snowblower that you can all use. Of course if you use a shovel, you can get your heart rate up and savings balance.

Buy Low Energy Appliances

When you have to replace that appliance, ensure that the Energy Star rating is high, as not only will you be saving gas emissions, but also utility costs for your household.

The Gas price isn't Budget Friendly

Pick out a few spots that you visit within a mile of your home. Make a pact that you and your family will try to walk there in future. Set up a carpool system with neighbours for school trips. If you can walk or bike it on short trips, this will not only save fuel money but you will be investing in your health.

Eat Green

Obviously meat is an easy way to cut down on cost and environmental harm. Cut down on one less meat meal a week than you're accustomed to. Cook meals yourself and avoid eating out as some estimates say, that an average family spends $4500 per year eating out, and often there is waste. By cooking your own meals you are in charge of the ingredients, their source plus the amount you cook.

Local is Better
Fruit, vegetables, meat and fish travel around 1500 miles to reach your mouth (think carbon emissions). Picking up produce from your local farmer's market is both less expensive and chemical free.

America of Yesteryear

Grow Your Own Food

As the produce section in the store is very expensive, think about growing your own vegetables.

Most vegetables are very easy to grow, and need very little space.

As costs are initially quite high to start a vegetable garden, grow expensive foods you enjoy like tomatoes or peas to mitigate the costs.

Obviously composting reduces costs and a double or triple layer of newspaper, covered with wood mulch to weigh it down, will block weeds most of the growing season and decompose into the soil by the following spring. (No glossy parts, regular soy based newsprint only)


  • One hundred square feet of garden will roughly double an initial investment of $55 in a given year (Not including start up costs or labour)
  • You will need a day or two to plant depending on the size of your garden.
  • There are no guarantees as bad weather, plant disease, insects and other factors could scupper your hopes for a useful return.

You will have plenty seasonal vegetable and none the rest of the year, unless you learn to can or freeze.

Try to grow the following vegetables for real cost savings, but please ensure you get the correct variety for your particular area.

Bell Peppers - if you let the crop mature, the peppers will turn red which is sweeter than the green variety.

Tomatoes - Cherry tomatoes are an early harvest, large tomatoes are used for summer and fall, while meaty paste tomatoes are good for freezing for use in salsa and sauces.

Lettuce - Don't plant all the seeds at once, plant a few, then continue planting a few more every two to three weeks during the season. That way you will have lettuce for many months.

Winter Squash - Four winter squash plants yield about 40 squash. The runners need some space to grow in, so allow for this when planting.

Garlic - Be sure not to over water the mature plants.

Broccoli - Can be grown in spring and fall. It is a heavy feeder and requires soil rich in organic matter.


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    • mizjo profile image

      mizjo 5 years ago from New York City, NY

      A great look back in time. We had so much less of absolutely everything, and it was enough. Whatever we had was recyclable - clothes were handed down, shopping bags were of cloth, clothes too worn down were torn into dusters, newspapers were used for wrapping. And a car (only one to a family, presuming they could afford one!) lasted generations!

      We used to walk the few miles to school until we moved 18 miles away, when we needed the old school bus.

      Great hub, CyberShelley. I can see the present generation trying to emulate a few of our old practices.

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 5 years ago

      precy anza Thank you so much for your visit and your very welcome comments, so appreciated!

    • precy anza profile image

      precy anza 5 years ago from USA

      Wow! Reading this also had brought me back in time. :) Had done a lot of walking too years ago going to and from school, and of course the clothes line, until now still doing it and many more that you listed ^-^' Great hub! Voted up and shared! :)

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 5 years ago

      novascotiamiss, Thank you for these great comments which have added such value to the hub. You're right about the hot wash, but washing 1-2 loads per day is crazy, besides the extravagant use of water and electricity, clothes also wear out so much quicker when they are over-washed. I am so glad you visited.

    • novascotiamiss profile image

      novascotiamiss 5 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada

      Cybershelley, once again an awesome article that hit the nail on the head. Re. Yesteryear's green living I had to chuckle. Everything we do nowadays is done for convenience = time saving so we can waste more time sitting in front of the TV or the computer...

      Re. washing with cold water only, it may be better for the environment & safe on electricity but I do believe that cold water does not really kill germs like hot water does. So e.g. underpants, kitchen & bathroom towels etc. should be washed with hot water (unless of course you add bleach and other harmful detergents). Also, the odd hot wash does actually sanitize your washing machine. So my motto is: A few loads of cold with the odd load of hot in between. Also I notice that many people only wear clothes once and then it goes directly into the washing machine. I know some people who do 1-2 loads of washing per day which is absolutely insane and bad for the environment. That's another thing we didn't do in the old days.

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 5 years ago

      Barbara Kay, thank you for pointing that out. I am sure that old lady, like this old lady was born in the late 1950s and the world was much the same all over. I will find it just to satisfy myself now - I too have always hated waste, and would rather pass things along than throw it away.

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 5 years ago from USA

      Facebook just had something similar to this. A young checkout girl accused the old lady when she didn't have her own shopping bag, that the old lady's generation caused the problems we have today. Then there was a list of why they didn't need to think of recycling back then, because it was just a way of life and they didn't have plastic etc. It was interesting to see the same ideas here in you hub.

      I've always needed to be on a budget and the ideas here, I've always done anyway. Some people have never thought about trying these ideas though.

    • europewalker profile image

      europewalker 5 years ago

      Excellent hub! I miss the good old days. We did't have microwaves, cell phones, a fast food place or a Starbucks on every corner and we were happy. Voted up and awesome:)

    • profile image

      ignugent17 5 years ago

      I love this hub! It really reminded me of the things we have in the past and it just very simple life style. Having things for years is really neat and I remember the TV that will last a long time. Now it is not even a year we have to buy another with bigger screen.

      This teaches us to do the things before and save.

      Enjoyed reading it.

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 5 years ago

      So much fabulous information packed into this hub! It's crazy to think we keep trying to "improve" the world... yet we've corrected things we should have left alone. Now we have to work harder to revert back. Fantastic read, voted a bunch and shared.

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 5 years ago

      freecampingaussie, thank you for visiting. I too loved those days, I am sure they still do this in some rural parts of the UK.

      Rosemay50, I am so glad you visited, and thank you so much for your comments and votes. Much appreciated.

      Billybuc, It was a great sound, all was well with the world, the milk was here and the day now truly begins! Thank you for the visit and the great comments.

      Esmeowl12, Thank you for your visit. I was a little worried about bringing back the old days, but so glad you liked it.

      FrugalFatCouple, I am so glad, as I said above I was a little worried about old memories! Thanks for the visit and the comments.

    • FrugalFatCouple profile image

      FrugalFatCouple 5 years ago from California

      Aww I remember it well~!

    • Esmeowl12 profile image

      Cindy A. Johnson 5 years ago from Sevierville, TN

      I love this hub! It's so funny that I just read this after watching "The Lorax." We all need to do what we can to help ourselves live greener and help the environment at the same time. This is a timely, important subject. Thanks!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      All true statements about yesteryear; I loved hearing the milk being delivered on the porch. I have been singing this song for a great many years and I wonder how many people are really listening. All we can do is keep singing. Great hub!

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      A great hub with some very useful ideas. I know some scoff at 'the good old days' but they truly were. There is so much that we can all do to help save our environment.

      Voting up and useful and awesome

    • freecampingaussie profile image

      freecampingaussie 5 years ago from Southern Spain

      We used to enjoy getting our milk delivered to the door every day in New Zealand ! Some great ideas here .