Home Living Sustainably Reviving Ancient Wisdom: Embracing Zero-Waste Living in Modern Times

Reviving Ancient Wisdom: Embracing Zero-Waste Living in Modern Times

by Lola
camera, old, antique-711040.jpg
camera, old, antique-711040.jpg

Oh yes! Zero-waste is so last century! In the whirlwind of modernity, have we forgotten the timeless practices of our ancestors? It’s not about being old-fashioned; it’s about honouring the wisdom that stood the test of time.

Some might argue that previous generations practised frugality out of necessity. While that’s true to an extent, it’s not the whole story. Let me share a glimpse of my grandma’s tale in another piece, but for now, let’s explore how our many things have evolved, including our connection to nature.

Have we lost our connection to nature?

Before the Industrial Revolution, people lived intimately with nature. Rural life meant a symbiotic relationship with the land. Today, over half of us dwell in urban jungles, disconnected from the earth’s rhythms. The buzz of fast-paced city life drowns out the whispers of the natural world.

Our ancestors lived simpler lives without the comforts we know today only they understood about the fragile balance of nature and the ecosystems around them.

Nowadays 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, surrounded by cement, asphalt and pollution.

Not many people walk barefoot to feel the earth under their feet, we can hardly hear the birds singing and we mostly watch the sun setting or rising from behind a building…so it is not a surprise that we are forgetting to understand nature and it has even become something alien to us.”

Fortunately, pockets of reverence for nature still exist and many of us cherish and protect our planet, recognizing our interdependence with it. We are lucky that a big portion of us humans not only feel and understand what ties us to the Earth, but we have learned to love it and we are willing to fight for it.

We should re-learn what we have forgotten

Our society, our technology, our habits… everything around us has changed dramatically in the last century and will continue doing so at an exponential pace. This level of growth and development is not very sustainable.

Don’t worry, I am not going to ask anyone to try and live like their great-grandparents did or to give everything up to live in the jungle. I am not going to ask you either to walk barefoot or to throw away your smartphone.

But what if instead, we look back at the valuable memories from past generations and ancient cultures and try to learn and adapt some of their good old Zero-waste habits to our modern times?

Old does not have to mean out of fashion if it still serves us and if we make enough noise we can start generating change to stop the over-production of garbage on the planet.

Eight timeless zero-waste practices worth rediscovering

We tend to think that everything new and modern is better, but if we try to be humble we can learn a lot from what others did before us. Old does not have to mean out of fashion if it still serves us and if we make enough noise we can start generating change to stop the over-production of garbage on the planet.

A set of old sewing tools: scissors, buttons, thread...
In the past we used to repair and mend instead of buying new

1 Use hand-me-downs.

This is a great way to give a second life to all those clothes worn during a very short stage. Kids outgrow clothes swiftly, but adults can embrace this practice too. I very often exchange clothes with my relatives or my friends. When one of us gets tired of a garment or when it does not fit any longer, we pass it along so another person can still enjoy it.

2 Donate what you don’t need.

Sometimes we cling to meaningless material things. That’s why it’s always important now and then to ask ourselves how much useful and sentimental value our objects hold. By donating either directly or to charity shops, we are not only contributing to Zero-waste, extending the lifespan of items, but also we help others who need these belongings more than we do.

3 Mend and repair instead of buying new.

Repairing is one of my favourite forms of zero-waste because I can use my creativity. I often combine it with upcycling. It’s so much fun to repair old things! Did you know that in Japan there is an art form called Kintsugi, which consists of repairing and adding artistic value to broken pottery?? Check it out, really interesting! Try to turn it into small personal challenges, in most cases they just need a little touch to look or function better than ever.

Of course, repairing is not always possible and we need to purchase new items. When this is the case, opt for durable, reusable items that have been produced with sustainability in mind. Thankfully several companies out there offer a great array of zero-waste products. Some of our favourites are Less to Zero but you can find many more in our Green Cloud Nine Shop.

4 Let’s produce goods to endure.

Have you noticed that there are many antique automobiles still rolling around? That is because old cars were built to last. And the same used to happen with many home appliances, clothing items and other products.

Unfortunately, as big companies discovered planned obsolescence, they started generating products with a shorter lifetime to make us consume more. We did not help the situation when our society embraced a disposable consumption mindset.

Slowly, with the support of legislation, companies are beginning to adopt a more ecological commitment and start again to produce more durable items. We, as consumers can also use our shopping power to push businesses towards a more Zero-waste production style.

Antique vehicles
First vehicles were produced to last, in fact, many of those century old relics still work today

5 Turn the candle, I meant, the light off.

Our ancestors would not leave their candles on when they didn’t need them, would they? That would have been a waste. But in modern times we take light for granted because it is as easy as turning a switch on. We are often unaware of the hidden costs and the impact of generating electricity. so let’s try to be conscious and only turn on the necessary lights.

And going back to candles, they can help us save energy and also infuse spaces with warmth. 🕯

6 Spend more time in nature.

The digital era has brought us amazing innovations but it has also created many technology & equipment addictions. Whether reading an e-book, streaming TV, or playing a sport on a game console, these activities isolate us and also require energy. What happened to the good old walk in the park or football game with your mates? There are plenty of activities we can do in our free time with zero impact for our environment. Explore a few!

7 Buy Quality.

I can still remember going clothes shopping with my grandma. She would always check the composition and the weight of the fabrics and the quality of the finishing. My mum does the same too. They would never buy something cheap, because they planned to wear those garments for many years. And I must admit, I learned that from them and I am proud to be picky when it comes to the quality of my clothes because fast fashion has become one of the worst enemies of our environment.

Looking for quality doesn’t only apply to clothing, and I advise you to buy good products to keep them for a longer time.

8 Grow your own food...and compost the waste.

I know they were different times but our ancestors used to grow much of their food. Nowadays, we go to the supermarket and pick up our fruits and vegetables from a shelf, wrapped in plastic. This is, of course, easy and convenient, but there is a big downside to it. We have forgotten the effort and resources involved in producing our food. We don’t value food as it deserves and that causes a big portion of it to end up in the rubbish.

What we can do to learn the value of food, is to try and grow some of our veggies in our garden or terrace and if that is not an option, go to regional or farmer markets where you can buy in bulk, and at the same time help the local economy.

Do you still see “old” the same way?

Old does not have to mean out of fashion if it still serves us. Together, we can weave ancient wisdom into our modern lives, honouring the planet that sustains us. And who knows? if we make enough noise we can start generating enough change to stop the over-production of garbage on the planet. 😁

Lola is the founder of Green Cloud Nine. Nature lover and environmental activist since she was a teenager, Lola has always been a great fan of homesteading and she is continuously experimenting and finding her way to be more self-sufficient and sustainable.

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