7 Sustainable Living Tips Our Grandparents Taught Us

Grandma and Grandpa as futurists? Their approach to things might inspire some lifestyle choices that are more frugal and sustainable, helping save the planet in the process.

sustainable living tips

“Back in my day…”

Perhaps you’ve found yourself on the receiving end of this “advice”. When it comes to our grandparents’ generation (and let’s be honest, ANY preceding generation), times have definitely changed.

We have more options than ever. Convenience runs supreme. However, all of this comes at a price. Our environment suffers due to increased waste, a lot of which is going to take thousands of years to decompose.

Maybe Grandma and Grandpa were on to something. Their approach to things might inspire some lifestyle choices that are more frugal and sustainable. While it might help you stretch a dollar, it could potentially do better by the planet in the process.

1Buy for durability

It’s understandable that we don’t want to spend more than we have to on products. However, a more expensive, quality product is likely to last longer than multiple versions of a cheap alternative. In the long run, you spend less money and generate less waste.

Quality products tend to be worth fixing as well. If you made a substantial initial investment, you are more likely to spring for a repair, as opposed to purchasing another new item.

Consider buying higher quality clothing, furniture, appliances, knives, just about anything. It may require a bit more research to find the best, but the results are more sustainable.

2Reusable diapers

If you have a little one, you KNOW how many diapers a baby can blast through in a day. These add up fast. While disposable diapers may cut down on laundry loads, they certainly create a lot more waste (and not the biodegradable kind).

Also referred to as cloth diapers, our grandparents didn’t really have a choice when it came to wrapping up their baby’s bum (okay, probably multiple babies because most of our grandparents had at least six kids). Today’s versions are significantly more user-friendly, featuring various sizes, styles, and snaps (phew, no more safety pins).

In addition to being better for the environment, they may also be better for your baby’s sensitive skin and are theorized to help make potty-training easier (win-win-win).

3Mindful Eating

 While it probably wasn’t intentional on our grandparents’ part, there are a number of ways to eat more sustainably. You can start with growing some of your own food. It does not need to be extensive. Whether it’s a herb garden, straw garden, or even a shared community garden, growing food yourself is about as local as it gets.

If you can’t grow it yourself, try to purchase from closer, smaller farms (farmer’s markets are ideal). Eat seasonally and opt for more plants and less meat.

Eating this way lessens the necessary transportation cost. Additionally, smaller farms typically practice less environmentally damaging growing techniques (compared to mass agriculture).

4Make your own baby food

When it comes to starting solids, you can easily make your own baby food and cut out the preservatives. It’s easy, cheaper, tastes better, and cuts down on (you guessed it) packaging waste. Baby-led weaning is a great alternative as well.

While those on-the-go kid’s food pouches are a nutritious option, they are really difficult to recycle. Consider buying a set of reusable pouches and making your own. You can easily recreate many of their favorite flavors without all the waste.

5Save (and repurpose) Containers

 Packaging waste is a problem, so if something comes in a container, try to find a way to reuse it. If it’s a plastic or glass food container, wash it out and use it to store leftovers or as another cup. Most of us can remember seeing “glasses” in Granny’s cupboard that didn’t match a set of anything, but they still worked just fine.

Save all those cardboard boxes from online shopping to reuse next year, or make a super fun fort with your kid, or make a cat obstacle course – really the options are endless.

6Sharing is Caring

Being part of a resource sharing community is better for the environment and everyone’s pocketbook, not to mention it fosters relationships with your neighbors.

Need a nice dress for a one-time occasion? Ask to borrow one from your network. Is your garden producing an ungodly amount of tomatoes? Share the wealth! There are a number of locally organized groups where you can easily connect and share (examples include Buy Nothing groups, Nextdoor, neighborhood Facebook groups, etc.) Passing something on is so much better than throwing it out.


If you have excess produce (or just about any kind of food) and no takers to share with, preserve it. Canning cuts down on food waste and means you’ll have something to snack on should the zombie apocalypse hit. While canning has never truly gone away, it has recently experienced a renaissance. As they say in Portlandia, “We can pickle that!”

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