Environment – Learning from the old school

My grandparents are legends. They’ve been a big part of my life since the day I was born, frequent attendees at all school shows, and constant supporters of whatever I do. This includes my current work as a sustainable living educator and event planner.

The more I talk with my grandparents about my passion for encouraging people to make better choices – things like buying less plastic and cycling to work, the more I realise that these are not new things at all. Our grandparents are the original ‘eco warriors’.

While I boycott plastic bottles and instead visit Fruit World or Bin Inn, Silverdale, to return my glass milk bottle and grab a full one, my grandparents reminisce about the farmer who would stop at each house and pour milk into the household’s containers.

As I bike to the Ōrewa Farmers Market for fresh produce on Sunday mornings, Nana remembers her mother’s morning routine: “Make the beds, get the children ready, and walk to Greenwoods Corner: the local shopping centre. You’d have to shop daily because everything was fresh.” Their meat came in thin butcher’s paper, not thick black plastic trays. Buying biscuits and prepackaged food was a rarity kept for special occasions, or those who were better off. Everything was made from scratch and nothing would go to waste.

If you stop and talk with your ancestors too, you’ll realise the sustainable lifestyle that is marketed as revolutionary and unusual, isn’t so novel. It’s been done before. Unfortunately for us, we’ve advanced so far down the path of ‘convenience’ that it has come back to bite us in the bottom. Creating technology and systems to make our lives easier – supermarkets, plastic, and machinery – has backfired. We’ve become so caught up in exciting advancements that we haven’t stopped to realise how these inventions will affect us, and the planet, in the long run.

Next time you spend time with your grandparents, or any other older and wiser figures in your life, I encourage you to ask them how they lived. It’s likely you’ll find they lived with a zero waste mindset – not because they were in a climate crisis, but because that was the only option.

Of course the world wasn’t all ‘clean and green’ back when my grandparents were young, and nowadays they struggle to adopt my own waste free habits, but the lesson here is that life without waste is absolutely possible.

As we start taking up these ‘old school’ habits and push for sustainable systems, we can only hope that, one day, sustainable living will be our only option too. I’d certainly like to see the end of plastic meat trays!