7 Earth-Friendly Household Arts to Revive
When I spend time with my grandmother, I am always struck by just how much has changed since she was my age. Growing up as a millennial in this rapid age of technology, I have always taken conveniences for granted, and been of a mentality faster is better. But sometimes, in conversation with my grandmother, or the quiet moments of my day when time seems to slow and my mind becomes quiet, I long for a different pace of life, which is not marked by how much can get done but how much can be savoured.
I think that much has been lost by replacing traditional household crafts with the convenience of modern life. There is much to learn from the older generations, who still remember this way of living that was slower, using more of our own energy and less of the earth's supply. Here are a few household arts that are earth-friendly, fun, and (mostly) free that I would love to see revived:
Hanging washing out to dry on a clothes line. Growing up in England, I actually saw many people doing this, but since moving to the States I don't think I've seen this practiced once. Perhaps it's the memory of rationing during the war that has been passed down through the generations that has kept this tradition alive in the UK, although I suspect this is now changing. While using a dryer is more convenient and faster, it wastes unnecessary water and electricity, and actually robs us of an opportunity to be outside. I think this practice can often be a beautiful opportunity to become present in the moment, feeling the fresh air on our faces, and connecting with a different pace, as this task isn't something that can easily be rushed. And if people in the UK can do this despite their frequent rain showers, I have faith that those of us elsewhere in the world can too!
Making planters out of old food containers. While recycling is a great start to minimizing our waste, it still takes energy to recycle. Using old tin, glass or plastic cans or jars into garden planters is a great way to repurpose these materials. You can also spend time decorating them, which you may enjoy doing with the children in your life.
Be mindful with your clothes. In our consumer society, we often buy clothes that we never wear (a recent study by Elizabeth Bye and Ellen McKinney found that 85% of women have clothes in their closets that do not fit), and we tend to throw out the clothes we do wear when they get ripped or damaged. In times past, women had far fewer outfits and looked after the ones they did have by repairing them when they became damaged. If you know how to sew, you can mend holes, put patches in ripped jeans, or turn an outfit that no longer fits in a pillowcase or some other home furnishing (or donate them to someone else). Like hanging washing on a clothes line, these practices can also take us to a peaceful state of mind - so put your feet up with a cup of tea and get our your needle and thread!
Soap making. Soap contains three ingredients: fat (animal or vegetable), water, and lye. You can experiment by making a single soap bar with ½ cup of cold soft water, 2 heaping teaspoons of commercial lye, and 1 cup of melted beef tallow (or fat alternative). Make sure you are making your soap somewhere with good ventilation, as the fumes are not good for you. Add water to the lye slowly, creating a lye solution. Important: make sure you have rubber gloves on and safety glasses, as the lye can burn you if it splashes. Then, in separate contains, bring the lye solution and tallow to between 95-98 degrees fahrenheit, by putting the containers in basins of hot or cold water (depending on whether they need to be warmed or cooled). Stir the tallow, making sure that it is even in its consistency. Then pour the lye solution into the tallow slowly and steadily with an egg beater until the consistency is that of sour cream. Now you can add any colorants, scents, or other special ingredients. Finally, pour mixture into a mold, cover it with a towel or blanket, and store in a warm location. Your soap will be ready in 3-6 weeks: if the soap is for your own personal use you can simply stick the tip of your tongue on the soap at 3 weeks. If you get "zapped" your soap is not ready.
Preserving produce. There are a few ways you can store produce that doesn't require putting them in the fridge, and more importantly, allows the food to last longer so it doesn't get throw away.~ Live storage: you can store certain fruits and vegetables in this way (notably apples, pears, and root crops). This can be done above or below ground, but requires certain temperatures: it must be cold enough to slow down food deterioration, but not so cold that the food will freeze.
~ Live storage: you can store certain fruits and vegetables in this way (notably apples, pears, and root crops). This can be done above or below ground, but requires certain temperatures: it must be cold enough to slow down food deterioration, but not so cold that the food will freeze.
~ Canning: make sure to place your canned food in a dark, cool place (below 65 degrees Fahrenheit) to preserve as many nutrients as possible
~ Jellying: this is great for fruits like raspberries, peaches, strawberries, pears, plums, apples, plums. If you enjoy living with nature's cycles, going to a local farm in the appropriate season and picking fruits for very little cost can be a really fun activity, especially with kids, followed by jelly making!
Basic herbal remedies. I'm not naturally inclined or gifted in herbal remedies, but there are a few that are super easy and useful for everyday life
~ Sore throats: you can add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to warm water with honey (it works wonders)
~ Digestion: drink mint tea after meals
~ Aching muscles: mix 1 cup of witch hazel with a ¼ cup of alcohol, and massage into the affected areas
~ Chapped lips: add a few drops of rose water to a tbsp of honey and rub onto the lips
~ Sunburn: drop two or three tea bags into your bath (make sure they are near the running water as the bath is filling up).
Get your windows clean with natural cleaners. Instead of using harsh chemical sprays, you can use a white vinegar solution along with some newspaper instead. All you have to do is mix two tablespoons of white vinegar with a gallon of water. Alternatively, you could use straight lemon juice or club soda instead (don't dilute either of these with water).
If you have other suggestions for other earth-friendly household arts you would like to see revived, please comment in the box at the bottom of the page!
By Kenya Ference
Kenya Ference: Kenya has a background in filmmaking with a wide variety of experience with online content and marketing systems. Kenya graduated from the Met Film School in London and went on to co-found a video production company in Boulder, Colorado. Serving as Siren Vid's creative director, she focused her talents on telling the stories of local brands, non profits and initiatives supporting both women and the environment.