Back to the Past – How revisiting the knowledge of our grandparents will help our future

I don’t know about you, but I am noticing a discernible trend towards recapturing past skills. Old crafts such as crochet and knitting are coming back into vogue, home-made items are becoming increasingly fashionable and understanding how to re-use and recycle items is an area of growing interest, with terms such as re-fashioning (remaking old garments into new clothing items) becoming more commonplace.

Where has this trend come from and how will it help our generation into the future?

My perception is that there is a growing tiredness with our consumerist society. Off the rack, mass produced items have become so commonplace and lacking uniqueness, that we are hungering for personalised items, handcrafted, home baked, we desire the time and relationships that these things represent, something that many of us lack in our busy 21st century lifestyles. There are also deeper concerns that this growing trend represents.

  • Climate change – how are we trying to slow this down and what are the contributing factors? The pointless use and disposal of petroleum-based goods, plus the transport needed to ferry these goods.
  • Justice for other peoplefair trade items consider how goods have been produced. Are these people being treated fairly and paid fair wages?
  • Buying local, living local – related strangely to the points above, people want to understand more about what impact there consumerism is having on others. Do they want to support mass produced goods from China, or a local home based craftsperson? How can you understand the ecological footprint of what you buy, if you don’t even know where it was made, or can’t understand the list of ingredients?
  • Recognition that our current lifestyles are unsustainable – we are getting fatter and our children may be the first generation to have a shorter life span than ourselves; making money merely to buy more stuff doesn’t actually make you happy.

So what are these not so ancient skills?

  • Home grown – kitchen gardens, organic vegetables, market gardens, seed saving. The trend towards growing your own produce or purchasing locally grown produce is a return to our grandparents era where most people grew some of their own veggies, had backyard chooks and didn’t expect to buy everything they ate from Woollies grocery stores.
  • Home-made – many of this current generation do not own, let alone know how to use a sewing machine – why would you when it is easier to buy cheap clothes from a chain store? However the advantages of home-made, or individually hand crafted items are that they are generally better made, will last longer, are more likely to be unique and more highly valued by the owner.  
  • Reuse, recycle – my grandparents were major hoarders, or at least I thought so, they saved everything. Go through a world depression and world war(s) and this is what it teaches you. It also means you don’t have to purchase something new every time you need an item and drastically decreases the amount of rubbish going out of your home and workplace. Apparently these days 60% of what a person buys ends up in landfill 7 months later.

So how can revisiting the knowledge of our grandparents help us into the future?

Unlike our grandparents, or great-grandparents, we (in Australia) are living in a time of great wealth and affluence however it is not bringing us the personal prosperity and fulfillment that economic growth promised. We have bigger houses, can move longer distances faster, yet this current generation is more likely be divorced, suffer from depression, obesity, diabetes…the list goes on.

Returning to, or learning these skills our grandparents were familiar with, can reactivate local communities, build relationships and simultaneously reduce our environmental impact. Have you experienced shopping at a farmers market versus a large chain grocery store? Talking to local producers about their product, chatting to friends you run into, versus being pushed through endless aisles, with hundreds of variations on the same product.

How about making something yourself? Cooking from scratch with ingredients you have grown or sourced yourself? This can take longer, but the satisfaction that comes from the effort is immensely greater and the compliments you receive mean so much more!

As the older generations have always tried to tell us younger generations – everything new is old.