6 things our grandparents wouldn’t have thrown away


Sustainable living is super on trend these days, and that’s so great for helping to spread the word about living in a way that’s a little more friendly to the planet. Thing is, our grandparents have been living like this for years, and so we have a thing or two to learn from them. Raised in a post-war world of rations and make, do and mend, sustainable living comes naturally to that generation. Here are 6 things our grandparents would save that we might think about doing too:

Sustainable living by saving things our grandparents would have saved
Sustainable living by saving things our grandparents would have saved

1. Socks

Sixty years ago, it was completely normal to darn socks with holes in, but these days I think most of us are guilty of throwing away socks when they could be easily rescued. These days we have even more reason to be holding on to our socks than our elders. While socks used to be mostly made of natural biodegradable fibres, it’s not uncommon to see socks with elastane, acrylic or polyester in to help with strength and stretch. Since these are synthetic fibres (essentially plastic!) that could stick around in landfill for years, it makes sense to get the most wear we can out of our socks.

Most sock repair tutorials online are for proper old-fashioned wool socks, but since most of us don’t have those anymore, here’s a technique for repairing the sort of cotton mix socks we tend to have in our wardrobes these days. This is a super fast method, and should only take you a few minutes per sock!

You will need:

Thread in the same colour as your sock
A small round object like a tennis ball
A needle
Your sock

  1. Place your sock over the tennis ball and thread your needle. Tie a knot in the end of your thread then insert the needle on the inside of sock. Pull your thread through, leaving the knot on the inside of the sock.

  2. With your needle, pick up a single thread on the right hand side of the hole. Pull the thread through without pulling it tight. 

  3. Repeat on the left hand side of the hole, then back to the right, and so on until you have a ladder effect along the length of the hole.

  4. When you reach the top of the hole, gently pull the thread to close.

  5. With your needle, pick up a couple of threads where you last came out. Pull the thread almost all the way through, leaving a small loop at the end, then pass your needle back into that hole. Pull the thread tight to create a knot.

  6. Insert your needle at the top of the repair and bring it out about halfway down. Pull through and cut the thread where it comes out of the sock.

And on a side note, most of us probably buy socks that aren’t great quality to begin with. To help with this, as our socks become un-rescuable and need to be replaced we’re trying to buy higher quality items that will last much longer.

2. Foil

Most of us consider foil a single use product, but often the same piece can be reused several times. Instead of throwing it straight out, if it’s clean, fold it up and put in a drawer for another use. Often the same piece can be used two or three times, assuming it hasn’t been used to wrap raw meat or something like that.

Also, don’t forget that once you’re done with it, foil can be recycled! 


stained sheets can always be rescued!

3. Sheets and towels

We’ve all had white sheets and towels that have weird stains or have started to turn yellow (ew!) but before you throw them away, don’t assume they’re beyond rescue! Here’s how to rejuvenate them. You’ll need a laundry stain remover like Vanish (or a supermarket own brand equivalent!), household bleach and a bathtub or bucket. Note that this will only work for white sheets - coloured sheets need a more gentle approach.

  1. Fill half a bathtub with hot water and add a cup of vanish powder and a cup of powder laundry detergent or 4 caps of liquid detergent, stirring to dissolve well. Submerge the sheets and soak for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours. Stir occasionally. 

  2. Drain, wring and transfer to the washing machine. Wash on a regular cycle with no detergent.

  3. Fill half a bathtub with cold water and add 140ml household bleach, stir. Submerge the sheets and soak for half an hour. 

  4. Drain, rinse under the bath tap and transfer to the washing machine. Wash on a hot wash (ideally 90 degrees).

  5. Hang in the sun to dry (if possible!)

Completing this sort of clean should mean your sheets are able to be used for many more years, but for sheets that are truly worn through, you can turn them into handkerchiefs. For towels beyond rescue, consider cutting them up for reusable wipes or even absorbent boosters for your reusable nappy stash!

4. Buttons

You know those little spare buttons that come attached to new clothes? Don’t throw them away! Spare buttons make great decorations for cards, candles and kids’ crafts. Plus, if you lose a button on a piece of clothing, you’ll have a stash of spares to call on. You don’t need to find a matching one - a single mismatched button can be super fun! Finally, when it comes to sewing projects, you won’t need to buy new buttons, but instead can reach into your collection.

5. Jars

Any kind of jar can be recycled, but even better, you can hold onto them and reuse them for all sorts of things. Jars can be reused to hold candles or even for homemade candles - check Pinterest for loads of inspiration. We also use them as plant pots and for extra storage. Oh, and if you don’t have a reusable coffee cup, a jam jar can work pretty well - it won’t be completely leak proof but if you hold it the right way you’ll have no trouble!

6. Large plastic pots

Over the years I’ve bought quite a bit of tupperware for storage, when all this time, I could have been making use of the hundreds of plastic pots we buy every year. Large pots of yogurt, soup and nut butter can be cleaned out and added to your storage drawer, saving plastic from needing to be recycled whilst also saving you from buying another piece of ready made storage. They’re not quite as attractive as some of the store bought options, but that’s a small price to pay for keeping your plastic waste down!

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