Tuesday, March 8, 2011

8 March 1957 “Being Green 1950’s Style: or Common Sense”

solar article 2solar article 1I wanted to share this article again. It is from one of my 1940’s magazines discussing the importance of using the sun to aid in heating. It was written during the war years when we were more conscious of money and spending and saving.

I thought I’d just share a few things that were fairly normal in the past that would be considered green today. Really, just common sense and with the thought of thrift and the future. This idea of ‘saving’ or thinking ahead or even planning for the future often seems an alien idea in modern society.

earlyamericanglass[3]Many people of old saved their glass jars. When one purchased something, it was often washed out and used again. If you were poor or furgal enough, there were many jam jars used as water glasses. In the 1950’s they even packaged things in a specifically reusable package.

Though many things were kept and repurposed rather than thrown out. And almost nothing came in plastic, so a good reusable sturdy glass jar with a good lid was valued.

cinnamonshaker1Here is a vintage spice jar I use to hold my cinnamon sugar. I was surprised to see one can buy throwaway plastic containers of pre-mixed cinnamon sugar. Now, that’s pretty lazy to not be able to scoop your cinnamon and sugar together and give a little shake.  glassjars Here are some modern uses of glass jars. jarsshelf  This lovely craft rooms takes advantage of old rulers as decoration and it is still a usable measure, if one holds things such as fabric up to it.

You can also unify jars by painting the lids a single color, making varying sizes and shapes ‘go together’. Also it is easy enough to make up vintage labels for these using vintage clip art or old cards and magazines. Such as this clever crafter did here using old vintage button cards as labels.buttonjars


 50sfamilyatdinnerSomething as simple as using cloth/linen napkins saves so much waste and saves on the pocket book as well. I use a napkin more than once and they all get laundered on Monday with my other things. I save money and make less garbage AND feel like my dinner is special. Here you can see mother has her cloth napkin on her lap.

clothnapkins Vintage napkins are so beautiful and really come in so many forms are are SO inexpensive, why not try it out.tealfolkteatowel  Even vintage tea towels/kitchen towels are far prettier and can still be used to wipe hands in the kitchen in lieu of napkins. I use old tattered bath towels cut down and hemmed as my ‘hard duty’ wipe up kitchen towels. It is even better if they are white because they bleach easily enough or come clean if put in boiling water with some soda and left to soak overnight.

womanatsink Did you know that boiling water converts baking soda to sodium carbonate? Why do you care? Well, it’s a great old-fashioned way to clean out the drain: Put One cup of baking soda down the drain and then pour Three cups of boiling water after. This is a great drain cleaner. draincleanerad Though many pre-made products were available in the 1950’s many a frugal homemaker knew these ‘old’ tricks from Mother or Grandmother, or gleaned their skills at the now vanished Home Economics classes.

womanwashinghair Washing your hair in the sink was a very standard procedure in the 1950’s. In fact, the old joke was to get out of a date one would say, “Oh, I can’t go out tonight, I am staying in and washing my hair”.  A 10 minute shower uses between 25-50 gallons of water (depending on shower head which ranges from 2.5-5 gallons per minute). Consider how a once a week bath was replaced by daily showering and hair washing.

It actually is better for you hair not to be washed daily. If your hair is more oil, 2-3 times a week is better. I have ‘normal’ hair, in that I wash my hair usually Friday night and set it for the week. When I shower during the week (some days I simply do a ‘sink wash’) I wear a shower cap. This would have been the more usual water consumption in the 1950’s household.

There are so many easy things we can do to live a more vintage life and in so doing have the happy by-product of ‘being green’ or, as they called it, Common sense and purse sense. After all a penny saved IS a penny earned.

Check your pantry/cupboards now and see if you have product that is ready to be emptied and see if the jar/container could be used for another purpose than the garbage.

Happy Homemaking.


  1. Cool! Yes, I remember those days of once a week baths! When I was a teen, I had to fight my older parents for the right to bathe and wash my hair three times a week! To save, my father would have me leave the water in the bathtub sometimes so he could bathe in it when I was done! This grosses me out now, but at the time, I thought nothing of it!

    I no longer wash my hair every day; I use a shower cap to cover my hair during my daily shower; sometimes I even take a "baby-wipe" bath instead of a shower to keep my skin from drying out in the winter time.

    My folks were masters of frugality. Never threw anything out. We are a very wasteful society today. If things get really tight in our economy, I wonder if we will be combing through the landfills! My dad used to take our garbage to the dump; going to the dump once a week was a big outing. He would frequently come back with more stuff than he took down there: old radios, two cast iron pot bellied stoves in perfect condition, a juke-box that played 78-speed records -- things other people threw out! My mother-in-law did this, too!

  2. Love the old yard sticks used on the shelves. and don't forget the original 'reuse' item......feedsacks.

  3. I use old glass jars to hold my flowers! It looks so lovely

  4. I agree. These tips were right up my street.

  5. I remember collecting special glasses as a child. I wish we could buy e.g. marmalade in such lovely glasses to collect. Why not? It’s better to reuse than to recycle.

    Ohh, mixed sugar and cinnamon has come to Denmark too, and I thought it was a joke when I saw it. Honestly, who cannot mix those two things!?!

    Those jars on the shelves looks adorable. I cannot wait for son to move, then I’ll grab his room and will make my own creative room, and I think I will make something like this. If it can be both beautyful and practical, then it’s perfect to me.

    I admit that I “sink wash” the old-fashioned way. I shower once a week and soak in my lovely bath tub once a week. I have VERY dry skin, so my skin simply doesn’t tolerate all that bathing. And since I work in a office I’m not dirty or sweaty. When my hair was shorter I also washed it in the sink, it was much easier, but now it’s too long to do so.

  6. I'm a jar saver! I use jars mostly in my pantry to store dried beans, oatmeal, rices, grains, popcorn, spices, etc. I also use jars in my decor - the aqua mason jars are especially lovely. And an arrangement of flowers are beautiful in a mason jar!

    My Momma washes her hair in the sink. I have to wash mine in the shower, as I don't like the sensation of the water running into my face. I also don't wash my hair daily. As a woman of color, my hair/scalp does not produce a lot of natural oil. Daily washing would make my hair brittle and dry.

    Mary Ellen
    The Working Home Keeper

  7. Hi There. I just fell into and in love with your blog and am now following. Very unique and entertaining, I must say. Thanks, Keri

  8. i agree that most 'green tricks' are mere common sense. i reuse my old vinegar bottles for my homemade salad dressings. I usually shower once a week, and utilize the sink for washing my hair...it's part of why i love my short hair! It's also nicer than stepping out of the shower at 4:30 on cold winter mornings!! :)
    (ps thanks for the comment on my blog...)

  9. I have to wash my hair more frequently because I go to the gym daily. I try to skip it when I can, but my scalp gets itchy!

    One thing that I have never been able to do is drink out of a jam jar or mason jar, any jar with a "lip" on the top. I save my jars to collect little things, and I use the glass Nutella containers as drinking glasses--no lip on those!

  10. I have a nice little collection of glass spaghetti sauce jars and coffee cans. The glass jars are great for storing leftover soups, mixing salad dressing, etc. And the coffee cans are perfect for collecting drained fat from meats, or for storing screws, nails, etc. Great post!

  11. I only wash my hair once a week, but I shower everyday, but with my husband to save water.

    I love the ruler shelf decorations.

  12. I love washing my hair in the sink!

  13. I work in home health care and nearly all of my elderly ladies in their 80's and 90's still prefer to wash their hair in sinks. Drives me crazy sometimes because it's much easier to wash hair using a shower hose in the bathtub.


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