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The Zero Waste Grandmothers: The First Promoters of a Reusable, Recyclable and Sustainable World

The issue of sustainability is very topical in recent times, so much so that it has pushed many people to re-evaluate the use of their resources while minimizing waste. The waste reduced can be of all kinds: food, energy, detergents, money. This can be done simply by considering the alternative use of many things we already have.

Often, however, it is thought that this is an argument pushed by younger generations, who, due to unfortunate decisions of previous generations, find themselves “forced” to follow a sustainable lifestyle. This is not exactly true. Just think of our grandmothers and their ways of doing things. They lived at the turn of the two world wars, forged by post-war values and inclined to sacrifice and save, at a time when poverty was predominant. They learned to adapt and used anything they had available to them at home, naturally living a real zero waste lifestyle.

There are so many tricks of the grandmother, that I decided to visit mine (typical grandmother of southern Italy) to collect the most important things to live a zero waste life. When I tried to explain the purpose of my questions to her, she didn’t understand it very well, being rooted in those concepts she didn’t understand what the zero waste lifestyle was, but she gave me a lot of insights.

The first topic she told me about was cooking, her great obsession (like all Italian grandmothers). She explained how food is sacred to her, and she never throws it away. As long as it is edible she keeps everything, and then she uses it as fertilizer for her garden. In the same way she does with the organic residues of her garbage. She also does not conceive the use of plastic in the kitchen. Everything is made of glass, including the bottles in which she fills the water from the sink or fountain. In the same way, the water she uses in the kitchen to wash vegetables for example, she then uses to water the plants.

Another thing my grandmother cares about is cleaning the house. Every time I go to her house and see her clean, I think she wastes a lot of resources. Instead she explained to me that the water she uses to wash the floor is rainwater, collected in a special collector. Also, most of the detergents she uses are on tap and she uses bars of soap, which last much longer than liquid soaps. To degrease dirty surfaces or dishes, she rubs used lemons on them, which allows you to minimize the use of other degreasers.

Then she moved on to personal hygiene. My grandmother does not own a washing machine, she washes everything by hand, reducing the waste of water and detergent. She also explained how she makes homemade shampoo and toothpaste with a few simple ingredients such as honey bicarbonate salt and oil. She used to do this more often when she was a little girl, but now she does it only when she forgets to buy them from the supermarket.

As for beauty, my grandmother has some natural secrets that are zero waste. To make her hair shinier and less greasy, she usually rubs it with lemon before washing it with shampoo. She said, that the result is guaranteed. In fact, her hair always looks better than mine! In addition, to keep her hands soft and her nails strong, she soaks them in olive oil.

Finally, she also gave me advice on how to treat minor illnesses such as sore throat and colds. She advised me to gargle with lemon juice after every meal. Secondly, instead of taking nebulizer, she adviced to take deep breaths of the steam of boiling water for 10 minutes. (for more information “linktiktok”). I am personally convinced that these methods work, having tried each one of them successfully many times when I was younger when I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s house.

In short, I discovered that my grandmother lives a zero waste lifestyle. It could be interesting to teach young people, but also companies, how to live in a sustainable way, without waste, starting from a vision as simplistic as the life of our grandmothers.

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