Skip to content

A vintage lifestyle is a sustainable lifestyle

Living simply isn't just a trend; it's how people always used to do it.
Baking, preserving harvest fruits and vegetables--simple ways to live 'vintage' and sustainably. Photo Metro Creative Connection

It wasn’t all that long ago that most people didn’t pick up their vegetables at a supermarket—most grew their own organically in a small or large garden plot out back. Similarly, folks in the country and the city alike often kept chickens in their gardens for eggs. Bicycles were more popular than cars at the turn of the 20th century, and in days gone by, people famously (and proudly) reused everything they could.

Today, as we become more conscious as consumers, we want to know where things come from, how our purchases affect the environment, and of course, how we can save money in the wake of rising costs. I’m here to tell you that living a vintage lifestyle can help you do all of the above.

While many of those who love the past will collect odds and ends, or even sometimes devices which serve some kind of practical use (think typewriters or gramophones), few venture as far down the historic rabbit hole as to “go back in time” by choosing to implement vintage techniques in their everyday life. Yet doing so can be extremely rewarding.

Here are some examples of things you can do to live vintage and live sustainably at the same time:

Less Fuel. The environmentally conscious among us want to burn less fuel, but while many think immediately of walking and biking—few may consider buying an old-fashioned lawn mower. These heavy-duty machines with their sharp, rotating blades let you cut your grass without the gas!

Backyard Farming. The modern innovation of the Flow Hive lets virtually anyone keep bees in their back garden, meaning fresh, organic honey is easily available to all who are willing to put in a little effort. Growing your own vegetables is another easy way to save money, and in doing so, you’ll be living off the land, just as many generations before you have done. The City of Calgary, for example, now lets anyone in the city apply for a chicken coop permit, meaning free-range eggs are a possibility for everyone in a single detached home. With the cost of eggs up to $4 or more for a dozen, shelling out a few dollars for hens can pay for itself rapidly.

Baking and Canning. Baking bread, canning fruits and jams—these are all activities well within our reach which today seem a bit “old fashioned” but are real money-savers. (If you’re a generation or two removed from canning in your household, call your mother or grandmother before you start! You’ll need to make sure your preserves are sealed.) While summer may be over, use your spare time over the winter to find out when certain kinds of berries are in season, then pick them as they come ripe next year to use for jams or desserts. Some can be frozen and others canned.

Reusables. Other ways to reduce and reuse include saving the fat from a roast to cook with later (candles can also be made with tallow; fat that’s been rendered and filtered), or using leftover cream that’s near its expiry to make butter (this is really easy with a KitchenAid mixer!). Ironically, we’ve come full circle in Canada on brown paper bags for groceries, which in a way has brought us back in time. These bags can be reused in dozens of ways, including (in true vintage fashion) for gift wrap. Lastly, certain cereal bags can double as wax paper when cut into large squares for cookie sheets (this was popular in the post-depression era).

There you have it folks, some practical examples of things you can do today to live both a vintage and sustainable lifestyle. While these things might not save you time, they can certainly save you money! Have any other tips on living the old-fashioned way? Let me know at [email protected]

Danny Randell writes about history and the vintage lifestyle for Alberta Prime Times.