Sustainability: New dogs, old tricks

Our most sustainable citizens will be celebrating Seniors Week next week. While you might think you’ve stumbled into “Hipster week” due to the prominence of black-framed glasses and knitting needles, our elders have always been the trend-setters, not the followers. Here are a few tips and techniques from an age where green was just a colour and pickling was a weekly social event.


It’s ok to say that anyone born after 1960 is probably a pathetic gardener. Unless you grew up in the country or your parents live in Haberfield, the garden is not the first place to go for fruit and veg. Great that community and balcony gardens have given inner westies a chance to get grubby, but nothing beats gardening with the grandparents.

Tip: Use newspaper as mulch or as a weed mat

Bicarbonate Soda is the bomb

It’s said that bicarbonate soda can replace 51 supermarket products. Before the influx of the cleaning product revolution of the 50s, most cleaning pastes were made at home and used household ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, bicarbonate soda and water. Bicarbonate soda can be used for things like brushing your teeth, washing your hair, scrubbing your bath and deodorising your fridge.

Tip: Sprinkle in the bottom of your bins to absorb nasty smells. Mix with lemon juice to remove all types of marks from most surfaces.

Use public transport

So if you are not yet eligible for the pensioner excursion ticket ($2.50), it is probably still more economical for you to use public transport. The main obstacle here is time as public transport can take longer when travelling shorter distances (as mad as that is). The other alternative is to try and walk to more destinations more often.

Tip: Travel on Family Funday Sunday, where for $2.50 per person, your family can enjoy unlimited travel all day in Sydney, Newcastle, the Blue Mountains, the Central Coast, Hunter and Illawarra areas, by train, bus, ferry and light rail.


Pickling is a great way to preserve food, and deal with over-purchasing. Pickling did exist before Cornersmith Café, and is easy to master. Here is the quick version: combine and bring to boil, 1 and ¼ cups of vinegar, 3 tablespoons of pickling salt, 2 tablespoons of sugar. Then add 2 cups of cold water, this is the brine. Find a clean jar with non-rusty lid and stuff your fresh cucumbers (or whatever) with a sprinkling of your favourite spices like coriander seeds, cloves, mustard seeds or cumin. Refrigerate for 24 hours. Will keep for a month.

Tip: As long as there is enough salt and enough vinegar the contents will preserve, add extra sugar for sweet pickles.

Sew, crotchet, knit and create

Pre-Etsy days were filled with Country Women’s Associations and Women’s Weekly articles filled with patterns and craft ideas. Making your own clothes (and your family’s) was part of the homemaker’s role. With over 501 000 tonnes of garments being sent to landfill every year, having an eco-friendly wardrobe of a few high-quality (homemade) garments means less washing and less textile waste.

Tip: Can’t get motivated? Keep a collection of unused fabrics. Leave the sewing machine out and ready to sew. The guilt will eventually force you to sit down and sew and you will be sew (yes a pun) happy you did.


Seniors Week is 14 – 22nd March. Go to for more information.