Homesteader skills for a Zero Waste lifestyle

laundry-533015_640In our modern society we are leaving our roots further and further behind, skills that early homesteaders or even our grandparents used have not been learned. Early homesteaders to survive had to be self-sufficient. While most of us do not live off-the-grid, we can benefit from learning some of these self-sufficiency skills to help us create a more sustainable Zero Waste home.

Here are 10 homesteader skills that will help you with your Zero Waste journey.

  1. Canning: Canning is an economical and environmentally- friendly way of preserving fruits, vegetables and meats. It allows you to eat holistically all year round. As well as preserving summer bounty, it reduces packaging and allows you to eat locally grown foods throughout the year. Many communities now offer canning workshops for those wishing to learn. Also you can find recipes and techniques such a small batch canning on the internet.
  2. Sewing:  Basic sewing skills help to keep clothing maintained. The ability to replace a button or fix a hem will reduce the amount of clothing discarded. Sewing skills can also help us to repurpose or upcycle garments.  Check out your local library for books and our local fabric store is a great place to get advice.
  3. Make cleaning supplies: Making your own cleaning supplies can cut down on toxins in your home as well as packaging waste. You’ll spend a little time for preparation but save lots of money. Declutter the cupboard by using multi-purpose ingredients like vinegar and baking soda.
  4. Sharpen a knife, axe or other cutting tools: Buying good quality products and then caring for them extends the useful life of tools. Using a dull knife is causing mishaps in the kitchen. Be safe and learn to sharpen .
  5. Nose-to- tail dining: A generation or two, homesteaders made the most of less popular cuts of meat including livers, intestines and extremities. In recent years, chefs and butchers have been embracing The Nose to Tail Movement which stems from a desire to be more responsible and waste as little as possible of the animals we kill for food.
  6. Eat weeds: Many weeds are rich in vitamins and antioxidants and are inexpensive nutrition. Instead of fighting with weeds we can benefit from learning how we can use them to supplement our diets.
  7. Using left-overs: Food was too valuable to waste, early homesteaders ate simply and used left-over food to make new meals. Food is still too good to waste. Older cookbooks or Cindy Chavick’s cook book ,The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook: Save Food, Save Money, and Save the Planet can inspire.
  8. Repair: There was no “going and buy a new one” for many early homesteaders instead if something broke or needed repair they fixed it. Machinery, furniture, dwelling and fences were all repaired to make them last. Today consumers can learn to repair  products like small appliances, cell phones and  computers by accessing online guides from wiki-based sites like iFixit .
  9. Sharing skills: It was not unusual for a community to band together to raise a barn or help a neighbour in the past. Today a sharing economy is developing in many communities with organizations like Repair Cafes  that are helping individuals to repair items.
  10. Repurposing: Homesteaders often didn’t have a lot of stuff or money to buy stuff: biscuit tins were reused, flour sacks became clothing and towels and rags became rugs. Crafting projects and facebook sites are a great source of ideas for repurposing household objects for us today.

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Keep in mind that learning skills may take some time, perseverance, and patience, but learning new things can only enrich our daily lives. Maybe visit a senior and give them an opportunity to pass down some Zero Waste skills.