ANCIENT SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES MY ROMANIAN FAMILY THOUGHT ME

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It took me years and time to learn that grandma’s ways are the only way to live ethically, sustainably and to regenerate the planet and my wallet along the way (therapy shopping makes your finance require therapy).

When I was a kid I wasn’t aware of cultural differences and never even questioned that other people lived differently. I took what I had as the given way of living and doing life. I now realise that I had a privileged upbringing. I spent most of my summer holidays in the countryside with my grandparents, where things like going to the fields and picking up watermelons, or making tomato sauce for fall or winter were normal and casual activities. The waste was thrown in a big pile for compost or was used for fire for the outdoor stove. I grew up sustainably, but I had no idea it was a thing back then. I didn’t know it was a thing when I moved to the UK as a teenager either. 

As anyone who moved abroad may say, I wanted to fit in and belong. I grew up buying clothes a few times a year, when school started and at the beginning of winter if I needed a new jacket. I had an ordinary closet and big brands were not a thing. It was during my second year in London when I got my first branded item, a pair of purple Adidas. They didn’t go with a lot of things but I didn’t care, they were on sale and they were Adidas. I would finally fit it. 

1. IF YOU DON’T USE IT ANYMORE SOMEONE ELSE MIGHT

I don’t recall seeing my parents throw away clothing or  household items. Before considering throwing it, my mom would ask every possible family member and friend if they wanted it. Passing items is something I still do on a basis. Giving it to charity should be the last option, as a lot of the things that we send to charity end up in the landfill, in ‘developing’ countries or are never sold. I keep seeing people talk about “clothing swaps” as if it is a new western invention. In Romanian culture it’s something I grew up with and continue doing.

2. REUSE, REUSE & REUSE
I would see my grandma wash plastic bags, hang them to dry and re-use. This one time the sole of my shoe fell off. My grandpa took the shoe and fixed it in no time. I had those shoes for a while afterwards. This is very common in many other cultures, and I am talking about the infamous tupperware. You could find any ice-cream tube, yogurt tube be used as tupperware. Many of these practices are nowadays mostly practiced in the countryside, it’s time we start learning from our elders (They knew better).
3. MAKE YOUR OWN PRODUCTS
If you go to any household in Romania during fall you will see people prepare for the winter months. Having everything at reach during any season is a fairly new concept around the globe. Prior to this our ancestors had to make sure they were prepared well enough to have food for the cooler months. The tradition keeps going in most households in Romania. People make tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, pickles, sauerkraut, compote, aubergine stew, gems, wine, and so much more.

4. USE WHAT YOU HAVE WIHTIN YOUR COMMUNITY
This practice is more common in the countryside and less in the big cities. The local communities support and help one another. If I have chicken and therefore eggs, and you grow tomatoes, I’ll give you some eggs and you give me tomatoes. In this way the community thrives and people help one another.

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5. I’M TOO POOR TO AFFORD CHEAP (bad quality) STUFF

I heard my parents and grandparents say this many times. It literally means that if you want to invest your money wisely you will purchase quality products and not the cheapest thing you find on the market, as it most likely will broke way faster and you will end up paying more in the end. It also means that you buy what you need, wear for as long as it is good and when it doesn’t serve you anymore you apply principle no.1 which is to pass it down to someone else. 

Sustainability has been ingrained in our culture. And yet, I see very few people from the communities that have been practising sustainability for the longest being involved and being given a voice in the matter. Most of the time what we see in the sustainable blogs, forums, and discussions are the western perspective on the matter.  There is a beautiful African proverb that say “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. If we want to heal our planet we should give a voice to the ones that have ancient knowledge and keep using these practices in their daily lives (Latin American communities, Indigenous communities, Eastern European countries, South East Asian communities, African countries). 

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