The senior demographic is quite possibly the best generation to emulate when trying to live an environmentally responsible lifestyle. That's because so many of the guidelines for being green are concepts that have been a part of seniors' lives for decades.
A portion of today's seniors grew up during the Depression, when recycling and conservation weren't the trends, but survival strategies. In a time when money was scarce, many people made due with the resources they were dealt, stretching dollars just to stay afloat. Many of the concepts associated with today's environmental movement are strikingly similar to the ones employed during the Depression.
The behaviors of an elderly parent or grandparent that may have seemed eccentric or odd at one time are now turning out to be what many people are embracing in order to live green. Concepts like relying on reusable handkerchiefs instead of disposable tissues; reusing lightly-soiled napkins; collecting discarded items from the curb and repairing them for renewed use; saving cans or food jars and using them to store other items; buying local products from smaller vendors; and similar things are methods of living ingrained in the persona of many older people.
Frugality and awareness of what things cost and what constitutes waste are other concepts seniors know well. Many have never adapted to the notion that products are disposable, preferring instead to hold onto appliances, electronics, clothing, and other items because they still have utility, not because the current season dictates they should be upgraded.
In 2008, Harris Interactive polled Baby Boomers ages 45 to 62 about their interest in the environment. Ninety-four percent of respondents said they took steps in the past 6 months to do something green. More than 80 percent were concerned about the environmental legacy that would be left for their grandchildren.
While many seniors are going green today for altruistic reasons, it also makes good financial sense. Recycling items, conserving utilities and fuel and making smart choices can stretch a fixed income even further. Choosing to walk or ride a bike instead of getting behind the wheel may be not only environmentally friendly, but it's financially savvy as well.
Here are some ways of living straight out of the Great Depression that can be put to use today.
* Use the milkman. Although it may seem like the milkman is extinct, milk and other dairy products can still be delivered straight to a person's home from a local dairy or farm. Adding reusable milk bottles reduces the reliance on disposable containers, while buying local cuts down on the fuel costs necessary to transport products.
* Pass down clothing. Clothing that is gently worn can be passed down to children or even donated.
* Walk. During the Depression, cars were a luxury many people could not afford. Walking or taking a bus or train were some popular modes of transportation, and such options are still available today.
* Use cloth diapers and linens. Reusable items, like cloth diapers, handkerchiefs and linens, are more environmentally responsible.
* Get outdoors. Instead of relying on television, which had yet to be invented during the Depression, children and adults went outdoors to socialize and have fun.
* Open the windows. Instead of relying heavily on air conditioning, try opening the windows on nice days and let some fresh air in.
* Use clothes lines. Clothes dryers use about 10 to 15 percent of domestic energy in the U.S. A clothesline can help reduce electric bills and energy consumption.
* Get into gardening. If you can grow what you eat, that reduces the dependence on commercially produced and harvested crops.
Many elements of the Go Green movement are similar to those employed during the Depression, when survival mandated people reuse and recycle items.