This is the first post in an exciting new Amish Wisdom feature we’re calling, “Almost Amish.” Published periodically on Wednesdays, this column will celebrate the principles that inspire and define the Amish lifestyle.
The Amish were “green” long before it was considered politically correct. Thriftiness and frugality have always been valued, but those virtues might have more to do with a heritage of Swiss-German farming than with being Amish.
Here are a few easy-to-do examples of Amish “Green” resourcefulness:
1) In many Amish vegetable gardens in the spring, you’ll see large plastic containers or tin cans among the rows. These are mini-greenhouses created to protect young tomato seedlings from cold snaps. The bottom of the container is cut off to cover the plants. Added bonus: early tomatoes!
2) Empty detergent containers are used as watering cans. I’ve seen them used as planters and birdhouses, too.
3) The Amish buy most things in bulk. Items are cheaper, often fresher, and use up less packaging.
In fact, as you drive along back roads in Amish settlements, slow way, way down. You’ll notice little buildings that lack signage but have shopping carts out front.
These are Amish stores, ones that carry many items in bulk: spices and dried herbs, flour, sugar, rice, rolled oats, lentils, quinoa, nuts, flax seed, and more. I also stock up on my spices when I’m in Amish country.
On a side note, my husband, who worked for a consumer products company for 30+ years, was amazed at the lack of influence “branded” products have on the Amish. I’ve only found a few “branded” products in Amish stores—Kingsford charcoal, Cheerios, Red Wing work boots.
4) Bulk items are stored at home in food jars—usually old, washed out spaghetti jars.
5) Orphan socks have a second life in Amish homes. Emily Glick of Leola, Pennsylvania taught me a trick: She slips one on her hand and uses it as a duster!
6) Hanging calendars are one of the few decorative items you’ll see on walls inside an Amish home. When the year is up, the Amish will often recycle the pages into envelopes or note cards.
7) The Amish re-purpose old things, but with an emphasis on practicality, not decoration. My friend Anna Smucker visits thrift stores and yard sales to buy up old clothing, which she cuts up and turns into projects: braided rugs, doll’s clothes, quilts and comforters.
8) And, of course, there’s the ubiquitous clothesline hanging in every Amish yard. Solar energy at its best.
Kate Stoltzfus, who runs an Amish store with her husband Ken, said that before she and her husband buy something, they filter the decision through a few questions: How can I get a second or third use out of something? Can I re-use something I have? After all, why buy it if I don’t have to?
There’s a lot of wisdom in Kate’s method. When we stop for a moment to think before we buy, there really is a significant amount of ‘stuff’ we can do without. Better for our bank accounts, better still for the earth.
How about you? What do you re-use or re-purpose or recycle? Every little bit helps.
Please share your tips in comments! A winner will be chosen and receive a free signed copy of one of Suzanne’s books.
Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of Anna’s Crossing, The Letters, The Calling, the Lancaster County Secrets series, and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner for The Search, a Carol Award finalist for The Choice, and a Christy Award finalist for The Waiting. She is the host of the Amish Wisdom blog, as well as a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She also offers readers a free downloadable app, Amish Wisdom, that delivers a daily Penn Dutch proverb. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her newest release, The Heart of the Amish releases on May 5th.
Purchase Suzanne’s books here.
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