When We were growing up, my parents used cloth bags to go to the market, canvas bags to carry books to school, cloth instead of kitchen tissues (my mother did not know what kitchen tissue is) in the kitchen, reused tins to grow herbs and plants, used vines of certain plants as scrubbers.
Fullers earth (multani mithi) for a facial, leaves of hibiscus plants for a hair shampoo, earthen wares to cook, recycle old bedsheets into pillow covers, use an earthern pot to cool water, drink sugar cane juice to quench our thirst come summer instead of carbonated drinks, handwash clothes instead of a washing maching, make washing soap, use pestle and mortar to grind until the magic of an electric grinder was found, eat whole grains and use 100% whole grain flour for making chappatis(flat bread), reuse milk plastic bags to store leftovers, have seasonal vegetables and fruits and used ceiling fans to circulate the breeze.
Walking,cycling and public transportation was a way of life.
Food was for the plate and the left overs were not for the trash.
Cakes, Biscuits, Ice cream and Meat was a luxury.
We slept on woven bamboo mats /cotton/coir mattress and had 2 shelves of clothes. The furniture was made of solid wood and they are still strong after 3 decades even when all of us have tested our strength on them. This and so much more.
We lived large in a small space..700 sq feet to be exact.
We did all this, because that was the best way of doing things and those were the only options. ..That was the only way we knew.
Now As I have my own family - I still buy used items, and recycle furniture. Baking soda,and vinegar is used generously for cleaning. I still hand wash my cotton and linen clothes and dry them at night when the heater is turned on during winter and dry them on the line during summer.
But I still have to use a washing machine because shower areas are not convenient enough to wash many clothes at a time.We still hand wash dishes and use libraries vigorously, Use energy star appliances and a pressure cooker for cooking, try and eat seasonal food. I use lunch boxes and not brown bags. Walk and use public transportation. Car is only used for places where we cannot access without public transportation.
I enjoy being in the midst of trees and now go hiking more frequently.
Our added baggage - Computers, cell phones, TV, a car. I need to unplug them when not in use. I am still persuading my Greek grocer to sell his earthen ware (in which he cooks his stuffed grape leaves )to me. There is room for progress, but I am happy with what I am doing..
Edited to add on 10/17/09:
A Note to the Political leaders:
Slow and steady emission of poisonous gases due to the consumption of plastic, oil and gas will make this earth hell on earth. And Our kids will ask us "Why didn't you do something" ?
On a global level Countries wouldn't agree on a commmon level of emissions, therefore laws without loopholes should be made so that nobody will escape. And that includes YOU. Will you frame such policies at the cost of receiving campaign funds from Industries who will compromise to increase production?
Is your seat in the senate more worthy than trying to save the earth? Trying to achieve a balance between political ambitions, who elected you to serve as leaders and to look after the welfare of the earth which you are equally responsible is challenging, but doable.
You can choose your pick - you can be known as the leader of climate change that helped to decrease carbon emissions or go down in history as gluttonous, greedy and a conspirant in the destruction of the earth.