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The Baldizzi Family – Living Green in the 1930’s


It’s not easy being “green” in New York City today, but for the families of 97 Orchard conservation was second nature.

The Baldizzi Kitchen - it's not a meal without a spill... and a lot of dishes to clean!

We only need to turn to Josephine Baldizzi’s oral history to gain an understanding of how her family lived a green lifestyle at 97 Orchard. She talked about her mother Sadie’s negotiation skills while out shopping; it seems almost as though Sadie saw it as a sport. While her main intention was likely to save money, in doing so the family ultimately ended up being less wasteful and much kinder to Mother Earth than many of us are today.

The Baldizzis were experts at creative reuse. Why buy brand-new planter boxes when those empty cheese boxes from Home Relief would do just fine? Josephine’s father Al’s reuse of the boxes for his morning glories didn’t just brighten the home, it lightened the size of the Baldizzis’ trash bag. They probably thought about the possibility of reusing everything before tossing it out.

Sadie Baldizzi’s kitchen towels and cleaners

The Baldizzis conserved as well as reused. Their gas stove and water heater was coin operated, and they squeezed as much heat and cooking gas as possible out of one quarter, which included taking their daily morning sponge baths with cold water.

Sadie was before her time in choosing eco-friendly cleaning products. Josephine remembers her mother cleaning the home with Bon Ami, which is not only still being sold today, but marketed as the “original natural home cleaner.” With an ingredient list of things such as feldspar, limestone and baking soda, Sadie could clean everything from the sink to the windows without harming the environment.

The kitchen table – the center of the home

Similar to other families at 97, many of the Baldizzis’ green habits were born out of necessity to survive with less, but it doesn’t make them any less of an example to follow in how to live with a slightly smaller footprint.

Posted by Laura Lee and Lib Tietjen