Tips from our Ancestors

Tips from our Ancestors

Welcome to Second Nature, a Q+A series with Jute founder, Ali Davin, that explores all things healthy living, with a fond emphasis on that thing she does best—interior design.

Much like the paleo diet, there’s a lot to be learned from the past. From how they built their homes to how they cleaned them, our ancestors were pioneers in sustainable living.


What’s wrong with how we build our homes today?

The reason we have dry rot and mold in our houses is because of our building techniques. When a building has air flow, the air and moisture can’t get trapped between the layers of the wall, so it doesn’t start to rot. If something gets stuck and has nowhere to go, that’s when problems occur. You need air movement through all layers of the wall. Drafty houses are actually a good thing.


Sounds like a shift in mindset is needed.

Yes. We should look at our possessions in a similar way. There was no garbage man back then, so people were more thoughtful about what they threw away. Recycling is great, but we’re not moving toward waste reduction. That’s something that needs to shift.


What was working in the past?

Our ancestors didn’t cook with nonstick pans coated in toxic chemicals, for example. You really want to keep the chemicals out of your food, so take a look at what’s in your kitchen. It’s important to use artisanal products that are made sustainably: handmade pottery, walnut cutting boards, ceramic pots, and earthenware. Everything you’re cooking with or eating from should be nontoxic.


What’s the benefit to using these materials?

Using ceramic pots and pans does not infuse our food with chemicals.  It’s a great conductor of heat and retains heat so well you can cook on lower settings.  Xtrema ceramic cookware is one favorite, but other non-toxic options are becoming more readily available every day.  A new set of pots and pans is definitely an investment, but a good set should last years.


What else is worth the investment?

I use solid walnut bowls and trays from The Wooden Palate—they’re all natural and made to last forever. There are lots of companies making chemical-free plates, but earthenware is usually a good bet. It’s sustainable, nontoxic, and durable, and it won’t leech toxins into your food.


Are there affordable ways to green your kitchen?

Earthenware is actually pretty reasonable, and vintage or hand-me-downs are great for anything you’re going to eat or drink out of. I use my grandmother’s silverware, but flea markets are a great source for this too. Remember, you want to think of the things you buy as heirloom quality.


Should we eat by candlelight too?

It is the most flattering, but probably not practical. Just use lamps or a decorative fixture like a sconce, with energy-efficient LED lightbulbs. It’s good for keeping your footprint down and even saves money in the long term.



Be conscious of what materials you cook with and what you eat off of.

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