Greening our lifestyle

With Earth Day coming up next week, everyone is jumping on the green bandwagon -- so it's hard to close your eyes and ignore the small, easy changes you can make to reduce your carbon footprint. I don't remember when it was that I first started making changes to reduce our impact on the planet. I still remember buying (and lifting!) crates of water bottles from Costco when I was pregnant with the twins, so it can't have been that long ago. Maybe it was when we switched from paying for two garbage bin collections down to one, and I had to look more carefully about what can and can't be recycled. Maybe it was when Whole Foods started selling reusable grocery bags.

Whenever it was that we started, I'm happy to report that we've managed to maintain most of the eco-friendly practices we started, and over the years, we've become a much greener family than we used to be. Here are five small changes we made that have been no trouble at all to maintain:

1) Recycling
Our city has made it so easy for us to recycle; we don't even have to segregate our recyclables anymore! Our recycling bin is about twice as big as our garbage bin, and it's surprising how fast it can fill up.

2) Eating less meat
I am such a carnivore, but we've gradually cut down on our meat consumption, and now we have meat or chicken or fish or pork just one or two times a week. Many times it's not even the main part of the dish (such as split pea soup that's been flavored with ham). Eating less meat has a quadruple -whammy of benefits: it's better for your health, for your checkbook, for the earth and for the animals, so this is an easy one. Cut out meat entirely? Ummm.... that's harder. Alfie swears he could go vegetarian tomorrow if I agreed to it, but I'd miss the taste so much. Sorry, I'm celebrating the small victories where I can find them.

3) Washing clothes in cold water
It's true, washing clothes in cold water really don't make too much of a difference, especially when you have a front-loading machine like we do. I just keep the setting on cold and never notice the difference.

4) Buying eco-friendly, natural household cleaning products
There are so many eco-friendly, natural household cleaning products on the shelves these days. They don't cost any more (or much more) than chemical-based products, and they clean just as well so this is another easy change to maintain. And as a blogger, I was lucky enough to be given an Activeion cleaner to review -- it uses only water to clean and disinfect, which of course is as natural and chemical free as you can get!

5) Using cloth grocery bags
This has been a really easy change to maintain, and now I find plastic bags to be irritating waste of space. Even when I forget my bags, I just tell the checkout clerk that I have bags in the car, and put my groceries back into the grocery cart. I do have a small stash of plastic bags that I keep at home to put wet swimsuits in, wrap super-disgusting messes (like spoiled veggies or meat from the fridge, soiled clothes when any of the kids have a little potty accident, etc..), and when the stash gets low I do allow some of my shopping to be packed in plastic bags. And when Safeway delivers groceries to the house, I always unpack my groceries from the plastic bags as fast as the delivery guy carries them into the house, and send the plastic bags back.

But don't congratulate us yet; we're by no means the model green family. There are some green habits that have fallen by the wayside, and some areas we could (and should) probably do more. Here are five of them:

1) Line drying our clothes
Laundry is a tiresome bother even when I use the dryer, so it's all too easy to look at the sky and decide it's looking damp and drizzly. I do a much better job at this in the summer, obviously, and I have to admit my clothesline hasn't seen any use at all in months. Now that the weather is drying and heating up again, I'm running out of excuses.

2) Composting
I just don't like the thought of throwing food scraps and slimy bits into a ceramic pot and leaving them to rot, right beside my kitchen sink.

3) Ditching the plastic
This has been a real toughie. The only plastic habit I can say I've successfully and totally ditched is plastic water bottles (we use reusable water bottles now). I have cloth sandwich bags and reusable sandwich cases and containers, but I still find myself occasionally reaching for a plastic bag to put the kids' goldfish crackers in. And I still sometimes buy individually packaged snacks. What can I say, I get lazy in the mornings!

4) Ditching the paper
My addiction to disposable paper towels is still around. I've started using cloth towels to wipe spills up more and more, but I still buy paper towels and still use them half the time. And I still think disposable baby wipes are God's great gift to parents (I did find some eco-friendly disposable wipes at Walgreens -- they're made from bamboo!). And I will not switch from tampons to the Diva cup.

5) Driving less
Our morning walk to school is a firmly entrenched habit, but I'm ashamed that I can't say the same thing about my pickup routine. The trouble with living less than a mile from the kids' school is that I tend to delay leaving home to pick the kids up until the very last minute, and by then of course it's too late to walk, so I end up taking the car.

See, just like China, we've made a start but we still have a long way to go.

This post was inspired by Earth Day and by the Silicon Valley Moms' book of the month: National Geographic's Green Guide for Families (participating bloggers were given free copies of the book). Read how this book inspired other SV Moms on this month's SV Moms Club Book Club post.


Leticia- Tech Savvy Mama said...

I love your 5 habits that have fallen by the wayside since I truly believe that there are things that our family could do better too. Composting in our house was a huge fail moment as our compost bin attracted deer that ate our vegetable garden! So much for sustainable organic gardening in the backyard. I'd love one of those closed composting units but think that the deer will still be attracted by the smell. Sigh. Maybe by this time next year I'll have found a successful way to compost and you will be doing all 5 of the things on your list! Happy Earth Day!

Elizabeth @ My Life, Such as it is... said...

I try to be greener but like you fail in some areas. When I forget my cloth bags, I'm going to start doing like you & bag in the car. That's a great idea! We use reusuable snack bags (I make & sell them) too, even my hubby & I. I might just have to copy your post idea for my own Earth Day post, with credit going to you of course!

Anonymous said...

i would like to comment also that disposable diapers fill up the landfill but still people use it. i would like to recommend disposable diapers with replaceable pads. this way only the pads are disposed when baby pees and not the whole diaper. also the material footprint of the pad is less than the whole diaper. so even if people use disposable diapers with this idea it lessens the impact on earth.