I am a firm believer in the idea that one person can make a difference. I’m not saying it’s going to be a big or even noticeable difference when you look at the entire scope of things, but a difference nonetheless. Creating a sustainable household is a goal that Drew and I work daily to achieve, even though we understand that our impact, as a tiny family of 2.5, will not really change much regarding the future of our planet. That’s why I’m writing this post – to hopefully appeal to you and get you to do just one thing to make your home more green and sustainable. Consider it a challenge. What habits will you change in your home to make a small difference?
Let’s start from the beginning – the first thing we ever started doing to be green….
1. Started Recycling – My college roommate taught me how and what to recycle and I’ve been doing it ever since. When Drew came into the picture and was all about it too, I knew he was the right man for me. We recycle all paper, glass and cans, as much plastic as we can (Mobile is picky about the plastic they accept), and even grease! Know what really warms my heart? When Drew picks up random pieces of litter without even thinking about it. Love it.
2. Began Using Cloth Grocery Bags – If you really think about the amount of plastic that is used just for your groceries in one week, it really adds up. This is a tiny, inexpensive way to greatly reduce your dependence on plastic. I still use my old Winn-Dixie cloth bags at Target, which can be slightly embarrassing, but I don’t really think it’s right to buy brand new bags just because I shop at a different store. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?
3. Purchased a Prius – This is not something I’m saying everyone should do. A Prius is a big purchase. But it was time for me to get a new car and the Prius was an automatic for me. The dealership promised 48-50mpg, while I only get about 42-44. Turns out that you can buy tiny little Chevrolet’s these days that get the same gas mileage without a hybrid system, but I like to think that every time I hit the brakes, I’m recycling energy. Ponder that one for a while, kids.
4. Started Buying Secondhand Clothing – I went on a huge “thrift store only” kick for a while, but I was really sacrificing my personal style, which means a lot to me. I haven’t been to a thrift store in a while, but since finding out the other day that it takes 1,000 gallons of water to create one cotton t-shirt, I’m going to start going back. My ideal wardrobe will include both secondhand and classic, new pieces that will last for a very long time. Drew, on the other hand, pretty much buys all of his work pants from Goodwill and buys his shirts new. Again, good guy.
5. Started Buying Organic Food – I started doing this about two years ago, but didn’t get really serious about it until this past year. The more I read, the more I value the importance of organic foods. When you buy organic, you are not only helping your family by lowering the amounts of chemicals and pesticides they put into their bodies, you are also helping the farmers who grew those foods. The big, non-organic companies force poor farmers to spend tons of money on pesticides, which then harm them, their workers and their families, and considerably lowers their profits. Organic farmers do not have to buy pesticides, do not have to be exposed to those chemicals, and make a little more money in the process. I’d call that a win. (I read this info in an article and really wish I could cite that right now.) Some would argue that buying organic is worse for the environment because the food has to travel so much farther than local food, and I totally agree. But until Mobile can get me local, organic food, I’m going to do everything I can to keep chemicals out of our bodies in the Davis household. I like to use this guide for deciding what to buy organic and what isn’t really worth it:
6. Started Weening Ourselves of Disposables – We use aluminum water bottles. I take my lunch and snacks to work in reusable containers. It’s Drew that I’ve been slowly working up to the change. He relies very heavily on plastic ziploc bags for his lunch and snacks, but yesterday he bought a new, larger lunch box that will accommodate plastic containers instead. I would really love to eliminate plastics altogether, but glass and aluminum lunch containers are so expensive. My next mission is to get rid of paper napkins and purchase some great, easy to take care of cloth napkins to use with our meals. I want paper towels to hang around only for gross things, like dog messes. Yuck. Would anyone like to sew me some cloth napkins?
7. Started Composting – We’ve been talking about this for a while and finally got around to it. Our garbage can probably feels neglected, since we recycle and compost now, but I’m fine with that. Less garbage means less plastic garbage bags wasted! I hope to have some beautiful compost soil by next spring, so that we can start growing our own organic food.
8. Made a Rain Barrel – We went to a class the other night where we learned about safe water practices and made our own rain barrel to take home. The cost was $40, which will save us so much more than that when we begin watering our plants with free rainwater. The container holds 50 gallons, which can fill up in a matter of minutes during one of our Mobile downpours. The Auburn Marine Extension is having another rain barrel class in Mobile on May 19th. Here is the link to the previous class info, but you can contact them for the next class.
9. Started Monitoring/Changing Our Water Use – That class got us thinking about how we can reduce our water use around the house. We took the “40 Gallon Challenge,” which means that we pledged to reduce our water use by 40 gallons each day by making simple changes such as: not running the water while brushing our teeth, cutting shower times by 2 minutes, only watering the grass before 10am, and only running the dishwasher when it is full.
What about the future?
10.We will use cloth diapers. This is a biggie for me, and Drew is totally on board. Even before I ever knew I wanted a kid, I knew cloth diapers were the way to go. I’m still researching and will be trying out a couple of different brands and methods when Westley gets here, but I’m certain that we will find our groove and be able to pull this off. You can read all the stats about the harmful impact of disposable diapers here, but this is the one that really motivates me: “Disposable diapers are the third largest single consumer item in landfills, and represent about 4% of solid waste. In a house with a child in diapers, disposables make up 50% of household waste.” To top it off, poop should NOT go in a landfill. Do you really want that nastiness seeping into your ground water? No thanks. Cloth diapers, especially the fancy, all-in-one organic kind, can get pricey, but I like to think of it as a one-time investment. These diapers can grow with the baby and last from 7 pounds to 35 pounds! That’s major! And if you take really good care of them, they can last through a second child, which further reduces your environmental impact. BAM!
11. We will make homemade baby food. Duh. I wouldn’t have it any other way. After the initial “try only one or two foods at a time” phase, in which I’ll be steaming and pureeing fresh fruits and veggies, I plan on simply smashing up the food we already eat for Westley to enjoy. That not only means that I know exactly what is going in his body, but it will also help him develop a healthy, well-rounded taste for foods.
12. We accept all hand-me-downs for the baby. Like these adorable leg warmers that Drew’s coworker gave us the other day. Can anyone say hipster baby? I’ve also accepted a ton of things from my sister, including a travel system (stroller and infant car seat), swing, play mat, baby carrier, bouncy seat, and more clothes. I love being able to reuse things. It makes me happy.
13. We will grow our own organic fruits and vegetables. That tiny organic tomato seedling that my friend gave me is finally starting to produce fruits. This one plant is my test to see if I can actually keep something alive long enough to enjoy the fruits of my labor (see what I did there?). I usually kill plants because I’m not motivated enough to water them, but I’ve really been taking care of this one. I think it’s the fact that I can actually get something out of this plant, as opposed to pretty flowers that give me nothing but allergies. If this works, we’ll really get our own garden started next year. Then we will finally have our own local organic produce stand – right in our backyard!
So what can you do? I’m not bragging here – I’m simply trying to make the point that everyone can do something, no matter how small or big. I challenge you to make one change in your home that will reduce your environmental impact. So, I ask again: What can you do?