steps on the path to personal green

Our lifestyle changed this summer. We were carefully watching our pennies and also made some green decisions concerning our household. It's working out pretty well and helps keep me from feeling depressed about the penny-pinching as I know that we are attempting to be kinder to the environment.

This is just part of a list from No Impact Man (click my post title for the link).

Don't buy food that comes in plastic or paper packaging. This is not easy. I do try to avoid things with a lot of packaging and I've been making treats (like cookies or brownies) rather than buying individually wrapped snacks from the stores but the cereals (for example) that my boys eat come in a boxes. To help offset this I work hard to recycle the materials that these foods are packaged in.

Buy fewer things. Don´t buy on impulse. Ask yourself if the thing you're buying is something that you really need. Been doing this for months. Now my kids are starting to ask if they really need something or if it's just something they want. For the first time, we are making conscious decisions about what we purchase - about the small things we purchase. We always deliberated/researched large purchases.

Getting your fingers dirty by growing your own food--even if it is just some basil on your windowsill--is the quickest way change your thought patterns about other green issues. We grew basil and tomatoes and oregano this summer and have been using them. We don't have a lot of space or light to do much more food gardening, but I'm proud of what we have done.

Stop using the dryer and use a clothes line or drying rack--and enjoy saving the cash. K and I go over this all the time. In theory, I'd love to do this. In reality, my yard is completely shaded, we have trees that drop things all year long and I'm not up for carrying two loads a day of wet laundry up the stairs. I do try to use the dryer during off-peak hours and fill it to capacity.

Drive less. Ride a scooter. Owning the scooter and using it for all local trips has cut what we spend on gas dramatically, been lots of fun and is greener.

Walk more, and walk *to* places. Ideally, walk to the grocery store. Another one I like the idea of - the reality is a bit harder to put together. I'm not especially motivated to carry four bags of food uphill. At least I'm going by scooter.

Make your own
non-toxic household cleaning products. I've been using baking powder a lot lately, I hate the smell of vinegar, might try some Dr. Bronners and have tried many many things but realize that to really clean the toilets I need chemicals.

Try to go a month without making any purchases other than food and energy. Done.

An easy quick tip: stop using paper towels and paper napkins. Keep cloth towels on hand for cleaning and cloth napkins for mealtime. I use almost NO paper towels - though K likes them and I will admit that there are some spills I won't use a cloth for (oil), but I'd like to move us away from paper napkins. We use large dinner sized paper napkins and although we use them more than once before throwing them out I think we would do pretty well with cloth napkins.

THINK about how running the tap wastes water. THINK about how lights on in rooms not occupied wastes energy. This is very real for us right now. We have all learned to keep or shut the lights off, rarely leave a tap running and are learning to unplug chargers when not in use. All five of us seem to have learned to be mindful of this.

Avoid bottled water - save for the days my pals were in town we have not had bottled water in our house for many months. We've been using a Brita pitcher and glasses to drink from and though disposing of those filters isn't ideal either, we've saved money and have not missed all those plastic bottles.

Don't waste - K and I have been much more conscious about food waste in particular. We are cooking in smaller amounts and have tried very hard to make use of leftovers. I'm also purchasing less food at the market - and none of it on impulse.

Recognize that happiness in life is related to relationships with other people, not shopping. This is a lot easier to swallow when your wallet is fat. Deprived of shopping for fun, one tends to feel sorry for oneself - our society revolves around the aquisition of things and I will admit that it isn't easy to close my eyes to it. Shopping for perfect apples can, however, be nearly as meaningful to me as shopping for shoes - but, to be sure, I certainly realize that people are more important than things.

Swear off plastic bags. Done. It is very rare that we don't have a cloth bag with us at the store, and not just the supermarket. I bring them to the drug store and the post office and Target. And I haven't even BEEN to Target in months.

Skip sodas, juices, things that come in bottles and cans--for a week. In an attempt to save money and be green we have been forgoing bottles and cans for quite a while. The boys have been drinking tea from a pitcher and I have been drinking water, from a pitcher - all in drinking glasses. This doesn't mark us as saints but I'm pleased we have broken the habit of purchasing so many bottles and cans.

Switch to CFL lightbulbs, turn down your thermostat, and put a blanket on your water heater. I hate the light from those bulbs, we have been extremely limited in our use of air conditioning and I'm going to check out the blanket over the water heater business.

Certainly these aren't huge things but they must count for something.


Badger said…
OMG, I was all set to do a long post, complete with photos, about some of my recent impulse purchases but NOW I FEEL ALL GUILTY AND SHIT.

I do grow more veggies than you, though. So neener neener.
KPB said…
badge - you missed out the last ner up there.

I haven't read this yet because it's 10.30pm here and I as I think I'm getting the virus that has kept Felix at home since last FRIDAY


I just had to drop you a note to say that I AM LOVING THE FONT CHOICE.
KPB said…
Now I've read it and I think it's all tops.

Snaps to you young lady, snaps to you.
KPB said…
Because how could I NOT read a new Blackbird post on seeing it.

Now, to bed.
Anonymous said…
You are doing a lot to be greener especially considering the 3 boys involved.

Lots of changes I see here...
Anonymous said…
These things count for a LOT! Kudos!!!
Anonymous said…
That is so great! Congrats. Love the new look of the blog.
But really impressive - have not been to Target in months? Wow! ;-)

Stephanie said…
for sure. good job, all.

RW said…
It is all in the mental shift, no? Once you have your hand to the plow, it is very hard to turn back...and that is a good thing. In our community there is a real push to shut the car off when you are waiting at train tracks... we have a lot of tracks running through our community.
Anonymous said…
Yeah! Be a Creator, not a Consumer!
This is how we've been rolling at the Sunshine House.
Just yesterday I was googling "How to make safe household cleaners".
I'm cooking bigger meals to have leftovers.
We're making pitchers of lemonade and using the Britta for water ( we did buy some bottled in case of a hurricane)
I bake our snacks.
I think it's great that your boys are on board with the changes, not easy for teenagers
Anonymous said…

if your interested, check out this 20 minute film folks

Brother B
Amy A. said…
I'm not all the way there yet, but I think all these little changes add up to big benefits.
Anonymous said…
(cue long low whistle of appreciation). You go, girl! And that "Story of Stuff" video is pretty informative. I liked it.
That One said…
I'm going to have to do more to be greener! So much could be done if one just changes habits.

I've got a ton of reusable bags but have yet to get in the habit of leaving a few in the car. But when I remember them I, too, tend to take them places other than the grocery.
MsCellania said…
Green is good.
You are doing tons more than 99% of households. Including ours.
Wendy said…
We showed the Story of Stuff at church last year. Worthwhile viewing.

But what I really wanted to comment on was the napkins. I'm sure you have some fabric scraps that would make good napkins. Cut squares or rectangles, hem up the edges and presto!(This was actually on my list of projects for next week - making some for Ellie's lunchbox.)
tut-tut said…
Frankly, we all should be doing these things, no matter what our economic status is at any given moment. And

Try to go a month without making any purchases other than food and energy.

This would save so much time, energy, gas, postage, not to say actual money and interest, that it's amazing we all just don't stop it!
Chris said…
We have been cutting way back too. My 12 year old daughter is very much into going green so she keeps on track with that. I love the reusable bags, they hold so much more and I hold my head up high when I use them.

It isn't easy to form these new habits, but we are working on them one at a time. Even going as far as buying a car that gets 40 MPG.
Unknown said…
Like the new template. Very clean.

We have cut back to the bare bones, so we follow pretty much everything you are incorporating into your life. One thing we do differently is that we have no dryer and haven't in over a year since our old dryer bit the dust. Since we live in a similar climate, and since we both have laundry in our basements, this is how we've solved the issue of using drying racks and clotheslines in the winter.

First, if you basement smells "damp" go to the hardware store and get these crystals that take the damp smell out of the air. This is important. A dehumidifier also works, but you actually have to empty the damn thing and it runs on electricity so I decided it wasn't worth it.

Once the smell is gone from your basement, hang up a clothesline from the pipes above. Or, if you basement is finished, hang hooks right below the ceiling and then string up a couple of clotheslines.

Hang your towels and sheets in the basement. They usually take a couple of days to dry, but they will dry and they will not smell musty.

Bring your clothes upstairs and put them on drying racks in front of the radiators. We have one in the front hall and yes, it looks insane but we only put clothes on it overnight and they're dry the next morning, so nobody but us sees it usually.

Hang your underwear in a private bathroom in front of the radiator.

If you have a screened porch, you can string up clotheslines there and hang your clothing out all winter. We do that with heavier stuff like jeans. We just assume that clothing will take 2 days to dry, and sometimes we'll drape something that isn't quite dry over a radiator for a few minutes.

Lastly, if you NEED your clothes dried in a hurry, put them on the rack and turn a fan on them. They will dry in about an hour. The fan uses no heat and is MUCH cheaper to operate than a dryer.

The other thing we've done is to switch EVERY single bulb in the house to a CFL. I did it two years ago, I've replaced maybe two bulbs since that time, and my elec bill is so much lower that I don't freak out if a light is left on when someone leaves the room. Much.

You forgot to mention insulating your pipes. Hot water pipes should all be insulated. Windows that leak should be insulated and then use the shrink wrap plastic sheeting over them. Unless you have cats. They will rip the plastic to shreds.

Make sure your door has a working rubber strip on the bottom. Ditto for your garage door. Patch up any leaks in your foundation NOW. You can find leaks by lighting a candle and following the foundation around from inside your basement. If there is a leak, the candle will tell you.

Queen of Cheap Living!
Mary said…
I am just starting on this road myself - the waste and clutter in our house and the ensuing damage we are doing to ourselves and our world has finally got to me.

Thanks for sharing these tips.

Oh and your new sleek look? Is very very good.
Anonymous said…
Excellent work, you! I am so impressed that your three boys are learning to conserve. That's a change that will ripple through the future in a good way.

I have a 5-pack of nylon bags from EnviroSac that I carry in my purse. They fold down to nearly nothing and unfold to hold A.Lot. Since I started carrying them our accumulation of plastic bags has dropped dramatically.

Re: grocery shopping. One of the best tips I ever heard was to take exactly $100 in cash with you when you do your weekly/biweekly/whatever regular major grocery shopping trip. (This was from a mother of 2.) She could never overspend.
Jennifer said…
I don't want to make excuses, but our water is really really really gross here. I wonder if I should just get one of those large bottles that turn upside down, instead? Would that be better then just bying bottled water all the time?

and I just went around and turned all the lights off. :) I feel better now. I mean it is only 4:30 in the afternoon and it's not like we needed them on anyway!

why my mom has the ac on though... I do not know. It wasn't that hot in here.
Ginnie said…
Excellent work, bb! I started the clothesline routine this spring and am curious to see how it works in cold and snow. Also stopped using paper napkins last year, and it's one of the easiest things I've done. Of course in all my endeavors I only have to convince a husband - though sometimes the kids are the more conscious family members and can encourage the parents. I'm on board with your list except the scooter. I'll have to think about that one.

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