I mentioned briefly after getting home from the farm this summer that I wanted to try to stretch myself a little more, sustainability-wise. We do lots of things to live sustainably, but after living nearly off the grid, my enthusiasm and imagination were sparked!
With a fire in my belly, I made a list of all the things I wanted us to start doing (or stop doing, as the case may be).
The first order of business was taking note of everything we threw away for one week to see how we could reduce our waste.
Compost! The majority of our kitchen trash was food waste, which I’d always felt a twinge of guilt about since we had a compost a few years ago (when we had a yard) and it was such an easy peasy way of throwing less biodegradable food waste into a landfill. We tried composting on our back porch two years ago, but it met a tragic (smelly, leaky) end. This time, we got a worm compost bin that we have high hopes for. It’s a little more involved than I expected, but I’m hopeful that it’ll be successful. If nothing else, Gabe has his first pet: worms. Poor Gabe.
Buy coffee wholesale in paper bags. We’ve bought our coffee from Trader Joes for years. It’s a great price for fair trade, organic coffee, but we’re left with a canister and nonrecyclable plastic lid every week or two. In doing our waste inventory, I realized it was a regular source of trash. It was so easy to get a five-pound bag of coffee beans from Dean’s Beans (who have a swoon-worthy sustainability strategy) and the bag is just recyclable paper. Less waste, more delicious coffee. Why didn’t we do this sooner?
Start using the Diva Cup again. (What the heck is a Diva Cup? See what Caitlin wrote. She was far more frank and comprehensive than I could ever hope to be.) I know. I KNOW. The idea freaked me out entirely when I first heard about it 6 years ago. And I’ve never even discussed the topic on my blog because it’s so personal (and my family reads this blog), but I had to share. I used it for three years before Gabe (cannot say enough good things about it!), but have been off and on since. Now I’m back in the game. (Since we’re getting all TMI, you can read about Lunapads, too. I have some.)
Buy milk in glass jugs. Our grocery store carries milk from a local dairy in returnable glass jugs.
Cooking more and relying less on frozen, heavily packaged foods. Make granola, ketchup, applesauce, and yogurt. Gabe is obsessed with ketchup. Mike is obsessed with homemade granola. I am obsessed with granola and homemade yogurt. My plan is pick a bunch of apples from a local orchard and make massive amounts of applesauce to jar. Applesauce is so easy to make. The more I can make in bulk and freeze myself, the healthier we eat and the less waste I create.
Bulk food. Do it.
Find peanut butter in bulk. This has been on my to-do list for ages. Not sure what we’ll find – a giant tub? From the bulk food store in our own jar? Could I be any more hippie right now? Perhaps if I was looking for almond butter with chia seeds?
My goal for our waste is to throw away only one garbage bag of trash a month (we have about 4 now, I think). Still not as cool as the Johnsons, but we’re getting there.
Hang dry all laundry. I’ve hung Gabe’s diapers outside to dry for ages, but I’ve decided to stop using the dryer almost entirely for laundry. It only takes a few more minutes to hang it on our drying rack (or drape it all over our bikes, chairs, and ping pong table on the back porch) and it’s something I don’t mind doing. I’ll get another rack for the winter. Our heat comes out with a crazy amount of force, so I can dry clothes indoor in the winter. Of course, if I need something fast or am just feeling impatient, I’ll use the dryer.
No air conditioning unless it’s over 80 degrees inside our apartment (or if I’m feeling particularly crabby). Our apartment is generally around 78 degrees inside without air conditioning when it’s 90-100 degrees outside. It’s comfortable for us. I actually like feeling the summery weather, and a couple of fans help to keep it comfortable. As does not wearing pants. Soon enough we’ll be turning on the heat, so I sort of want to soak up summer. (Bonus: our electricity bills have been lower!)
. . . . . .
I know these little things won’t change the world. I see the enormous amount of trash my apartment building generates every day and feel a little discouraged. What does one little family reducing its waste or energy consumption do?
But even if I am not making a massive difference, I am living my life more in line with my values, which gives me a sense of peace and knowing that I am not doing everything, but I can do some things. And we’re passing those values on to our son, which I love.