Monday, April 21, 2014

My Earth Day Resolution

It's Earth Day again and time for me to commit myself to another year of softening my footprint. Last year, I committed myself to reducing waste in my household and I've done an okay job.

Here's what I've accomplished this past year:
  • I have eliminated almost completely the use of disposable sponges, paper towels, napkins and tissues through the use of washcloths, handkerchiefs and cloth napkins. The cloth napkins were the most expensive. You can get a giant bundle of washcloths at Meijer or Walmart for under $5. We do keep a roll of paper towels for cleaning up cat puke. We just bought a new roll. We bought the last one in September, that's about 6 months. Not bad.
  • We use cloth diapers most days. I used cloth diapers exclusively for a long time, but when we moved and our washing machine was damaged in the process, we used disposable diapers because it wasn't practical to take cloth diapers to the once a week laundromat trip. After our washing machine was repaired and hooked up properly, we returned to using cloth diapers most of the time. We use disposables on the go, but we don't go out much. Potty training is upon us. I will be selling my cloth diaper stash the end of this summer.
  • I really wanted to make an awesome compost bin and show you how I did it, but we didn't have enough time between when we moved in and the snow started. We did, however, make a compost heap at the back corner of the property. It has HUGELY reduced the amount of garbage we throw away. I also started raising composting worms. Yep, they're right next to my desk in a red plastic bin. There aren't enough of them yet to make much of a difference, but they'll reproduce. I have some pretty exciting composting ideas for this spring, so we'll see what happens.
  • I signed up for biweekly recycling pickup. Though there was a period when recycling had to be dropped off and I am afraid we didn't do to well with that.
  • I greatly reduced my use of plastic bags, plastic wrap & etc. I do still use aluminum foil once in awhile but the foil can be recycled. I invested in some freezer-safe containers (since I don't own a microwave they didn't need to be microwave safe) and I use those to store food and even in lunch boxes. I also re-use containers that food came in at the store. For example, I have an old coffee can with the word "FLOUR" written on it in sharpie which stores... flour... and my son has some old oatmeal containers that store various small toys. I also buy beans, rice & etc. in bulk and then store them at home in old pickle jars.
  • I pack lunch boxes, and eat out less, and my husband eats out less. But I still eat more fast food than I should.
  • I have shopping bags, so the cashier doesn't have to use plastic or paper. However, I don't remember to take them as often as I should.
  • I am cooking from scratch much more. So we are reducing the amount of packaging we throw away from things like bread, cookies & etc. 
  • I got a Kindle Fire on which I make my obsessive lists, including my shopping list, keep my obsessive notes and read endlessly. Before I got that thing I was constantly picking up a new notebook at the store because I couldn't find my old one (which inevitably turned up the next day) just so I could journal my dreams, write to do and shopping lists, jot down blog & wiki ideas, & etc. Now I do all that on the Kindle - no paper! I use the Springpad App, by the way. Also, before the Kindle my husband and I each had our own pocket calendar and the big calendar on the wall and got new ones every year. Now we use the Cozi app which keeps everyone's calandars on our Kindles or on our computers - though we do still have a big one on the wall because Grandma gives us one every year with all the family birthdays on it.

There is still more I need to do.
And so, I recommit myself to the SAME Earth Day resolution as last year. I am very proud that we're using less paper and plastic products and that we're re-using, but there are so many more things we can be doing, especially now that we're in the new house. That is - I resolve to greatly reduce waste in my household and life. This I do in honor of the sacred Earth, our Mother!

Here are just a few things:
  • We need to improve the insulation of the basement and attic and caulk the windows before next winter to reduce the amount of fuel oil required to keep the house warm. I can't believe how much fuel oil was wasted this year! Out the windows!
  • We need to produce more of our own food to reduce the packaging, not to mention the fuel, we use to bring food into the house. We can eliminate such things as egg cartons and plastic produce bags quite easily. I can also cook more things from scratch, especially using home grown products, to further reduce packaging. Some things we use regularly that I could make myself in the next year: pasta, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, marinara sauce, mayonnaise, salad dressings, tortillas, perogies.
  • We need to get the workshop set up in the garage and the sewing machine set up... wherever I can find space... and we need to learn to repair things and make things.
  • We should get an energy audit.
One thing I has given me a great deal of trouble over the past few months is the issue of waste at work. Now I don't really have a full time job per se, (unless you count homemaker, mom and webmistress) but I do work outside the home periodically. Over the past few months I have been a home health aide, an office manager and nanny. I am also a dog trainer but I haven't had a client since November, so whatever. As a home health aid I start to feel really guilty about the 10th time I put on a fresh pair of rubber gloves. The endless use of paper towels at work as a home health aide and as a nanny is also squirmworthy. Working in the office I can't believe the boss really needs two copies of everything and that I have to print out every email he receives. WTH? So much paper! So glad I don't have to do that all the time.

Granted, I spend a lot of paper drawing. But I do use recycled paper.

Some more challenges I have experienced and anticipate experiencing:

  • Money- We're chronically short on cash so things like insulating the basement and attic are challenging. #1 priority before next winter is putting a door on the stupid basement so the cold can stop creeping up the stairs!
  • Time- The truth is, I have plenty of time. But my husband does not. He's got his full time day job (so grateful he does!) and he's almost a full time musician. He likes it that way. I am not overly thrilled. This means that I am almost always primarily responsible for supervising the toddler. Not easy to do when power tools are involved. It also means I rarely have that extra hand for things like, you know, holding a door in place while it gets attached to hinges. True I have a teenage boy, but he also works and goes to school full time and is somewhat cantankerous. 
  • Organization - I have found that the biggest cause of waste around here is poor organization. When you get behind on laundry, paper towels and disposable diapers get used. When you get behind on dishes, take out becomes a big temptation and baking becomes a chore instead of a pleasure. When you haven't cleaned the fridge in awhile, you never know what's rotting & wasting in there. When you don't plan the menu ahead of time, you don't get the shopping list right and you buy stuff you don't need and have to take extra trips out for stuff you do need. And of course, when you're not organized, you don't have time, and your money just disappears without being noticed.

So there you go. Revisiting, continuing. Reducing waste! Reduce, reuse, recycle. Etc.

And I'll ask again, though I've never gotten an answer before - What's your Earth Day Resolution?