Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

     I know that Earth Day gets a bad rap from a lot of people, but I am glad to have it.  It gives me a reminder to set new eco-goals for the year and to review what we have done and what is working for us.  Taking care of the environment is an important job to me.  I feel like it is non-negotiable--we all live here, so we all need to do what we can to keep it beautiful.  If everyone made one small change in their lifestyle each year, it would have a profound impact.
     So, I am sitting here thinking of what I can do this year.  The best place to start is by looking at how the new changes we have made are working out for us.
--An avid clothesline-hanger, I felt bad about how short our clothesline season is around here.  So I started hanging my laundry indoors this year.  This has gone WAY better than I thought it would, as I figured I would try it and find it to be a huge pain and then I would quit doing it.  Au contraire!  I love it and now hang everything except towels and diapers.  I found I could hang hangers in the door frame between our living and dining rooms (pocket door).  Surprising perks?  It helped to add humidity to the air, which was apparently quite dry as many things dried in a few hours.  It smelled so nice and fresh every time I walked by the clothes.  Also, the clothes don't get as much wear and tear, nor do they shrink as much.  I started using dryer balls for the towels and diapers when I dry them instead of fab softener, which decreases the absorbency.  This meant I could compost the dryer lint in my compost bins!  Edith gave me soap nuts for christmas and I love them!  So I am using less detergent now.

--I have reduced plastic and paper in the kitchen.  That was a big focus for this year.  Since we pack our lunches for work, I switched to glass containers.  They are great, especially for microwaving.  I re-use glass bottles for food storage, like when I bring yogurt or coffee from home for work lunches or on picnics.  It works great for the coffee because it can go into the microwave.  We have the same roll of paper towels from a year and 2 months ago (I wrote the date in the tube! : P  )  We avoid ever using them by keeping a sleeve of rags and a basket of cloth napkins hanging up in easy reach.  We have hosted 2 parties for 25+ people without needing paper plates, napkins or disposable cups. We have a large collection of glass plates and coffee mugs.  I have been reusing plastic silverware for years now, running them through the dishwasher, but I will aim for finding used metal ones at garage sales this year and phasing out the plastic ones.  This has made a noted difference in our garbage after holidays.  Although we recycle, not having to recycle is even better.

--We now have only human powered yard equipment.  This makes mowing and gardening so much more enjoyable.  No fumes, loud noise or having to keep the kids away.  I can listen to the birds and I'm not scaring away the  animals (and by that I mean kids!).  We get compliments on our yard from our neighbors, although we use no weed killers and have let as much of the grass get taken over by clover as we can.  Check out the coolness that is clover.  We don't fertilize, we use our home made compost.  We do use a great little aerator that helped our lawn immensely, since our lawn gets a lot of foot traffic and was very compacted.  I definitely enjoy the results of our hand tended yard!

--We have had a surge protector for our TV, computer, printer and receiver for awhile now.  When we don't use them, we turn off the surge protector and eliminate that vampire electricity drain that those appliances draw.  Recently we added a surge protector to our microwave, as we don't need the clock on it.  Once again, I didn't expect this to be a change that would work for us.  But, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy this change was to make.  A simple flip of the switch is all it takes to use the microwave.  We only plug our phone and battery chargers in while we use them.

--  This year I tried very hard to buy used any time I could.  I was surprised at how many times I was able to stop myself during shopping trips because I realized I already had something that could make do or that there was a used option for.  For example, there is so much good barely used furniture on craigslist, I was able to buy a much higher quality love seat than I could have afforded new.

--  I have made an attempt to continue sewing, crafting, crocheting and knitting as environmentally responsible as possible.  I use old t shirts and sheets to create "yarn".  I sew by taking apart other clothes and linens and reworking them.  I papercraft with recycled paper and scraps from junk mail and magazines.  I by "mill ends" of yarn when I need to buy new.  It forces you to really look at creative endeavors with a new eye.

     What new things do I want to try?
* I want to further my reduction of disposable items outside of just paper and plastics.
* I would like to eliminate teflon from my kitchen, I'm concerned about the health risks and the fact that they need to be replaced every 3-5 yrs.
*I am going to test my toilets for leaks that waste water (how to check for leaks).
*I am going to be more diligent about checking my tire pressure.
*I am going to keep reusable bags in the car so I quit forgetting them!  Used tote bags are practically free at garage sales, btw!
     What new eco-tricks have you tried?  What did/didn't work for you?  Can't figure out where to start?  Try one of these:
~Replace your coffee filters with a reusable one.
~Replace as many light bulbs in your home with cfl or led bulbs.  Don't forget the front porch!
~Share or donate magazines.
~Start recycling by just doing your newspapers and junk mail.
~Plant a tree
~Hang a clothesline and try to hang even one load a week, or get a drying rack for indoors.
~Try soap nuts
~Institute a "shoes off" policy for your home, less dirt means less germs, less need for cleaning products.
~Dry the shower with a cloth or squeegee after showering.  Say goodbye to mildew cleaners!
~Pack a lunch, less waste.
~ Run full loads only in the dish/clothes washer.
~Do laundry on cold water setting.
   I hope to hear from some of you about what you are doing!  It is surprising how easy these changes are if you do them one at a time.  Happy Earth Day!

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