Monday, October 17, 2011

No Impact Week Challenge!

    Today is the first day of Sustainable Heights No Impact Week Challenge. Each day you are asked to make a specific change or examine the way you do things. I have accepted this challenge, mainly out of curiosity. My family works hard to lessen our impact in many ways. Every year we add new changes, resolutions and reassess what is going right or wrong with our efforts to be less of a burden on the environment/natural resources and to be less beholden to a consumer lifestyle. Over the past few years it has been harder to find new ways to meet those goals, so I thought this would be a good way to discover some missed opportunities. Also, with eight people now in the house, our consumption has gone up and I have less control on how much waste is generated and resources used. I figured this challenge could shake things up for me and get me motivated again.
     Today's challenge deals with consumption. Let me start by saying that I am a huge fan of Annie Leonard's "Story of Stuff". If you haven't watched this short film, please do so. It really inspired me in so many ways. I look at all my purchases differently now. I try to avoid cheap, convenient and disposable and look for quality, reusable and classic. I have been able to avoid buying cleaning products in general by using baking soda, vinegar, tea tree oil and castille soap.
     My toiletry budget has significantly decreased since I started imposing certain restrictions. I look for things that are natural. I need to be able to look at the ingredients and easily recognize them. I look for toiletries that serve multiple uses. Lastly, I look for as little packaging as possible, and easily recycled containers (especially glass). So this has led me to create most of my own products. We use homemade deodorant made from coconut oil, baking soda, corn starch and a little essential oil. We use a bar of castile soap to wash our bodies and our hair. It rinses out so easily and lathers like a champ. I moisturize with coconut oil for my face and I made a lotion bar with coconut oil, beeswax and cocoa butter for the rest of me. When I started researching how to make my own hair pomade, I found that my lotion bar can double as pomade. Boo-yah! Yet another multi-use product.  The cocoa butter also makes a great lip balm. The cool thing is that these items can be purchased fairly inexpensively, some from a regular grocery store and they are quick and easy to make. There were tons of recipes out there, some were complicated and needed a bunch of expensive hard-to-find ingredients. But with more research and a little experimentation, I figured out how to make the things we need cheaply, easily and more naturally.
    Today's challenge was an easy one for me as I rarely look to buy new. I first "shop at home" for things I need, which is much more successful than I thought it would be, maybe because I am a pack rat?! If that doesn't work, then I hit the loop-- freecycle, Craig's list, thrift stores and garage/rummage sales. I will also admit to being unable to pass anything usable on a tree lawn. During my apartment years I did my share of dumpster diving.
     Unfortunately, I have not written a blog on how my daughter and I created her wedding with almost nothing disposable, almost everything second-hand and found ways to keep the decorations out of the land fill. One day, I will finally write that one up. But, I did write about using old clothes and jewelry to create her bouquet. I invite you to check it out and I challenge you to find a way to use something old to create something new and exciting, I guarantee it will become addictive!

     So, what can I take away from today's challenge? I am trying to buy more locally when I do buy new, if that is possible. I will try to get people to give me gift lists for birthdays and Christmas so I will give them something they want and will use. If not, I will try to gift "experiences" where they are appropriate. I will continue to maintain and mend things that I have so they last longer. I will continue to buy things with less plastic and mechanized parts that can break down (ie. a reel mower vs. a power mower, a percolator vs. a coffeemaker). Also, I will continue to try to use second hand supplies for my craft projects.
    Day one was an easy one for me (but they won't all be): I don't shop often, I shop second hand when I do, I utilize the Heights public library as often as humanly possible rather than buy materials I may only want to use once, I make most of my cleaning and beauty supplies. Is there room to improve? Yes!  We all probably tend to have weak moments when we use shopping as a way to provide retail therapy. Even shopping second hand can be problematic if you buy things you probably won't use (But it was SUCH a good deal!) and don't leave them for someone that will use them (and junk up your house, making you feel depressed which makes you want to shop for something new to cheer you up, etc... and so on). I anticipate that some of the other challenges are going to be much harder for me and I know I have some homework to complete before I start a few of them.  Here's to the start of the challenge, I'm warmed up and ready to go!

Fun idea for Consumption Day:
Replace shopping with fun things like a family photo shoot at the local park!  Get to know how to use the camera you have better while enjoying some fun time with friends or family in a beautiful, FREE setting.

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