everyday is earth day

i realize the official earth day was last week but i still wanted to write about my efforts and thoughts on becoming more eco-conscious. "going green" is constantly on my mind. i'm all over the place with my emotions, though :: enthusiasm for what i can do to help the planet, guilt about over-consumption, discouragement for not doing enough, and wonder at how much there is to learn. it is overwhelming, but i'm determined not to let that stop me from doing what i can to minimize any negative effects my existence on this earth can have.

just so i start off on a positive note, here are some things we do in our household ::

  • recycle ... almost obsessively.
  • wash our clothes with cold water (except for the towels and sheets, which get washed in hot water).
  • compost + grasscycle.
  • change our light bulbs to CFLs.
  • turn down the thermostat.
  • keep lights off as long as possible and turn them off when they're not necessary.
  • when the wallet allows it i try to buy organic + local produce.
  • donating unused/unwanted items to friends and charity.
  • gradually going paperless for bills + statements (i have to admit i'm a little bit paranoid about not having a paper trail of my finances).
  • carry around reusable shopping bags (i also reuse produce bags numerous times).
  • drive a prius ... actually, rupert drives the prius.
  • hang clothes out to dry when it's warm (but i only have one clothes drying rack and ian's basketball hoop so there's a limit to how much i can put out at one time).
  • during the summer we grow a few vegetables and herbs ... and now rupert can use some of my very own compost to keep the plants healthy.
  • instead of giving gifts we've been donating to the recipients' (or our) favorite causes.
  • check out books from the library instead of buying them.

like most people, i recycle because it's simple and it makes me feel good. but something i read on treehugger made me realize i'm going about this all wrong :: reduce, reuse, recycle is listed in order of importance, which means i'm focusing on (and sitting on my high horse about) the least important part of household conservation.

there's more i should be doing instead of relying on recycling to be the easiest and best thing i can do at home. in fact, i should be striving to reduce the amount of regular garbage and recycling that leaves my house. that means i need to create less waste in general, and to achieve that i should be consuming less of everything.

so, here are things i plan to do to reduce my intake of resources and to reuse items i already have ::

  • after i get through my stash of sponges, start using the kids' old washclothes to wash the dishes that don't go in the dishwasher.
  • figure out how to use baking soda + vinegar for my cleaning needs.
  • sew up some cloth napkins and stop using paper napkins.
  • reduce the number of paper towels i use by switching to rags for clean-ups (i already use dishcloths for drying), and only purchasing paper towels made from recycled paper.
  • stop buying so many individually wrapped/packed snacks + drinks.
  • replace plastic reusable containers with glass ones.
  • be much more careful about my water usage.
  • switch from liquid body soap to bar soap (to cut down on plastic containers).
  • walk more to our local stores.
  • finally buy a water bottle for rupert (like mine) so he'll stop asking me to buy bottled water. do you know how guilty i felt buying a case of water at costco on earth day of all days?!
  • get a clothesline put up in the backyard.
  • sign up for renewable energy sources.
  • reduce the packaging on the tagE*blankEs i sell.
  • learn more about recycling properly.
  • visit second-hand and vintage shops instead of buying brand new all the time.
  • no more magazine subscriptions.

most importantly, i have to stop buying so much stuff [i.e., junk]. i really have very little need for more things but i keep buying. it's awful and wasteful and just plain bad. the clutter around our house is causing me stress, too. i look around and i'm fed up with living amidst so many unnecessary objects. i tried to follow the rule "one object in, one object out" but that hasn't worked at all.

in order to make a drastic change in lifestyle and consumption mentality, i'm participating in the buy nothing challenge from crunchy chicken's blog, albeit a month late. it's going to be a real challenge, especially since we'll be traveling to milwaukee mid-month to attend rupert's brother's medical school graduation (that means not buying souvenirs and figuring out an alternative to purchasing a graduation gift). going cold turkey is what i need, though, in order to see the absolute waste of money, time, space, and mental energy caused by unnecessary shopping.

one area in particular has been haunting me :: my scrapbooking hobby. i've been in love with paper since i was a little girl and i don't foresee that changing in my lifetime. my stash of beautiful decorative papers is probably making my house a fire hazard, and yet, i have no intention of getting rid of any of it. i could easily switch to digital scrapbooking, but i'm resisting that change because i like the tactile nature of paper scrapbook layouts. if i'm not going to give up scrapbooking then i need to stop buying so much paper and use it instead of admiring it in it's 12"x12" glory. so, you heard read it here first folks -- no more buying scrapbooking supplies!

and, looking to the future, some things i wish i could do ::

  • reuse grey water.
  • get my own hybrid car.
  • install solar panels on the roof.
  • buy energy star appliances when our current appliances go kaput.
  • plant a proper, year-round garden ... and have rupert take care of it (i have a brown thumb).

hmm ... too many of those things require me to buy something. i should probably think of a different kind of future.

i would love to hear what you do in your homes + lives to be more eco-conscious. are there green books/websites/documentaries that you recommend? did anything i wrote above sound ludicrous or wrong? this is one issue i would love to get some feedback on.


Krimey said...

good for you yucaree!

i'm more of a recycling newbie...how did you know what goes (and doesn't go) in the recycling bin to begin with (other than the obvious cans/bottles/glass/sheets of paper?)

still debating if i want to join you on the no-buying month. may's really not good for me...how's your june look? (wait, that's not great either. can we push it back to 2009?) :))

but when you sent me that link the other day, it did get me thinking that i should start making jewelry again as gifts --- i bought quite a bit of material back when i was taking the jewelry-making classes and i've only done a handful of projects since. i guess that was my version of your scrapbooking addiction, but one that i've since abandoned months ago.

then of course after the scrapbooking class you taught the other day, my mom and i contemplated picking up this exciting new hobby. but alas, doesn't fit into my new "budget."

now the karen russell's photography class, on the other hand... :)

Anne said...

Hey yukari,

i definitely have similar going green moments, but then never do anything about it so it's awesome that you guys already do so much and that you're willing to make so many changes. You've inspired me to make a list of things aaron and i do in our apartment:

1. wash clothes in cold water... because the hot water hook-up doesn't work >;)
2. use CFLs
3. worm compost our food scraps
4. stopped using pesticides on garden even if the cucumber dies of fungus
5. drive a civic hybrid, well aaron does, but i ride in it a lot
6. use cloth napkins
7. walk to grocery store
8. ride bike to school
9. cloth grocery bags
10. buy local when i have the self-control not to buy oranges from california... which was not today

things i want to start doing:
1. less new stuff, which will be hard because we're moving, but it gives me a good argument for keeping our old stuff when people say "just get rid of it and buy new when you get to new york"
2. paperless billing .... aaron does it but i save EVERYTHING "just in case"
3. no magazines, but i LOVE my magazines and i don't like reading off a computer screen.
4. sign up for the "no junk mail" service at the post-office
5. solar panels... some day
6. energy star appliances when we move to NY
7. buy renewable energy
8. walk to work... our new house is five blocks from the hospital!
9. make toilet low-flush
10. donation gift-giving
11. cleaning with baking soda and vinegar? tell me more about it. i've been freaked out about chemicals ever since my environmental public health class and would love to hear some alternatives. so far, i just haven't been cleaning which kind of also solves the problem.

yep, that was my going-green moment. i bet i'll maybe do one of the above things during the next year, but it feels good listing them all.

favorite going green movies/books/etc...

"burning the future: coal in america" - you'll definitely turn off your lights after watching this documentary (avail on netflix)

kingsolver's "animal, vegetable, miracle" - started me on my local-only food craze which i've gotten less stringent on... winter in wisconsin will do that to you.

treehugger.com - i use this site too. they even tell you how to "green" up your sex life. hmmm, now that's interesting!

Anonymous said...

I can't take credit for having a pretty green house for over a decade, that goes to my DH, but it was really fun to read your list and see how we do most of these things and have been for quite some time. Good reminder. Only thing I can think to add off the top of my head is a bucket for your shower/tub. When you turn on the water and wait for the water to warm up, catch the "cold" water in a bucket and then use the water on plants. We are not too good about doing this any more since our shower is upstairs and it was me more often than not who ended up needing to dump the bucket...but maybe I should put the bucket back in the shower. With the lack of rain the last few years, we all need to have water conservation on our minds.