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Get Real: On Being “Greener”

**This post is part of the Get Real series. Please remember that this is meant as a learning community. We know that many of you are passionate about what you do and we want you to express that, just please do so in a way that will be an encouragement and aid to others making a transition. We want this to be a “safe space” for participants to learn. For that reason, we reserve the right to delete any comments that are not handled in this manner.

Did you know the average American produces 7 pounds of trash PER DAY?   That comes out to about 102 TONS of trash in your lifetime–more than any other Western country with our same standard of living.  We are literally the most wasteful people on the planet.

Did you know that 40% of the ocean is FULL of plastic trash?  That means more of the ocean is taken up by trash than by all of the dry land in the world put together.

Sixty-nine percent of of our trash goes into landfills and 25% of what we put into our landfills is waste that could be recycled.*

About the time my oldest son joined our family we started caring more about living a greener lifestyle, and leaving behind a less wasteful legacy.  Seven years later our home’s waste stream is  much different than it was before.  Where there were once paper towels, paper napkins, and paper tissues, there are now cloth towels, napkins, and handkerchiefs.  Where there was once a stack of paper coffee filters, there are now two re-useable cotton coffee filters.  We took a good look around our home at the areas in which we are most wasteful and came up with re-useable options.  Washing and re-using zip top bags and aluminum foil are common practice here, as well as saving all the glass jars for food storage.  You’ll find a myriad of things stored in baby food jars around here, too.  You won’t find much plastic around here–we try not to use it (more on this in a post later this month).

One of my goals as I shop for items at the grocery store is to purchase things with the least amount of packaging, and 100% recycled content at that.  Yes, we are the ones who buy the 100% 1-ply toilet tissue, and it’s not so bad.  Recycling as much as possible, leaving behind less than one bag of trash per week is our norm.  Most of our food scraps go into our compost bin, though we avoid putting animal waste, bones, and fats in the bin–it will eventually change into a fine, nourishing top layer for my garden, made from our food waste and yard clippings.

I am always seeking out new ways to reduce our waste stream, re-use what we already have for as long as possible, and recycle items when we can no longer find purpose for them.

Here are some of my ideas for becoming a greener family, especially if you are just starting out on a greener journey:

•    RECYCLE!  Send less into the waste stream/landfill
•    Reuse items over and over and over until they can no longer be used.  If you don’t really need that new item, don’t buy it!  Get by without it, or purchase it second hand.
•    Use those reusable grocery bags!
•    When purchasing new items, choose items housed in minimal to no packaging.
•    When purchasing new items, choose items with packaging made of 100% recycled material (preferably post-consumer)
•    Buy 100% recycled paper products (paper towels and napkins if you use them; toilet tissue)
•    Switch to cloth napkins, towels, and handkerchiefs
•    Stop buying plastic (or at least buy less of it!)

So where are you in all this?  Are you already a conscious consumer when it comes to your waste, recycling, and using less?  What are your favorite creative re-uses for items?  What else can we add to this list of ideas?  Tell us your thoughts and ideas in the comments!

*Resource cited:

Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash by Edward Humes

October Week 2 Action Item:

Each week we will try to give you some simple action steps to put this journey into practice. It is important that you start this journey by understanding yourself, your goals and perhaps your obstacles.
  1. If you don’t already do them, choose a couple things from the list above and give them a try.  Let us know how it goes this week!

October Get Real:

Please take a moment to thank our guest authors by clicking over to their sites and/or liking them on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Sponsor:  Once A Month Mom

Guest Author: Donielle of Naturally Knocked Up

 

12 Responses to “Get Real: On Being “Greener””

  1. Jamie says:

    I couldn’t get my husband on board with completely eliminating paper towels but we did agree to not have them in the kitchen where they are so easily accessible anymore. I keep a roll in the laundry room and he has a roll in the garage and having to go those extra steps has really reduced our usage. You don’t realize how easily you reach for one and it’s usually for the littlest things. I have a large rag bin now for big clean ups and otherwise just use the dish towels.

    • debbie says:

      Jamie, I totally understand. We actually keep one roll of paper towels under the sink for when we clean up dog mess. Something I am NOT willing to clean up with my towels, ha! ;)

  2. KC_Stacy says:

    I started using cloth napkins a few years ago. Buying cloth napkins can be costly if you don’t find a good sale, so try using wash cloths. They are especially good for that occassional spill, too! Store them in a cute basket on the table and it will become a new, good habit in no time.

  3. I am with you!! We have a family of five, three of which are teenagers, and each week we put out three recycle bins and ONE regular sized garbage can, that is rarely filled. Friends make fun sometimes, but I don’t care! All of our drinking glasses used to be bottles that I made into glasses, or they are jars. Our plates are recycled glass, and reclaimed from several places. We still have daily dishware and stemware from our wedding – 19 years ago! Every time a kid tosses something in a recycle bin that isn’t recycleable, or is both paper and plastic…they get another lesson about being lazy! :)

    I also create items from things I found that we were tossing on a regular basis. In my studio, I screwed a piece of metal to the wall/ceiling and have beads and components in babyfood jars, spice jars and even ziplock bags hanging by a magnet clip.

    In my business, Most of my jewelry components are reclaimed, vintage, found and upcycled! The gemstones I use are smaller beads with a natural or rough cut, as they are generally the ones that require less “work” and are often cast offs from larger stones. I use as much Metal Clay as possible, which was actually created from the metal shavings and dust from benches, which when fired, becomes silver, bronze or gold!

    ALL of my components for many other products are completely recycled/reclaimed. I make fun toothfairy jars from tiny lotion jars I couldn’t throw in the garbage after they were empty. I make glasses out of fun bottles of soda, water and even wine bottles. I find wonderful things at flea markets, second hand shops and garage sales that are turned into lovely items!

    When we receive cards of any kind or even a post card that is lovely, I purchase recycled paper cards/envelopes, and I use the cards we received to make new and different cards to give with gifts, or give away AS a gift!

    We do still use paper towels and napkins, we have trouble getting through that-but they are recycled paper.

    The only thing I can suggest to the above, is when you are recycling, make sure that all bits of it are in fact recycleable. For example a milk jug or water bottle is recycleable, but the top generally is not. If it gets tossed in the bin, when it is sorted at the recycled community, it will be picked out and require extra work and man hours. I often use the lids at Easter to hold eggs to dry, I use them to hold items up off the table when I am spray painting to get all the way around, and many other things!

    Whew…I guess that’s enough!! : ) Cheers!

    • debbie says:

      Jeane, I would LOVE to see some of your creations! Do you have a website? You & I would be fast friends! ;)

      In our county we are encouraged to “over recycle”, and put anything in the bin, including items that may still have some food on them (at least rinsed off). I think it just depends on where you live, and what your county will accept.

      How do you make your glasses out of wine bottles? Sounds fantastic!

  4. Kathy R says:

    We started using wash clothes instead of napkins or paper towels during meal times. With 4 children & 2 adults, there are always spills. I found a 30 pk w/ a different color for each person for $4. I always check for used ones at Goodwill & Salvation Army stores.

  5. Lacey says:

    My goal for this school year was to reduce if not completely remove all the waste from my kids school lunches. My 9yo went to an energy wise program last year with his school and learned A LOT, like it takes 1,000 years for a plastic grocery bag to decompose. Along with the program they had to bring a no waste lunch, which we all had a ton of fun finding things that would be zero waste as there was going to be a contest. This year I have become more crafty and have started making the kids reusable lunch wraps instead of foil for their sandwiches and purchased a bunch of plastic containers for their lunches along with a nice sturdy thermos (my oldest has used his Thermos brand thermos for the last 6 years of lunches, talk about getting some use from). And Contiga makes a wonderful reusable water bottle that hold cold for 12 hours, warm for 4 hours and does not leak!!! Not to mention the Land’s End lunch boxes that match their backpacks that my oldest has carried for 5 years and still looks new, not to mention I can toss it in the washer when it gets dirty and their wear out warranty is great even though we haven’t had to use it.

  6. Michelle says:

    One thing that helped us cut back on paper towels is putting a basket of our old and hand me down baby washcloths on the counter. I still use paper towels for pet messes too but cut them in half, in a stash under the sink. We got rid of napkins, except for birthday parties, and found some great cloth ones that have been passed down, sitting in my drawers for years. Really how many formal dinner parties am I going to have anyway? Dryer balls instead of dryer sheets and vinegar as fabric softer. Old towels and blankets are always donated to animal shelters and I save all trial size samples of personal care items to give to the homeless shelter once a year. Sometimes though I feel like the trash police inspecting everything going in the can to see if it can be recycled, or re-used. :)

  7. [...] Save Resources – Again, glass is reusable! If your family makes an effort to live green and reduce waste, then you probably don’t want to be throwing away 30 or more freezer bags [...]

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