being green


Or at least things I’m doing that aren’t going to kill the Earth as quickly.

1. My garden. I’m hoping to grow a large percentage of our family’s summer and fall food, and hopefully keep the garden producing through the winter, as well as keeping some of our harvest with root-cellaring. Our house has a perfect room for a root cellar. It’s cold, dark, and if we get a door on it, I think it will be ideal all winter. Plus, I just got a book on four season gardening, from some people in Vermont, so I have to trust that they’re serious about producing even in the winter.

2. Composting. I’m so happy I have my own compost bin, and I will have a separate heap to put all the yard scraps in. That way, when I need some brown to put on top of the kitchen scraps, I can just grab some from the pile. Less goes into my trash, and I have home-made fertilizer for my lovely garden.

3. Cloth diapering. I can’t stand the thought of putting those horrible “disposable” things in the landfills. The funniest thing is seeing how huge my baby girl looks in the giant cloth diapers, though. I had to buy some summer clothes for her yesterday, and I ended up getting a bunch of skirts and some shorts that are the 4 year old size, so they will fit over the diapers.

4. Buying recycled clothes. There’s really no reason to shop for new clothing, since there is so much out there that gets discarded, but is in perfectly good shape. Plus, I have a love-affair with thrift stores. The other day, when I got home from a thrift store spree (there are about 7 thrift stores within a couple of mile of our house), Derek asked me how my treasure hunt had gone. I giggled. But I do love finding treasures that have been cast off for whatever reason, and I feel like I’ve avoided adding to the burden of resource depletion and possible human rights violations. Keeping goods in the loop eases my consumerist mind.

5. Using the local library. I love reading, I love books. I can’t afford to buy all the books I want, but more importantly, I want to avoid using up more resources by purchasing books I will only read once. Which is to say, I still buy books, and I still love them, but I’m buying fewer books. Plus, one needs to support the local library for so many reasons. They have so many books you will never be able to buy, they support literacy, both the boo variety and the computer variety, they have so many community programs, and they are havens of peace and quiet. My sanity would be much more threatened without the local library.

6.Turning things off. I try to leave lights off as much as possible. I try to hang the laundry to dry whenever possible. I encourage my kids to notice when things are unnecessarily ON, and help them understand why they should be OFF. I’ve tried to use as many low-energy things in our house as I could, with all compact fluorescent bulbs, low energy refrigeration (lesser of two evils, as far as I’m concerned. I wish I didn’t have one at all), low energy (and low water) washer and dryer, etc.

7. Opening windows. This spring is so gorgeous, but it’s already started getting hot. I’ve been opening the windows for circulation, rather than turning on the air conditioner. If I do end up desperately hot, I will try to keep the thermostat at something in the upper 70’s, rather than actually trying to make my house cool. Seasons are good for us, and a constant 71 degrees is not good for our dear Earth. During the winter, we kept the heat at 61 at night (I know, we could go lower, but my baby girl won’t keep herself under any blankets yet, and even with two pairs of fleece pajamas, she still got pretty cold) and 64 during the day, except on the days that I just couldn’t take it anymore, and turned it up to 68. I believe in sweaters and wool socks. From the thrift store, of course.

8. Recycling. Yes, I know how cliche all my things are, but I believe in recycling. I recycle everything I can. I want to really reduce how much trash we send to the land fill, so I recycle the things that can’t be used again, use up what can be used, make regular donations to the thrift stores, send the organic stuff to my compost bin, and give stuff away. I also try to purchase things that aren’t excessively packaged. Sometimes I get the large size, sometimes I skip something I want because it has too much plastic on it. Packaging makes me sad, especially when it’s intended to make the item look bigger or more exciting, and when there are multiple, unnecessary layers.

9. Making my own. Last night, I made a bunch of flannel baby wipes, and poured some home-made wipe-juice on them. I like to make my own cleaning products, using vinegar, Borax, baking soda, essential oils, and other good stuff. I would love to be a brilliant craftswoman, designing and building furniture and clothing out of reclaimed materials, but I’m just too lazy. Yesterday, I was about to throw an umbrella away. It has been on our porch all winter, and it was a piece of junk to begin with. It was rusty, all the little wires were bent, and it was unusable. When I picked it up, I suddenly thought how it would make a cute (and waterproof!) skirt for Kiki. All I need to do is cut a circle out of the middle and add some elastic or a strip of fabric with a fastener. Then I could decorate it with some ribbon or embroidery. Or maybe some tiny tassels on each of the points. I’ll post some photos when I’m done. And maybe while I’ve got the sewing machine out, I’ll get to those curtains I’ve been meaning to make since last November!

10. Use less. I try to limit the use of things that aren’t totally waste free and non-toxic. I’ve started only washing my hair about once or twice a week, instead of every other day. There’s really no reason to wash your hair every day, since your natural oils help your hair stay healthy and shiny, and also help with the frizzies. Plus, washing your hair often makes your skin produce more oil than it needs, so it gets greasier faster if you wash it all the time. I also don’t put clothes in the laundry unless they’re really dirty. By that, I mean that they have discernible spots or smells. Clothes shouldn’t be laundered often, because each time you wash them, the fibers break down more and the color fades, so if you want your clothes to last, don’t wash them so often. Just because you wore a shirt doesn’t mean it’s dirty. I give my shirts at least two days, and this may be TMI, but pants can last a couple of weeks. After all, that’s what underwear is for: to protect your clothing so you don’t need to wash it as often. (I’ve also found some more environmentally friendly laundry detergent that I love. Seventh Generation makes some that does well in an HE washer, and it smells incredible, like eucalyptus and lavender.)

Happy Earth Day!

I’m ready to go off the grid and move into a cave and eat only fruits that fall off the tree and wear clothes that are made from skins of animals that are already dead that I skin and tan myself and not breathe anymore ever. I mean, come on. Biodiesel is WORSE than petroleum? What is there left? Aside from not driving any more and not using electricity and not having any more kids and letting all the cows and pigs go free?

As if the bring-your-own-bag song weren’t bad enough, last night, I spent a good hour surfing the ether world for ideas on using up those fabulous petroleum byproduct pieces of doodoo. I can’t call them useless, because MY OH MY did I find some amazing uses for them. It would be far better if they ceased to exist, but while they’re here, and they can’t degrade, and there are billions of them, we might as well put them to use.

I should not be surprised that there are people out there who dedicate their spare time to using up plastic bags. I mean, there are people who make soap for fun, there are people who run 26.2 miles for fun, and there are people who collect neti pots and use them to serve gravy or cream. So why not try to use those stupid bags? And I’m not talking about using them as liners for garbage cans, or to take out the pile of diapers outside the bathroom door (not that I’ve ever had a pile of diapers outside the bathroom door, or anywhere else in my house). No, my favorite site so far is My Recycled Bags.com, where the author uses them for craft projects. Craft projects, you say? Don’t laugh. This lady, and she’s not the only one out there who does this, cuts the bags into strips and makes a chain of them, then crochets all sorts of great stuff. Like this reusable grocery bag. Way to make those things fit their intended function, only without the tearing and spilling their contents onto the parking lot. Or how about a cute little cosmetic bag? A water bottle holder? A pot scrubber?

This fantastic woman also uses the innards of cassette tapes and VCR tapes to crochet stuff. Among other things, like the above, check this out. That leaves me speechless.

Needless to say, I think I have found a kindred spirit. I’m so sad I didn’t think of it, but I’m so glad that there are people out there who want to slow our waste production, and who can think of creative ways to do it. I just need a bigger crochet hook.

Carbon Conscious Consumer Logo

Are there people out there that have no fridge? I mean on purpose. I realize that there are many more people on the earth who don’t have a fridge than people who do, but that seems like a far-away, non-North American thing. Wow, I sound like such a nut.

I was thinking today about what we would do if we had no fridge, whether as a result of a disaster that rendered electricity unavailable, or if we just decided that it was one luxury that we should do without, to help minimize our energy consumption. Do you know anyone that doesn’t have a fridge?

I think I could pull it off, but where does the cost-efficiency cross the line with using electricity to keep food fresh versus using some mode of transportation to get the perishable stuff more often if you don’t have refrigeration? I would sure need to have a garden, and a few chickens wouldn’t hurt, but there are many things I would still have to buy. I would buy things like grains, nuts, dry beans, dry spices, and dried fruits and vegetables, but I guess I would have to buy huge quantities, and then make sure I had a cool, dry place in the basement for them. Then I would have to make sure I had enough fresh stuff from the garden to feed us every day of the growing season, plus whatever I could put up in jars or dehydrate.

I would also feel OK about walking to the market, which is about a mile away, or biking, when I get a bike. I guess if I had a bike, I could tow one of those kid trailers, but fill it up with groceries instead. Except I wouldn’t have to fill it up, since I would only need to buy what I would use the same day.

I would also have to plan much better than I do. I would have to make meals that are the right size, with no leftovers. When I was in the Philippines, we would make dinner in the evening, and leave the leftovers on the table, covered with a cage so the rats couldn’t get to it. Then we never had to make breakfast. At first it bothered me, especially in such a warm, humid climate, but since nobody else seemed to care, I just followed suit. I think I have reverted to the paranoid American mentality, though.

Is this something that matters to people? Or is it just assumed that there will always be refrigeration? When we were looking for a house, it really only crossed my mind briefly that we could survive without a fridge, but not long enough for me to seriously consider not having one. In fact, I think I was more inclined to think of where I could put a deep-freeze or second fridge. Do I need either of those things? We have just decided to eat meat only once a week at the most, and it seems like meat is what people keep. I don’t really get pre-made, packaged foods, and that also takes up a big chunk of the average American fridge.

So do you dare me? It would take planning, and the cooperation of the other 4 people who live with me, but I think it’s possible. How much would I have to change?