Jill and I happen to live super-close to one another even though we met through the blog world, which I think is pretty cool. Anyway, she and I have some differing opinions about environmentalism (in that she cares and I don't), and so I was pretty up-front with her about my apathy when I asked her to do a "green" guest post for me. I told her that I'm quite frankly not a fan of all the trendy "green" madness, but like most things, I believe there's probably some value in the middle ground, and I definitely respect her point of view enough to give it a shot.
So I asked her to give me a list of five things she finds reasonable for a person like me to do to *gag* live greener. My guideline was that they couldn't cost me a lot of time or money. And you know what? I think her list is pretty reasonable indeed. I'm going to give them a try and see what I think. And probably blog about each one along the way. Although I'm pretty sure Jack is going to have quite a problem with number 5.
Thank you, Jill, for the fabulous guest post!
I guess from the outside looking in I can come off as “crunchy” or “green” (a word I know Mandy despises, but one I’ve certainly been called before). From time to time over on my personal blog, Baby Rabies, I write about some of the eco-friendly things we are doing as a family, like cloth diapering and making our own baby food. I tweet about these things frequently, too.
So when Mandy, who reminds me so very much of the me I was in my early 20s, asked me to do a guest blog about some of the easy and inexpensive ways they could be more… not GREEN, because she hates that term, but maybe more eco-friendly, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. The truth is, it’s so much easier than I ever imagined to make small changes, and even if you don’t do it to be “green,” you can certainly appreciate the fact that these things will save you money and keep you healthy.
Here are 5 ways to make small changes that add up to a big difference:
- Stop buying paper towels and napkins. In the over 2 years we’ve lived in our house I haven’t purchased a single roll of paper towels or napkins (other than those used at my son’s birthday parties). I don’t know exactly how much that has saved us, but I’m confident it’s in the hundreds of dollars. What do we do to clean up messes, then? Well, for napkins I have a big stack of white cloth napkins I purchased at Ikea and we use them at mealtime. When they are dirty they go into a designated hamper in the laundry room. The same goes for the 48 white terry washcloths I purchased at Target that we use in place of paper towels. They rest, folded and stacked, in a basket on the kitchen counter.
- For really nasty messes, like dog pee, we use designated towels or washcloths that have been marked with a Sharpie and stored in the laundry room. And I’ll admit to using toilet paper to clean things up that I don’t want to wind up in the wash, like cat puke.
- About once (sometimes twice) a week I do a load of washcloths, napkins and hand towels in hot water. It’s usually a medium sized load and takes minimal time to fold. For those arguing that the water usage is negating the eco-friendly factor, let me point out that more water than that is used to create one package of paper products, which you will have to replenish frequently, not to mention the fuel required to get those paper products to your grocery store and then to your home. Of course, if you live in high drought area and plan to recycle the paper towels and napkins then this might not be the most eco-friendly option, but it will still be the cheapest.
- Make your own cleaning products. Y’all, chemicals are scary. I’m more aware of them now that I have a child who likes to put everything that’s laying on the floor in his mouth, but they’re even a danger for your pets, and certainly for anyone that’s living in your house and exposed to them hours on end. Yes, it took me some time to adjust to the smell of cleaning my kitchen with vinegar and water instead of Pinesol and Clorox, but now I’m so sensitive to the chemical smells of those products that it makes me sick.
- We clean mainly using a mixture of 1 part vinegar to 3 or 4 parts water in a spray bottle. I also add a tablespoon of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap (more on this fabulous stuff in a moment) and a few drops of Tea Tree Oil to it for it’s disinfectant properties. It is SOOOO much cheaper than purchasing bottle after bottle of chemicals, not to mention safer for you to be exposed to and less waste to worry about sending to the landfills. I clean other parts of the house with baking soda, lemon halves, and other cleaning solutions we’ve mixed up. You can find a lot of “recipes” online. That’s not to say we don’t buy any cleaners, but I always make an effort to purchase environmentally friendly and safe options, like Biokleen Toilet Bowl Cleaner or Seventh Generation Dish Soap. These brands are more expensive, but if you’re saving money making some of your own cleaners, you won’t be breaking the bank by splurging on these.
- Stop buying fancy liquid hand soap. Invest in a foaming soap pump for every sink in the house and get yourself a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Soap (hopefully you already have one from making your own kitchen cleaner) in your favorite scent (my favorite is Lavender, and you can get bottles for 25% off frequently if there is a Sprouts near you). This soap is environmentally friendly and free of lots of synthetic chemicals that many other soaps contain (and certified under the USDA National Organic Program and Fair Trade). Remember, the bigger the bottle you buy, the less frequently you are sending waste to the landfill or to be recycled, so try to buy the biggest one each time. Sure, it will be more expensive than that giant bottle of Softsoap, but I promise you it will last much, much longer. Pour 1 part soap to 4 parts water into your foaming pump and you’re good to go. The best part is this is really one of those things that doesn’t even look inexpensive or “eco-friendly.” Your guests will never know that the lovely hand soap next to your charming hand towels is saving you a ton of cash. (Says the ex Bath & Body Works junkie.)
- Switch laundry detergent. Stop washing all your money down the drain by purchasing Tide or similar. My favorite laundry detergent is Charlie’s Soap. I started out using it for my son’s cloth diapers and wound up using it on all our clothes. It’s fantastic. It works just as well as the commercial detergents, but doesn’t leave a scent, is hypoallergenic, biodegradable, safe for babies and the environment. It doesn’t come with any extra stain fighting powers, but I’ve learned a good soak in an oxygen cleaner like Oxyclean works wonders. The best part is it’s inexpensive. A $48 supply from SunshineDiapers.com (with free shipping!) got us through nearly a year as a family of 3, and that’s with me washing cloth diapers 2 times a week and kitchen towels 1-2 times a week.
- Eat less meat, and eat local. Listen, I grew up in Texas, I know there is that mentality that it’s not dinner without an 8 oz. slab of beef or chicken on your plate. It was a little hard for me to overcome at first, too, but I’m glad I did. We began a little at-home food revolution at the beginning of 2010 and we’re all healthier for it now. It’s not that we’re vegetarians, we just do everything in our power to make sure the meat we buy and eat is local, grass fed, and antibiotic and hormone free. I know what you’re saying. That’s expensive! It is, but it’s not going to eat up more of your budget if your buying less of it and getting creative with other food groups. We eat a lot more legumes and whole grains now. We have black bean quesadillas instead of beef quesadillas, or instead of a full chicken breast on each plate we’ll shred one and add it to some brown rice. My husband’s fantastic chili tastes just as fantastic with half the meat and extra beans. We purchase our meat at a local farmer’s market every couple Saturdays and make it a fun family affair.
- By eating this way you’re not only eliminating antibiotics and hormones from your food, but you’re also supporting your local economy and helping cut down on green house gas emissions by demanding less meat and less fuel to get it to your plate. I wouldn’t say this option is going to save you money, but it certainly doesn’t have to cost you anymore than what you’re already spending.
- So there you have it, 5 things you can do starting today to be healthier and more environmentally conscious without blowing your budget. I’m not saying that all of these options will work for everyone, but it’s a starting point. Look into other options that may work for your family. Just because it’s marketed as “green” doesn’t always mean it’s expensive, and, conversely, beware of “green washing.” Not all products that claim to be “green” are the best option for your household. Do a little research and feel free to ask questions in the comments! I don’t know everything, but I’ll be happy to help you find the answers.