Visit this post at NotSoFastBook.com to enter the Green Mama book giveaway—ends Saturday morning, June 19.Each weekend during soccer season, we tote collapsible chairs to and from our kids’ matches. The chairs fold down and slide into bags, and nearly always one of our bags is ripping at the seams.This past season, it was one of the red chairs. The chair itself still functioned fine, but this sorry-looking bag needed replacing.Frugal and willing to make-do, I always keep an eye on the trash cans toward the end of the season. Quite often someone tosses a broken chair into the trash, and with it, the matching bag.Sure enough, the day I showed my daughter that the red bag was holding on by a thread, we passed a trash can with a chair stuffed inside.Along with it, the matching bag.After fishing out the green bag, I tossed in the ratty red bag.Problem solved.But that’s just one small problem I solved. It’s hard not to look at the world and see problems that seem too big to solve. A little dumpster-diving can’t make much of a change, other than amusing (or shocking) fellow soccer moms as I scrounge around looking for something usable.Tracey Bianchi, author of Green Mama, argues that we can look at the world around us and instead of seeing problems too big to solve, look for ways to make small changes in the way we go about our daily lives.Because changes can add up over time. Your changes, my changes, Tracey’s changes … together our changes can make an impact.Have you noticed your grocery store carrying organic produce? That’s because we shoppers bought organic whenever it was put out. Grocers set it out to see what would happen, and we indicated our preferences with our wallets, changing our purchasing habits to choose something that’s healthier and easier on the environment and the farmers who plant, care for and harvest the food.Our collective changes added up and now organic is mainstream.In Green Mama, Tracey suggests lots of simple ways we can start shifting the way we shop, clean, cook, and get around town. At the end of each chapter, she recommends we take one idea to try incorporating into our lives and identify one thing we’re not interested in doing.The book is a good resource, pointing to other good resources. And Tracey’s an enthusiastic cheerleader, urging readers to go green in simple, everyday ways.After reading Green Mama…Changes we decided to make:
- Use my stainless steel water bottle. Stainless steel water bottles are often ridiculously expensive, but about a year ago I found some reasonably priced and bought five all at once. So I already own the bottles; we just need to start using them. Except for the plastic bottles that fit in a special holder attached to the frame of our bicycles, I’m going to donate or recycle all of our reusable plastic bottles.
- Look for Fair Trade chocolate. Tracey provides a lot of eye-opening information about the chocolate industry. She convinced me to find a store that carries it—it could be that Target might sell it; I just haven’t looked.
- Goodbye, paper towels. We use sponges, dish towels or rags for most cleanup, but we do usually have a roll of paper towels on hand for occasional spills. Years ago my uncle said that instead of using paper towels, he bought a stack of “bar mops” for kitchen cleanup. “It’s how they taught us to do it in the Navy,” he explained. So just today I bought two packs of “bar mops.” They look like basic white towels. Then I went to Goodwill and bought a rectangular basket in which to store them. They’re on the counter, ready to swipe up splatters and blobs.
- Environmentally gentle dish-washing detergent. I’m going to pay a little more for Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers or Ecos brand detergents that Tracey recommends.
- Compost. We used to faithfully compost kitchen scraps, then I don’t know what happened. I guess I got lazy. I resolved to begin again and pulled out a plastic tub with a tight-fitting lid we can use while collecting peelings and egg shells during meal prep. The kids can run it out to the garden.
- Cloth shopping bags. I hate when I forget these, and it’s always when I’m standing at the checkout with my items rolling along the conveyor belt that I remember them. I will figure out a way to make this a habit.
Things we already do:
- Wash (most of) our clothes in cold water. I started doing this mainly because I was shrinking almost everything! Sometimes I do a load of extra-dirty whites in hot, but cold water has been working fine. And blouses are staying their normal size!
- Hang clothes to dry. This, too, I started because I was shrinking clothes and thought I should avoid the dryer. Plus, I like going outside in the quiet morning to hang them up and love the way they smell when they’re dry.
- Recycle. Apparently we recycle effectively, because our neighbors couldn’t believe our family of six could fit all of our trash into one container. We didn’t tell them that many times, the container isn’t even full.
- Cook from scratch. Because I usually cook from scratch, we use less packaging than if I used mixes and prepared foods. I like to think it’s healthier, without all those additives and preservatives.
- Buy organic and local. Whenever possible, I try to buy organic and locally grown foods. Shopping at the farmer’s market in the summer makes it easy. An organic farmer has a stand, and so far his produce hasn’t been much more expensive than the others.
- Bike whenever possible. For nearby errands, we are trying to use our bikes instead of driving the van. We can easily bike to the library, piano lessons, grocery stores, Goodwill, Barnes & Noble, Officemax, several restaurants and many other shopping destinations.
- Shop secondhand. Speaking of shopping (and Goodwill), I think of my Goodwill shopping as recycling. I buy 90 percent of my clothes from Goodwill (the remaining 10 percent represents swimwear, undergarments, socks, and a few nicer speaking outfits). I also buy books secondhand. And furniture. And cars.
- Glass storage. I’m trying to transition from plastic storage containers to glass. We aren’t totally there, but we’re moving in that direction.
- Travel mug. For tea or coffee, we are trying to use travel mugs. We usually make our beverage at home, but we’re also trying to grab the mugs if we’re off to church and will fill them there instead of using Styrofoam cups.
- Minimal A/C. I prefer relying on open windows and fans in the summer, but my husband does like to bring down the humidity with air conditioning sometimes. This morning, however, I came downstairs and he had opened all the windows to enjoy the morning breeze.
- Garden. We have a vegetable garden again this year. I’ve never been an amazing gardener, but I keep trying, year after year. We usually get a fair amount of tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers, and it is so rewarding to pick stuff for dinner from my own garden plot.
- Consolidate errands. Whether I’m in my minivan or on my bicycle, I try my best to minimize errands, doing as much as possible in a given outing.
- Natural cleansers. For cleaning, we use really basic, natural products.
We do a lot of “green” things that are so normal to me, it doesn’t occur to me to identify it—I’m sure I could add lots of things on the list that we’ve been doing for years. It’s kind of fun to think about what’s become normal for us, or habit, and what we could do to change even more.Be sure to drop by the book giveaway post and read Tracey’s thoughts on “Slowing Green.”
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Enjoyed this post. I also forget my shopping bags quite often – thankfully some of our stores have paper bags, which I always managed to get several uses out of before recycling.
One other step is to pack waste-free lunches. I packed at least two lunches per day during the school year, and 3 or 4 lunches if we are planning a day at the pool (depending on how many family members are going). In addition to the money we save, our lunchboxes cut down on waste from individually-packaged items.
By the way – I love Mrs. Meyers cleansers in Basil!
That’s a great idea–how do you package up sandwiches? In reusable plastic containers?
And thank you so much for the Mrs. Meyers recommendation!
Thanks for the post. Some good ideas here. I wish I had AC that I could use it only minimally…Aren’t you a little concerned that we see many in our society so into being green that they are worshiping the creation and ignoring the creator. Here is the Seattle area, I have seen it become a religion for many.
The general population where I live (a Midwestern, financially blessed suburb), people are not doing very much at all to conserve anything. I took a reusable cloth shopping bag to the farmer’s market two weeks ago, and the organic farmer leaned in and whispered, “Thank you for bringing your own bag…not many people do that around here.” They had to keep a bunch of plastic bags on hand for the suburban shoppers who are used to convenience.
So I’m not seeing it hit that intensity around me, but I do feel that we do need to be careful to keep our focus on the Creator of this creation and also be cautious using the phrase “save the planet.” I can’t do a thing to save this planet; only the Creator, through Jesus Christ, can/has/will.
Thank you for bringing this up–as a Christian, I want to always have any changes be flowing from my relationship with the Lord.
Ann, I am just grinning ear to ear reading this. It IS about the small changes all adding up. And sometimes the baby steps inspire the courage needed for bigger steps. Thanks for sharing your lists. So inspiring!
I was very pleased with myself for remembering my reusable bags when I went to the grocery store today–progress!
Anne- Great list! We had a little lesson on this with our youth group a couple weeks ago – it was amazing all the things that we could be doing more of… and to hear the kids actually say that they don’t do these things because they feel like it wouldn”t make a difference! We had a good talk. Alot of discussion on styrofoam – the church standard for cups these days… Need to take care of that one!