1. An easy one, do not use plastic bags at the grocery stores. They cause so much damage to the earth and pollution and also are the cause of harm to many animals. They cost a lot in our resources to make and those resources are not renewable. They are not biodegradable when thrown out. They can last for a very very very long time when thrown in a landfill or somewhere on the ground. They can leech toxins into the ground and then into nearby groundwater. Many cities have stepped up the plate and have banned the used of plastic bags in stores and imposed fines if wanting to use them. Why not choose to just make a difference and bring your own bags? This is easy and you have the power to make a difference with a very simple change.
2. Paper bags are they really any better? They do break down and are recyclable. However, they use a lot of water to produce, they tear down some our resources, machines used require use of fossi fuel and take up a lot of space in the land fill. So what is the next step - use your own bags!!!
Think REDUCE here. How can we reduce the amount of waste going into the landfill? Or the amount of waste that we are personally contributing to?
3. Then we have all the plastic baggies that we use for lunches or to store stuff. Might seem innocent enough but these also add up as well and cause just as much damage to the planet as the plastic bags given out in the store. You can either buy some storage containers for your food or save and reuse containers from the food you buy. Nearly everything these days that is processed seems to come in plastic! Another option is to buy or make the cloth sandwich holders. These are great. One example would be here : http://wrapnmat.com/ They also have them at Vitamin Cottage or Whole Foods (or most likely whatever your hometown natural grocer is) If you are crafty, I bet that they would not be hard to make though.
4. Dont use paper napkins and paper towels. Can you use a dish towel instead or cloth napkins?
5. Cut the use of plastic straws. If your family really likes straws and would be sad without them, how about getting some glass ones? Here is one link to a place that sells glass ones - http://glassstraws.com/
6. Dont go out for take out. All of the containers needlessly fill our landfill. I know sometimes we just want something quick and easy, but this seems to be a break down in our society with a fast food restaurant on nearly every corner. The trash fills our landfills and honestly fast food is not the healthiest and is laden with chemicals and other things that our bodies really doesn't need.
7. If you need coffee from StarBucks or other coffee shop, bring your own mug.
8. You can take it one step further and this one would be harder to do and involve more of a commitment - reduce the amount of items that you buy that are processed. Buy more fresh and make more from scratch. Buy from the bulk bins.
9. Become a vegetarian, or buy meat that is local and pasture fed.
10. If you do buy something that comes in a container, how could you reuse that container? Could you turn it into something you need? a pot to plant seeds in? be creative!
The thing about recycling is that not everything that goes into the recyling plant actually gets recycled. They do what they can but sometimes they have too much. So even though we try to do a better choice by choosing to recycle. It may or may not actually be happening. Reader, Andi Williams, brings up a good point as well. Recycling uses a lot of water. The recycling that the trucks pick up have to travel a lot of miles before they reach their destination so thus we are not really reducing our carbon foot print there either.
11. Shop at farmers markets if you can. Buy from LOCAL farmers. The people in your neighborhood. Get to know them. Join a CSA. This also will help to reduce the amount of travel time your food will have done. It will be fresher as well. They won't have had to pick it early so it then could be shipped out to your local grocery store.
12. Eat seasonally. By eating what is in season in your area this will also help to reduce the miles your food will have to travel.
13. Grown your own garden. (if you are able) or grow some favorite vegetables in pots if you do not have space in your yard or don't have a yard.
14. Have your own chickens. These happy little guys will make fun pets. You will be able to compost a lot of your waste by feeding it to them and they in turn will give you eggs. No travel time on those guys and you will know that your chickens are being ethically raised which is not the case for many.
15. Compost!!!! This will allow your food waste to turn back into healthy soil that you can use for planting. It is not hard to do. Have a little bowl that you can keep your scraps in and at the end of the day run it outside. Composting does need a mix of air and water. It does require some stirring. It is not a huge time commitment though. This will help to keep many pounds of food waste out of the land fill.
16. Make your own cleaners or use simple food based products that do work for cleaning. This will keep your body, liver especially, from having to filter the chemicals. It also keeps them out of our water and land. If you make your own try to use up some of the bottles that you have rather than throw them out or recycle them.
17. If you have little ones, use cloth diapers. I did this with my youngest and actually i loved it! She used them from birth to 2 years old. If you can try to find them from another family that no longer needs them.
18. Look to see if your area has a freecycle program, if it does get rid of the stuff you no longer want to somebody in your area who will want it. I have given away SO MUCH stuff this way and have also received a fair amount of things this way as well. It is a great program. If your area does not have freecycle, donate your used items to a thrift store. Shop at the thrift stores or garage sales. Getting something used will help keep more "stuff" from being produced and also keep the packaging out the landfill. I was amazed this last summer I had a garage sale as a fundraiser for my girl scout troop and all my kids clothes were only 25 cents and we hardly sold any of them! I had boys and girls all in good condition. Point is you never know what you might find.
19. Dry your clothes on a clothesline.
20. If you are able to with your set up, use solar power. My in-laws have done this and love it.
21. Use a wood stove to heat your house as opposed to central heating.
22. Utilize your local library for books instead of buying them.
23. Sign up for paperless billing and pay bills online.
24. Bike or walk as much as you can instead of using your vehicle.
25. Spend less time in front of the computer, TV, video games.
My personal goal for the summer, once the kids and I are both done with school is that we ride our bikes or walk everywhere we need to go in town. If we go out of town obviously, I will need to drive. The key goal here that we get out more together and that we cut down on the amount of gas that we are using and emissions that we are putting into the air. It will be summer and there is no reason that we can't bike. In addition, I will be taking a summer off from the computer. Being in school and the kids school being online - we have been on the computer far too much. I will get back online around mid August. The laptops will be getting put up into the closets. The main house computer will stay where it is. My husband is not committing to this, but i feel very strongly that this is something we need to do. If anyone needs me they can call me on the phone. We also are not going to be doing NetFlix or movies on the TV. We will be going and supporting our local drive-inn. one of or favorite summer time treats but aside from that, no electronics. I have already told the kids and they are excited about it. They want to spend the whole summer with me and none with their dad. lol. I think it will be good and it wil force us to go back to the basics and back to simplicity. I want to be able to work on my garden this summer and have the kids help me with that. We have a fence that needs put up and remodeling that needs finished in or basement. We will do some backyard campouts in addition to camping in the mountains.
some tips from readers about what they do:
Natural techniques for cleaning and hair
shampoo - baking soda rinse
leave in conditioner - coconut oil
lotion - coconut oil and raw shea butter
lip balm - equal parts beeswax, coconut oil, coconut butter
soap - Dr. Bronners
baking soda - use as an abrasive like on the stove top, sink, or counters; also can help reduce odor in cat
litter box; odor booster in laundry put a couple Tablespoons in and let lid sit open for a bit
hydrogen peroxide - bathroom cleaner
baking soda and vinegar - greasy areas
salt & grapefruit halves - tile and grout cleaning
orange peels in vinegar (let sit for 3 weeks) - use for oven cleaning
dr bronners - floor cleaning, bike chain degreaser
I believe the key is to start small and gradually work your way up. There are some of these that I am still working on but they are goals to the place that I want to get to. Just pick the one/s that you think you really can commit to. Changing can be tough. But you won't know if you can do it until you give it a try. My favorite saying is that of Ghandi, "Be the Change you want to see in the world". What is that change for you?