Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.
Last night I was reading the current issue of Body and Soul Magazine, a great syndication that has lots of useful information. One of my girlfriends has a subscription and passes the issues on to me after she is finished with them. I was exhausted from the day, glad Babou was finally asleep, and enjoying the evening quiet. As I paged through the magazine looking at pictures and titles more than reading, I found myself getting stressed out about how I measured up to these standards of health and environmentalism. Overwhelmed with information, advice, and healthiness. It made me feel as though I would never reach this pinnacle of enviro-health warrior this mag seemed to strive towards. It got me to thinking about simple changes I have made that were incorporated fairly easily into my life and that work for me and perhaps might be useful to some of you. Some of these ideas may not work for you and your life and lifestyle, but I think the point is more to do what you can do with what you’ve got. That’s really all any of us can do. I thought I would share what I do and hope you find it useful.
1. Go beyond the grocery store with your canvas bag.
Many are already hip to taking the canvas bag to the grocery store. I love it, I carry mine like a purse with my wallet inside and then just add my groceries after I pay. But I also like to take mine to other stores I go to. They work wherever you are going to buy things, from the bookstore to the clothes stores, to the drugstore, to the baby store…anywhere you can buy, you can use your tote. It’s easy and saves so many bags.
2. Recycle your paper bags as wrapping paper.
When you do forget your bag at the grocery store, as you will every so often, ask for paper and the next time you need to wrap a gift, cut open the paper bag and use the blank side to wrap with. Tie it up with some raffia and you have a beautiful, natural, recycled wrapping paper. I often add fresh flowers and herbs to enhance its naturalness and beauty. Remember, conventional bows and wrapping paper are not recyclable.
3. Keep your fruits and veggies loose.
So there you are in the veggie and produce area of your local grocery store. You reach for the plastic bag to put each type of produce you are getting. WHY? Keep it loose. Don’t waste those bags. You’re going to have to wash those veggies anyway and, as my friend “T” states; you are also paying for that bag when you get your produce weighed. I never use those baggies except for when I have to get lots of loose things like sun dried cranberries or couscous or something like that. And when you so have to get those little baggies, reuse them as saran wrap or sandwich bags, etc.
4. Use Castile or Dr. Bonners soap for everything.
Did you know that you can use this soap for everything from washing dishes to your clothes to your face? I use the Lavender kind for all my cleaning needs that include soap (except laundry—it’s too expensive, I get the Eos detergent from Costco). I use it to wash Babou, myself, my husband, the dog, the floors, the bathroom, just everything. I refill my container at Whole Foods (weigh your container empty first at customer service so that you pay only for the soap; not the container and soap). Without having to purchase different cleaners for different purposes (and nontoxic/environmentally friendly cleaners are not cheap) I am saving time, money, space, and doing my part to not put toxins down my drains.
5. Unplug everything you can every night and whenever you leave your home.
This is something that you don’t often think of but it really helps to conserve energy. Turning everything off at night, unplugging everything really does help keep energy costs down. It is an extra thing to think about, but worth it in the long run. Even if you have a hard time remembering on a day-to-day basis, when you leave for a trip it will make a huge difference.
6. Air-dry your clothes as much as possible.
I know that many do not have the space to dry their clothes outside but you can also amaze yourself sometimes with just how creative you can be. I don’t have a clothesline, but I hang my laundry off my back porch, on the picnic table, and over the chairs in the backyard. You can’t maybe do it all year round, but when you can it makes a huge difference and there is simply nothing nicer than going to sleep in a bed made in air dried sheets and comforter. It smells so much fresher than drier dried.
7. Buy recycled.
Thrift store and second hand shopping is environmentally friendly and economically friendly. I buy as many of my clothes as I can from second hand stores as well for Babou. I also buy many of her toys from the second hand children’s store in my town.
8. Walk as much as possible.
I am very lucky to live in a very central location in my town and since I am taking care of Isabella and my time is loosely my own, I walk almost everywhere I need to go. It helps me to feel independent of gas and gas prices and is fun to get out of the house and stroll around.
9. Don’t limit your organic purchases to produce, eggs, and dairy products; buy meats that have been raised humanely and sustainably.
It is expensive, but cutting down on meat consumption would probably do more good than harm. Fish and shellfish need to be thoughtfully purchased as well. Find a manual to see what is being sustainable caught and grown (seafoodwatch.org) and be aware of fishing practices in other countries.
10. Plant some flowers.
I have been hearing so much about the bees disappearing and the need to study this decline and reverse it. It seems to me that logically there are now pockets of the US where there is really not much for a bee to live off of. I am not sure how far bees travel, but it seems to me there are less and less places for bees to have their hives and less and less plants for them to pollinate. For instance, the street I live on is a very busy one and most of the homes and businesses don’t have much for plants. My front yard was like this also until I had my husband build a large planter box to line the driveway and I put my pots of flowers on our deck. Now I see the next door neighbor has planted some roses and the owner of the Deli across the street has asked for seeds from my flowers to grace their bare parking lot. I am sure there will be a lot of bees happy about these additions to their diet.
There are just so many ways to make our presence less heavy on the earth. We are so much more than stewards of nature, we are nurturers of nature. Every person counts in this effort and there is no room for complacency. There is only room for everyone to do the best that you can every day, to the best of your ability and means. Every one of us has more of an impact than we can imagine and more ability to inspire than we can ever imagine. To quote one of my most inspirational influences, Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
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