Category Archives: Going Green

Easy Ways To Avoid Plastic

Easy ways to avoid plastic

Plastic is everywhere these days. Too often it’s treated as something completely disposable, something made for a single use. While there are good uses of plastic – your car and computer wouldn’t be the same without it, for example, many other uses are just wasteful. It’s a good idea to learn how to avoid plastic in those areas.

Skip The Bottled Water

As much as possible, don’t buy bottled water. Get a good size stainless steel or glass bottle, and refill it instead. I like ones that are insulated so that my drink stays cold all day. It’s an easy way to keep drinking water rather than less healthy alternatives, and it’s much cheaper than buying new bottles of water all the time.

I like stainless steel bottles for my kids’ school lunches. The drink bottles come in a wonderful range of styles. My kids have dented them, but never ruined one. They bring them to school every day, filled with water. It’s much better than bringing a disposable bottle of water everywhere.

Food Containers

There are many wonderful alternatives to plastic food containers now. Some may use a little plastic to provide a good seal, but many use a silicone gasket. You can choose from glass or stainless steel, depending on what you want to spend and how much you trust that they won’t be treated roughly.

A little paint can work to personalize glass or stainless steel containers that are brought to school or work. Kids are great at losing things, so it helps to make it easier to identify your things.

The glass jars you get from many products make great food storage container, and you already have them! They aren’t for long term use as a general rule, but for putting food in the fridge or storing dry goods in the pantry, they’re great. I keep a stash in my pantry of various sizes so I can usually find the one I need.

For those times when you would otherwise use plastic wrap to cover your food, check out beeswax wrap instead. You can wash food off of it with water and maybe some dish soap, and keep reusing it.

Straws

If you don’t eat out a lot, you probably don’t use all that many single use straws. Kids love them, of course, at home or out and about. It’s very easy to cut down on your use of single use straws.

You can bring your own reusable straws when you eat out, for example. The trick can be remembering to keep your straw. If you’re concerned about losing your straws, you can buy paper straws to use instead of plastic. Paper is a much better choice since it breaks down much more easily. Make sure your server knows to not bring you a straw.

Shopping Bags

Plastic shopping bags are very common, although some states are trying to get the problem under control. In California, for example, most stores must have reusable bags to sell to you at $0.10 each, to encourage people to reuse bags. These bags are simply extra heavy plastic bags, so I don’t know how much waste they’re preventing, but it’s a start.

Look into cloth alternatives for shopping bags, or make your own. You can even find reusable produce bags.

Don’t forget to skip the sandwich baggies. You can find reusable versions of these as well.

Buy Bulk

I was so happy to see a grocery store with bulk bins open in my area recently. The nearest one before that was too far to go to very much. I’ve always loved stores with bulk bins. You can minimize the packaging by buying in bulk, and some stores will let you use your own containers. You have to get them weighed first.

Buy Products In Boxes Rather Than Bottles

As much as you can, buy products in boxes rather than ones in plastic bottles. This goes for things such as bar soap and laundry detergent. Even if the boxes have a little plastic around them, it’s far less than what you get when the entire container is plastic.

Use Cloth Diapers

Cloth diapers are much less wasteful than disposable diapers, although they are a little more work. I used them on my youngest, and it went really well. It takes some extra laundry, but otherwise it isn’t that different. They can also be much cuter than disposable diapers.

Make Your Own Household Cleaners

I make most household cleaners myself. Mostly that means using baking soda and vinegar for a lot of purposes. This allows me to buy them in larger packages. This doesn’t allow me to completely avoid plastic, but the larger packages use less plastic per ounce of product.

Drink Less Juice And Soda

Juice and soda often come in plastic bottles. They aren’t necessary to your health, so the less you drink of them, the better.

If you do buy juice or soda, avoid the single serving sizes if you’re buying for multiple people. You can limit the plastic waste a little that way.

Recycle

When you can’t avoid plastic, recycle as much of it as possible. Plastics are generally downcycled – that is, made into a lower quality plastic – but that’s better than sending them straight to the landfill.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Green Your Halloween with Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

Green Your Halloween with Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

Halloween is a fun holiday and one that has picked up quite a bit on the consumerism side. It can generate scary amounts of waste. And while it’s really fun seeing all the houses decorated and the kids dressed up in costumes, avoiding waste is still a worthwhile goal. You can green your Halloween if you remember to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Reduce

Just don’t buy so much stuff.

If you have Halloween decorations, use them of course! If you’re bored with yours, see about trading around with other family members or friends. You can make things look different without buying a lot of new things.

When you do buy new decorations, make sure they’re things that should last for years. Quality matters. If something is going to wear out after just one use, what’s the point?

Consider natural decorations. It’s also an excuse to not rake the lawn for a little, if you like. Hay bales, gourds, and pumpkins can be used as decorations beyond just a jack o lantern.

A dried gourd can be reused from year to year. My husband has some he carved up like you would a jack o lantern, and they look amazing. They will last for many years to come.

Think more carefully about how many treats you need for trick or treaters. How much overage do you really need anyhow? If you’re really into it, look into fair trade or organic candy.

You also don’t need to buy special buckets for trick or treating. Pillowcases have worked well in that area for many years. Any reusable shopping bags you have may also work well. They hold more candy too, which the kids will love.

If you’re having a Halloween party, send invitations by Evite, email or text message. Do your best to keep the waste of the party down to by using regular dishes where possible. Markers to label disposable cups will help people keep track of those if they’re necessary.

Reuse

I said it before: reuse the decorations you already have. But if you really need new ones, think about making them. Some construction paper, glue, markers, paint, or other art supplies you may have around the house can combine well to make creative Halloween crafts to decorate your home inside and out.

You can also find Halloween costumes or parts to create your own at thrift stores or your own closets. A homemade costume will stand out far more than one of the many store bought ones. It’s a lot of fun planning costumes. My son has a steampunk costume he improves a little bit each year, for example. By keeping it to accessories he can attach to his clothes, he can use the dress shirt and pants for holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas as well.

Another option for costumes is to do a costume swap with friends. Arrange costumes by size and see who can get a new to them costume out of the deal. This can also work for kids’ dress up clothes throughout the year.

If you do buy one from the store, try to be sure that you either send it to the thrift store after or get one good enough that the kids can play dress up in it after Halloween. Why buy a costume to be worn only once?

Recycle

Start with your pumpkin. Roast the seeds and consider saving some if you want to grow your own pumpkin next year. Make sure its remains make it into the compost bin rather than the trash.

Halloween only creates so much recyclable trash, but keep your eyes open for possibilities. If you aren’t going to reuse those costumes, send them off to the thrift store and maybe someone else will.

If you made your own decorations with paper, make sure that any that aren’t in good enough condition to be reused next year hit the recycle bin.

Dead leaves can make for great Halloween decorations, then be composted as well.

What other ideas do you have for a green Halloween?

Take Small Steps To Go Green

Take Small Steps To Go Green

Trying to make the switch to a more eco friendly lifestyle can feel overwhelming. Once you realize how much you can do, you realize how much there is to do. It’s a lot. But if you take small steps to go green, it’s a lot easier to reach your goals and change your lifestyle.

One of the big reasons to take small steps to go green is that you probably have a lot of things to use up that aren’t as eco friendly as you might like. At the same time, it’s a waste to just throw these things out. You also need some time to learn about the options you have, and which are the most important to you.

Do Some Research

One of the biggest mistakes I see people making when they want to go green is fall for scare talk. There are a lot of things you can be concerned about. There are a lot of things you shouldn’t be concerned about.

Make sure you know what the popular terms really mean. Some are so abused as to be meaningless.

USDA Organic has a specific meaning. Toxin-free does not, at least not from the FDA. In fact, there is a saying about “the dose makes the poison,” which is true. Even water is toxic at high enough doses. Don’t assume that the presence of a particular substance is a problem.

Chemical free is even worse. Everything is made of chemicals. Water is a chemical. Air is made of chemicals. Vegetables are made of chemicals. You aren’t going to escape them.

What they mean, of course, is harmful chemicals, which is an entirely different matter. Remember that the dose makes the poison, and learn exactly what it is you’re avoiding before you worry about it.

Then there’s natural. Natural sounds good, but it’s meaningless. Many poisons are natural. It’s a feel-good buzzword that doesn’t really tell you what you need to know.

Pick good sources. A blog like this one can give you some ideas, but unless it backs up statements with solid information from reputable sources, you have no idea if they’re accurate. So many websites do little more than fear mongering, with little science to back up their claims.

Pick Your First Small Steps To Go Green

There are many first steps you can take as you try to live a more eco friendly lifestyle. You can look at cutting waste, for example. Take a look at the things in your life that get used up and thrown out relatively quickly. Things that wear out fairly quickly.

These are the easiest places to make changes. You need to buy replacements often enough anyhow. What better place to go green than by making better choices in purchases you need to make anyhow? Here are some ideas for your first small steps to go green.

Food Storage

One simple place to do this is in food storage, school lunches and so forth. Many choose to do this by doing away with plastic. You will certainly save a lot of money and cut a lot of useless waste by no longer using plastic baggies or other single use containers for food storage of any sort. You will still need containers of some sort.

Many choose glass containers over plastic, due to their concerns over what is in the plastic. When concerns were expressed over whether BPA in plastic alters hormones, many companies replaced it. The problem is that the replacements may have the same issues, and so many found it simplest to switch to glass.

The big disadvantage to glass is that it breaks, but it’s otherwise a wonderful material. It’s recyclable, although some places do not like to accept broken glass.  Not all glass is safe in the microwave, so if you use one, make sure any glass you put in there is safe for it.

Cooking Tools

Cooking tools can be another great place to start. I was so happy when I was able to switch away from the nonstick pots and pans we had been given as wedding gifts. Now I use stainless steel and cast iron as much as possible.

Those nonstick pots and pans wore out fairly quickly, as the coating scratched off over time. My cast iron skillets, on the other hand, are handmedowns from my grandmother. If I take good care of them, I might get to hand them down to someone else many years from now. That’s much more eco friendly than replacing them every several years.

Personal Care

Personal care items can be another good choice, once you are sure what you actually need to be careful about. You should view popular resources such as the Environmental Working Group with caution, because many aren’t as honest about their claims as one might hope.  Use their information if you want, but remember they tend to overstate the problems of many ingredients. The science behind the claims can be iffy.

I have a fondness for a lot of homemade personal care products. Coconut oil has a number of uses, for example. If you don’t like the smell, it can be combined with your favorite essential oils.

Aloe vera has long been another favorite. It’s wonderful for sunburns. It’s easy to grow. If things go well, you won’t have to buy it very often at all, as long as it grows well in your yard. It has a variety of skin care uses. Not every claim is proven, but you can try aloe vera for the uses that interest you. Read up on the safety of taking aloe by mouth before doing so, as it is not always safe to do so.

Cleaning Supplies

It’s amazing how much you can clean around your home with baking soda and vinegar. These two ingredients can replace a number of household cleaning supplies. You can use essential oils to improve the smell of the vinegar, if you like. Use one or both, depending on the job you need to do.

These two together are especially amazing at clearing clogged drains. Pour in the baking soda first, then slowly add vinegar. Let them work together for about five minutes, then pour boiling water down the drain. The best part is that if it doesn’t work and you need a plumber, you haven’t put anything dangerous to the plumber down the drain. They have to take extra precautions to deal with other drain cleaners.

Skip The Drive

Consider things you can do in your life without driving there. What things are a reasonable walking distance? Can you do some errands while riding a bicycle? How good is the public transportation in your area?

Find What Works For You

Not everything you try will work out for you. Some things will just not be for you or your family. Give it time and don’t be afraid to make the occasional mistake.

The Lesson of the Dishwasher

The Lesson of the Dishwasher

The past two and a half weeks have been full of hand washing dishes around here. You see, the dishwasher died. Now, we rent, so it was the landlord’s problem to handle, but that didn’t make things all that much easier; it just meant it wasn’t my money going into the problem. Anyhow, it came up too expensive to fix, so a new dishwasher has been installed… to my children’s great relief. They learned quite a lesson from not having a dishwasher for a time.

I’ll admit that the mean mommy part of me enjoyed their discomfort. The kids swear they’ll never complain about having to load and unload the dishwasher again. I don’t believe that for a minute, but I do wonder if I can get them to behave about doing the dishes better if I take away their dishwasher privilege. I really don’t think they will want to go back to handwashing so many dishes in the future.

I wasn’t even been nice enough to let them switch to disposable dishes. Actually, I don’t think the thought even occurred to them, or if it did, they never suggested it to me. I use disposable dishes very rarely, usually only when there’s more company than my supply of dishes can handle. I’m very much against that kind of waste when I have a choice.

I hope the kids have also picked up on the notion that the fewer dishes they use, the fewer there are to clean up later. We’ve tried to get this lesson across before, but it has never taken, especially in regards to cups that only held water when they want more water. After hand washing so many cups… maybe? We’ll see.

I’m really glad to have a dishwasher again. This was a long time to go without, and hand washing uses more water, especially when it’s kids doing the dishes. Bit by bit they’ve learned to be more efficient, especially when rinsing, but they still aren’t all that efficient about it.

Of course, now I’m waiting for the garbage disposal to be replaced. It just had to start leaking rusty water the day before the dishwasher was installed. At least that meant it was easy to have the guy take a look and confirm that it can’t be repaired – now I just need to see how long it takes to get this job done!

4 Alternatives to Plastic Bags

Plastic bags are everywhere. They’re convenient. The problem is that they’re also hugely wasteful and are a common form of litter on land and in the ocean and other bodies of water. Thank goodness for the alternatives to plastic bags out there. Here are a few:

4 Alternatives to Plastic Bags1. Cheap Bags Sold By the Store

The cheap reusable bags, often only a dollar or so, sold by many stores, are a common alternative to disposable plastic bags. These aren’t great quality usually, but they do the job for a time. The designs may promote the store you bought them at, or they can be more fun. However, they may not last all that well, and there have been problems with lead in some of them.

2. Cloth Bags

Cloth bags are much better, in my opinion. You can make them yourself if you can sew, but they’re pretty affordable if you’d rather buy premade bags. Depending on the type of cloth, they can be very sturdy and machine washable – important if you’re at all concerned about the germs that can build up over time. You’re likely to use these bags for groceries, after all. You can get bags made of cotton, hemp and jute.

3. Knit Bags

If you want something a little lighter, a knit bag can be good. Small ones can be good for produce, rather than using the plastic bags the store keeps on rolls, and bigger ones can be used to carry your groceries or other purchases in general.

4. Synthetic Material Bags

Synthetic materials can be used to make some very nice reusable bags. They can be sturdy yet fit into a very small space when not in use.

The problem can be how they’re made. Assuming you’re going to use these for a long time, even if they’re from petroleum based materials, synthetic material bags can be better than disposable plastic bags. If you’ll use a bag more often because you can fold it into your purse rather than have to leave it in your trunk because it doesn’t fold small, get the one that folds small.

Where Do You Buy Reusable Bags?

It’s not at all difficult to buy reusable shopping bags. If you just want the cheap ones, your grocery store and other stores in your area probably carry them. If you want something better, you may need to look a little harder. Here are some places to try.

Thrift stores
Garage sales
Grocery stores
IKEA (huge bags!)
Amazon.com (carries many brands)
Reuseit.com
Cafepress
Zazzle

You may find reusable shopping bags other places too – just keep your eyes open, especially if you don’t have enough for your needs yet. No need to overbuy when you’re trying to be good to the environment.