I am sure all great things start small; at least that is what I am hoping because my attempts at sustainable living are starting out that way.
I have been dabbling with being green for a while now, and although I don’t really feel like we are making much of a difference yet, it is a start. These are some of the things we have been doing and using as a family to date:
Reusable canvas grocery bags. I have done this for a while and used to get strange looks in stores. I don’t now because it is one of those things that is really taking off! Even the larger grocery chains are starting to sell reusable bags, YEAH! Trader Joe’s has had a great line of reusable, economical bags for a while.
Line hanging our washing. (I have to say though that I am not as diligent about this as I need to be, especially in the 110 days of the summer when I can hardly bear to go out. Of course this is the best time to dry washing, in about ten minutes flat). Project Laundry List has really awakened me to the importance of being consistent with this all over again, and how ridiculous restrictions are being made on washing lines all around the country.
Washing and reusing zip lock bags. I have this great little gizmo from Gaiam that holds the bags open so that they dry properly and quickly.
Composting. I have had a compost “heap” for a while on which I dump all of our garden waste and compostable kitchen scraps. These past few weeks I have graduated to a composting box that R made for me and which is great! Most of the old heap fitted into the box, and is happily composting as I write!
Vegetable growing. This is really a work in progress. R made me a white picket fence to contain my small growing area so the dogs couldn’t get in over five years ago. I am afraid to say there hasn’t been much growing going on so far, mainly due to us having started our family five years ago! It is not a large area and only a small bed has been prepared. The ground here is literally like concrete, and it took me weeks, and the use of a pick axe to prepare even a small bed. I have a few tomatoes and pepper plants in there now that I planted with the girls. They seem to be doing OK but I have BIG plans for the veggie patch this year. I am a little conflicted about the water issues here in the southwest, and whether I can grow veggies without using inordinate amounts of water. Rainwater harvesting may well be the answer and is another thing I plan on doing. "Rainwater harvesting for dry lands", by Brad Lancaster, is a book I plan on reading when I can only find some time.
Installing low water use fixtures, and trying to reduce overall water use. We currently have two low water use shower heads, and a couple of the faucet aerators, but not on all of the faucets. We also have low consumption 1.5 gallon flush toilets. Definitely can be improved upon, and so important for us desert dwellers. I always do big clothes washes rather then smaller ones and we don’t use our dishwasher at all. It is broken so that is a good way for us to be forced to conserve more water!
Reducing driving and trying to consolidate errands to reduce gas usage, and pollution.
Recycling. We have good recycling here which helps, but not everything can be recycled, or at least not taken away by the city to be recycled.
Using energy efficient light bulbs. Once again, we use them mostly, but not in all of our light fixtures at the moment.
Trying to buy second hand items such as books, clothes etc. Again, room for great improvement here. I am sure that I can buy most of what we need from thrift and consignment stores, as well as the odd garage sale.
Delivery of produce from a Community Supported Agriculture farm. We used to get deliveries about five years ago. After our first daughter was born though I found I was not using all that we were getting and it kind of defeatd the object, so we stopped. I want to look into that again. I am sure there will be more farms participating five years later however; ideally I would like to be growing most of our own veggies eventually.
Using natural, cruelty free body products, and safe, natural household cleaning products. Natural body products are more expensive than regular, but I don't use many. There are many things around the home that can be used for cleaning such as baking soda for scouring, and white vinegar for cleaning glass. We don't use petroleum based washing up liquid either. Trader Joe's once again has great, reasonably priced cleaning and body products available.
We don't use any pesticides in our yard, but I still sometimes catch R trying to use the weed killer if he gets half a chance.
Trying to buy organic food as much as our budget allows, and reducing consumption of meat. I eat no meat and although R has been more open to vegetable based meals, he still loves meat. I try to buy organic wherever possible, though it is outrageously expensive. If one uses less meat in recipes it can be streched out more. Organic foods here in the valley often travel a long way to get here which does little to reduce carbon emissions overall. I am sure by exploring some of the farmers markets we have here, and there are a surprising number of them, I can do a better job with this by buying locally, seasonally, and organically, until we are growing most of our own of course!
I dabbled with cloth diapers for a while. The initial cost is of course more than disposable diapers, but they do pay for themselves over time. My concern with this was the use of water for the more frequent washes I did. Overall I felt it was probably not a good thing here where water is so scarce. I have read various discussions about this, and I still can't decide whether the benefits of using cloth diapers in this region outweigh the landfill issues. We are currently using disposable diapers again, oh and working on potty training!
So, I think that is it. Doesn’t look like too much at this point I know but we are headed in the right direction. We were outside this evening enjoying this perfect weather that we are having this time of year. The birds were chirping, the orange blossom is out on the trees and smells heavenly, and we were all together talking about our garden plans. Made me feel really happy, and fulfilled, and excited to just get on with it all. Can’t wait for tomorrow.