ENVIRONMENT

My Evolving Curbside Pile

My house needs breathing room. Cleaning out the clutter is priority these days and although I have known it for quite some time I have managed to put blinders up and ignore it’s importance. Everywhere I turn now it is mentioned lately. People are jumping on the bandwagon. Between books, articles, podcasts, etc. I can’t escape the reminders. It shouldn’t be that hard but to some it is.

Decluttering, dejunking, minimizing or whatever name you want to use is also about considering the environment.  It is a decision that impacts how much waste we produce. The less stuff we bring in our spaces, naturally there is less packaging, the by-product of purchasing items. This movement that is happening has called attention to something that has been talked about for years and that is the importance of minimizing our environmental carbon footprint.


 

Household recycling started the ball rolling.  I remember when waste management started adding blue bins into the mix.  It was a learning curve and an exercise in shrinking the pile size of our garbage. Over the years the system has developed and changed. The number of items that can go into our boxes is always improving and so has my diligence in filling it up.

Composting took another chunk out of the pile.  I live in a rural area so I can do my own composting. In the towns around my home there are municipal green bin programs where along with your garbage and recycling is a weekly organics pickup. Every spring the gorgeously fertile soil is available to residences for free, which I think is a great added incentive.

Now it is about reducing the size of my blue bin. When I began using my reusable bags at the grocery store it was amazing how much my recycling pile shrunk. When I began shopping more thoughtfully and sometimes in bulk, it shrunk a bit more. I aim to buy fewer processed items and try to shop at markets during the summer. I try to spend more time on the outskirts of the grocery stores.  The inside aisles are full of cans and processed goods, boxes of cereals, and jars, etc. I still go there because there are things I need and want but I try to use them less often than more because of health and conscious food choices. Recently I began bringing reusable produce bags but it is still hit and miss whether I remember to bring them. sometimes I get there and realize I have left them at home. Buying bulk is another way to cut down on packaging. For snacks and lunches on the go I refill containers from larger packs of food. My next step can be filling containers where I can buy from bulk bins.  More and more businesses are beginning to support this which is a really good thing! It’s an indication of the demand from eco-minded consumers.  Momentum is starting to grow.

 

ENVIRONMENT, Home

Ordinary Days

The small changes that we do in our daily lives will eventually add up to make a significant difference. Every time we make a choice to leave our reusable bags at home instead of putting them to good use at the grocery store it makes an impact. Sometimes I forget and get to the counter and they are out of boxes. I still have a choice of coming back later with my bags but sometimes my load is just to much and I live outside of town, so I am guilty of taking a couple of bags here and there. For the most part I have grown accustomed to always having some or just carrying my items in my hand. I use the example of the bags because it is a switch that many around my area have already made. I still notice a lot of the plastic bags being used but not nearly the amount even 5 years ago. The grocery store I go to is so accustomed to me have bags they are surprised when I don’t. More often than not I get asked in stores if I want a bag and being able to say “no thank you”, without hesitation is becoming easier all the time. That is the goal – to make all these adjustments big and small and make them ordinary.

My list of things is growing. I can’t say its a huge list but I am working on it and my hope is that it evolves as I move along. It really isn’t that hard to make these changes one at a time.

Here are some of the simple switches that I have already made:

Revamping My Cleaning Regime

Hand-Soap

Litterless Lunchbox

ENVIRONMENT, ESSENTIAL OILS

Revamping My Cleaning Regime

So many cleaning products have passed through my door. Many have made me wonder why on earth someone thought it would be a good idea. Results never work out the way I wanted them too. Either it fell short of my cleaning expectation or some other physical side effect such as a sore throat or having to hold my breath so I don’t pass out. I’m extra sensitive to all those intense ingredients, perhaps more than your average person. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

There is a surge of healthier and environmentally friendly products in response to the demand for alternatives to keeping our spaces clean. In conjunction with that there are so many ways that you can make your own products. People are taking matters into their own hands and coming up with their own designs, tweaking and personalizing recipes. I started switching out my items by slowly replacing them with my own concoctions.

The most obvious one to go in this house was glass and counter cleaners. I buy a lot of vinegar these days! By adding essential oils you add extra cleaning properties plus it leaves the room filled with natural fragrance.

The All Purpose Mixture

  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 15 – 20 drops of Essential Oils (some good ones for cleaning are Lime, Lemon, Orange, Onguard, Tea Tree)

Tables and counters: I use this on counter tops and for spot cleaning small messes on the floor. I mix it in a spray bottle and keep it handy.

Appliances: This is great for giving everything from your stove to your fridge, a quick wipe down. For a deeper clean and to dissolve tough food stains try adding baking soda or soap.

Floors: A micro-fiber mop with a solution attachment works great to do the floors. The same mixture can be used. The nice thing about this is you can sometimes get extra bottles. You can mix something different in each and swap the bottles depending on your need or mood.

ENVIRONMENT, Litterless Lunches

Litterless Lunchbox

One less item in my daughters lunch box that goes to the recycling bin. Lately I have stopped purchasing those individual yogurt containers and fill a small one up for her to bring to school. This simple switch was easier than I thought! She had no qualms about not having the cute flashy packaging, I have no qualms about the extra little cup to wash. So what is the deal – why did it take so long for me to do this? I was the one who did the shopping and made the decision that she would be more likely to eat it if she had a lunch that looked like her friends. I decided when I was shopping that it would be convenient. She still eats her yogurt everyday, it takes me a few extra seconds to pack it in her lunch box and wash it at the end of the day (I am washing dishes anyway).

By doing this: There is one less plastic container in the school recycling bin each day.

By doing this: I save in cost as the packs usually cost more.

By doing this: One by one it will gradually influence others in their choices. The more common it is to have people do this the better.


Update: One thing I changed since then is sending the small mason jars for things like the yogurt and fruit cups. My daughter actually thinks these are super cute and enjoys using them! I can’t believe it took me so long to use them for this reason because I have them already and have been using them for spices and small food storage for a while now. I guess thinking that she was so young I was nervous sending the weight plus the glass into school with her. She is getting older now and more responsible with things like that.  Those mason jars are quite thick and the small ones are pretty light.  They do sell silicone covers if I am ever so inclined.

ENVIRONMENT, Zero waste

Zero-waste living would be easier if …

A friend posted this on her site the other day and it keeps running though my mind. As I go through my day and I am shopping, packing lunch or cooking supper this incomplete sentence keeps running though my head. I realize it can’t be answered in one sentence. A general shift has to happen on all levels, from individuals to communities, to businesses, to municipal governments, to our country leaders etc. We live in an industrialized society and we are so accustomed to living our lives guided by consumerism. We have gotten complacent and when given the choice chose convenience. I am guilty of giving in. I buy individual yogourts for my daughters lunches. She gets one everyday. It would make sense to send her with a container that is filled from the larger container in the fridge. It would be more economical and she wouldn’t have to add that plastic container to the recycling bin at school. So why do it? I want her to eat it and have told myself that she is more likely to if it is in that cute colourful little container. Somehow it tastes better and is more fun to eat when its in a package. But is that true? Have we all been tricked and convinced by business and advertising? We need to shift our attitude and not be persuaded by advertising an it is teaching our kids these things. giving them the ability to be critical and mindful so that they have the power to make those choices.

I do my tiny bit, but I want to do so much more. I use my bags at the grocery stores and often turn down the plastic ones at stores. When I pack lunches I use containers instead of baggies. I try to buy bulk if I can and not send in prepackaged treats. Mygirl brings a water bottle and only occasionally brings a juice box.

Packaging is the huge culprit because we live in a day and age where so much of what we have is imported. It is a world of trading and merchandising and with that comes packaging. All our stuff has to be prepared for shipping, prepared for delivery and distribution and then again prepared and perhaps repackaged for us to purchase from store shelves. It is impossible to avoid but we can minimize our impact at our own individual levels. Make conscious decisions of what and how we bring things into our homes. We can put our efforts into our daily lives – make easy switches such as doing away with plastic bottles where you can and carry your own refillable container. Bring your own bags to the stores or use cardboard boxes. Pack litterless lunch boxes. Shop local and eat more healthy whole fresh produce. Print out emails and such only when necessary. Eat less fast or take out foods – use your own refillable wares when you can as more places are beginning to do this. There are so many little everyday things that we as individuals can do. Once we get going and make the switches they’ll become habit and routine – not a big deal.

ENVIRONMENT, Litterless Lunches

The search for a better way to lunch

I have been packing school lunches for a while now – packing picnics and road food along the way. Lunches are five days a week of course but picnics and on the go snacks have not been my strong point.  It seems we are always in a rush and food always gets packed poorly – by the time we are ready to eat it just never seems appetizing. It is a mindset that we need to be better acquainted with.  That and a better system of packing that is economical, Eco-friendly and easily put together plus easy/fun to maintain.  Robins lunch bag is pretty good. She has a couple but I usually use the Lands End one because it is better insulated. Often it is still cool inside when I unpack it at the end of the day – the cooler pack is still partially frozen sometimes which I find amazing and comforting since it sits in her backpack in between eating times. It is an important feature not only for the freshness and healthy eating reasons but also to keep he lunch appetizing. Who wants to eat fruit that is warm and siting in condensation juice or brown apples slices.

When it comes to packing I use plastic baggies less and less.  I send her in with a water bottle that she refills at the water station at school. I used to give her juice boxes but even that seemed like a waste to be. I cringe at the amount of juice containers in the blue boxes when I am at the school.  Drinking less juice too is good when you consider the amount of sugar.   That way when she had it at home or while we are out it is not a big deal. we currently use a variety of plastic snap lock containers but I would even like to move away from those. The plastic gets scratched and discoloured over time and even though it is BPA free they must begin to degrade and leech something into your food?  The production of plastic also has a huge impact on the environment. The toxins that are released…

Glass is heavy and not to mention breakable -probably not the best choice for a 7 year old’s backpack. Right now I find the weight pretty good. She has an agenda, lunch, usually  a sweater or extra gloves or hat in the winter, something she wants to show the class or a toy to use at recess….So i have been looking for steel food containers.