Tuesday, September 24, 2013

It's actually pretty easy to be green

Most people know I'm kinda into recycling.  Like really kinda into recycling.  This led to trying to be "green".  There are a lot of ways of doing this and we are by far NOT experts on the subject (I've read enough to know we've barely touched the iceburg) but nevertheless, here are my favorite ways to be green:

1.  Recycling

Duh.  I think we recycle over 60% of what goes through our house.  There is the easy stuff to pull out that can go in the city provided bin:

paper (every single kind of paper, including envelopes with windows)
most plastics
aluminum and other metals

That's the majority of what we throw in there.  We do save our pop/beer cans and some other metals to cash in (once every 5 years or so...) but otherwise we throw in anything the city will accept.  (Here is a list of what Fort Wayne will take.)

Two weeks of trash from our whole house thanks to recycling, composting, and cloth diapering.

That's the easiest way to recycle.  We also do the following:
  • save ripped store bags and any other plastic bags to take into Wal-Mart periodically.  I keep a bag of "to recycle" bags right next to our bag of bags to reuse.
  • save dead batteries to recycle at Batteries Plus
  • recycle CDs/DVDs at Best Buy (the actual disc)
  • recycle misc cords at Best Buy
  • save old VHS tapes, VCRs, computer parts, etc. to take into electronic recycling (sometimes a fee with this)

I use Earth911 to search for local recycle sites for random things.  You select what you want to recycle and it looks for sites.  Very handy!

We have to take our massive recycle bin to the curb every pick up (every other week).  Unless we are working on a big project (cleaning out the garage, tearing out plaster...) we could probably go 2 months before needing to take the same sized trash bin out.

2. Composting

2 years ago I got Matt to build me a compost bin. We had started with a big plastic storage box from Target with holes drilled in it.  That maybe lasted one summer before it was constantly stuffed.  So Matt built this one and it's never stuffed because it is huge.  (Well, it is if I try to compost bushes but I've been banned from doing that again.)  A lot of things can go in here:

  • fruit & veggie scraps (all seeds/pits/peels/stems that we don't eat)
  • bread scraps
  • all unwanted plants from our yard such as weeds, dead plants, grass clippings
  • dryer lint

That's most of what goes in there.  Matt has to stir it occasionally (too heavy for me to do it) and then we put the good stuff on our garden at the beginning of the year.  This has really cut down on our trash and our need to take out the trash often since there is very little food waste in the kitchen trash stinking it up.

3. Reusable bags

I've been doing this since way before Target started giving you $0.05 for ever bag used.  We had bags and bags of plastic bags.  We only go through so many as trash liners so I bought some reusable bags there and now use them pretty much every where.  I haven't fully converted Matt on this one yet but sometimes he does remember.  I was already in the habit of doing this before we started going to Aldi where you have to use your own bag (or pay for one of theirs).  I have an assortment and keep them all in our car so we always have them for shopping.

It's also a good way to control your shopping.  I hate having to use plastic bags especially when I have so many reusable bags in the car so it can curb impulse shopping because I don't want to buy more than will fit in the bags I brought in.

4. Cloth diapering
Luke modeling a cloth diaper

I've talked about this before.   I really don't know if the money savings or the trash savings are my favorite part.  When Luke was in disposables (before he fit in cloth) we'd stuff a plastic store bag with dirty dipes in about 5 days.  It's really really nice not having that any more.  I've considering switching to cloth wipes too but decided I spend enough time cleaning poop off diapers, I don't want/need to clean wipes too (since we mostly use them on gross diapers).

5. Reusable containers instead of plastic

This is mostly a kitchen thing.  We go through very few plastic bags/baggies because we mostly use some combination of Rubbermaid/Tupperware/Gladware containers.  I'm still on the original box of 60 1-gallon freezer bags I bought 7 years ago, I just keep washing and reusing.  Anytime I think about grabbing for a bag I look in the cabinet for a container I could reuse.

6. Using rags instead of paper towels

I've decided that when we finish the paper towels we have I'm not going to buy any more.  For most things I can use a rag instead and then that just goes in the laundry.  We have a lot of rags.  A lot.  A lot a lot.  If I ever use them on something really gross I can throw it away.  But I spray poop out of diapers and wash those so there isn't much I would consider too gross to go through the washer.

7. Cloth napkins

Same as the above.  I bought some cloth napkins at Target for $10 or something and now we use those instead of paper.  I think we only ever bought 1 package of paper napkins anyways in the 7 years we've been homeowners.  We do have a small stash of paper ones in the car from our rare fast food trips but that's it.

8. Making foods from scratch

This is something I've been working on all year.  I make a lot of food from scratch.  Besides generally being healthier (less sodium specifically) it also cuts down on cans and bags we would purchase food in.  Most foods I make are stored in reused gallon ziplocs, Rubbermaid/Tupperware/Gladware, or saved sour cream containers (perfect for cooked beans).
Our freshly planted garden

9. Matt commuting on his bike and consolidating errands

I'm not sure what made Matt want to ride his bike to work but he's been doing it 3-4 days a week for 3 weeks and it usually works great (I've only had to pick him up once because of a downpour).  Less gas used = better for the environment.  And since I'm no longer driving to work every day that's even less gas we use.  We try to run errands on our way to/from other places so we rarely leave the house just to go to the store.  It's good for the earth and we've saved a lot of money too (we're $245 under budget for January - September).

10. Precycling and using less

I try to only buy things in recyclable containers.  You can opt out of receiving the Yellow Pages (which I just did).  We receive all our regular bills and bank/credit card statements online and pay them all that way too.  We just try to make/use less than we need to. 

Things we plan to do at our next house:

1. Grow a bigger garden

Living in the city we just don't have the space.  I'd love it if we could primarily grow all our vegetables and maybe some fruit too.  I haven't had luck with that in the past but I'd love to at least grow my own berries. 

2. Have a rain barrel
Matt said no until our next house since it would be hard to move (he also says we're not moving the compost bin but I still plan to...).  But I do want to do this eventually.  Then we could just use our rain water to water the garden & flowers. 

That's my list on ways we've tried to be green.  We're not perfect on this, far from it.  But we try.  I know there are probably a lot more little things we could be doing.  I'd love to hear any more suggestions!  Or you can tell me I'm full of crap and that I overdo it (I've heard that plenty of times). I don't know what the truth is about global warming but I do know that, as of now, we're the only planet that can sustain life so we should do our best to take care of it.  Every little bit helps.



Lauren said...

You are my inspiration!!! We recycle of course but I need to be more diligent about it (aka sometimes I throw the peanut butter jar away bc I am too lazy to wash... eek). We do have a rain barrel too. My biggest thing is I want to expand our garden and learn how to grow things better. Nothing like fresh veggies! Thanks for sharing all your things!

diana said...

I hope to be inspiring and not annoying!!