Thursday, April 22, 2010

Small Changes, Big Impact

Happy Earth Day! It’s amazing that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the celebrating of Earth Day, and I thought it would be a perfect topic for a Humble Home post. In this day and age, almost everyone has made some sort of changes to their day to day routines to live a more eco-friendly life, and I think my husband and I have a pretty good “green routine”, and I wanted to share some of the things we do to help eliminate some of our waste, and do our part to protect the environment.

1. Reusable Shopping Bags: This habit actually started with my parents back in high school when Shaw’s started to offer a $0.05 reimbursement for using a reusable bag. At that point, they were selling really well made heavy duty canvas bags in their grocery stores, and ours are still in use today (I've been a bit dissapointed with some of the filmsy bags sold today, not as durable!). My husband and I have a variety of reusable bags- such as the one shown to left from b.happy bags that I purchased on the Reusable Bags website- and I try to keep one in my work bag or car at all times just in case. I also wrote up the Flip & Tumble reusable produce bags over on The Humble Table, and have been really pleased with their durability and also keep those tucked in my car for quick sprints to the market.

2. Travel Mugs & Water Bottles: I think this is probably the most popular eco-friendly option, as almost everyone I know uses a travel mug for their coffee in the morning. Somehow, we have ended up with a plethora of travel mugs at our house, but I find they’re great to offer guests if you’re going out for a walk in the morning or a trip around town. There’s usually at least one rolling around in my car, and after a trip out to sea, Kyle usually comes home with 3-4 that have put in good hours up on the bridge. I was a huge fan of Nalgene bottles in college, and still have most of them (I checked to make sure that they were the BPA free models), and I also have a Kleen Kanteen metal bottle that I use most days to take to the office. They’re super durable, and the 27oz. model holds enough water that you’re not running to fill it all the time.

3. Reusable Food Containers & Cloth Napkins: Almost every home probably has a couple of reusable food containers (Tupperware and whatnot) in their cabinets, so this is a bit of a no brainer. Additionally, many households probably have implemented washable cloth napkins into their dining routine as well. This is a habit that is standard in our house, as both my husband and I grew up in homes where paper table settings weren’t really used. Beyond just your table though, tucking a cloth napkin into your work bag is an easy step for when you’re eating in your office. It’s easy to reach for a paper towel or napkin when eating at work, but if you make a habit of keeping a cloth napkin at your desk, you can cut down on a lot of wasted paper products. The same goes for your kitchen towels- instead of using paper towels to clean and dry dishes and the like, keep a stack of good quality, absorbent kitchen towels on hand to cut down on waste. And if you can’t quite break the habit of using a paper towel for some tasks, switch to a towel made of recycled materials, such as Small Steps or Seventh Generation.

4. French Press Coffee Makers: This might sound a bit strange, but think about how many pots of coffee you make in a year, and how many paper filters that get thrown away. On top of that, if you’re using an electric coffee maker, it probably stays plugged in most of the time, and is left on the “warm” setting all morning, which is a slow drain on electricity. I adore our stainless steel insulated French Press from Thermos- it has a 34oz capacity (great for a house with two coffee lovers), is vacuum insulated to keep coffee hot, and since it’s stainless steel, it’s pretty indestructible, unlike it’s glass sibling. Granted, the glass version is lovely to look at, but I think we went through two of these before we realized we need a bit more rugged of a model. To be quite honest, I think French Pressed coffee tastes best too! As an added bonus, used coffee ground are great when used as mulch for flower beds, cutting down even further on what goes in your garbage.

5. Switching to Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products: Whether is going with a company like Seventh Generation, Field’s Organics, or even making your own cleaners at home, changing up this routine can make a big difference. I recently invested in a set of fabric softener balls, which soften clothes, are reusable for 100s of washes, and don’t contain any harsh chemicals and I’m really impressed with their softening capability when tossed in a load. If you’re making your own cleaners at home (there are plenty of websites out there that provide you with instructions- Care2  is a great resource for a lot of green ideas), you can make them in reusable bottles, cutting down on your waste even further.

So there you have it- a couple of simple ideas for making changes to support a healthy environment. Now, on your next sunny Saturday, you can take a walk to your local Farmer’s Market with your travel mug of French pressed coffee and reusable bags in hand and pick up some locally produced treats knowing that you’ve made changes to help protect the environment for the future. Well done!

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