Are you REALLY reducing and recycling at home?

Recently, my husband was away at a conference for 6 days.  He was really missed by all of us, but it also opened my eyes…

Less husband = less trash.

That sounds like a real dig at him, but I don’t mean for it to be.  The reason this nasty equation came to mind is because, in his absence, I realized that we really do create less trash.

Maybe it’s because one less body means less waste.  Maybe the things he uses are really over packaged.  Or maybe it means that my well-meaning husband is sometimes forgetting the fundamentals of recycling.  It only occurred to me because during his hiatus, the rest of us only created one bag of trash in 6 days, and this wasn’t a large bag either.  Our under-sink trash can (which is actually only an 22 quart wastebasket) is relatively small compared to some in-home trash cans.

He was really proud to come home and tell me about all of the recycling efforts at the conference, but I wonder if I’m so busy telling others how to ‘go green’ that I’m missing something here at home that I should be doing to make it easier for him, and all of us for that matter.

It’s time for me (and maybe you also!) to assess our homes and our recycling practices.  I think simplicity and ease is the key.  And I might need to look closer at what I’m buying, what he’s using and what he’s trashing.  Or maybe he just needs a good “list!”

New mission… one bag per week!  Whoa, we’ve got a long way to go!

Stop junk mail… NOW!

Over the holidays, I probably saw at least – (at LEAST!) – 50 catalogs hit my mailbox… what a waste.  Sadly, I didn’t use one of them.

But the start of a new year certainly has me thinking about reducing the amount of junk that hits my mailbox.  I can think of, maybe, one catalog that I actually used in all of 2008, so let’s stop it now!

Did you know that the average adult receives 41 POUNDS of junk mail each year?!?  That’s a lot of wasted trees and natural resources, and 44% of it is said to wind up in landfills, unopened!  But 41pounds.org says they can change all that and block 80-95% of your unwanted mail.  Plus, a third of your fee goes to an environmental cause that you get to choose. The fee is said to cover the removal of these unwanted mailings for 5 years!… yea, that’s 205 pounds of mail we’re talking about!  Can you even imagine?

Catalog Choice is another service that allows you to say “no more” to unwanted catalogs!  This service is free and all you need to do is select the ones that you’d like (love!) to opt out of and they’ll tell the catalog companies “thanks, but no thanks” for you. That certainly sounds like something I’d like to give a try.

I also have a backlog of magazines that I never got to.  I’m sure they have information that I’d love to read, but will I really?  So maybe we should consider paperless magazines, sent directly to our inbox.  Zinio is a publishing company that offers digit versions of tons of magazines delivered electronically through email or to mobile devices.  Their list has over 200 titles and their Read Green Initiative is actually giving away free one-year subscriptions to some of the most popular mags too!

So, this year, spread some serious tree-love and say ‘no 41 pounds for me!’

2009!… and 10 simple ways to go green!

HaPPy NeW YeaR!!! A new year has arrived and I hope your celebration was great, green and safe!

So, if you’re visiting Mom Goes Green, you probably try to live green, you’re looking for new ways to go green or maybe you just don’t know where to start.  Well, with the beginning of a new year, maybe it’s appropriate to start a new beginning of green living and think about the fundamentals.

Maybe there are things we’re forgetting, things we haven’t put into action or simple things that we’ve fallen off the wagon with.  So, let’s get started…

Use this as a checklist of things to think about and work into our daily lives. Drum roll please!!!…            (in no specific order… 10 simple ways to go green: )

  1. Recycle anything and everything.  There’s no reason not to.  Cans, bottles, newspapers, plastics, paper, cardboard, catalogs, junk mail… ALL recyclable, so don’t let them add to landfills.  Don’t forget about electronics, ink cartridges, cell phones… recyclable!  Check earth911.org to find out where.
  2. Reduce your water consumption.  Turn off that faucet, buy water- (and energy-) efficient appliances, run only full loads of dishes or laundry, check for leaks, buy a low flow shower heads, reduce your shower time… it all adds up to a great big difference.
  3. Unplug, unplug, unplug… and turn it off.  Anything that’s plugged in still uses electricity – your cell phone charger, computers, appliances – so unplug them or use a power strip.  Turn off lights when you leave a room.  Don’t let your home be an energy hog.
  4. Switch your light bulbs to CFLs.  They save money and use less energy.  Just remember to properly recycle them.
  5. Buy locally grown produce.  Not only does it support local farming, it also creates a much smaller carbon footprint and your organics will likely be cheaper too.  Maybe even consider a CSA.
  6. Buy less or NO commercial cleaners.  Vinegar and baking soda do wonders for so, so many things.  They’re less toxic, don’t pollute water sources and they’re a whole lot cheaper too.
  7. Buy reusable shopping bags. Use them! Never, ever accept another plastic bag.  It’s that simple… ’nuff said!
  8. Stop buying bottled water.  Sure, the bottles are recyclable, but think about the energy and resources needed to manufacture them and the footprint to get them to the grocery store shelves.  Plus, BPA is frightening.  Buy reusable aluminum or stainless steel bottles… your conscious will be clear.
  9. Stop throwing away the things you don’t need anymore… donate them instead.  Clothes, furniture, appliances, toys, books… someone wants them, needs them and will appreciate them.  They don’t need to be trash.
  10. Buy recycled products, products in recyclable containers and reusable items.  If they aren’t recyclable, find ways to reuse them. Be aware of over packaged products too. Simply, make wise choices.

Wow… that was fast.  I think I could have easily made that a “50 ways” list, but I don’t want to overwhelm you… or me!  There are so many other things I could have added, like turning down your thermostat, reducing your driving, planting a tree… but for now, we’ll stick with the fundamentals list!

I just did the checklist myself and I need to smack my own hand.  With a few of them I’m not doing so well, so I need to make them a part of my own New Year’s Resolutions!

How did you do?

The red and GREEN of holiday partyin’!

I love holiday parties. Okay, I love parties for any occasion, but ’tis the season for holiday parties, so we’ll stick with that as my excuse for loving parties.

The unfortunate part is that parties are often an occasion for over-abundance and waste.  (Also an occasion for over-indulgence, but that’s another topic completely!)  But it shouldn’t be an occasion that makes you feel guilty or stressed out for fear that a great celebration has to be completely eco-unfriendly.

There ARE some simple ways to “green” your holiday party:

  • Try evites or create your own electronic invitations instead of mailing the paper store-bought version.  Sure, you might have a few guests who aren’t email users, but where you can minimize… minimize!  For guests, requiring mailed invitations consider using last year’s holiday cards and turn the front of the card into a postcard.  Too cute!
  • Decorate using live plants and maybe even give them to guests at the end of the night.  Toss pine cones or evergreen clippings from your yard (or your neighbors!) into a bunch of beautiful bowls or vases you already own.
  • Turn off an excess of lights.  Blaze up the soy candles. It creates great ambiance.
  • Turn down the thermostat. Bodies = heat!
  • Consider buying biodegradable and/or compostable tablewareEco Products offers a variety of tableware made from corn, sugarcane and paper.  Or check out Verterra for tableware with some real character – made of leaves!  (Crazy, huh?… but very beautiful!) If you’re a Captain Moneybags, rent real tableware and utensils… not in my budget, but maybe someday!
  • Hit a dollar store for linens.  I bought four cloth napkins for a buck!  Skip the poinsettia print.  Pick flat colors so they can be used for many other occasions.
  • Set up a receptacle for recycling. Clearly mark it and ask everyone to jump on board.
  • Set up a numbering system where only “every fourth guest” who uses the bathroom flushes.  Haahaa!  Obviously, this one is just a joke!  I’m not that crazy!

Sincerely, just do the best you can.  It’s a time to celebrate being with the people you care about and if you’re doing the best you can do, you’re doing great!  Every little thing matters.

And really… stop considering that numbering system… it was a joke… a JOKE!

Take this trash and ship it

Given the word association test, “green” no longer prompts a response of, say… “orange”.  It’s more likely to prompt words like “recycling”.

I’d say it’s a great sign of our current environmental awareness, but what aggravates me is that more and more naysayers want you to say that the “green movement” and recycling is simply a waste of time.

For me, that’s unthinkable and I could never subscribe to this small-minded belief.  I have a hard time understanding how there can be a negative side to reusing, reducing and recycling.  Is it selfishness?  Is it laziness?  Is it the unwillingness to take any responsibility?  (The guy at Blockbuster once tried to convince me that the importance and value of recycling is actually “made up!”  Don’t ask me how this conversation got started, but I nearly passed out… “made up?… really?)

But recycling is being challenged and those naysayers want you to believe that it’s all a selfish act of capitalism. Some even suggest burning is a better option. (oh yea.  Burning.  THAT’S going to help.)

Well, I’m a naysayer of the naysayers.  Here are a few facts to keep out of your recycling bin.

Fact: Our “trash”, including scrap paper, metal and plastics, is one of the US’s largest current exports to China.  They purchase our recyclable trash because they don’t have enough raw materials to meet their demand.  In 2002, the US exported $1.2 billion worth of recyclables.  In 2006, the export grew to $6.1 billion. (Excellent!)

Fact: Recycling requires 90% less energy than making aluminum cans from ore or plastics from oil, plus it creates less waste and pollution.  (Argue with THAT Blockbuster guy!)

So who is capitalizing on this system?  I’d say we are.  I’d say our environment is capitalizing.  I’d say our long-term existence is depending on it.  Do you agree?

If we keep pumping our earth and environment with toxic trash, harmful gasses and chemical pollutants, without regard to future generations, how do we expect that there WON’T be negative effects.  I have kids and I refuse to let them bear the burden of my selfishness and laziness.  Sorry if that upsets anyone, but for most of us, recycling is very doable.

Being green is not an issue of “Saving the Earth”.  No matter what kind of havoc we thrust upon our environment, the earth WILL survive, but will we?  We’re moving toward kicking ourselves out of the only home we have and I’m not about to sit around, irresponsibly, and debate that answer to that question.

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”   — Native American Proverb

(An edited version of this post was published on BlogHer)