Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 8 - groovy garage sale-in

In the spirit of re-using we are preparing for our first venture into the Great Neighborhood Garage Sale.  Signing up for the community garage sale has forced me to actually go through with this.  I have spent all week going through my closets, drawers and the garage to see what we are holding onto that we no longer need.  Isn't it amazing how much stuff we accumulate?  I am a regular Goodwill dropper offer so I really thought I would have to scrounge to find things, but there were whole boxes that I feel ready to let go.  Items from not that long ago when I lived on my own, before kids and 'grown-up' life that I look at and think, "will I ever REALLY have a need for this again?"  And the answer is no, I will probably not need the collection of amazingly cute and chic high heels, the multitude of small handbags, or my colllection of colorful scarves.  Not only do I not truly need these things but I really don't mind passing them on either.  I am hoping that some adventurous bargain hunter out there tomorrow stumbles upon our yard and comes away feeling like they found a great treasure.  Then it will be entirely worth it.

I am anxious and excited about our yard sale tomorrow.  I am not sure why but there is part of me that has these silly questions going through my mind today "what if no one wants our stuff?", "what if people make fun of what we put out", it never occurred to me that throwing a garage sale would feel like such an intimate showing of my life.  Despite this emotional obstacle I am excited to be releasing these little treasures of mine out into the world for a new life and adventure they get to partake in.  This is the first time in my grown up life that I have actually thrown a real garage sale and I can't wait for the experience.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day 7 - meat is neat but not to eat

Did you know that to produce one pound of beef requires 2,500 gallons of water, more than 40 times what you would use to make a pound of potatoes?  Then factor in the energy used to feed and raise the beef, the fuel to transport it and the amount of methane produced by the cattle all so we can eat some beef; this equals out to a real eco bad guy.  

So today the focus is to start a habit to limit the amount of meat my family and I are eating.  We are not a super crazy meat family to begin with, but this gives me even more reason to limit our intake of animal.  Yesterday we had a fully meat-free day and today was almost meat-free (there was some chicken in our soup for lunch.) 

When you hear people talk about the importance of thinking globally but acting locally I think that is also applicable to how we treat our bodies and the earth.  The first step is to focus on how we are treating our own body, what we are putting into it, on it, and around it (being local).  When we are aware of how we are nurturing ourselves we can become more aware of how to nurture mother nature (thinking global.) 

It all starts with awareness, and today's awareness has given me the chance to minimize my harm to livestock and in turn minimize my negative effects on the earth.  Join me this week and skip the livestock for one of your meal's.  Even doing it once a week will make a difference!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 6 - the diaper conundrum

Thank you my friend Rachel (not talking to myself, a different Rachel...), you have made me delve into a subject I am not sure I am ready to tackle quite yet.  The dreaded diaper dilemma.  Here is a pretty major environmental question that I have been ignoring as a full-time working mom.  It never came up as a question with my first child, cloth diapering hadn't become as prominent as it is now and being a career driven working mom I was all about convenience.  Now, with the second child I honestly hadn't thought much about doing anything differently this go round.  Then I go and start making changes and now need to make a conscious decision, do I dispose of diapers and worry about landfills and the waste being created for producing them or do I invest in cloth diapering and worry about the added water and energy I am using to clean them on a daily/weekly basis? 

This is a great example of how economics and convenience play into our daily environmental decisions.  To cloth diaper sounds lovely and I can greatly appreciate the positive impact it has on the environment eliminating waste, saving resources and more.  But there is a major commitment and investment needed to go down this path.  When looking into it today I figured it would cost ~$300 to get the basic system of cloth diapering just to see if I like it and can sustain it.  This would be about the same as 7 1/2 months of disposable diapers.  So yes, there seems to be an inherent ROI if you assume the baby will be in diapers until he is around three years old.  The total savings if he is potty trained at three would be around $700.  But then you figure in things like extra diapers to replace ones I lose or break, extra diapering supplies like night time inserts, wipes, etc and that savings gets diminished rather quickly.  And then you look at the additional water and electricity expenses for running the washing machine every day and I am not sure where that leaves me, perhaps it is break even?  If that is the case then I start evaluating based on convenience. 

Is it convenient?  Well, not exactly. Can we really make this happen?  Would we really be able to keep up with laundry?  Maybe, although we can barely keep our own laundry current (have you seen some of my recent fantastical outfits?), let alone the kids' laundry, and now we are thinking of adding a necessity like clean diapers into the mix?  Hmmmm....

When I look at my choices I know that taking on this challenge was not about always doing the easy thing and that I can no longer have convenience be my only deciding factor.  So I will dip my toe into this diaper adventure (not quite ready to jump in feet first).  I have ordered my first cloth diaper and should see it on my doorstep in a few days, we will see if there is a way to evaluate our ability to do this with a sample run.  I am not even sure if one diaper will be enough to learn from but we are going to give it a try and see what comes of it.

Anyone care to weigh in on this one?   

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 5 - save paper, save trees

Eliminating waste is an endless feat.  It seems that our world has been transformed to convenience ourselves and make every moment new, fresh and efficient.  For example, our use of paper.  I'm not sure about where you work, but at my work there are boxes and boxes of reams of paper stacked up next to our printer, and it seems that we are always running out of it.  We use paper to print out huge Powerpoint presentations, paper to print out emails and agendas and paper to print out new ideas.  We also are using a significant amount of paper to take notes throughout the day as we go from meeting to meeting and need to mobilize our thoughts. 

So for today I have attempted to reuse and reduce our paper consumption at work on a small scale.  (Every little bit counts, right?)  I put a box next to our printer and labeled it REUSE PAPER - SINGLE SIDE PRINTED PAPER GOES HERE - REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE.  My goal now is to take that single side printed paper and create some makeshift notepads.  I will put the notepads next to where we get our bound notebooks and hopefully people will grab them instead the next time they reach for a fresh pad.  You can do this too, simply reuse your paper by turning it into a notepad. 

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 4 - opt out

Today is Monday. Back to work on a rainy dreary day and I woke up late this morning so I am feeling grumpy and groggy. Today is one of those days that it is hard to get excited about incorporating a new habit or making a change, but it is only day 4 so I must find a way. So, as nice as it would be to opt out and stop pushing myself to be a better eco-citizen, I will look at other ways to opt out that will help, not hinder.

Focus: opt out of unnecessary printed materials to save waste, paper and TREES!

I took a few minutes today and was able to stop getting sent phone books by using this site:

and I signed up to stop getting pre-approved credit card offers here:

and I signed up to be able to opt out of more generalized junk mail through this awesome nonprofit service, I am excited to try it out on a few different junk offers when I get home and can target the companies that keep sending me crap that goes straight to the recycle bin:

Surprisingly the hardest one was to try and stop getting paper statements from my bank. Nowhere on their website could I figure out how to opt out and get emails instead. I sent a customer service inquiry and am waiting to hear back. You think it would save them money and any bank would want to save money, right? Maybe I should start looking at a new bank...

Ideas and links came from the following sites:

Join me and stop the cycle of junk mail!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 3 - the power of planning

Today I focused on putting some effort into planning before going to the grocery store to bring light to reducing the amount of waste I create for our landfills.  Don't get me wrong, I do a relative amount of planning before grocery shopping, but often it is a very loose list of items and not a thorough plan of meals.  This leads to items in the refrigerator that eventually go bad because even though they sounded like a great thing to eat I never actually put them together in a meal.  Either that or I make a great big meal but then don't plan on how to use the leftovers and I am horrible about leftovers.  I think I have an actual phobia about leftovers, it is ridiculous and not grounded in reality, I know, but if it has been in the fridge more than a few days it really freaks me out.

So another big little step for me today.  An entire week of meals planned out to waste as little food as possible.  What other ways can I eliminate waste?  I think I will start researching composting bins for food waste reduction.  Anyone out there composting right now and have some advice on getting started?  I was looking at the 7 cubic foot compost wizard jr.  Looks fairly easy to manage and won't attract rats to our yard (my phobia of rats is almost as bad as my phobia of leftovers...) 

Here is to a full week of dinners, I can't wait for the Chanterelle taco's tomorrow night.  Although now that I look at the picture with the recipe I don't think I bought Chanterelle's at the store today, so here is to an exciting night of random mushroom taco's! 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day 2 - my new fear of plastics

So here I am excited, giddy even, to start my eco groove and I happen upon a radio station talking about our current water bottle crisis.  I listen intently and come away with an intense phobia of plastic and an endless supply of guilt for my daily actions.  Don't get me wrong, I commend all those ecowarriors out there, but seriously, do you need to threaten cancer and death with every cause and toxin?  Yes, I am sure these things are not good for us, but when you tell me that leaving a bottle of water in my car will give my young susceptible children cancer do you think you have given me the strength and courage to make a change?  No, you have just scared the %^& out of me and now I feel like a horrible mother.  Thanks.

After listening to the commentary on how water bottles are the crux of human demise I told my husband that we weren't going to use any plastic bottles and can't leave anything in the car.  He looked at me, looked around the car and said "You realize that most of the parts of this car are plastic, right?"  Which I replied with the normal, well thought out response of "Well, then, we can't take the kids anywhere in the car."

This seems to be the issue for me, if I try to immerse myself in saving the planet and working towards the right cause I so quickly get overwhelmed with the doomsday rants and give up.  I don't want to do anything to hurt my children, I never would, no one would.  So why not just make a suggestion like, "you know, it isn't good for the environment or for our bodies to heat up plastic with drinking water or food in it".  "Try to remember to not leave bottles in your car when it is warm out as the off gassing isn't great to breathe in".  "Don't microwave food in plastic containers if you can help it."  These things seem fairly simple and if put in this light I can do them and think of myself as a good mom doing the right things for my kid.  When you tell me that I have already ruined my children's health you really are only making me feel guilty and scared.

What about the toys?  I just recently learned that rubber ducky toys for the bathtub are made of plastics that should not be around children (or anyone really), especially not soaking in their hot bath water.  So why do the toy makers make them?  Why put smiling faces on them and put them in cartoons with people playing with them?  It's not like we have an inner need for toy ducks in our bathtubs, we just buy them because they are cute and innocent and seem like a safe toy for our children and babies to play with.  I even have one made to check the temperature in the baby bathtub, I honestly assumed I was being a loving caring mom putting that duck in his tub with him.  Come to think of it, I even gave toy ducks away at my son's birthday party.  ACK! 

What do I do now?  I am suffering from a serious ducky dilemma.  Do I contact all the parents I know and tell them to get their toy ducks far away from their children?  Am I completely overreacting?  What do I do with the ducks I have?  If I throw them away I am contributing more plastic to the landfill, and doing the wrong thing.  If I leave them in the bathtub I am creating a health hazard.  If I put them in the garage sale pile I am now hurting someone else's kids.  Oh no, the panic and anxiety are welling, ACK AGAIN!

Okay, first just breathe. Now I need to focus on what I can do. 

Recap from what I learned yesterday:
  1. be water conscious - I did take a shower today, but I was super quick and I also remembered to turn the water off while I was brushing my teeth.
  2. save electricity - I remembered to unplug the hairdryer, but then i used it and can't remember if I unplugged it again...  Turn lights off in all the rooms (which Brian just pointed out to me that I forgot the one in the bathroom)
  1. Use less plastic!  Start by figuring out what to do with rubber duckies...
  2. Tell people about it, not in a scary way, but in a productive way. 
  3. Apologize to all of my friends who I gave rubber duckies to: SORRY!  I hope you are reading this!
  4. Buy the book "Slow Death by Rubber Ducky" and read it so I can know what other chemicals I need to be aware of.  Or better yet, go see if the local library has it!
  5. Stop feeling guilty for all the toxins that are presented to my children and tackle them one at a time. 
Thanks for reading.  Hopefully I will soon find an answer to my ducky dilemma.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day 1 - the smallest things

Day one and it's Earth Day.  I feel excited to start this journey and am looking all over to see what little things I can do for the environment.  Each day I am looking for things to start healthy earth friendly habits. 

Starting out my day today I was focused on water and energy usage awareness.  Out of part laziness (honestly) and a wee bit of conservation awareness I skipped my morning shower.  Who needs a shower every day, right?  It's amazing how much water we waste throughout the day by leaving the water on while brushing our teeth, running the dishwasher or laundry not on a full load and sometimes by taking our showers or baths for way longer than necessary.  I read a tip today to only put the amount of water you need for your tea in your teapot, then you aren't using extra energy to heat the unused water.  Both a water and energy way to conserve.  Genius!

Next step, energy resources.  I made sure that every light was off before leaving.  Tomorrow I need to go around and unplug any appliances that are sucking energy by just sitting there plugged in and not being used.  Would have done that today but I didn't think about it until now and I am sure when I get home from work and in the frazzle of getting the boys fed and put to bed that it will go back down the priority list.  Perhaps I will make it a fun exercise to do with the family.  (Or maybe not, probably want to keep the child and baby away from the outlets now that I think about it.)  

The big challenge to myself today was to NOT stop at Starbucks for a coffee drink.  Yes, I have become the stereotypical northwest suburban mom addicted to Starbucks drive through (while driving my Subaru Outback, how cliche is that?).  But, it is in my power to change my habits.  Today I came to work and dug through my drawers to find that barely used mug I bought forever ago so I could be 'green', gave it a good solid wash and got my caffeine fix at work.  Not only did I avoid a throw away cup but I also saved money!  I also gave my water bottle a good solid wash and will be using that today.  Amazing how convenience and sugary coffee drinks have tainted me so much. 

These are a few of the teeny tiny steps I have started with.  I realize that many of you will read this and think it is ridiculous to claim that I am doing something for the environment by skipping a shower and skipping a coffee run, but it all starts with awareness and this is my awakening.

Earth Day 2011 - Challenge to myself

Happy Earth Day Mama Earth
I, like many urban/suburban yuppies in their thirties, love to think of myself as eco-conscious.  An eco-savvy, organic cotton wearing, recycling and reusing, farmers market veggie buying, all organic baby food feeding, veggie gardening mama is what I strive so hard to present.  But when you look at my daily actions what am I actually doing for our mama earth?  Today I woke up and saw all sorts of lists online about the small daily things you can do for the environment and thought "am I really eco-conscious?"  Where did I take the wrong turn?

Let's see...  In my twenties, studying Environmental Education for my graduate work was an opportunity to do something and take action on a daily basis, it gave me a chance to dream big about what I would do in the future and on the downside to judge others for their inaction and my perception of their laziness.  I dedicated my life then to stopping the cycle of adolescent consumption by encouraging girls to become active and connected to the outdoors.  Guiding trips, creating curriculum, volunteering, were all ways I could do this. 

Now I work for a teen retailer and base my family's livelihood on getting teenager's to consume more.   I have spent these years telling myself this contradiction is necessary and really helpful as it provides an income for me to impact a greater breadth of environmental justice, or necessary for my growth as it gives me an understanding of the benefit of consumerism to our world and not just the detrimental aspects.  Whatever it is I am telling myself I cannot ignore the laziness I have succumbed to on a day to day basis.  So, starting today, with the help of anyone who is willing to support me on this challenge, I will stop being lazy.  Every day for the next year I am looking to do one small thing for the environment.  I have usually ignored the suggestions for those tiny things you can do thinking I only want to do BIG things.  But what good is holding out for BIG things if I am not doing them? 

Thank you for reading and please help support me on this challenge.  I will need it as I have found it is so easy to be lazy each day and do not want to fall into that again!

Happy Earth Day everyone!