In honor of Earth Day, I wanted to share a few of the ways that we’ve been trying to lessen our ecological footprint over the past few years. While we’re by no means in a place where I feel like we’re making a huge difference, and realize we could be doing so much more, I’m a strong believer in that, if we all take small steps together, the positive impact may be stronger than we ever imagined.
Using more natural home & beauty products.
I’ve been taking a lot more time while shopping for our everyday staples – like household cleaners and detergents, soaps and shampoos, lotions and deodorants – to really look at the ingredients.
I’ve make the effort to ditch (or only sparingly use) cleaning products that contain harsh chemicals and trade them in for natural options instead. I clean and shine our mirrors, windows, and stainless steel with dampened microfiber cloths instead of sprays, regularly use vinegar, baking soda, essential oils, and even citrus fruits to do much of my basic cleaning around the house, and have incorporated several air-purifying plants in our home. Making the switch to more natural laundry detergent has lessened the severity of Jeremy’s skin allergies and, I feel, helped our clothes and linens last longer. We also make it a point to first try natural products to rid our landscaping of weeds and our home of pests before using harsher options.
As for beauty and hygiene products, I’ve slowly been transitioning some of our staples to more natural choices, but we’re still experimenting to find our best options here (as I’ve had some crazy reactions to certain natural products, strangely.) I typically look to see that the items we have in our shower and medicine cabinet are not tested on animals, are free of toxins and chemicals that I can’t pronounce, and are made with ethically sourced ingredients. Granted, only about half of what we currently use fit into all of these categories, but we’re gradually getting there!
Conserving water & energy.
This one has been HARD for me, guys. I mean, the act of doing it isn’t hard at all, but getting over old habits and being constantly aware of doing things differently has proved quite difficult. Over the course of the last year, I’ve tried cutting my shower time in half, using water from the tap over buying bottled, and re-using water from one task to complete another (using water from a boiled pot of pasta to enhance the sauce, watering houseplants with unfinished glasses or bottles of water, and so on.) As the world’s worst former water-waster, this takes some major mindfulness and practice for me.
When it comes to conserving energy, almost everyone in my life has been on me at one point or another for being that person – the one who goes from room to room and level to level without switching off the lights or television. Again, with a little mindfulness, I’ve gotten much better about this over the past year or so. Line drying much of our laundry, opening windows and using fans instead of blasting the AC, making sure our home is properly insulated so we can keep the heat at a minimum in colder months, limiting our use of the microwave, unplugging electronics when they’re not in use, and utilizing energy-efficient light bulbs are also ways we strive to conserve energy in our home.
Ditching the plastic.
This is an area I want to place much more focus on, because while we’ve replaced many of our paper and plastic kitchen and eating utensils with glass and eco-friendly wood, I still see far more plastic and other non-decomposables in our garbage bin each week than I’d like to. Currently, I do occasionally ask for paper bags, or refuse a bag at all when shopping, make 90% of my coffee at home in reusable tumblers, and when we do end up with heaps of plastic bags, recycle them multiple times over for various tasks. My goal over the next several months is to challenge myself to start bringing re-usable bags to the grocery, do away with bottled water and drinks entirely, and buy products in glass jars – or without packaging at all – when possible.
Limiting fuel emissions.
I will admit, especially when getting around our city, J and I drive – a lot. We’ve gotten better about a few things when it comes to getting around in our vehicles, though. First, we always try to squeeze as many errands as possible into one trip instead of making multiple treks across town and home and back out again. We make a list of anything and everything we need to do and save it for our “errand running” day (usually Sunday) and do it all in one go. Secondly, we take the time to figure out the best way to get to the same place (when we’re coming from different starting points) and usually meet up to carpool instead of taking two cars. When we’re able, especially when downtown or travelling, we ditch our car and walk, bike, or take public transport. We’re all about the bike lanes and trails here in the Fort!
Recycling & upcycling.
If I had to take a guess, I’d say more than half of what we own in our home has been purchased at a thrift shop or garage sale, been handed down to us through friends or family, or are a mash-up of old and new, pieces that we’ve altered and brought back to life.
We do a good majority of our furniture, home décor, book, entertainment, and even clothes shopping at secondhand shops. When something breaks, is getting too worn to function, or is simply visually unappealing, we consider ways we can fix it with supplies we have on-hand before buying a replacement. It’s almost comical how frequently I’m scraping the bottom of an empty paint can to complete an unexpected project, the ways we’ve found to reuse random pieces of wood or broken furniture, and so on. If we do decide it’s time to replace an item, or simply don’t want it anymore, but it’s in fair enough shape to bring value to someone else, we’ll donate it. If not, we’ll recycle the parts we can.
Looking to the future.
There are a few additional ways I want to challenge ourselves to be even more environmentally conscious in the months and years to come.
- Last year, much of the produce from our garden went to waste because we couldn’t finish it all, and I wasn’t quick enough in canning, freezing, or donating it to local food banks and I would love to do all three this summer! Side note here: Also want to plant more trees/shrubs!
- I’d love to cut our weekly garbage accumulation in half, and think that by limiting plastics, using more reusable items to eat from, drink from, and transport things in, swapping paper napkins and paper towels for cloth, and making our own cleaning and beauty products, we can do it.
- Lastly, it’s high time I opt-out of paper statements (for electric, mortgage, and insurance bills, bank statements, etc.) I already get all of these notices electronically, but most of them still come in paper form, too, because I’ve simply been too lazy to cancel.
Whew! Thinking about the changes we’ve made over the past couple of years – even the very small, gradual ones – has me feeling a bit better about our efforts to live a life that’s a little gentler on the Earth. We still have a long way to go before I’ll feel like we’re doing our absolute best, but we’re getting there! The plus side of making these changes is that they’re great for our planet, but are often better for your health and wallet, too!
What are some of the ways you practice being environmentally friendly? Here are 52 additional ways you can “green your home” if you need some inspiration!
Show a little love to your Mother (Earth) today, friends! Let her know you care.