Winter’s the season for hibernation, hunkerin’ down, inactivity and coziness. It’s nice to have a time devoted specifically to, well, in essence laziness – believe me, I’m a huge fan, especially while the little chicken dinner roasts away inside me.
But I’m also reminded of how nature utilizes the season. While it seems like nothing much is happening beyond winter weather patterns (which we’ve had absolutely minimal of this year!), the frozen ground holds within it lots of activity. If not for this “rest period”, the organic material wouldn’t be preparing itself for spring planting, animals wouldn’t survive properly until spring, and the whole system would be outta whack.
It makes me feel remiss, in the midst of all that nature’s doing to prepare for the next season, that I’m not doing my part for nature as much as I have in the past. While I’ve discussed “going green” quite a bit around my slice of the world wide web, I feel that I’ve dropped the ball a bit lately. An easy excuse is “I’m distracted by planning for the baby” — but, seriously, what better excuse to try to implement more “greenery” into our lives than the future generations?!
That being said, I shouldn’t be TOO harsh. I mean, there certainly are lots of areas of our lives that we’ve already changed – to the point where they’re second-nature and we’ve forgotten we’ve even MADE the changes.
Firstly, almost all of the products that we use (be them cleaning or otherwise) are “eco-friendly”. While I’d like to do more (by way of finding shampoo alternatives and making our own laundry detergent), we’re still doing more than a lot of people. There’s always room for improvement.
We use cloth napkins at every meal, and try to use dish towels and rags as much as possible (although we have to keep minimal tissues and paper towels around due to colds and gross cat ears that need cleaning); again, an area in which we can continue to improve.
We like to use glass-and-silicon reusable containers for our work lunches, and recyclable/recycled double-plastic bags when needed (I wish I wasn’t so dependent upon these!). Dave reuses any accidental plastic grocery bags (y’know, the ones you get when you don’t have a reusable bag on hand) to carry lunches, and I use a cloth lunch bag for mine. Seriously, it’s literally a brown bag. So plain and somehow cute at the same time!
Then there are those “Oh, yeah, I forgot about that…” eco-friendliness we’ve been imparting for awhile. When we moved into our house, Dave went on an energy-saving whirlwind through the house – CFLs in any and every light fixture (we’ve only had to replace one; that’s not bad!), tiny foam insulators for the outlets (most of which have also been switched out), among other little changes. And, lest we forget the low-flow toilet and shower head, as well as the brand new boiler and heating unit (both with excellent Energy Star ratings) that my stepdad put in before we even knew what hit us.
There’s always room for improvement, though, so I’d like to share some thoughts on ways that our family can get on-track to better help both our interior and exterior environments. I’d like to call this list (apparently I’m all about lists, who knew? My mom would be so proud…as would my husband), with lots of positive energy and less guilt in mind:
The Greening Our Family List
(“Dun dun duuuuun” – Ooohhh, impressive!)
– Getting back into the ever-important composting. We’ve got a bin full of the stuff to use for planting in the spring, but got off-track as far as the “adding to it” aspect of composting (the upstate NY winter also helped throw us). I also never found the time/money to get into vermicomposting, unfortunately, so I believe the focus will be the much simpler, hopefully manageable composting. This is an area that I relish teaching to our kids. Oh! And we were lucky enough to get gifted a large composting bin that should be interesting to learn how to use!!
– Speaking of garbage, I’d like to cut back on how much garbage actually gets put out. We do generally have LOTS of recycling, and usually put a full garbage bag out to the curb every other week. Hopefully, by hitting the “restart” button on composting, we’ll be able to cut this down to *fingers crossed* once a month. And, while I don’t think we’ll ever be as awesome as the Zero Waste family, it would be nice to cut back on how much we recycle, too. (One step at the time, lady, one step at a time.)
– Aaaaand also speaking of spring planting, there has been some conversation in our household as to whether or not we should try out a CSA this year or continue with our two (yep, we build another one last year!) raised veggie beds. I found that we had a less successful year in 2011, mostly because I think that we didn’t plan enough and planted far too much — it was simply too much to keep up with. However, I’m not sure I’ll have the time to put into “finding new recipes” to fit in with a regular CSA, so find that it may be a waste of money. So, I’m currently leaning towards utilizing our beds (if ya got ’em, use ’em!) but spacing things out and ONLY growing what I KNOW we’ll use. I know, I’ll be in my third trimester when it’s time to plant, and have a newborn when it’s time to tend and harvest, but I do feel that this will be tons easier if we simplify, simplify, simplify. Plus, I’ve got a loving husband to help (who also happens to LOVE the fact that “this came from our own garden!!!”, especially when salads are involved).
– I’ve had a difficult time finding “green” toiletry products that are actually green or that do a decent job. I find my hair getting dried out or weird-feeling (sorry, I can’t find a better way to describe it than that!), then feel that I need to use this product until it’s gone as not to waste it. So, I thought that I’d try the ever-popular, most-eco-friendly method out there. Here’s a hint: It involves baking soda and vinegar (and, no, I’m not making a volcano on my head – although, weren’t those fun when we were kids?!). I’ve pretty much given it away, but I’m sure I’ll report back on my success/failure rate.
– In my mind, green = simplification. We don’t NEED so much STUFF, and we’re doing a pretty good job of trying to purge (and send on our unwanteds to the thrift shop, or put them aside for our quasi-annual garage sale). The scary thing for me is that all-too-true saying “with baby, comes stuff.” I’m not blaming the baby, and I totally understand the need that people seem to feel about buying cute things (regardless of a) the necessity or b) the size of said item) – but I don’t agree with it. If we need it, it’ll be on our registry. If you think we need it, check with us first. Odds are, we don’t. (I hate to sound so mean or ungrateful, but we’re working VERY hard to purge, purge, purge, so if we end up getting even MORE “CRAP” to purge, we’ll be a couple of very grumpy new parents.)
THAT being said (yes, a new paragraph within a bulleted list – shocking!), we’ve already started this baby off as green as we can (without purchasing expensive green furniture…that’d be easy to do). We’ve borrowed newborn through 6-month neutral clothes from my sister. I’m researching what cloth diapers to purchase. We’re trying to only buy/ask for eco-friendly lotions and soaps. I’m hoping to breast feed and, eventually, make baby food (or try baby-led weaning) which may cut back on the need for a kazillion bottles, formula and purified water containers, baby food jars etc. I’m also uber-excited about the prospect of receiving certain goodies, such as a space saver high chair (it attaches to a normal dining table rather than taking up lots of extra square footage) and a portable swing (which will not only be portable, but take up way less space, too – and is foldable for when it’s not being used). These, I foresee, will be worth their weight in gold, along with perhaps some natural baskets (we’ll look for these on our own, that doesn’t need to be on a registry) to help us maintain the clutter.
So, that’s it for my immediate green list. While I’d like to say that every little thing we’ll be doing around the house will involve a step closer to a habitual green lifestyle, I realize that there are some simply un-green things that we’re working on. For example, Drylok-ing the basement isn’t the best for our internal environment (stinky!!!), plus painting all the walls and floor down there will be costly if we use only low-VOC paint. Since we’re not planning on staying here forevah-evah, the cost is simply too much to go too gung-ho with our greenification efforts. We’ll do our best (especially when it comes to, say, painting the baby’s furniture), but it’s not like we’ll be putting in a brown water system or solar panels. We’d just like to continue fixing the place up enough to make it worth selling, and purdy enough to look at. 🙂
So, how about y’all? Any green efforts going on in your little piece of the world? Or green efforts that you didn’t even realize you were taking part in? Do tell!