4 Lazy, Green New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve never been big on ambitious resolutions.  I like setting goals as much the next (lazy) girl, but a date on the calendar has never been enough motivation for me to make sweeping life changes.  Hey, it’s January 1st, so I’m suddenly really excited about going to the gym for the first time in my whole life, and I’m going to tell the world about it.  If I haven’t managed to   clean and organize all my closets yet, chances are declaring my intent to do so publicly isn’t going to get me there.

Having said that, I do like to set out some reasonably achievable goals from time to time, regardless of the day of the year.  My inner couch potato is immensely satisfied by crossing (easy) tasks off a list.

Given the title of this blog, the fact that you’re reading it suggest that you might be looking for some New Years’s resolutions.  And I wouldn’t be doing my job as a crunchy granola tree hugger if I didn’t take this chance to suggest a few simple ways you could save the world without straining a muscle.

1)  Stop buying single-use crap. In perhaps the greatest marketing achievement since cigarettes, we have collectively come to believe that plastic wrap,  ziploc bags, paper towels, etc… are saving us time and money.  I’m not sold.

And not just because I shudder when I picture mounds of it in the landfill or floating around the ocean.  This stuff is not cheap, and you have to keep buying it again and again and again.  Do you like grocery shopping?  Are you looking for more reasons to peruse the aisles with your whining children?  What about taking out the garbage?  Think it’s fun trekking leaking bags of smelly stuff out to the bin in your pjs in February?  Do yourself a favour.  Make a reasoned, one-time purchase of some decent food storage containers (think glass and metal, they last way longer than dinky plastic), dish towels, cleaning cloths, etc…

Stock up your kitchen so that the re-usable stuff is just as easy to grab as the disposable stuff, because we know the change has to be easy if it’s going to stick.   Do this for a few months, and you’ll see that you barely notice the extra few dishes (chances are you have a dishwasher, and since you bought glass and metal stuff you can actually put them in your dishwasher without eating gross chemicals along with your leftovers).  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather throw a few tea towels in with my laundry than have to trek to the grocery store because I ran out of disposable cleaning wipes.  Seriously, it’s cold out there!

2) Drive less.  Did I mention that I like my couch?  The last thing I want to do once I finally get my kids into bed is leave my house and climb into my car to run errands. I’m not proposing you sell your car and strap snow chains on your bike.  I love my car.  I drive my kids to school and daycare every day because if I had to walk 4.2km round trip twice a day under time pressure with two whiny under-5-year-olds, I’d lose my freaking mind.  However, the lazy in me wants to do as few errands as possible.  Coordinating your errands into fewer trips so you don’t have to go out as many times is a really, really easy way to save yourself some time and gas money, while also conveniently spitting less carbon monoxide into the air.  Sound too organized for your chaotic life? I’ll do another post one day about the task-management app I use that makes this easier.

3)  Eat a little bit less meat.  I’m not a vegetarian.  Shocking, right?  I’ve tried it, and I may go back to it when I don’t have two tiny humans who require regular feeding, but at this stage in my life it just isn’t working.  Did I mention that my kids can’t eat dairy and soy? More about that in later posts.

And I don’t buy all organic meat.  I’m working on this one; it’s not in our budget to buy organic from the store all the time, and buying locally produced stuff in mass quantities requires a chest freezer.  I haven’t figured out if the advantage of eating “happy” meat outweighs the energy required to run a second freezer.  So my approach for now is to just eat as little meat as possible.  I think we probably average at least 2 nights meat free per week.   And it’s not weird veggie meals: think chili, (mild) veggie curry, eggs for dinner, etc…

4) Get rid of some stuff.  The best time to get rid of stuff is before the holidays (clear out some toys before the pile-on at Christmas) but chances are you were too busy baking treats for your kids holiday party and writing letters to Santa.  And now you’re faced with the gargantuan task of finding homes for your kids 15 new lego sets and 400 new stuffies.  Take this opportunity to clear out the junk.  This doesn’t have to be a huge scary task; I’m not suggesting you empty your closets and organize your basement (because that would be way too much work!).  Think low-hanging fruit.  Next time you pull that single holy sock out of your drawer, don’t just shove it back in there; throw it out!  Same with the jeans you haven’t worn since before your first kid; walk them over to the consignment pair and get yourself some new ones.  I recommend leggings;  much more forgiving! 🙂

While your kids are busy with their new flashing, singing, shiny things, do a lightning run around the house with a garbage bag, scooping up anything they won’t notice is missing.  Stash this bag in the basement for a month in case you’ve accidentally taken “the most special thing ever!!!”, then donate it (when they’re not in the car with you, of course!).

Having less stuff means less organizing, tidying, cleaning – less work.  And owning less stuff overall is invariably better for the planet, which means you can stop feeling guilty about the 27th Shopkin key chain you bought your kid because she just “had to have it”!!

There you have it.  Some really achievable ways to reduce your environmental footprint without stepping foot out of your house.  Got any more suggestions for easy green resolutions?  Share them in the comments, and I’ll happily steal them as future blog post ideas.  Cuz coming up with new material is hard work…

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I’m ba-ack!

It’s been three years since I posted… THREE YEARS!  That’s crazy, right?  Right… until you realize that in that time I moved houses and cities (twice), changed jobs and had a kid.  Yup, made another human – that’s worth forgetting to blog for a while, right?

But the time for excuses is over.  My youngest is two so I’m starting to emerge from the baby-focused fog.  We’ve been in our house for three years, which is long enough to realize that our century home will never be “finished”, and we should just get on with our lives.  And while I never feel like I have any “spare” time, neither does anyone else and they manage to run marathons, so really I should be able to carve out a few minutes to write a post!

For those who followed my daily green pledge challenge that was the catalyst for this blog, I won’t be starting that up again.  I will keep sharing the green things I do in my life to try and save the world – one tiny, lazy green step at a time.  I don’t have time to source all my food within 100 miles, but I do have time to create a more veggie-based meal plan for my family, and I’ll share it.  I don’t have the energy to research all the different ingredients in all the materials of food containers I could send my kids lunch in, but I can shop at our local eco store and tell you about the amazing reusable bags I find.

I’m also probably going to vent about parenting sometimes, because really it dominates so much of my brain!  I’m doing my best to raise tiny earth stewards, and so far it seems to be working.  My oldest recently yelled at me that I was “wasting water and being mean to the planet”… I was filling the sink to wash dishes.  So maybe I will do a green pledge – to stop washing dishes because it’s apparently bad for the earth.  🙂

Here’s hoping you enjoy my return to the blogging world… I promise not to wait three years before I post again!

Day 86: Saving some trees

I have to buy a printer.  I’ve done without one for many years, but I’m quickly realizing that one cannot run a home business without one.  And I think I’ll have to get a fancy one that scans and faxes and what not.  I’d love to get one second-hand, but past experience has led me to believe that electronics is one area where buying new tends to be more economical.  Case in point, the $180 baby monitor that I bought second-hand for $80, and it promptly stopped working after one week.  Sigh.

So I’m in the market for a new printer.  And while I can’t think of too many ways to “green-ify” the purchase of a hunk of plastic, I can at least reduce how much paper it eats.  I’m committed to buying one that has automatic double-sided printing.  Most come with a double-sided option, but I know if I have to fight with flipping the paper by hand, and feeding it in the right way, blah blah blah, then I just as often won’t bother.  So I’m going to spend the extra bucks on one that has that feature built-in, even if that means it’s a bit more of a hulking beast.  Guess that means I’ll have to get more milk crates for my up-cycled desk…

 

Day 85: One small step in high heels, one giant leap into vegetarianism

I wrote a post in my head last night, but by the time we got home from the wedding we were attending, I was too exhausted to figure out the hotel’s WiFi, never mind write an actual post.  The short version is that my green good deed of the day was to walk to and from the wedding location, from our hotel, in my high heels.  I was tempted to take a cab but decided to go the greener, if not more blister-producing, route.  Granted, it was less than 1km each way, but you know how comfy high heels on concrete can be.

To balance out this tiny green deed, I’m committing to a pretty big one.  We’re going veggie.  I can hear the collective gasp.  Before your jaws hit the floor , let me add my usual lazy-green caveat.  I’m only going quasi-veggie.  We’re giving up eating meat at home.  Here’s my rationale.  My daughter gets meat at daycare pretty much every day for lunch, and she really doesn’t need meat twice a day.  Both my hubby and I are trying to find our ab muscles again, and reducing meat consumption will certainly help.  I’ve already reduced our number of meat dinners per week to three, so it’s not that drastic a change.  Lastly, the only time I find it difficult to stick to my styrofoam free pledge is in the purchasing of meat.

So there are a lot of reason this pledge makes sense.  I will still eat meat (quite happily) at the homes of friends and family, and will likely still eat it at restaurants from time to time. And I may even allow a bi-weekly meat meal chez nous, if I run out of veggie recipes or have a steak craving (though in that case, it will definitely be happy meat).  In the meantime, this week’s recipes include the following: Tomato Cobbler and Quinoa-Spinach Bake.

Day 84: Just for the ladies

Seriously, guys, you don’t want to read this.  Unless you’re particularly comfortable with discussions about women’s menstrual cycles, because that’s where this is headed…

Ladies, we throw out a TON of plastic every year in the form of disposable “sanitary napkins”.  Not to mention that they’re individually wrapped with even more non-recyclable plastic.  I’m not suggesting we feel guilty about this, because the fact that we have to suffer through this particular monthly ordeal is punishment enough, but there is something we can do about it.  The best solution is to use re-usable products.  Didn’t know that was an option?  It is!  Grossed out? Don’t be!  It’s so not a big deal.  Especially if you’re a Mom who has used cloth diapers – this is way easier.

There are two main product options.  One is washable, cloth pads.  Some come lined with a thin vinyl, other don’t.  They come in all kinds of pretty fabrics, sizes and thicknesses.  And clean up is a snap.  You buy yourself a funky fabric wet bag (cloth outside, vinyl inside) and keep it in your bathroom.  Get a travel version to tuck in your purse.  Pop your used pads in there, then empty the whole thing into the washing machine, and voila!  No muss, no fuss.

The other option is a “keeper”.  A silicone or rubber cup that replaces a tampon.  You just empty and rinse it after every use.  I personally didn’t love this product as much (I’ll spare you the details), but I have lots of friends who rave about them – more comfortable than any other option.  I’m going to pick one up and try it again.

If you’re not down with this whole conversation, you might at least consider switching to a brand of natural pads and tampons.  Aside from containing fewer plastics, which is better for the environment, they also tend to not have bleaches or chlorine, which is better for your girl parts.  Happy planet, happy girl parts, what more could we ask for?

Day 83: Saving money on razor blades

Despite my pledge to shave less frequently, I do still shave.  A girl has to keep up appearances, you know?  And while I’m not ready to switch to a straight blade (ouch!), I would love to throw out fewer razor blades.  Aside from the non-recyclable plastic and metal, they’re crazy expensive!  So I’d been keeping an eye out for a shaving stone, to be able to sharpen the blade and have my razors last longer.  I’d barely started looking in earnest, when my partner surprised me by picking one up at the general store in town.  It’s called a shaving stone, but it’s actually made of rubber.  You slide your blade along it, and it’s supposed to sharpen it.  I think it mostly just cleans it really well and maybe shines up the blade, but if lengthens the life of the blade, it’s worth it.  So thanks hubby, for giving me the fodder for today’s post!

Day 82: Shower caps on my food

I’ve been saying for ages that I wanted to find shower-cap-style food savers like my Grandma used to have.  Do you know what I mean?  They’re made of plastic, and have an elastic around the bottom.  You pop them over a bowl or casserole dish full of leftovers and throw it in the fridge.  In other words, they replace saran wrap!  And they’re easily washed and re-used.  Sweet.

However, I haven’t been able to find them anywhere!  Anyone I know who has one inherited them from their grandparents or other elderly relatives.  Then today I was at the General Store cafe in Fergus and tada!  There they were!  And not only are the practical, they’re printed with cute sayings.  Nothing helps motivate one to be eco-friendly more than cute gear.

So while I already pledged to give up plastic wrap, and I don’t keep any in the house, this is just one more step to reducing my plastic consumption.  Who needs plastic food storage containers if you can just stick your bowl right in the fridge?  Oh, and it will reduce dishwashing too, which is always great.  Finally, a green change that my partner will love too.

Day 81: Guilt motivates!

Since leaving the city, I definitely drive a lot more.  Partly this is because I have to do 20km one way to take my kid to daycare.  This is a temporary situation that will be alleviated when we move into our new house (we’re in a short-term rental).  Add to that a commute into the city at least once a week for meetings.  Plus driving around running errands.  It’s a lot.  And while I have every intention of changing most of this once we move and I change jobs, it’s still an issue.

My temporary solution is going to be start tracking my gas usage through a nifty feature in my GPS unit that lets me type in my gas purchases, and tracks my mileage between fill ups.  And while this won’t immediately reduce my driving or improve my emissions in any way, it will make me more aware of how often I’m filling up, and how many kilometres I’m logging.  And awareness is the first step to improvement, right?  It’s at least the first step towards feeling guilty… which in turn should motivate change.  I can’t stop driving my kid to daycare, but maybe I can better plan my errands to reduce the number of stops.  It’s a start.

And all the piled up guilt will mean that I’m that much more likely to make good on my promise to bike my daughter to daycare in the spring.  Guilt is a good motivator.  Ask your Mom, she knows!

Day 80 – Because I’m not an informed consumer…

I’m not a fan of research.  I want to be, and I try to be, but I just don’t have the head for it.  I’m more of a scanner than an in-depth reader.  And even on those topics that I am engaged enough to settle down and read about, I don’t  have great retention.  For instance, I read Adria Vasil’s Ecoholic book cover to cover, and took away a ton of good information.  But I couldn’t tell you which plastics are good and which are bad… #2 is good? #7 is bad?  Similarly, when I read labels there are a few particular ingredients I avoid, but there are a dozen other I’ve read about that I’ll never remember.   I’m just not good at being an informed consumer.

This is why I’m so grateful for regulated language and certification programs.  I know that if something is labelled organic, it is.  If it’s certified fair trade, it is.  However, there are lots of products out there that don’t fit in these categories, and even if they did, one has to prioritize one’s purchases.  I’d love to buy an organic mattress, but I just can’t pony up that kind of cash.  So what is a girl to do?  Short of researching each and every product carefully, which I think we’ve already established I’m not going to do.

What I will do is check out these super helpful (and simple!) resources. B Corps was covered on CBC today, and is a program that certifies corporations who engage stakeholders beyond their shareholders – they look at community, environment, consumer, etc… It’s a stringent process, and only a fraction of those companies that have applied have been certified.  Another great resource is Better World Shopper, which ranks various companies with a letter grade.

If you’re a hard-core greenie you’ll probably want to dig deeper into these sites to learn about the grading and certification processes.  But if you’re like me, you’re more than happy to be trusting and have someone else do the legwork for you. 🙂

The pledge?  To consult with one of these resources (or one like them), when making major purchases, or for products that I consistently buy non-organic.  Like hair products.  So sue me, I have not found a natural hair product that doesn’t make my hair look like I used dish water.  But that’s a topic for another day.

Day 79 – It’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood

Today we took possession of a new house.  I can’t tell you how much joy I took in putting that new key on my key ring.  I considered taking a picture and posting it to FB, but decided that was a little over the top.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about this new house adventure is that it is going to provide a myriad of new green pledge opportunities.  There are so many things I’ve been holding off blogging about, because I wanted to wait until I could actually DO them.  Homemade chalk for Amelia? Wait until she has a sidewalk to draw on (condo boards don’t take kindly to that sort of thing in the front lobby, apparently).  Make homemade jams and preserves? Wait until my canning gear is out of storage (and now, wait for spring, but you get the picture).  The list is endless!

The promise I can make right now, though, is to join my neighbourhood association.  There is a Yahoo group hosted by one of the neighbours, and I’m told they post about local events and community dinners and what not.  Last month there was a tree planting!  As if the 3 Bullfrog power signs on various lawns on our street weren’t enough, they plant trees!  I’m gonna like my new digs, I can tell.  Wow, that pun wasn’t even intended…