Our Sustainable Living Inventory

It’s April, aka Earth Month. This is the time of year when we see an influx of earth-friendly messages and community events, when people are (at least talking about) planting trees and everyone is just a little bit more aware of their impact on the environment.

So, I figured this in celebration of Earth Day and Earth Month, it would be a good opportunity for me to take a personal earth-friendly inventory and share a little bit about our family’s sustainable living journey.

Ever since I was in middle school, I can remember being “environmentally conscious.” I remember when we had a guest speaker come talk to our class about recycling, and they showed us a sweatshirt that was made of a material made from soda bottles! (We were all wowed and I was so impressed!!!) For my 13th birthday, I remember asking if my gift could be sponsoring endangered animals. I was hooked on the idea of doing “good things” for the earth and always did what I could…thing is, I didn’t know that there was actually a lot more to it than just those few things I was aware of.

Like so many other people, I simply didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I used what was available to me. I didn’t question manufacturing practices or product ingredients — if companies were “allowed” to sell it, it had to be “safe” right? Like so many other people, I just didn’t know the environmental impact of my daily life.

Becoming a mother changed the way that I looked at a lot of things, and the impact we have on the environment was certainly one of the most significant shifts.

I found myself worrying about the water my son would drink, the food he would eat, the oceans he would swim in, and the air he would breathe. I read ingredients more closely. I looked at package labels for product disclaimers and the number of “organic” items I purchased increased tenfold. I wanted to do everything I could to make the world as safe as possible for him. And for the rest of us.

I realized that while I already had developed some environmentally-friendly habits over the years, there were many more areas where I could (and needed to) improve. I really want to make sure that his father and I set a good example for him, hopeful that he would learn from our mistakes without having to make the same ones.

GETTING STARTED:
Like any behavior we want to change or improve upon (eating better, exercising more, saving money) getting started can be the hardest part. We are creatures of habit and change can actually be overwhelming.

For me, I started with just trying to be a little more mindful of our current habits. What were we eating? What did we buy? Where did we buy it? What were we wasting or throwing away?

At first, I didn’t change much at all; I just wanted to become more aware of what we were doing. Then, as we became a little more mindful and a little more intentional:

  • We started double checking what we tossed into the recycling bin, rather than just assuming something was recyclable — so many things we think are recyclable actually aren’t and can mean that they can contaminate the rest of the items collected and they will get tossed out and not recycled either.
  • We stopped buying paper towels in bulk and shifted to using more cleaning rags, dish towels, wash cloths, and cloth napkins.
  • We already bought a “safe” toilet paper made from sustainable sources, but we found another brand that came with entirely plastic-free packaging, so we switched.
  • We stopped using paper plates at home. (This was one of the easiest things to give up!)
  • We started making more coffee at home to take with us in reusable cups, rather than ordering from a drive through on the road.
  • We started making more meals ahead of time — this helped us make sure we had food to bring with us when we were on the road and kept us from ordering as much takeout or grabbing convenience food.
  • We started using beeswax wraps for food instead of plastic alternatives.
  • We shifted to plant-based cleaners.
  • We stopped using dryer sheets. (We’ve used dryer balls for a long time, but never entirely broke the habit of tossing in a dryer sheet, too.)
  • We made more efforts to “use up what we had” before buying anything new when it came to things like shampoo, soaps and shower gels. (And anything unopened, that we didn’t plan on using, was donated to a local food pantry that was in search of these types of items).

Those things may not seem like very much on their own, but they do add up!

Those shifts had an even greater impact because of some other habits that we already had in place:

  • Eating a mostly plant-based diet.
  • Using reusable shopping bags.
  • Using paper sandwich bags instead of plastic.
  • Donating clothes, furniture, electronics, and other items we no longer need.
  • Collecting and donating non-recyclable materials for school maker spaces.
  • Already using some “package free” cosmetics.
  • Buying items second-hand (library sales, garage sales, online sales).
  • Using hand-me-downs from friends and family.
  • Repairing worn or damaged clothes and shoes.
  • Repurposing old furniture.
  • Dropping off unused prescriptions and old medications at designated drop-off locations.
  • Using energy-efficient light bulbs. (Using natural light when possible and turning lights off when we aren’t suing them.)
  • Using rechargeable batteries (and recycling single-use batteries when we have them).
  • Recycling (plastic, glass, cans, and paper).

We still have a long (long!) way to go. There are many more old habits we are trying to break or improve upon, and we are working on them a little each day.

WHAT WE’RE WORKING ON MOVING FORWARD:

  • Reducing plastic use as much as possible.
  • Making our own household cleaners — so much easier than it sounds!
  • Making our own personal care products and cosmetics. (See this post from the first time I made our own toothpaste.)
  • Backyard composting.
  • Consistently traveling with our own reusable cups, straws, forks, spoons, etc. so that always have them with us.
  • Refusing paper receipts.
  • Bulk food shopping. (This is still intimidating for me…)
  • Repurposing glass jars and containers before or instead of recycling them.
  • Walking rather than driving when we can.
  • Being more mindful about what we buy, and not buying things we don’t need. (This includes checking ingredients, shipping and packaging information, recycling or composting options, etc.)
  • Searching for more sustainable alternatives for gifts.
  • Gardening — I’m so nervous about this one! I haven’t been very good with plants in the past, but I really want to start growing our own vegetables.
  • Keeping plants in the house.
  • Sharing our sustainable living journey with all of you. 🙂

That’s our earth-friendly or sustainable living inventory as of today. It’s everything I can think of right now. I’m sure I left out a few things, though!

Thank you for letting me share it with you. Any tips or suggestions to help us along our sustainable living journey are always appreciated!

What are your Earth Day and Earth Month celebrations this year?

~Melissa

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