Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day! Add to my green list!

Today is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day - the day where we're all supposed to stop and think about how we're treating the only home we'll ever have, and maybe find a way to tread a little lighter. I'm a huge follower of environmental news and the more I read, the more I worry about the future of the planet. I do worry that we'll damage things beyond the point of no return if everyone doesn't try to do something to make a difference.

All my friends know that I'm an out-and-proud tree hugger. In my eyes, I'm not hardcore, but many of my friends seem to think I'm over the top. I think it's really important to raise my children with a respect for themselves, their food, and their environment. I want them to know where food comes from, where garbage goes, where water comes from, what pollution is, etc. Raising them to respect our planet is one of my most important parenting goals.

That being said, here's the list of 20 things we do in our family to tread as lightly as we can on our home turf. And before anyone thinks this is some sort of go-green brag to be the best, it's not…it's just my list of things WE do with the hopes of inspiring someone out there to pick one thing off my list and add it to your family's routine. Do you do something earth-friendly that's not on my list? Please let me know in the comments section - I'm always interested in learning new ways to live a little greener.

1) We have a vegetable garden! Of course. It might not be perfect, but any space dedicated to growing your own vegetables is a well-used space. There's really nothing better than a garden-to-table meal.

2) We compost. All meat scraps go to the dogs. All cooked veggie scraps (and rice, pasta, etc.) go to the chickens and everything else goes in the compost. We couldn't afford to buy a big fancy composter so we made one out of a garbage can and it works just fine.

3) I make our own cleaning products. I do have a couple of store-bought chemicals cleaners, but about 90% of what we use is homemade by me. You can clean almost anything in your house with vinegar, baking soda, Borax, hot water, essential oils, rubbing alcohol and good old-fashioned elbow grease. You'd be surprised that most homemade products work so much better than chemical-laden store-bought junk - plus you're reusing the same container instead of just tossing it in the trash and you're not bringing chemicals into your home (and then flushing them down your sink).

4) We used to cloth diaper our kids. This freaks people out for some reason. But modern cloth diapers are just as easy as disposables, but don't get tossed in landfills where it turns out they never really degrade. How crazy is that?

5) We use cloth napkins as much as we can and really limit paper towel use.

6) I make reusable cloth snack bags for the hubby and boys to take their lunch in, meaning we don't use and toss ziploc bags, which is a major pet peeve of mine.

7) We don't water our lawn. Yeah, it doesn't always look pretty, but the lawn always comes back because it will eventually rain.

8) We don't use chemicals on our lawn. No weed and feed here. And yup, we end up with a lot of weeds that need to be mowed down, but I read that people's yards are about the most polluted places on the planet due to all the lawn chemicals and I didn't want my kids and pets running through a chemical landmine every day.

9) We have pet chickens to provide our family with fresh eggs and to provide our compost heap with nitrogen-laden chicken poo! They're a joy to have and another small step toward grasping the fringe of sustainability.

10) We recycle everything we can. The garbage company picks up cans, plastic, glass, newspaper, magazines and cardboard, which is amazing! We also recycle batteries, but we have to drive those down to the local battery store. Between the chickens, compost and recycling we hardly have any trash anymore.

11) We've got a heat blanket on the hot water heater. This is something anyone can do. It's a silver insulated blanket that just wraps around the hot water heater and you duct tape it on. I've read it reduces energy costs by 25-45%, so for $20 it's well worth it.

12) We've replaced most of the bulbs in our house with CFLs, which are pricey but do last a lot longer and use a lot less energy than regular light bulbs.

13) We keep our A/C set on 80 degrees most of the year, which a lot of our Florida neighbors think is outrageous. But we're used to it and it's a huge energy saver.

14) We limit our consumption of meat and try to eat vegetarian meals a couple of days a week. We can't afford to buy grass-fed beef, but we only buy Murray's chicken, which is certified humane and we try to buy Maverick Ranch meat products from time to time.

15) I try to buy local when I can. I joined a vegetable co-op so when my garden isn't producing I can get local vegetables for the family's meals. I try to buy local honey as well since we have an apiary that supplies to a few produce stands around town.

16) We don't eat any fast food, unless you count the periodic pizza a few times a year. We won't patronize McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy's, KFC, etc. because we don't think they're healthy and we don't like how they try to suck children in by channeling their advertising to kids, offering kids toys and kids play places. My poor deprived children have never been into a McDonald's and actually enjoy giving speeches to others about the evils of the company. My 6-year-old likes to say they trick you into thinking their food is healthy by giving you a free toy, but he's not buying it. I know the day will come when they'll venture into a FF restaurant, but not at this age - and not on my watch.

17) We try not to buy products from companies that have bad environmental reputations. This one is a tough one - we read up on companies and try to avoid food from places that don't gel with our mindset, such as Perdue chicken. This one is easier said than done though. You can watch "The Future of Food" to learn more about this.

18) We try to eat homemade as often as possible. This means homemade pizzas, burgers, fries, cookies, bread, dinners, lunches etc. We avoid processed food and try extremely hard to make as much food as we can from scratch.

19) We eat some organics, but not as much as we'd like. The price is out of our budget for most things, so I'll get one or two organic purchases with each week's groceries and call it a day.

20) We keep our options open and read as much as we can about the environment, food, choices, etc. The more we learn the more educated choices we can make. I'm reading Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" right now and it's eye-opening.

I hope something on here inspired someone out there to make a change. If there's something you do that's not on my list, please let me know in the comments section! I'd love to learn about it.

Thanks and Happy Earth Day!!


Erin said...

Great post, Kate! You have inspired me to do the same if I get time....! It's always nice to write things down and reaffirm everything you already do, way to go!

LGJ said...

Re: the blanket on the hot water heater. We bought our house last fall and the home inspector saw a blanket on our water heater. He said it's a myth that it helps your water heater and it's actually a fire hazard. Your water heater is constructed like a giant thermos, so there should be a vacuum layer on the outermost layer as insulation, so the blanket does diddly squat on top of that.

I don't think we've watched The Future of Food yet, but I recommend King Corn (documentery) and In Defense of Food (book). They've encouraged us to eat more 'real' (nonprocessed) food more than all the parental reminders to eat our vegetables ever could.

Kate and Crew said...

LGJ - Well I do have to disagree on the hot water blankets. The proper ones aren't flammable and the US Dep't of Energy recommends them and an energy-saving measure:

I've got "King Corn" on my Netflix list! Thanks!!

Engineeredgarden said...

I applaud you and your family for everything you do to make our planet better. However....80 degrees????? Are you insane? Ha...

LGJ said...

Ah, maybe it was the specific blanket we had on our water heater (it did look pretty diy) that he was concerned about. Thanks for the link.

Lo said...

you got the hot water heater insulator!? yay! That was one of my favorite "green" purchases. totally geeky, LOL Happy Earth Day to ya!

Momma_S said...

Wonderful post, Kate! Thank you for sharing. Do you have any sources for homemade cleaning products? I love your snack sacks! Ziplocs are the last item left in our lunches that are disposable, and I want to get away from them... Do you have a pattern you wouldn't mind sharing?

I inadvertently watched Food Inc. last night on PBS (admittedly, I'd been avoiding it on purpose), and I'm now dreading the cost of my next grocery trip. I just can't allow myself to shop the same now...

Susan said...

Thanks for the great list. I've gotten a few ideas that I can use in our family. We keep our A/C on 80, too. I can't stand cold, cold A/C.

Cheryl said...

I keep threatening to make my own laundry detergent, but I can't remember to buy the ingredients. If somebody (hint! hint!) posted a recipe, I think I'd print it out and take it to the store with me.

Kate and Crew said...

Cheryl - did you see that Erin posted her recipe for detergent?

Sounds like a good one!

Keats The Sunshine Girl said...

Happy Earth Day to you too! Certainly a very green family and I applaud you. Great pointers to follow!

Kate and Crew said...

Momma - yup, I'll do a post on that soon! They're super super easy to make.

Susan - when it's in the 90s outside, having the AC on 80 does make the house feel cold to me. I get cold sooooooo easily so I can't do a cold AC household.

Keats - thx!

Stefaneener said...

Um, we use an on-demand water heater, and a gas heat stove that we only turn on when it's really cold. And we save rainwater and reuse bath water in the garden. Out here, those are probably the greenest things to do.
Your list is terrific. You seem totally normal to me. But that probably says a lot.

Kelly said...

I have read not to wrap the water heater in anything too, but mine is gas, not electric...may that be the difference?

Peggy said...

You are an awesome example of what one person can do to make the world a better place for all of us to live! Kudos!

the garden harlot said...

that is a charming chicken-involved photo !

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