Greening My Life

My latest project, the one I’m thinking about the most, is not knitting or baking or art journaling or making leather notebook covers, although those have all occupied a lot of my time and effort lately. No, my biggest project these days is making my home and my life greener. I’ve always considered myself an environmentalist, and I’ve written before about trying to reduce my consumption of single-use plastic. But over the years, I have really slacked off, often choosing convenience or lower price over earth-friendliness. I have three kids, and there’s only so much I can do. Whenever I felt guilty, I reminded myself (possibly a bit defensively) that I breastfed and cloth-diapered all my children, and that balanced out whatever environmental sins I was committing. And, of course, I recycle.

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A few weeks ago, however, I listened to an episode of the 99% Invisible podcast called “National Sword.” It describes how China is refusing to recycle US waste, and how a lot of the items we toss in our recycling bins actually aren’t getting recycled at all. I urge you to listen to it, but probably not on a day when you’re feeling depressed or hopeless because believe me, this will not make things better.

plastic bottles and other plastic trash float in water
Image by Pixabay

After listening to “National Sword,” I’m more determined than ever to reduce my use of plastic (especially single-use plastic) and reduce my trash production in general.

I’ve already mentioned that I use reusable grocery bags when I shop. I also recently bought reusable produce bags. They are made of a see-through mesh fabric, so they don’t add significant weight, and the supermarket cashier can see the code on the produce stickers. They’re just as easy to use as plastic. I also have started using beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap. They’re easy to use and clean. Much easier, actually, than wrestling with plastic wrap that’s hard to tear properly and always sticks to itself. I’ve tried two different brands, and I prefer the Green Bee wraps, as they stick better than the other one I’ve tried. I’ve also been transitioning to glass containers and jars instead of ziplock bags for freezing leftovers.

three empty glass canning jars in front of a large metal bucket
Image by Pixabay

My next challenge is reducing my use of plastic bottles for toiletries and household cleansers. I use Method dish liquid and spray cleaner, and I buy the refills rather than buying more small bottles. I’m still buying plastic, I know. I could buy aluminum or glass spray bottles and make my own cleaner with vinegar, but I really love the scents that Method makes, and my husband is not a fan of the smell of vinegar. Just writing about it is making me feel guilty. Maybe I’ll switch over, but no promises. I’m also transitioning from paper towels to cloth napkins and cloth cleaning rags, and from regular sponges to biodegradable cellulose sponges.

many blue and yellow dishcloths folded and stacked together
Image by Pixabay

It’s staggering how much plastic we use, and how much it has increased in just the past two to three decades. When I was a kid in the 70s and 80s, soda bottles and peanut butter jars were glass, and things such as cornstarch, drink mixes, oatmeal, and mixed nuts came in canisters made from metal or cardboard. Now most of these containers are plastic. Cold cereal used to be in waxed paper bags inside the box, instead of the plastic bags used now. Those paper bags were easier to open, and when you rolled them down they stayed rolled and kept the cereal fresh longer.

I’m going to see what my options are for avoiding plastic bottles of body lotion, face cream, deodorant, hair products, and the like. I’ll be blogging about the changes I make, so stay tuned!

9 Ways I’ll Be Using Less Plastic in 2019

A dumpter overflows with trash, mostly in plastic bags, some loose. Trash is on the ground around the dumpster. Text says:
Image by Pixabay

I’m not big on New Year resolutions, but one of my intentions for 2019 is to continue making small changes in my daily life to walk more gently on the earth, and especially to reduce my use of single-use plastic.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you buy something through one of these links, I earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you. You can read more about my advertising policy here.

Reusable grocery bags

After literally years of leaving my reusable shopping bags either at home or in my car, I am finally remembering to bring them into stores with me almost all the time. I use the kind grocery stores usually sell for a dollar or sometimes give away, and I find they work well for me. Not only are they green, but they’re stronger than plastic grocery bags, so I don’t have to worry about a bag being sliced open by the sharp edge of some cellophane packaging or splitting from too much weight. They also sit in my trunk without flopping all over and spilling their contents. If you’d prefer another type, though, there are many bags available for purchase, such as foldable bags in cute designs, or bags that are actually collapsible boxes.

 

Packing lunches

An open plastic container holds wrap sandwiches and grape tomatoes
Image by Pixabay

Along with plastic grocery bags, I’ve ditched plastic ziplock bags for the most part. I still use them for frozen foods, but when packing lunches or snacks I use either Sistema boxes (yes, they’re plastic, but they last for years. Much better than plastic bags or disposable plastic containers) or Lunchskins paper sandwich bags. These bags seal with a peel-and-stick strip and are perfect for sandwiches and dry snacks. I’ve noticed that Reynolds has started making paper sandwich bags, too, but I’m a sucker for the cute pictures on the Lunchskins ones.

 

I also use reusable water bottles. After trying a bunch of different brands over the years, I found that I really love Sip by S’well stainless steel bottles. They don’t have straws or any other fiddly parts that get lost or are hard to clean. Just a bottle and a cap. They come in cute prints, they last for years, and they are double-walled, so they keep your cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot. They can be a bit pricey, but I usually buy them on sale. I’ve also gotten some knock-offs from Aldi, so keep your eyes peeled at back-to-school season!

Making Laundry Cleaner and Greener

I’m planning to ditch plastic jugs of laundry detergent in 2019. Homemade laundry soap is really easy to make, and the recipe is even easy to remember. It’s just one bar of soap, one cup of borax, and one cup of washing soda. You can probably find borax and washing soda in the laundry aisle of your local supermarket, Walmart, or Target. Or you can order it from Amazon. Grate the soap with a box grater, and then stir the grated soap, the borax, and the washing soda together. If you want, you can add a few drops of essential oil for fragrance. Store the mixture in an airtight container, and use 2-4 TBS  (1/8 – 1/4 cup) per load. I’ve never had a problem with it dissolving in cold water, but if you do, you can just dissolve it in a cup or two of hot water and toss that mixture into the washing machine before filling it up with cold. (Or pour it into the liquid detergent dispenser if your machine has one of those). It’s safe for HE machines, too.

Shower solutions

stacked bars of soap
image by Pixabay

I’ve started using bar soap in the shower to avoid using plastic bottles of shower gel. This also solves the problem of having an inch of soap left in the bottom of the bottle that you can’t get to with the pump. Don’t you hate that? I suspect that manufacturers purposely make the pump tubes too short so we’ll buy a new bottle sooner.

Did you know that shampoo and conditioner also come in bars? I just bought a handmade conditioner bar on Etsy, and there are also a ton on Amazon. Once I finish my current bottle of shampoo, I’ll replace that with a bar, too.

You know what else is plastic and in my bathroom? My toothbrush. I just ordered a pack of bamboo toothbrushes, and I’m going to try to convince my whole family to switch.

I’m not perfect, and I know there’s plenty more I can do to help the environment. But using less plastic, especially single-use disposable plastic, is one step, and it’s not hard to do. If you have other suggestions for using less disposable plastic around the house, please let me know in the comments!