Happy Earth Day!

Today is Earth Day! At work, we’ve been “celebrating” it all week, getting e-mails on earthy things to do and how to “green” our lives to better the planet. It seems like every year “going green” is pushed more and more, or being touted as the new thing to do. But I feel like we’ve been trying to conserve resources and live sustainably for a long time (is it just me?) So, in honor of Earth Day, I thought I’d list out some things we’ve tried to incorporate into our lives in an attempt to live green, live sustainably, or just live better.

  • A couple summers ago, I stocked up on round, plastic divider plates (they were, like, 99 cents each) and we tend to use those at our parties instead of paper plates. We still have a stock of paper (and Styrofoam) plates and bowls, though, so I also throw those on the table if they can be useful.
  • We’ve amassed enough pint glasses and other such drinking vessels that we don’t use plastic cups at our parties, either.
  • Every summer, I try to plant enough vegetables in the garden to feed us. I’m not always successful, but I think I end up doing a decent job. Last year, I canned 6 pints of tomatoes and froze many bags of Anaheim and jalapeño peppers.. I’m usually not successful with lettuce, but tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and peppers I can do. I still buy fruit, since we don’t really have many fruit trees.
  • When waiting for the shower water to warm up, we catch the cold water in a bucket. That water is used on the citrus trees (which don’t have drip heads) or to supplement watering trees and plants during the summer when they might need a little extra. I don’t know how much we’re really saving, but it feels better to know we’re not wasting that water. I’d say over the course of a week we’ll fill up two 4-gallon buckets, give or take.
  • While I’d like to claim raising chickens is a sustainable effort, I don’t think it really is. Our chickens are for eggs first, pets second, probably never for meat. I was able to stop buying eggs once the chickens got into the swing of laying, but now that we’re down to one laying bird I’ll have to wait for the baby chicks to grow up. It was really nice not having to buy eggs and our chickens gave us some beautiful tasty eggs. Once we were done with the hard work of building their coop and securing the pen, they really weren’t much work to raise. Honestly, if you look at raising chickens on an operating cost, I think it’s pretty economical. A 50-lb bag of feed lasts at least 2 months for 2 chickens, plus whatever kitchen scraps you give them. If you assume one chicken lays 7 days a week and the other lays 6 days a week, it all works out to a little under $2 per dozen eggs. The caveat is that you have a potentially high capital cost upfront, with the feeders and coop. A lot of people are able to build a coop out of salvaged or cheap material, but I went for ease and convenience, which means I just bought a lot of stuff new.
  • I cook a lot of dinners at home. It doesn’t really fit into the “green” or “sustainable” category, but I think it’s healthier for us. It’s definitely cheaper, especially since most of our meals can be portioned out for work lunches later in the week. I think that definitely ends up healthier for me.
  • We have taken the step to replace any food storage container that might be heated up to a glass container. Dry foods still get stored in plastic containers, mainly because we already had them and I didn’t want to just throw them out. We also take our coffee to work in ceramic mugs with the silicone lids. So, trying to reduce our plastic.
  • Speaking of plastic, I’ve gotten a lot better at taking reuseable bags with me to the store. I keep them in the car, load them up, then hang them on a hook in the kitchen when I’ve unloaded the groceries. Then I just grab them on the way out the door in the morning.
  • I’ve been checking a lot of books out at the library. I can’t remember the last time I bought a book (aside from a cookbook) to read. I don’t always have the latest bestseller to read, but I’ve also found some books I might not have discovered otherwise. Some books I’ve found aren’t worth finishing, and then I don’t feel bad about having bought a book I didn’t like. I’ve also checked out cookbooks and found I wouldn’t ever use them, which prevents me from unnecessary purchases. The library system is really easy. You set up a request list online and they get placed on a hold shelf when they’re available. I get an e-mail when something new is on the hold shelf and I think you have a week to go pick it up. It usually works out that by the time I have books to return to the library, there’s something waiting for me to pick up, too.

Things we don’t do, for various reasons:

  • I tried converting Travis over to cloth napkins instead of paper, but it didn’t take. They weren’t as absorbing as paper, plus they had a tendency to pick up lint and sometimes fur going through the wash cycle. I didn’t like having to reuse napkins or having to keep a huge stock of them so we would always have clean ones. As a concession, instead of full-on paper napkins, Travis now takes half a paper towel and tears that in half again, so we’re essentially using ¼ of a paper towel as a napkin. I still use paper napkins at work, although if I was hard-core I could bring my own cloth napkin in along with my lunch.
  • All my exercise takes place indoors. We have both a treadmill and an elliptical machine. I know it’s better to be out in the fresh air instead of using electricity, but I prefer to get all sweaty in the privacy of my home. Plus, Travis doesn’t run with me anymore and I always had this fear of running by myself after work, especially since I would probably run the same route all the time. And this was before all the crazy killings that just happened.
  • I don’t buy all-organic foods. I do buy organic milk and I usually buy eggs from Trader Joe’s (which aren’t organic but do come from farms that don’t use hormones on their chickens), but that’s really it. Sometimes I’ll buy organic fruits or vegetables, but usually I just buy what’s on sale. Any meat I buy is from Costco, because they have great prices and the meat tastes good. I did buy organic (but not free-range) roasting chickens once, and they were 4 times more expensive than regular chicken and they tasted the same (at least, to us). I do buy wild salmon and not farmed salmon and the rest of our seafood comes from Trader Joe’s (who maintains sustainable seafood practices). I have not watched Food, Inc. and I probably won’t because, while I understand the current commodity meat situation, I’m not sure I’m ready to jump on that wagon. True, we really don’t eat red meat often enough that buying more it from more expensive sources would hurt my budget, but the price jump is felt all the same. I’m sure we’ll get there at some point, slowly, but not just yet.
  • I used to have a worm compost bin to “recycle” kitchen scraps but have since found the chickens to be much more effective. Chickens eat just about anything and they eat it faster than worms do.

Have you made any changes to live “green”? Are there things you’d like to try but haven’t yet?

Also, congrats to Carol (CAB Cooks) who won the movie giveaway!  I hope you find the movie is worthy of some rainy-day popcorn munching.  If not, then I hope the soundtrack at least provides some good tunes!

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3 responses to “Happy Earth Day!

  1. We watched Food Inc two nights ago. It was good, and didn’t guilt me out of commodity food. I bet you’d find it interesting. Jeff was worried it might be overly political, but was happy it wasn’t. Definitely a good perspective to have on the industry, especially since it seems like it was people’s laziness that put us in the situation we are in with food.

  2. Good for you! I’m trying to do more, but I dont think we’re doing enough at the moment.

    The recent rains have meant that we’ve not really needed to water the garden since thanksgiving apart from maybe a week, and this has really got me thinking that the biggest thing I can do is to save and recycle water.

    I’m planning for the new house, hoping to get rid of all lawns, and replace with decks at the back, and a succulent garden at the front.

    I’m also looking into grey water. It seems that it is ok to collect recycled water, except for from dishwasher and toilets, The cost sounds so prohibitive, that it may end up being a pipe from the washing machine to the hose!

    The other thing I’m embarrassed about is the amount I’m driving at the moment. I really need to ride my bike more.

  3. Thanks Leanne for the movie! I’m saving it for this weekend and a big bowl of Orville R popcorn!!

    Like you, we’ve been “going green” ever since I can remember, before the term was even coined. It started as a necessity to be frugal, saving resources (just something I grew up with), and “trying” to grow our own produce. That latter half I’m still working on.

    We have been trying to go more organic where possible. Recently we signed up with a CSA organic grower. We planted more fruit trees in the last few years, hopefully to add another 4-5 more in the next year. Started tomatoes again this year with plans on building raised beds for veggies next season. We’ll see how I do with lettuce. Added a few more varieties of pepper plants this year. I used to grow eggplants years ago and don’t know why I stopped. I’ll add that to next season’s list.

    We let Mother Nature wash our cars most of the time. We replaced a crappy lawn with fake grass to conserve water. Doggies like it and no more muddy paws.

    I’ve been seriously looking into getting a few composters but haven’t found ones that will fit in the area that I have. I’m also looking into starting a worm composter. We have lots of earthworms in our soil but would like to make my own worm tea!

    We switched to reusable shopping bags a few years back but I still need to be better about using reusable produce bags. But the CSA is helping reduce my need for those. 🙂 We are also more diligent about looking at any plastic, paper, metal, etc. products that can be recycled.

    I know there is always more we can do.

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