Saturday, April 19, 2008

Feeling Earthy

My children consider themselves to be environmentalists. They have never heard of Al Gore (thank goodness--I'm not a fan,) but I believe that doing our part to care for the world we live in is not a political issue. Legislating environmentalism is what makes it political. And I'm not here to talk politics. With Earth Day fast approaching, and inspired by Seattle Mom Blogs, I thought I'd share what we do around here to live a little "greener." (Pardon the expression. Green is so trendy now that I'm sure you are almost as sick of hearing it as I am. I'm thrilled that our social consciousness has embraced caring for the earth and it's creatures, but it now just seems like a bandwagon that everyone is jumping onto to see how they can profit from said consciousness. Including Al Gore and his carbon footprint. But I wasn't going to wax political.) This earth is a gift from Father in Heaven for us, his children. He has given us dominion over the earth and everything on it. Dominion is not the right to abuse and be wasteful--it means that it is our responsibility to care for it, but also to use what it has to offer as we have need of it.

So, we are trying to do our part in our family to not be wasteful and to make choices (when they make sense) that are good for the earth and for us. For instance, we frequent farmer's markets for our produce. Buying locally grown produce not only supports agriculture in our area, but also reduces the fuel, etc, used to get it to market.
When the price is not astronomical, I buy organic rather than toxin-filled. :) A year or two ago I bought some organic pears. Henry was skeptical about the bruises on them, and I explained that organic fruit didn't always look as nice. That seemed to do it for him; since then, anytime a piece of fruit looks less than perfect, he always tells the others, "It's okay. It's organic." (I don't correct him when it's not.)
Although we buy some processed foods, we try to mostly eat whole foods and to make things from scratch. These choices are all better for us and for the environment.

This year, we worked together to plant a garden. Instead of going to the nursery or Home Depot to get compost or fertilizer, we got (FREE!) horse manure from a local rancher and bought our compost through our city's recycling program. We have also started our own compost pile, to which we add our daily vegetable and fruit scraps, eggshells, and the grass clippings from our lawn. The kids think this is so fun and I love that making our own compost is economical, healthier, and a way that we can reduce waste in our family. Hopefully we'll have a good yield on our garden and will be eating fresh, organic, homegrown vegetables all summer and sharing them with our neighbors.

When I find a "green" product on the market that is reasonably priced, I try it out. Sometimes it works just as well as the traditional product (like our Seventh Generation dish soap, which I LOVE,) and I continue to buy it. Sometimes it doesn't work well at all (like the EOS laundry detergent I got at Costco that made all of our clothes dingy.) In that situation, I think it makes more sense to go back to buying Tide--it means fewer washings to get out stains (saves energy & water) and longer life of the clothes (saves me from buying more). But the point is that we are trying. I especially like looking for natural products that are not only better for the earth, but are better for us. I really believe that reducing our exposure to chemicals and synthetics is important to us and impacts our health for the better.

As I mentioned on our homeschool blog, we always pick up trash/litter when we are out on walks. This teaches the kids to care about what our community looks like, but they are even more concerned about how littering effects marine life and wild life. They have read so many books on the subject that they are far better experts than I am and have taught me about the many ways that litter and pollution hurt animals.

We take care to recycle what can be recycled. A lot of the time we use reusable bags, although I sometimes forget to bring them with me. We never ask for a box at Costco to pack all our stuff into. And here's something I do now that I used to laugh at old ladies for: when I have glass jar or plastic tub (like from a quart of yogurt or a pint of sour cream), I run it through the dishwasher and use it several more times before disposing of it--basically, till it can't hold up to washing anymore. Those tubs are great for keeping leftovers in, for sending food to a friend's, etc. For a while I was buying those disposable/reusable containers that Ziploc makes until I realized that I already buy plenty of that stuff with food in it. Instead of being clear, it says "Nancy's organic vanilla yogurt" on it (my personal fave). Big deal. (A hidden benefit to this is that if I keep leftover chocolate frosting in a sour cream tub, I often forget that it's not sour cream and therefore do not return to it repeatedly throughout the afternoon with a spoon. See what I mean? Good for me, good for the environment.;)

This year we are also striving to consume less. I will confess that a large motivation to do this is financial, but it is also more earth friendly. Hopefully with enough practice, it will become a part of our lifestyle and we really will live the simpler life that we imagine.

Anyway, I know that none of these things are that big, but even doing little things like these every day makes a difference. There are plenty of ways that we could improve, (when are they going to come out with a hybrid minivan? Toyota-- my van of choice-- has had one in Japan for years now. I am so tired of paying almost $4 a gallon!) and hopefully we'll keep working on it until we've made even more significant lifestyle changes.

What earth loving things are your family doing? Share your ideas--maybe we'll adopt some of your habits as our own!


Momma said...

Kudos to you for doing all of these things! If only everyone would do so, things would start turning around for our planet! Here are the things I do:

1) Use canvas bags for shopping.

2) Recycle everything that recycles.

3) Joined a local co-op and buy my organic foods and produce there. We're also planning to buy into a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that will provide us with a box of produce each week for 18 weeks during the growing season.

4) Buy things made from post-consumer products. There is a new line of pencils that is 72% post-consumer materials.

5) Buy bottled water but refill the bottle many times from my filtered tap water, then recycle the bottles.

6) Wash in cold water.

7) Always clean up after my dogs.

8) Live in a modest home with a small lot. Most of the lot does not consist of grass.

I feel there is much more I could be doing, but this is a start. If I had a larger lot with more sun, I'd have a garden. I tried tomatoes and herbs last year, but the tomatoes didn't get enough sun. The herbs were great, though.

Peace and Happy Earth Day (in advance) - D

My Ice Cream Diary said...

I would love to see how you are composting. I tried it once and it was a bigg, messy, disgusting failure.

We do much the same things that you mention here. I also shop mostly used for clothing, furniture, toys, dishes, etc. It is more economical but also keeps items from landfills. And my husband rides the bus to and from work.

Jen @ Daily Mish Mash said...

The "green" movement annoys me as well, but I try to look at it as a positive change no matter how people are trying to use it to their advantae. It sounds like you are doing a lot of great things. Keep it up!

Yvonne said...

It seems that people in this country have always needed a "band wagon" to come through town before they felt comfortable "jumping on". We have been recycling for EVER, even when it was not as easy as putting it into a trash bin for curbside pickup, we have composted (do not currently) and I re-use anything that I can... even if it is just tp tubes for art projects.

Junk art collages can be lots of fun...just save "stuff" in a big box or bag and after it is full, get out bits of string, sticks, glitter, whatever really and let the kids go. I have seen kids build entire city scapes out of "junk".

I guess that we should all be grateful for the "band wagon", it should bring more harmony to our consciousness and get us singing together, maybe even on the same note!

david mcmahon said...

Congratulations, Michal. Where on Earth would we be without spreading awareness ....

Rebecca said...

Right now the biggest thing I do is buy in bulk, and being vegetarian saves a lot of water and energy. I run a natural foods cooperative, and get a lot of organic items this way. I also go to our local farmer's markets in the summertime!

I'm hoping to start a compost pile and get a garden in this year. I also hardly shop for anything except food anymore.

As far as laundry detergent, I switched from Tide to Charlie's Soap. You don't need fabric softener because it cleans so well. I throw some Oxyclean in with it and the laundry comes out pretty clean, plus we don't get the artificial fragrance I don't like. Not to sound like an advertisement, but if you want to know more, you can go to

An Ordinary Mom said...

"Green" has become a bit too trendy lately, but I do like the fact that we are learning how to be better stewards of the earth.

Sometimes being environmentally friendly can be so overwhelming, but it helps to start out little and take one step at a time. It really can be easier than you think.

Excellent post!

a10cowwoman said...

you go girl.