Saturday, January 9, 2010

Cheer Up, Treehuggers!!!

First of all, look at my little treehugger, Spawn, helping in the garden (4 years ago):

(Notice our black worm bin in the background - and the hideous arborvitaes that were dying off. All of them are gone now. :()

It's green resolutions time! I ♥ green resolutions!!!

I know some of you will see the word 'resolutions' and roll your eyes or proudly proclaim that you don't make resolutions - you set goals. (Every party has a pooper! That's why we invited you! Party pooper! Party pooper!) Whatever. Semantics. :p I'm gonna rhapsodize over some resolutions for going green in 2010. (BTW - look at the words 'green resolutions' - notice the words 'green solutions' are right in there? ;))

There are plenty of things on the list (linked above) that we already do:

1. Banish paper and plastic bags from your life. Always carry at least one reusable bag with you and it will soon be as routine as grabbing your keys when you head out. (We hang our bags right by the back door by our keys and I made reusable produce bags, too!)
2. Switch your monthly bills to e-billing. Even if you print them out at home, you'll eliminate the postage carbon footprint and reduce paper use (no envelopes and annoying "special offer" inserts).
3. Before you throw anything away, ask yourself if you can use it in a new way or if someone else could use it. (I'm making a braided cottage rug out of our old shirts and linens! Jeans are next!)
4. Recycle anything and everything you can. Even if you have to drive items to a depot once a month, it's worth it to save raw materials.
5. Start composting -- it's simple and you get free fertilizer. (We vermicompost!)

9. If you're replacing appliances in 2010, pay a little more for the most efficient Energy Star models -- they'll save you money in the long run.
19. Refuse to buy foods that are unnecessarily packaged, such as fruits and vegetables.
20. Annoyed by excessive food packaging? Tell your grocer or the manufacturer. Fire off an e-mail or write a formal letter expressing your concern. (As a rule, every letter a company receives represents about 50 people of a like mind.)
25. Shop at secondhand and charity shops before hitting the mall or your favorite boutiques. You can usually find some great gems."

But you know I can't resist making some green resolutions in an effort to make more of these a part of our everyday life. Vermicomposting at first seemed very intimidating and kind of a nuisance, but once we got in the habit of using a garbage bowl and dumping it daily, it kind of became second nature. Sure, we forget sometimes or argue over who's going out in the cold to dump the bowl in the worm bin, but with Spawn selling worms for live bait to fishermen (what lemonade stand? ;)) and friends begging for bucketsful of worm castings for their gardens, there's more incentive than ever for us to keep on top of it. =D

So here are 10 we're choosing to focus on and trying to incorporate into our everyday lives this year:

7. Paint only with no-VOC formulas.

8. Switch to an electric kettle for boiling water. Electric kettles use less energy than their stove-top counterparts, and there are stainless steel options available if you're wary about boiling water in plastic.
10. Build a rain barrel to get free water for your garden and plants. (Tip: In the winter, collect snow, scoop it into a pail, and bring it inside so it can melt and be used for watering indoor plants.)

17. Go vegetarian one day a week. The livestock industry is a huge greenhouse gas emitter. (We sort of do this already. We don't intentionally go vegetarian for this express purpose, but just to give us a rest from meat, meat, meat every night. ;))
18. Eat organic -- it may not be nutritionally superior, but it's a lot better for the planet. (We also do this to a certain extent. Spawn can't have foods that are made with large amounts of red and yellow dyes, but organic foods are made without chemical food dyes.)
21. Grow your own fruits, veggies, and herbs. (We're going to try to plant an all-organic garden! We're looking into The Grocery Game for everything else. I'll let you know how that works out.)
22. Commit to buying (or making!) green fashions -- think organic cotton, bamboo, hemp and other sustainable, natural fibers, as well as recycled fabrics.
23. Switch to all-natural cosmetics. A good rule: If the ingredients list looks like a lesson in chemistry, steer clear; if you're stumbling over Latin, you're looking at the names of plants. (I wear very little make-up and very rarely, so this should be an easy switch.)
24. Switch to a nail polish brand that is made without toluene, DBP, and formaldehyde. (Piggy Paint, London, and American Apparel Nail Lacquer are a few options.) (I've given up mani/pedis for the last two years due to the need to save a little money, but I've been missing it in the summer. So some formaldehyde-free nail polish and a self-mani/pedi would be a nice treat this summer.
25. Shop at secondhand and charity shops before hitting the mall or your favorite boutiques. You can usually find some great gems.

You might have noticed that #25 is on the list twice. We already shop secondhand stores for Spawn's play clothes. He grows out of everything so fast - why buy everything new?! I no longer buy him new clothes. My mom buys him a few pairs of jeans every spring and my in-laws buy him a coat (2 sizes up) every other year, and a pair each of snow boots and rain boots every year. The rest ALL comes from a kids consignment shop. (The one I've been using recently stopped carrying shoes, so we'll have to buy some sandals and such out of pocket this year, maybe.) I think a good solid pair of shoes s the one place you DON'T try to save a buck, so we'll see. ;)

Anyway, #25 is on the list twice because CS Dad and I are some fluffy folks. ;) Few consignment shops carry plus-size clothes, so we shop end-of-season sales and other low-cost alternatives, but I got a shiny new sewing machine two years ago from my mom. WHY have I not been using it more? I suspect it's flashbacks of 4H sewing projects that make me recoil from my sewing machine, but I've decided it's time to grow up and start using the dang thing. ;)

Spawn and I will be trying our hand at a few green projects, too:

Reusable Tissues - I'm going to try making mine using Spawn's old baby blankets. Is there any softer flannel than an old, worn baby blanket? I think Spawn will especially enjoy cutting up the old blankets with pinking shears and helping me handsew a few drawstring bags to use as hampers and laundry bags. I know we could just buy hankies, but why not refashion something we own instead of spending money?

Reuse Old Phone Books - I'm especially excited about making seed-starter pots with them!

Challenging ourselves to compost as much as we possibly can:

Print our Christmas cards on recyclable paper (no unrecyclable photo cards!) and try to convince our friends and family to do the same or send e-cards this year. (I'm leaning towards e-cards, too. Even if we print out e-cards from others ourselves at home, we're still saving the carbon-output of the postal mail system, plus envelope, AND stamp manufacturing!!!)

We'll also continue to pack bentos instead of buying while we're out or packing snacks using plastic bags. Waste-free lunches are the wave of the future. =D I got some great new Wrap-N-Mats and other bento-type goodies at the regular, old, grocery store recently, too. (Pictures to come soon!)

CS Dad and I purchase wine and beer for special occassions from local brewers and wineries. The more organic and local - the better! We also support local farmers through nearby farmer's markets and CSA's. The best pickled green tomatoes come from the Allentown Fairgrounds Farmer's Market.

Oh, and did I mention cyberschooling is green, too? ;) Every home is heated during the day in the north to keep the pipes from freezing anyway. We're saving the district heating fuel and money by cyberschooling - not to mention we have no need for a bus or its fuel! We also carpool, when possible, to field trips - or we just walk! =D

What this all boils down to are lessons in global and local community and resource stewardship for Spawn. I don't want to just leave him with a better planet than the one my generation inherited - I want to give him the skills and tools he needs to make it even better for his own children. Try some of these suggestions for working stewardship lessons into your daily routine or classroom.

I ♥ cyberschooling!

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

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