Happy Earth Day!
Yes, I know I'm a week past deadline. I blame it on all the craziness around here of late. Add to that the stomach bug I picked up last Tuesday that hung around for nearly a week, and I figure I kind of have an excuse. No, it's not swine flu, but I HAVE lost 8 lbs. Never let it be said that I can't find a silver lining.
So, as many of you know, I like to reuse and recycle things. But, for once, I'm not going to force you to look at some crazy thing I've made out of an old milk jug. Plus, I still haven't figured out how to get pictures onto the Captain's laptop. So I'm saving my recycled milk jug project for another day. Try not to die from the suspense.
Today I want to talk about that other very important, but often ignored, "R". That's right, I've been thinking about some of the strategies I've used to reduce my ecological footprint.
Now, before I begin, I should point out that there is nothing more obnoxious than some left-wing, granola-crunching, unemployed hippie living in the middle of nowhere lecturing those in the real world on what they should be doing to protect the environment. There are plenty of things I'm not doing that I should be, and I know that some of the things I have been doing are completely unrealistic in the context of everyday life for most people. For me, listing this stuff just keeps me thinking about it, which keeps me moving forward in my efforts. Also, I'm a list-making super-nerd.
Disposables, be damned!
The arrival of Firstborn coincided with a cross-country military move, and I had to quit my job. I'm not going to lie. I was thrilled. I do not possess the kind of organizational skills you working mothers out there have to put into action every single day, so stay-at-home motherhood has benefitted all of us. But with the loss of my income came some serious belt-tightening, and I decided I wanted to try using cloth diapers. I couldn't see going for the flat-fold kind you have to pin closed. With my lack of dexterity, that would be like begging Children's Services to just cut to the chase and pick them up straight from the maternity ward. Luckily, these days, you can buy fitted, padded cloth diapers with velcro closures, and matching waterproof wraps to go over top. Nearly six years later, having covered two dirty little bums, those cloth diapers are looking pretty darned ratty, and the waterproof wraps have long since disintegrated. I did always put my kids in a disposable at bedtime, or if we were travelling more than 5 minutes from home for any length of time, but in the long run I must've saved thousands on the cost of disposables and, more to the point, created far less waste than I would have if I hadn't used cloth. Obviously, if I'd been a working mother with daycare issues, this wouldn't have even been possible, so it's not for everyone, but I do think if you can swing it, the laundry side of it really isn't as bad as you might imagine.
And once I got into cloth diapers, I realized that cloth nursing pads and cloth wipes were no big hardship at all for me, so I switched to those too. And just last week I came across another ingenious/crazy idea on one of my favourite time-wasting inspirational sites, Burdastyle.com. I was having a look, as I always do, at the creations posted by regular people from around the globe, and I came across someone who had created a pattern for (prepare yourself, ladies) a cloth maxi pad, complete with wings! Okay, I know we're delving into serious hippiedom here, but I've been thinking about it ever since. It's like the logical next step!
Alright, I'm not promising I'll actually adopt this one into my lifestyle, but I'm tempted to make one prototype, just to see if it's do-able. Perhaps I won't give you all a detailed description of how I make out, though...
If the above ideas just don't work for you (and I understand completely) buying the re-usable travel mug at Tim Horton's and getting them to fill that up for you every morning, thereby reducing your disposable cup consumption, is another great way to feel smug and superior while chatting with your coworkers in the morning.
Stop shopping! Really!
No one loves to shop more than I do, but really, the best way to "reduce" is to stay the heck out of the stores. Not only do they carefully place their products to entice us to buy junk we don't need, they do it to get our KIDS to make us buy junk we don't need too! That's just playing dirty, and for that, they deserve to lose our custom. In this current hellish economic climate, none of us needs to be spending the money anyway. And if you must shop (beware: the crazy hippie has come out again), I urge you to try thrift stores and consignment shops. The treasure hunt is one heck of a good time, and you will be able to brag to your friends that none of the money you spent there aided in the mass consumption of anything, child labour or the release of nasty chemicals into the environment (because most used clothing will have lost all that stuff in the wash in its first life).
The one store you obviously can't avoid entirely is the supermarket. I know this is an old tip, but just in case anyone out there has never heard it, if you're looking to save at the grocery store, walk around the perimeter of the store, but not up and down the aisles. Most of the stuff you need is on the outside, and all that yucky over-packaged, over-processed junk is down the aisles.
Do two tips constitute a list? I got a little long-winded there (who, me?!), and this can be a controversial issue, since no one likes a lecture about how to save the earth from someone whose life must occasionally look like a stint in a mental asylum, so I'll stop there for now.
Sure, we can all be doing more. But if you can't add even one more thing to your already strained, overpacked schedule, just remember this: if you recycled this week, or made your own sandwich instead of buying a burger, or turned off the tap while you were brushing your teeth, or walked your kid to school instead of driving, or turned off a light, you did something for the environment.
And in the end, doing one thing is still better than doing nothing.