Over the past several months, I’ve been making a more conscious effort to be eco-friendly. I admit that I haven’t always been great at this, and that blase attitude—that “this small thing won’t matter”—is a huge problem that I’m trying to move away from. The reality is that it takes only a small bit of time and effort to be more intentional in how we live our lives and keep our home. A small disclaimer, though: There are a million things I could improve on. I’m hoping that making small (but important) steps will help foster a cumulative good that I can keep pushing more and more.
I was just discussing with one of my friends how I am always looking for ways to streamline and create more efficient ways of doing things. Managing my time and projects from top to bottom is fun for me. The downside of that is that I tend to obsess over the time I have available and look to maximize every bit of it. I think that’s often where some people stop where “going green” is concerned. In theory, it’s fun, easy and important. In execution, it sometimes requires new routines and new intentions. So, for that reason, in our lives at home, my top priority is to always integrate eco-friendly or green initiatives in ways that make sense. Would I love to grow a large percentage of our own food? Sure. But that’s not going to happen right now. We’re not even allowed proper gardens where we live! (Tomato stands, fine. Rows of corn? Not so fine.)
I’ve posted below a few of the things we are doing or trying to do more of. If you have any additional suggestions, I’d love to hear them!
- Recycling may sound too obvious to list here, but I’m guilty of not always recycling everything I could every single week. The past month or two I’ve made a renewed effort to recycle—ruthlessly. There’s a lot of things you may not be aware you even CAN recycle. Check your county sanitation website to be absolutely sure, but this graphic gives a pretty basic outline. The trick is make recycling as easy as possible. Easier than discarding something into a trashcan. Obviously, that means placing recycling bins everywhere you have trashcans in your home. Put recycling bins even where you don’t have trashcans. Don’t give yourself an easy opportunity to throw a bottle in the trash.
- I love our house super cold in the summer. I have a great thrill walking from the gross, nasty humidity into a cold—nearly chilled—home. I like sleeping under blankets instead of on top of them. I like a rotating ceiling fan on top of a blowing A/C vent. In the interest of saving money and energy, I’m trying to be more reasonable about our summer thermostat temps. Luckily, this summer has been so hot, that I haven’t had much of a choice some days—our A/C can barely keep up when the temps top 100. Winter is no problem for me—I prefer not to have the house toasty warm. I’d rather wear a sweater and sip a cup of something warm under a blanket on the couch than wear shorts and a tank top inside mid-January.
- I haven’t washed a load of laundry in warm or hot water in over a year. On that note, I stopped buying Dreft to wash Isobel’s clothes and instead went for an eco-friendly free-and-clear detergent so I can do the entire family’s clothes in the same load. (That allows me to do full loads more often too.)
- We drink a lot of coffee with our Keurig system, so I try to go for USDA Certified Organic varieties.
- Disposable bags seem like another one of those obvious things, but I can’t stand when I forget them and have to use plastic instead. I keep an arsenal of them in my car and Brandon’s car. My mom finds these fabulous ones on her trips to Canada to visit family and I have a large stash now. She just brought a few back recently that are insulated too! Perfect for frozen goods.
- We’re not buying any more bottled water for our home unless it’s sparkling water and we can recycle the bottles. Ever.
- After reading this book, I’m trying to be more mindful about where I buy my clothes and how long I intend to keep them. Will they work for more than one season? Can I wear the item with multiple things I already own? I’m also trying to go to our local thrift stores more. I used to shop at thrift and secondhand stores all the time in high school and college to try and find unique items that no one else had. I need to get back to that!
- Buying organic and/or local food takes more money and effort than just popping into the grocery store and grabbing what I need and calling it a day. But it’s important to me that we try to eat organic or locally-grown food as often as possible. (This is easiest here in the spring and summer.) Eating organic or local food isn’t the only way to eat more healthfully and sustainably. This is a great list to read over for even more tips!
- I’m becoming more aware of the cosmetics and beauty products I use and what they contain. Since I buy a lot of these things online now, it makes it easy to compare their ingredients to EWG’s database. It’s frustrating and eye-opening when you discover a favorite beauty product—especially a more expensive one—contains something potentially toxic.
Since having Isobel, I’m learning that babies seem to be a direct contradiction to eco-friendly, nontoxic practices.
- The concept of disposable diapers is great in theory. But, in practice, it’s disgusting. Research varies, but most studies agree that if most diapers ever break down in landfills at all, it will take at least a hundred years or more. That, combined with this, are reasons we switched to Honest disposable diapers. Cloth diapering is an ideal option, but just wasn’t for us. I feel like Honest is the next best thing and I can feel confident about using their products.
- While we’re talking about diapers, we have to talk about wipes. I use Honest’s plant-based and biodegradable wipes now (and love them after their new redesign), but you can also make your own. (Here’s a tutorial with photos too.) Just be careful to use recycled paper towel if you plan to make your own that way—otherwise you’re negating the benefits of all that extra work!
- Isobel will be crawling soon, so it’s becoming more important than ever that we use as many nontoxic cleaning products as possible. Honest has a good selection of these now, as does Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyer’s. You can save money and take things a step further too—by creating your own cleaning products at home. (Just search Pinterest! There are thousands of pins about it on there.)
- I have never used more paper towels in my life as I now have with a baby. I counted one week and went through 3 large rolls in a mere 7 days. I’m sure that I’ll have even more messes to clean up as Isobel gets older. There are a few ways I’m trying to curb my paper towel habit. First, I’m buying recycled paper towel. (Check out this fact: If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin fiber paper towels with paper towels made of 100 percent recycled paper, we could save 544,000 trees, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.) Second, I’m using washable viscose cloths as a paper towel replacement as much as possible.
- Buying baby toys and products is a hot mess of chemicals and potential toxins. OF COURSE IT IS. This article has been helpful in pointing me in the right direction to make better buying choices. Etsy and EcoMom are great options for finding nontoxic toys and teething toys (which are at the biggest risk for transference).
- We’re also making 90% of Isobel’s baby food ourselves from organic or local food we buy. In an hour on the weekend, I can make and freeze enough food for Isobel to last a month. Soon, I plan to have her eating a lot of what we eat which will even further simplify things!
- Buying new clothes for Isobel every time she has a growth spurt is really tempting, but there are plenty of secondhand options (like from Once Upon a Child) that are sometimes a quarter of the price and look brand-new. If you have friends with kids, you can also have a clothing swap or send your hand-me-downs around.
- Here are some general “green baby” tips that I love!
Any more tips for me?