Saturday, April 24, 2010

I'm Gonna Make a Change... It's Gonna Feel Real Good! (Jam On...)

My photo above is a beautiful day in Harpers Ferry, WV last year.  We picnicked beside the river under the shade of the trees.  Matt and the girls waded their feet in the cool water.  The girls thought it was the best thing ever!  Oh, and the geese wanted a part of the action...

With Earth Day this week, I was thinking about "eco-friendly" changes our family has made over the past 1-3 years.  One of my biggest concerns is how much nasty toxic waste is sitting in our landfills and will continue to do so through my children's lives.  I don't care if you believe in "global warming" or not, there are certainly things that we can do INDIVIDUALLY to help the health of our environment NOW.  Especially as Americans. 

This post is NOT to pat me on the back.  The changes I've made are not huge, revolutionary things. You will most likely being saying "duh" through this whole blog.  But I write this because little changes add up!  I know many of you have also made efforts to be more "green" and most likely, you do a better job than I do.  The Catons have further to go.  But I am reflecting today on what we have changed so far:

1.  Reduce our waste.  I've noticed how much garbage we take to the curb each week.  We used to fill at least two garbage cans plus some.  Now we're usually down to one.  (probably due to items 2 through 7!)

2.  Recycle more.  Our city recycles aluminum, plastic, glass and cardboard.  I've always recycled cans and plastic/glass containers, but I never really paid attention to cardboard.  Over the past year, I am AMAZED at how much of my garbage is cardboard boxes/containers that can be recycled.  (cereal boxes, snack/candy/cracker boxes, pizza boxes, etc)  Now that we recycle cardboard, I estimate that I am recycling about 50% of our garbage.  (they say you should be able to do 75% recycled... still working on that!)

3.  Trying not to buy non-recyclable items.  I have a lot of work to do in this area.  I'm not even close yet.  However, I do know a way I can make a fairly easy change.  Parents, I know you can relate when I say there are so many cheap, plastic toys that somehow accumulate in our house.  And of course, they usually break the first day we get them.  I am now intentionally NOT purchasing those items. 

Cool note:  I just found out about an organization in Cincinnati that collects broken dolls, action figures and other plastic toys.  Kids invent new toys from the broken ones.  You have to pay to ship it there but I love the idea (for more info, see -  **If you know of other ways to recycle broken toys, please comment!**

And we can't forget Craigslist, garage sales or simply donating unused items that would otherwise just sit in a landfill.  I have been a grateful recipient of unwanted items many times.  Your junk is someone else's treasure!

4.  Deal with my plastic bags!  I figure this topic deserves it's own point.  Yes, I have some reusable bags, and if I remember, I bring them to the grocery store.  (I'm keeping them in the car now so I am more likely to remember.)  I have also started recycling or reusing ALL my plastic bags from stores.  I also noticed that some food items have recyclable bags (duh, you probably know all this, but it took me awhile to figure it out! ha).  My bread bags, bags for produce and some packaged goods can  be recycled.  My local grocery stores and Wal-Mart have a bin where I can recycle them.  It is RIDICULOUS how many plastic bags come through my home within a month's time.  I am SO glad to recycle them or reuse them!!

5. Eliminate waste at our "Mo group."  I have a small community group that meets at my house each week.  Including children, we have about 15-20 people eating dinner.  We have chosen to eliminate disposable eating utensils.  We use "real" mugs for coffee.  We don't use water bottles.  Sometimes we use real plates or glasses, but I'm working toward making it a regular occurrence.

6. Using natural cleaners.  Vinegar is my new best friend!!  See for some great ideas.  I don't choke and wheeze compared to using my other cleaners.  It's awesome!  I've also been using different dish detergent and laundry detergents -- ones that are fragrance-free, free of phosphates and non-toxic.  So far, I've had great experiences with Seventh Generation dish and laundry soap as well as Martha Stewart laundry detergent.  I'm sure there are other great products out there.

7.  Packing lunches/snacks in reusable containers.  Less plastic sandwich bags and waste.

So these are just some ideas -- I'd love to hear what you are doing or changes you have made.  I've definitely got more goals in mind and maybe you can help me with that.  Enjoy your weekend, friends!


Amy said...

I forgot to include one of the biggest changes I've made in the past couple years... PAPER!!! In our county, we have paper recycling dumpsters at schools and other local buildings. I now recycle all newspaper, magazines, junk mail, and all other unwanted paper that comes through my house. YAY!

Sara said...

I feel the same way, Amy. Sometimes I think people get so caught up in partisan things and just don't make an effort b/c being green in a "left" thing. God gave us this place and he expects us to care for it. We have implemented lots of the things that you've mentioned. I've also made an attempt at using cloth diapers (which I'm not super great about, but I do use them sometimes). I have been working on teaching the girls some of these things too. Tessa takes the recycling to the bin and they have to throw their own recycling in the bin we have in the house. I break down all cardboard boxes and we recycle them as well. We typically have double the recycling than we do trash. I use vinegar to clean my floors and we reuse plastic disposable cups if we have them. We recycle all paper/junk mail/school papers etc....well, we try. I can't say we get EVERYTHING. Thanks for the post! It's a good reminder.

Amy said...

i miss you, Sara C. :) thanks for sharing!

sandra said...

I am all about recycling.......the schools in our neighborhood have green recycling "dumpsters" in the parking lots and the schools earn $$$ per pound collected......just an idea for anyone interested...

Amy said...

yes, that's where i take my papers. love it!

Matt Murphy said...

We did a terrible job in Fredericksburg of living green, which is pretty pathetic since I tend to lean a little left, politically, and especially in the area of planetary stewardship. Oh, did I mention that I have a degree in Geology/Environmental Science and my favorite class was Human Environment... in Annapolis, the town makes it easier. I would guess we recycle about 80% of our waste. We do use plastic bags from the grocery store, but they are used to clean up after our dogs on walks. I take public transportation to work and now that the weather is getting warmer, I hope to walk to the grocery store more often (about 10 blocks).

Kudos Amy. Keep it up and if you have any new tips, let us know.

Amy said...

thanks for sharing, Matt. and yes, some cities definitely make it easier than others to recycle.

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