When I was eight years old I attended a homeschool conference with my family. I don't remember everything about it, but my mom signed me up for different sessions and she didn't inquire about my preferences in the matter. One of the sessions she enrolled me in was "Recycling". Even at eight I had very definite opinions about...everything, and I remember asking my mom why she put me in such a weird class. How boring would a class about recycling be?! But, as usual, mom knows best, and it ended up being the most interesting class of the conference. I was fascinated by how useful, frugal and "green" recycling was. Even at eight, I realized that seeking to be kind to the world God made was a type of good stewardship.
I don't remember everything I learned in that class, but I have always tried to remember that making the best use of the things we have is a way we can honor the Lord.
"To the your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens,the earth and everything in it." Deuteronomy 10:14 NIVSo, since Earth Day is coming up, I thought I would share some of the things that I do to be not just "earth friendly", but also frugal! It constantly amazes me how frequently those things go hand-in-hand!
1. My reusable water bottle. My mom (see above!) introduced me to these water bottles. I am ashamed to admit that for *years* I have been a dedicated bottled water drinker. Like as many as five bottles a day. While we do recycle, and only pay about $0.10 each for the kind we drink, it was a habit that I kept trying to break. But plastic reusable bottles, even the expensive CamelBak type, just didn't cut it for me. I had no idea that it was because I wanted my water to stay cold! These "S'well" bottles keep my water cold for hours, they are super cute, and while they may not seem frugal, I figured that at the cost of bottled water, it would only take a couple of months to make my investment worthwhile. I was fortunate though, that my sister gave me mine for a birthday present! I switched to using a Brita pitcher, and so I just fill my bottle with cold water throughout the day. I have never had much trouble drinking enough water, but now I can do it without feeling guilty!
2. Dryer Balls. So, these actually came about because my current washer does not have a fabric softener dispenser. I tried a Downy ball. It would dump after the spin cycle, forcing me to re-wash my entire load. I tried a type of spray-on fabric softener. It constantly clogged its own dispenser and was expensive to replace. I have never been a fan of softener sheets. So after using my oldest sister's dryer balls, I decided it was time to get my own! I use a combination of the wool ones I linked to, and a set of these that another sister gifted me. I have puffer fish, but those hedgehogs are too cute! Anyway, I line dry a lot of our clothes, using two indoor drying racks (we live in an apartment) but I often give them a quick fluff in the dryer to take the stiffness out. During the winter I have to dry more things in the dryer, too, as it takes longer for them to get dry. I have been using dryer balls exclusively for the last year and half, and I haven't looked back. I haven't bought fabric softener or had any more trouble with static than I had previously (pro tip: static is caused by clothes drying at different rates so try to wash like fabrics together to minimize that!). So, I am saving money, and not putting more chemicals in the water system, and not needing to recycle or trash bottles from product. Win!
3. Reusable bags. The little owl in the photo above is actually a reusable tote! I loved it so much I bought one for each of my sisters. I have had that one for over two years and it is definitely my favorite. Why? Because it folds up so small I keep it in my purse. I don't always carry a big purse, but there is always room for that bag. Because I always have it in my purse I have used it countless times when I would have otherwise had to put my purchases in a plastic bag. When I get home, I empty it and put it back in my purse. It is no more work that emptying and dealing with a plastic bag. That little guy was about $2 in store (World Market) and I have definitely gotten my money's worth. I keep other reuseable bags in my car for grocery trips and Target runs, but even when I am not in my own car having a folded bag in my purse means I can skip the plastic bags! Love.
4. Cloth napkins. This is one of those things that people roll their eyes over and swear they could never make it work. But honestly: have you tried it? It is one of the best "green" switches I have made. I hate paper napkins, and face it: they encourage wastefulness! Rarely can you use just one. I am a fairly messy eater (just being honest) but I can make a single cloth napkin last all day. I converted my husband to using them too, and now he won't use anything else. Plus, they are far more useful than a paper napkin. It only takes one to clean up small spills, and they are great for wrapping around cold drinks (like my morning smoothie) or to use as a make-shift potholder. I think it is well worth the tiny bit of extra laundry they make. I keep them folded in my silverware drawer for easy access, and I have about 14 for our family of four and I rarely run out unless I don't do laundry for days. My biggest tip here: dark colors! They hide stains better. I have this kind from Target and the original ones I purchased almost six years ago are still going strong!
5. Re-using zippered plastic bags. This one is one of those that people think is a little ridiculous. I myself find it to be really easy and kind of a no-brainer. Plastic bags are expensive. Often they are just holding frozen fruit or pieces of pizza in my refrigerator. Why would I *not* wash them out and re-use them? I simply put them in with my hand wash dishes and then stick them over a spoon handle or a glass in my dish drainer to dry them out. Once they are clean I put them in a gallon ziploc that I have on the side of my fridge (I keep it there with a magnet inside). I don't reuse any that have had raw meat in them, but when I divide up my ground beef from Costco to freeze it is great to know that I can grab a bag that has already served a useful purpose before it has one last job holding raw meat. Then I can toss it without feeling like I am throwing out money and making extra trash.
I try to do other things to, but these are the ones that I found the easiest to integrate into my every day life. Some other things I do:
-no paper plates (Except for company! Ha!)
-only fabric cleaning cloths
-no paper towels (Except for cooking microwaveable bacon!)
-not putting my produce in bags at the store (I have reusable ones I use sometimes, but often I just skip it altogether)
-limiting "single serve" items to reduce packaging
-using as much natural lighting as possible during the day
-using lamps instead of overhead lighting
-keeping the heat low and the a/c high
-only using "real" dishes and silverware when I pack my lunch
-trying to limit food waste (freezing things, making applesauce or banana bread, etc.)
I figure that every little bit helps! I am always looking for ways to make small changes that hopefully add up. Do you have any tips for things you do to be "green" or earth friendly?