Above all, try something. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Reflections

Don't worry. I'm not going to harp.
I wont guilt you into remission with tales of starving, drowning, and dwindling baby polar bears, or miles and miles of toxic floating plastics in the Pacific. I am not going to attach the scary real-time movie of jet planes swarming around the earth in a 24 hour period.
What I will do is give you some insight as to what we do to help out Mother Earth, and how it has changed the way we think about waste.
First off, I need to give credit where credit is due. This past summer, our bass-thumping buddy Joe lent me a copy of the book No Impact Man, by Colin Beaven.
Holy Crap.
I was riveted from start to finish.
The book is a true story about how the author (Colin) and his small family, make a one-year commitment to making absolutely no impact on the earth. This means: creating no waste, creating no carbon emissions. For those of you scratching your heads wondering WHAT THE HECK does that even mean, let me give you some examples.
For one, Colin, his wife, his two-year-old baby girl, and his dog, can no longer ride in vehicles creating carbon emissions. They are forced to walk, scoot, or ride bikes to each and every destination, rain or shine.
Secondly, no trash. This means, buying food and groceries in bulk amounts and bringing their own containers and bags to the store. Any grocery item that comes with its own waste, like a bar of soap in plastic shrink-wrap is a NO-GO.
Lastly, no coal powered energy used! Yikes! This means: natural light, solar power, no ovens, no fridge, no washing machine....etc. Amazing.
Did I mention they had a two-year-old?
His year was a stressful one, but reading along with him as he passes through all his stages of Green Guilt was completely enlightening. I wanted to feel the feelings he felt, first-hand.
Immediately upon finishing No Impact Man, I signed up for a course in Chemical and Biological Engineering. The course, now just ready to wrap up for the semester, THANK GOD, has brought me further into the hot topic of global sustainability.

Trash vs. Diet

Are you a healthy eater? If you say yes, chances are you don't produce much grocery waste. Congrats! Give yourself a pat on the back. But what does it mean to be a healthy eater? In my opinion, it means you 'Shop the Perimeter'. Generally, grocery stores are set up with 'Whole Foods'; produce, bakery, meats, and dairy sections, on the outside edges, or the perimeter of the facility. Whole foods are still in their natural form, such as fruits and vegetables, and meats. These naturally occurring foods are very high in nutritional value, and lower in cost because they lack the processing fees.
The center of the store is where the 'Processed' foods are kept. Processed foods are not only terrible for you, being extremely low in nutritional value, but they also come with loads of packaging, or waste. This packaging is rarely recyclable. Some examples of processed foods are: Oreos, Potato Chips, frozen dinners, etc.
So let's think for a minute about what we buy at the grocery store now. Imagine yourself, armed with a pocketful of reusable cloth and plastic bags, a few empty clean glass jars for buying bulk Olive Oil, Honey, Peanut Butter, etc. You and your arsenal of bags, work the perimeter of the store, slowly filling your cart with loaves of freshly baked breads, locally grown organic fruits and vegetables, and a few pounds of bulk grains like rice and pasta. Throw in a couple organic dairy products, and you're good to go. Your bill is low, and you leave the store happy. You get home and unpack your reusable bags.......
Vitamins and minerals, not pesticides and antibiotics.
It's wonderful. Try it sometime.


Here are some other ways in which I have changed:
  • no paper towels or paper napkins~ We keep a basket of clean cloth napkins on the dinner table to last us through the week, and aren't afraid to reuse them for two meals. We keep at least 20 clean dishtowels close to the kitchen to wipe up spills and messes instead of using paper towels. I have a separate laundry hamper for dirty napkins and dishtowels near the kitchen, and wash once a week so as not to promote mold, mildew and stink.
  • create earth friendly cleaning products~ I make my own Laundry Detergent, Fabric Softener, and general household cleaning products from these 5 basic ingredients: Distilled White Vinegar, Borax, Washing Soda, Ivory or Castille Soap, and Essential Oils.
  • recycle~ not like: "I recycle! I pay ten dollars a month for curbside service!" I mean REALLY recycle. Take your empty soup cans and punch holes in the bottom with a hammer and nail. Grow seedlings on a window sill with them. Give your too-small jeans (I have many) to a smaller friend. Tear up old newspapers to make mulch for your garden. Keep boxes to use at Xmas time. The list is never ending!
Happy Earth Day everybody and let's start by making small changes everyday!


  1. sounds amazing katie! you have made me feel guilty! although i must admit i already do a lot of the things you suggested ESPECIALLY at the grocery store. i always feel guilty because we definitely use too many paper towels - need to work on that issue. i'd like to read the book - sounds like a good one.

  2. I like the no paper towel/no napkins idea and have thought about doing it before - now I think I will. I make my own fabric softener, need to look into laundry detergent. I'll be doing cloth diapers and cloth wipes this time. I definately need to decrease my trash and want to research composting we have way too much trash still and a lot of it is food.

  3. Sue maybe try out white vinegar in your downy ball which is earth friendly instead of the chemical laiden conditioner.....better for the skin, laundry, AND the ground water.
    alex it takes a few weeks to get used to not using paper towels, maybe hide them for a while, eventually you realize towels are tougher and soak up more anyhow:)

  4. i would also like to say for the record, Borax is a poison, should not be injested, and it is not great for the environment....but it is MUCH MUCH MUCH better than bleach, and should be used as an alternative to it. use in moderation. ~katie (not signed in)

  5. I actually have searched for a "downy ball" and can't find one! We just pour our homemade fabric softener on an old sock and put it in the dryer. I'd like to find a downy ball.

  6. Just found your blog and am reading it from the first post. Try this for recycling.... Raise "RED WIGGLERS". They can be gotten mail ordered on the internet and they will consume all your house-hold waste and yard trash and turn it into compost. Even the newspaper and boxes can go in. No meat, dairy or greese. I started with 5,000 worms in april and now (the end of Augest), I have upwards of 20,000! give it a try.

  7. hi tom, thanks for following. funny you should post this, as we put our first pound of red wigglers into the compost two weeks ago! they seem to be in heaven.....