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Lately, I’ve been consumed with guilt over the amount of waste I personally produce. Living in a coastal town, I’ve seen enough news stories about marine animals killed by waste and plastics that I’ve worried that I personally contributed to each animal’s death somehow.
I have never, however, considered myself an activist of any kind. So don’t worry about me making some grand eloquent argument here for going off the grid and living the ultimate “crunchy” sustainable lifestyle (although, kudos to you if this is something you can accomplish and thanks for generating enough power with your stationary bike to read this blog.)
Being a mom living a modern lifestyle, there are lots of times where I choose convenience over conservation. I realize that most of us moms are constantly trying to be better and more mindful of…well…just about everything. Sometimes when it comes to the narrative about our environment, conservation can seem so daunting and helpless that it’s easier to default to, “Well, if I can’t make the big important strides for this planet, why try at all?”
Instead, there are just some itty bitty steps that, I think, are a great starting point for being mindful of the waste we produce.
Recycle often, and recycle PROPERLY
This is probably the easiest place to start. Just pay attention to the things that are going to the trash. Can they be recycled instead? And are you recycling them properly? First check the guidelines for your city or whichever company picks up your recycling. Pay attention to labeling on packing material and plastic bags – it can often be taken back to the grocery store to be recycled. Packaging for paper towels and toilet paper is often labeled as “store drop-off”! Then make sure you’re not contaminating recyclables. I’m always taking stuff out of the recycling to wash it after my husband throws things in because if it’s not clean, its contaminated and won’t be recycled.
Reusable Grocery Bags
If you want to reduce waste, why not start with the bags that literally only get minutes of use before getting tossed. I use my reusable grocery bags whenever I can PLUS resuable mesh bags for produce.
Reusable Food Storage
Too often I’ve packed snacks or lunch for the kids using ziploc bags that would get thrown away. Or buying water bottles while we’re out. Now, instead, I try to take my favorite Take & Toss bowls and cups. I even found these cute reusable ziploc bags at TJ Maxx that fit in their lunch boxes. For baby food or yogurt, I love these WeeSprout refillable pouches.
Switch to Bar Soaps
I have lots of hair so the plastic bottles I accumulated from shampoo, conditioner, and soap was feeling overwhelming. There are probably lots of local options for hand-crafted soap bars if you look around your town. For my hair, it took me awhile to find a product I like. I ended up trying a sampler of Ethique bars and found options I love for my thick wavy hair.
Menstrual cups/Period Panties
It’s an unpleasant reality, but feminine products also accumulate a lot of monthly waste. After a year or so of being on the fence, I finally tried a menstrual cup and don’t plan to go back to tampons. There’s a learning curve for getting comfortable with it, but I’ve been very happy with my DivaCup even with my heavy flow. If you can’t get onboard with the cup, how about a period panties like Thinx?
We go to a fair share of birthday parties for kids. For my own kids, I usually request “no gifts” because 1) my kids don’t need anything and 2) the things they do receive often go untouched or are broken in no-time (the middle child is especially destructive). I imagine other parents go through the same thing, so when the opportunity comes up, I try to do gift cards for experiences or to our favorite local ice cream shop instead of toys.
This has been a long-term ambition of mine, especially because of the sheer volume of weekly waste disposable diapers produce. I thought about doing it with my first, but my husband was NOT on board with the idea. Then, after doing the vast majority of diapering for the first two kids, and gathering info from friends, I decided I was up to the task. I bought a cheap lot of cloth diapers from a friend and it didn’t take long to feel like I had a pretty good routine down for them. A friend sent me some info on Fluff Love University to help get me started. And then I checked out what Lucie’s List had to say about all the types of cloth diapers to choose from:
I put this one last because I’m just so lazy when it comes to composting, so I’m striving to be better about it. The kids help me create a whole lot of food waste, so I’m hoping to be better about taking the scraps we have to decompose in our very own compost pile. A friend recommends a compost pail on the counter to make it easy (and reduce odor).
How about you? What do you do to go green in your household? What would you like to start doing?