Happy Earth Day!

by , under Green Living, personal

Before I get into the rest of my post, if you go to Starbucks with a reusable cup today you can get a free coffee or tea (I’m assuming drip and tea bag, respectively). But still, free!

Last year I wrote a long post about how I was changing my ways to be a bit more environmentally friendly. Which I have. I’m going to share my easy ways of being a bit more green, which is basically my list from last year- but updated with some different vendors.

Bring reusable shopping bags. Reusable shopping bags are readily available these days. I have ones that I use specifically for groceries that are made of a heavy duty canvas and some lightweight ones that I use everywhere else. Yes, it’s a bit of an investment to start- our canvas bags were $1.49 at Fresh & Easy, and we have 4 of those. More stylish bags are a bit more expensive, but when you think about how many plastic bags you use when shopping? It’s totally worth it. RuMe makes a lot of neat bags in various weights and shapes. They even have a clear one that’s TSA compliant for the quart size bags.

Stop buying individual plastic water bottles and use a stainless steel bottle. While the little bottles are recyclable, most wind up in the trash and require a lot of resources to make. Stainless steel bottles are durable, and easy to clean. Most of the manufacturers sell tablets that can be used to clean them, I use a simpler method: baking soda and vinegar. Just put some baking soda inside, add the vinegar… and VOLCANO! I cap it, shake it to let the bubbles work and rinse. If you’re worried about vinegary tastes, the process of mixing the baking soda and vinegar neutralizes the bite of the vinegar, so a quick rinse gets rid of any trace. We use ours all the time, and it’s the easiest way to take the Little Kidlet’s rice milk out with us on excursions. We even have little kid sized ones for the boys! I also have a few BPA-free plastic water bottles, which are also helpful so that you can see how much liquid you have left in them. (Note: Everyone sells stainless steel water bottles now, as well as plastic bottles. Just make sure that both say they’re BPA free. New Sigg bottles are BPA free, and most new hard plastic bottles are BPA free as well- but if your bottle says it was made in China, odds are that it isn’t)
Ditch the paper cups! One of the easiest ways most of us can help the environment is by bringing your own cup to your favorite coffee shop. Most of them will even give you a discount for using your own cup. I use “I’m Not a Paper Cup” which is an insulated porcelain cup that looks like a paper cup. The only downside? It does look like a paper cup. I’ve known people whose spouse accidentally threw it out, and well, TheBoy lost his when an overzealous cleaning person at work thought it was one as well. I even have a cup for cold beverages that I got from Target, with its own plastic straw!
Not only that, using your own mug or cup at work will help cut down on the number of foam cups used. And you get to have something with a little more personality than a cup of white foam.
Use reusable cutlery and fabric napkins. So far, most of my suggestions have seemed pretty normal, right? Well, think about how many plastic forks and paper napkins you’ve thrown out with your fast food lunches. A lot, right? Last year I said I planned on making this change, and regrettably this is one change I didn’t make- but I still want to. Sets I have my eye on- full-sized bamboo silverware, a set with chopsticks and without. I own a few set of chopsticks that I use instead of the disposable ones already, but having the full set of utensils seems like a great idea to me. Also neat, are these stainless steel and bamboo sporks. Extremely portable, they’re great for someone who doesn’t have the space to keep a full set of cutlery. I’m looking at the double ended fork and spoon for the kidlets. (Also at that last link, they have fabric lunchbags and napkins in fashionable colors – here’s a set of plain colored cotton ones.
Buy organic and local produce. It’s easier than ever to buy organic produce. And as more and more consumers push for organic goods, the prices have been coming down, too! Not only that, but it’s also easier to buy locally grown produce. Between farmer’s markets, and simply by knowing what produce is in season, you can buy less-expensive produce that doesn’t have as much of an environmental impact.
Ditch the dryer sheets. While we stopped using them because of my son’s allergies, dryer sheets create a lot of waste when you start to think about it. We use reusable dryer balls that last for years. You can also find some made from wool. Ours were about $9, and we’ve used them on countless loads – if you start doing the math, they wind up being much less expensive.

Some other great links- Stainless steel lunchboxes (a bit on the small side, great for kids), which are extremely durable, easy to clean and free from lead and BPA. A fabulous lunch box from OOTS which is stylish and great for everyone. And stainless steel straws.

As you can see, it’s pretty simple to make your life a little more green. No wind turbines, compost heaps necessary.