We're an ordinary family, complete with picky eaters, budget concerns, and time management issues. But to prove that "eating local" works - even for busy families in cooler climates - we're trading Chick-Fil-A and goldfish crackers for grassfed meat and local produce. Join our adventure in learning to eat (sort of) sustainably for the summer!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ramping up

Hello, my name is Gretchen, and my lifestyle is Somewhat Sustainable.

  • I have a compost pile ... but I don't trudge out there in the winter, and it's not large enough to compost all of the leaves we rake in the fall.
  • I recycle cans, bottles, paper, #1 and #2 plastic, and cardboard ... but I don't bother sorting through the trash in my car to bring home the recyclables.
  • I have a ton of reusable shopping bags in my car ... but I rarely remember to use them, and anyway, I need the plastic bags for cat litter disposal.
  • I bought a bunch of CFL light bulbs ... but I haven't installed them because a) they take so long to light up, and b) we sort of use the incandescent lights as a secondary heat source in our craptastically cold house all winter.
  • All of the beef we buy is local and sustainably raised, and I haven't bought a fast food cheeseburger in more than a year ... but I slip occasionally and buy something that contains beef (like chili) at a restaurant.
  • I buy recycled printer paper, and recycled paper towels, and recycled paper napkins ... but I hate the paper towels, I am too picky about my toilet paper to try a new brand, and I should be using cloth napkins instead of paper, anyway.
  • I try to minimize the number of plastic bags I send in my daughter's lunches ... but that means I'm sending stuff in non-recyclable plastic containers that may or may not be BPA free (she's 5, and can't be trusted with glass at school).
  • Canning is fun! But by the time I get all of the stuff washed and prepped and processed and cleaned up, I've probably used more resources (water/electricity/glass) than I would have if I had just bought the canned tomatoes from the grocery store.
  • I have fun being a member of a CSA ... but I still waste a lot of food, either because I don't like it (I'm talking about you, beets and chard) or because I'm too lazy to cook it.
  • I'm trying to install a native plant garden in my yard and I love seeing butterflies and birds in the yard ... but I have no problem paying Trugreen to come and spray god only knows what all over my yard every six weeks so that I can have a weed-free lawn.
  • I have been trying more environmentally friendly cleaning products (like shampoo, soap, dish detergent, laundry soap) and I wash most of our clothes in cold water, but I run all of our clothes through the dryer, even in the summertime.
  • I'm recycling all that I can from the packing materials that came with my daughter's birthday presents - boxes, wrapping paper tubes, paper packing material - and I'm reusing a bunch of gift bags for the millionth time, but I still use plenty of (non-recyclable) wrapping paper and tissue.
I could go on, but I think you get the picture.  So, in my quest to become Supremely Sustainable, I plan to do the following:
  1. Compost everything that can possibly go into a standard pile, including crushed eggshells, dryer lint, yarn scraps, and hair from our brushes. 
  2. Look into buying a worm compost system to use in the winter when I'm too lazy to walk out to the pile.
  3. Look into getting a leaf shredder, or at least use our newly discovered (at the end of last fall) method of shredding the leaves before bagging them.
  4. Switch cat litter varieties to one that is flushable, which should reduce the number of grocery bags I need in the house.  If the litter doesn't work, buy the new biodegradable plastic bags to use for collection.  
  5. Start using the damn shopping bags.
  6. Recycleables from the car come into the house.  Period.
  7. Install the CFL bulbs in rooms where we don't use the lights for heat (bedrooms, living room, kitchen) as the old ones burn out.
  8. Reduce the number of meals eaten in restaurants, and stick to mainly-vegetarian options whenever possible.  
  9. Replace paper towel dispenser with cloth towel and stick roll of crappy paper towels in the closet for cat puke cleanups and other severely gross jobs.  Use microfiber cloths for most cleaning (windows, counters, bathroom, mirrors, etc.).
  10. Keep sending the lunches in reusable containers - maybe look into buying a bento set for next year?
  11. Need to can lots more tomatoes, more tomato sauce and salsa, more peaches and pears, less jelly.  And freezing works better for a lot of things, anyway - maybe freeze some veggie mixes this year instead of just solo veggies?
  12. Cook more of the CSA stuff, or find homes for it with people who like it (Hi, Judy!  Those beets are coming your way!).  
  13. Cancel TruGreen, and see how the yard does.  If the dandelions come back, try removing by hand, or if that doesn't work, look into more enviro-conscious yard companies ... because they won't let me grow a prairie in my front yard, no matter how much I'd like one.
  14. As they run out, replace shampoo and body wash with locally made or enviro-conscious alternatives.  Use miracle cloths whenever possible (seriously, they do work miracles with just water).  Reduce the number of cleaning products in the house.  And start using the clothesline for some things.
  15. Look into making fabric gift bags for future use?  Or switch to using just paper gift bags made of recyclable material?

So, who's with me?  What are you planning to add to your sustainability repertoire this summer?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

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