by Katie LaFond
Step 9: Look into Environmentally Friendly Products
- Be aware that being “eco friendly” is now a fad, and a marketing scheme. Don’t be sucked in.
- Many times, you can make your own cleaning products. Baking soda, washing soda, borax, water, and vinegar are great natural solvents. (But be careful when mixing baking soda and vinegar, unless you’re doing a science fair project!). Here’s one resource; there are many
Photo by Arria Belli, used under a Creative Commons License
- Try castile soap in the shower, as hand soap, and as dish soap. You can even use the bars to make your own laundry detergent!
- You can make many personal care products using recipes found online. This lets you know exactly what’s in it and avoid ingredients derived from fossil fuels.
- If you have a septic tank, avoid using products that will kill the natural flora like bleach. The flora will break down your waste naturally, allowing it to cycle back into the ecosystem.
This is part ten in Katie’s thirteen-part series on how to walk lightly on the Earth. Read more: introduction, step 1 (recycle), step 2 (reuse), step 3 (reduce), step 4 (compost), step 5 (drive less), step 6 (local food), step 7 (buy local), step 8 (garden).
by Katie LaFond
Step 6: Locate Local Food Options
This is part seven of Katie’s thirteen-part series on walking lightly on the Earth. Read more: introduction, step 1 (recycle), step 2 (reuse), step 3 (reduce), step 4 (compost), step 5 (drive less).
by Katie LaFond
Step Five: Use Your Car Less
- If you’re near your workplace, ride your bike. Keep your clothes in a bag and change at work.
- If you’re near the places you do your errands, ride your bike. Child bike trailers can be handy for hauling groceries. I had a tricycle with a basket on the back which was a great grocery-getter.
- Combine trips. I do much of our household shopping on my way home from work.
Photo by Luxomedia, used under a Creative Commons License
- If you live in an urban area, consider public transportation or walking for short trips.
- Can you carpool? Some offices help arrange car- or vanpools too. Ask your HR department about it.
- Do you have “stuff” in your car? More weight means reduced gas efficiency. Roof racks create drag, and reduces gas efficiency. If you can remove it and only use it when you need it, consider it.
- When replacing your car, consider a more gas efficient car
This is part six of Katie’s thirteen-part series on how to walk more lightly on the Earth. Read more: introduction, step 1 (recycle), step 2 (reuse), step 3 (reduce), step 4 (compost).
by Katie LaFond
Step 4: Start Composting
- Lots of resources are available if you are interested in learning how to compost. This is just one of many educational websites that are easily found.
- Compost tumblers can be an interesting option to explore, particularly in urban and suburban areas.
- Many towns also offer covered compost bins for purchase with the cost partially subsidized by the town. This can help composting happen a little faster and keep critters out of your pile. Check your town’s website to see if yours is one of them!
- If you don’t have a compost heap, bring your compost to a friend’s heap. I did this for quite a while when I lived in an apartment in the city.
Photo by Joi Ito, used under a Creative Commons License
- Some places will take your compost drop off. If you live in a city, check to see if there is a municipal composting program.
- If you want to compost your meat and oil, you have to get a little more advanced in your composting skills. Talk to your local expert if you’re interested in this.
- If bugs (e.g. fruit flies) are attracted to your compost, you can keep your bucket in the fridge
- Consider starting a worm bin. This can be a good option if you’re in an apartment, and can double as entertainment (worms!) if your child is like mine.
This is part five of Katie’s thirteen-part series on how to walk more lightly on the Earth. You can read the previous posts, too: introduction, step one (recycle), step two (reuse), step three (reduce).
by Katie LaFond
Step 3: Get Serious About Reducing
This is part four of a thirteen-part series by Katie on ways to walk more lightly on the Earth. You can read more here: introduction, step 1 (recycle), step 2 (reuse).
by Katie LaFond
Step 2: Get Serious About Reusing
- Reusable shopping bags and reusable produce bags are great. Most of the reusable bags for purchase are made from polyester or plastic (which comes from fossil fuels). Purchase or make reusable bags made of natural fibers (cotton, hemp, etc) that can be composted when they are no longer usable as bags. Free patterns can be found here.
- Use reusable containers instead of plastic wrap. Bring them to restaurants for leftovers too! (I keep some in the car because I’m forgetful)
- Use reusable coffee mugs at the coffee shop. Keep one in your car all the time just in case you have a sudden coffee craving
- Wash your plastic freezer bags to reuse them
- Reuse containers that your food is packaged in. Spaghetti sauce jars can be useful for leftover soup, used as a water bottle, making herbal tea, as a candle holder, and to hold dried beans/nuts/etc.
- Plastic has its place. With a small child, I often use tupperware or rubbermaid containers to send his lunch to school, pyrex having the potential to smash and make an unsafe
Photo by Kevin Dooley, used under a Creative Commons license
situation for the children and teachers. Well-made plastic containers that can be used for decades and then be recycled is preferable to the disposable plastic (or styrofoam) that is often used, even if you recycle it afterward. There are also stainless steel/metal container options that you can research that can be safer for small hands.
- Remember that the process of recycling often uses a lot of energy and can release chemicals that are detrimental to the health of the world and ourselves as part of it. It is often better than products ending up in landfills, but reusing is often preferable to recycling.
- Facecloth sized cotton towels/rags in the kitchen for drying hands/wiping up spills can help you avoid using paper towels. Cotton will compost when you’re done with them). Keep a basket of them handy.
- Cotton washing rags to wash your dishes can help you avoid using a petroleum based sponge. It’s also more sanitary, because you can throw the rag in the laundry at the end of the day. It can also be composted when it is no longer useful as a washing rag
- Reusable cotton napkins: keep a basket of them near the table.
- Reusable batteries. (Make sure to read the charging instructions)
- Reusable plates/silverware. My husband and I have a small tote that we use to transport 20 plates, cloth napkins, and sets of silverware with us when we attend potlucks. The used dishes go back into the tote to come home with us, and the tote then serves as a dishpan. We wash the dishes, let them dry, and then they go back into the tote to await the next potluck.
- You can also bring your own plate/napkin/silverware with you when you attend potlucks. Metal pie plates can be very useful.
- Cloth diapers. If you have a baby, cloth diapers are a great way to reduce the amount of trash you make. Bonus: it saves money! Borrow some prefolds, a variety of covers or soakers, and perhaps some “all-in-one” type diapers to determine your favorite type. See if any of your friends have some you can use, or look on Freecycle/Craigslist to buy your diapers. Washing them is not hard. Be sure not to use traditional detergent which can waterproof what we hope will be absorbent. Here is one resource.
- Reusable menstrual pads, and menstrual cups. A little pricey, but once purchased, you don’t have to buy products each month, and washing them yourself, you don’t have to worry about what chemicals are contacting your skin. Many different options are available, google “reusable menstrual pads and cups.”
This is part three of Katie’s thirteen-part series on ways to walk more lightly on the Earth. You can read more here: introduction, step 1 (recycle).