Friday, March 2, 2012

(The 1st) Eco-Friendly Friday!

Happy Friday everyone! Today's not just any Friday...it's Eco-Friendly Friday!


See it's even got a logo and everything!

I mentioned yesterday that one of my resolutions for this year is to feature more posts about environmentally-concious living. In order to get started, I decided that I'm going to do five posts this month on various "green" topics in a series that I'm calling Eco-Friendly Friday. I'm really excited to share some ideas that will hopefully be inspiring to all of us (myself included) to start thinking more carefully about the choices we make everyday, as well as the consquences that they have.

Before I get started with today's topic, I wanted to just take a minute to talk a little bit about my journey. As y'all know, the title of my blog is In the Pink and Green. However, I didn't just choose the name because it's a preppy color combo (although it is and I love it), I picked it because of it's deeper significance to what was going on in my life when I started this blog over two years ago. I was in the middle of my first year of marriage, and was facing an unexpected obstacle.

 When Cam and I moved in together after our wedding, I was surprised at what quickly became a constant source of conflict between us--how eco-friendly our home was going to be. See, I'm from the Midwest, and while I grew up recycling things like pop cans and newspapers, that's about as far as it went. It's not that my parents raised me to litter or pollute the Earth, quite the opposite, but it's just that in general people where I'm from weren't really super concerned with all this eco-friendly stuff that's so prevelant today. Cameron, on the other hand, grew up in Oregon where it seems people were a little more ahead of the game in terms of going green and it's something that's really important to him. It was a huge priority to him that the choices we'd make in our home be as eco-friendly as possible, whereas I just wanted to go about my life as usual. This led to us getting in arguments all the time about small things like paper towels, cleaning products, and unplugging appliances when not in use. After awhile, I realized that I could either keep fighting him all the time or make an effort to understand where he was coming from and why all this stuff was so important to him. I (slowly) started to understand that he wasn't trying to just come in and totally change everything I was used to just to irritate me, but he actually had some legitimate reasons as to why he wanted us to do certain things. His motivations we both personal, educational (he was getting his Master's degree in Energy Systems Engineering which focused on renewable energy at the time), and spiritual. Psalm 24:1 says "The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it" (NIV), and to Cam being a good steward of this planet is something he really feels strongly that we're called to do, and that really resonated with me as well. Hear me out, I'm not at all saying that you should go worship the creation, I'm just saying that God created a beautiful world full of resources for us to live in so I feel it's important to try our best not to destroy His creation by trashing it with garbage and chemicals.

So I decide rather than fight making these eco-friendly changes my husband was suggesting, I could try to educate myself as to the reasons behind them. I thought that this blog would be a great way to document my path to enlightenment, so to speak, and share my findings with all of you. However, over the past two years it's evolved and focuses more heavily on other subjects like our travels, recipes, and pictures of Lola (ha). However, that doesn't mean my desire to make better choices isn't still there. Cam and I have worked through our prior differences in this area, as I've better learned to be more aware of making smart choices and he's learned to relax about some things. I'll admit, my journey towards more eco-friendly living still has a long way to go. I'm definitely very uneducated on certain topics and just plain ambivalent towards others. But I want to keep trying.

One thing in the past year that definitely inspired me was attending The Sustainable Living Fair in Fort Collins, CO back in September. It was really neat to see so many people passionate sustainability, but I was most inspired by the talk we heard from one of the speakers, Shannon Hayes. She raised a lot of different points during her speech, but one overarching idea that stuck with me was this concept that just because industrialization has made certain things easier, it doesn't mean that they're better for us or the Earth. Corporate marketing would have us believe that the resourceful way our grandparents lived before all of our modern conveniences can't teach us anything about how to live our lives today...or can it?

That idea brings me to my first Eco-Friendly Friday topic:

REDUCING WASTE

Over the past few years, the being "green" has become an advertising buzzword, and living in eco-friendly life is something that many companies have been all too eager to capitalize on. Today, there are all sorts of "natural/green/organic/eco-friendly" products on store shelves, and it's often tough to decipher the quality from the crap. Which is why I wanted to emphasize what I feel is a super important, and often overlooked, point: living an eco-friendly life is not about buying more, but rather consuming less. It's not about going out and buying every product that has a "green" label on it, but instead looking at how you can cut down in waste in your daily life. Americans create an average of 4.5 lbs of trash each day (per person!), so here are some easy tips to help reduce your personal impact:

(Many of these may seem seem obvious, but I figure we can all use a reminder now and then!)

Via
Say bye-bye to bottled watter: Use a reusable water bottle instead! It takes over 1.5 million barrels of oil to create the plastic for the immense number of water bottles that Americans consume each year, and even though those bottles can be recycled, it takes a lot of energy to create them in the first place and then even more to recycle them. There are about a zillion cute water bottles available today, so there's no reason to continue to buy bottled water day after day.

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Cut down on shopping bags of all types: One thing that amazed me about the customers who'd shop at the travel store I worked at in Boulder is how often people would opt not to get a paper shopping bag for their purchases. If you're just going into a store to buy something you can easily carry out and going straight back to your car, do you really need a bag? Probably not. Thankfully, many people are starting jump on board with the using the reusable bags at the grocery store, but do you really use yours on a regular basis? And even if you do use your reusable grocery bags, do you still end up using a ton of plastic bags for your produce? This is something Cam and I are guilty of, so I'd like to make a concerted effort to start saving some of those bags and reusing them rather than throwing away 5-10 of them after every trip to the grocery store. (You can find some great reusable shopping bag ideas in my green holiday gift guide as well!)

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Buy foods in bulk: In today's supermarket, you can buy individual packages of almost anything. And while I realize it's more convenient to pack a lunch when you buy things this way, it also creates a lot more waste. Purchasing a larger quantity and packing things for lunches in reusable containers takes a little bit more effort, but it also cuts down on the amount of packaging that gets thrown in the garbage each day. It's also a great idea to buy foods in bulk when you can. Not only does it generally save you money (sometimes up to 50% less!) but it also creates far less packaging waste. Studies have shown that if one of out ten products every US household purchased had little to no packaging, the aveage household would eliminate more than 50lbs of waste per year!

Via
Rethink paper towels: This is a big issue for me. I know that paper towels are pretty wasteful, but they're just so dang convenient. I happened to see a great idea on Pinterest the other day (there are a ton of great eco-friendly ideas on there by the way!) that I really loved about how to go paper-toweless in your kitchen. You can find the originally link here, but basically this family put a basket of cheap, white paper towel sized thin towels where their paper towels used to be and started using those instead. I realize you'll have to wash all these paper towels, but I think they idea is if you're using an actual towel, you're going to be less inclined to grab 3 or 4 to clean up a small spill. And even if you're not ready to go completely paperless, a small change can make a big difference as a decrease in US household consumption of just three rolls per year would save 120,000 tons of waste!

How cute are these chevron napkins?! You can find them here.
Nix the paper napkins: In addition to reducing paper towel consumption, cutting down on the amount of paper napkins you use, both at home and out, can make a huge impact. Cam and I use cloth napkins at home every single day, and I'll admit, at first it was a little bit weird for me but now it's just second nature. Plus, there are so many adorable cloth napkins out there, and it's great that you can use them over and over again. Each American uses an average of 2,200 paper napkins a year, so by cutting back on them at home you can reduce that number significantly. In addition, when you're out at a restaurant try to grab only the napkins you think you're actually going to use. I know that many of us (myself included) have a big tendency to grab a huge stack of napkins, but unless you're eating barbeque you can probably get by with less.

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Reduce food waste in the kitchen: This is a huge area for me that I try to work on constantly. When you buy more food than you need that spoils leading you to have to get rid of it, not only are you literally you throwing money in the garbage, you're wasting all the energy and resources need to produce that food as well. For example, each American throws away an average of 12 lbs of uneaten poultry per year. If over a year each household purchased just one pound less chicken, the total water saved by not having to produce/package it would be sixty-six billion gallons. I realize that you are going to have some food waste in the kitchen, so consider composting as an alternative to throwing everything in the trash. In addition to benefitting your garden, you'll save tons of landfill space.

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Rid yourself of unwanted paper waste: Even in the age of the internet, companies still continue to send out junk mail and phone books. The average US household receives 1.5 trees of junk mail each year, but you can reduce that going here and putting your name on the "do not mail" list. (This site and this site both have some other great ideas on reducing mail waste!) In addition, telephone books make up almost 10% of waste at dump sites, but you can opt-out of delivery here.

Via
Recyle: This may seem like the most obvious piece of advice so that's why I saved it for last because so many people fail to realize the incredible impact it could have. If everyone in the US simply separated out recyclable paper, glass, and aluminum products from their trash and recycled them instead, it could decrease the amount of waste sent to landfills by 75%! And considering in currently takes an area the size of Pennsylvania to dump all our waste each year, that would be a great thing.

So there you have it, your first set of Eco-Friendly Friday tips! I'll be back next week with another topic (and I promise these posts won't be quite so lengthy in the future!), so please let me know if you have any questions or ideas you'd like for me to discuss! Have a fabulous weekend everyone! Xoxo


Post Note: All my statistics came from The Green Book by Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M.  Kostigen, and my Eco-Friendly Friday image source can be found here.

7 comments:

  1. This is something that living in Germany has taught me. These people are (what I used to think was) crazy about their trash.

    They have what's called a "gelbe Sack," and it's used for packaging - everything in it gets recycled. Then they have "Pfand" on all of their plastic drink bottles. It's a 25 cent deposit that you get back when you return the bottles to the store. Then, they have paper waste - anything paper goes into that and gets recycled. They also have "Bio" which is food remains and lawn clippings - anything biodegradable. That all gets dumped in a special dumpsite.

    The only thing you have to actually go out of your way to recycle is glass, but even then they have glass bins every couple of blocks where you take your glass containers and separate them according to color.

    Finally, they have what's called "Restmüll," which is everything that doesn't fall into one of the above categories. We're really pretty generous with our Restmüll because we're ridiculous Americans, but we only have ONE bag of it every couple of weeks. ONE BAG! That's the ONLY thing that doesn't get recycled here. I can't believe it! I think I'm going to find it almost physically painful to just throw stuff away when I get back to the states and live in the midwest again where recycling isn't as encouraged or important.

    Thanks so much for all of the pointers, I'll definitely be using these when we get back to the states!

    Sorry for the novel, props to you if you actually read the whole thing!

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  2. I love this post Jane! I love it! It is the opposite for my situation---my boyfriend and I just moved in together and I am the eco conscious one. He tries, but just doesn't know about as many. We went paper-towel-less and hide the napkins in the cupboard to use less of them. We use re-useable pyrex containers to pack our lunch (hardly ever use a plastic baggie!) and try to have little to no food waste by making sure to put meat in the freezer if we don't use it and eating all leftovers. I would love to see you continue to give more ideas on how to be eco-conscious on your blog! good job!

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  3. Oh, thanks for the link to the no mail list because we have been wanting to do that because I always feel so guilty when I get all of that crap. We burn it in the fire instead of recycling it, but I mean, I'm sure that ink being burnt isn't very good for us, you know?

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  4. This is fantastic!!! Great idea! I've been working at a green energy nonprofit so I've tried to be more green in my day to day!

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  5. Fabulous post! I was glad to see we already do many of the things you suggested. Last year we switched to cloth napkins and absolutely have noticed such a difference in how many paper products we buy. My next task is to cut back on paper towels - I grew up using rags to clean up messes, but my husband was raised on paper towels. Definitely a hard habit to break, but I think we're getting there!

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  6. I need to be better about paper towels for sure--I'm a germ freak so the thought of using a fresh paper towel versus a hand towel (that may be dirtied by other people) seems so nice, but I really could cut back! I also have some market totes but need to do a better job of using them..I always forget and leave them in the car when I'm going shopping!

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  7. Love this post - so interesting and helpful. Imagine how much we through away without realising. Your tips are much appreciated!

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Your sweet words make my day! :)

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