Sometimes going green can be an hard thing to do. We feel like we like it's all or nothing. You may think that since I have a blog called, "Ashley's Green Life" that I'm living the high-fab super green life. But I'm not. I guess you could say I'm one green girl, but on a budget! In my "green-dreamland" I would drive an electric car, have an organic garden in my backyard, solar panels on my roof, bamboo flooring throughout my house, and all my appliances would be Energy Star certified, just to name a few! He he! What can I say, I like to dream big! But, since I don't exactly have the budget to buy or do all of those things, I don't abandon ship and say, "Screw this going green stuff...better go buy some paper plates and forget recycling!" Instead I do what I can with what I have. I make my own cleaners, I buy organic, I recycle, and use compact fluorescent light bulbs, and I always turn off the lights when I'm not in a room, just to name a few.
|"I've got big GREEN dreams too!"|
1-Recycle. Nowadays, recycling is easy as pie. Most recycling pick ups allow you to throw all your plastics, cans, and paper products into one tub, as opposed to sorting it like back in the day. I pay about $3-4 a month to have my recycling picked up by my trash pick up company. Does yours offer a recycling service? There are also a variety of drop off bins located throughout communities such as with school districts or recycling centers sponsored by the city itself. Recycling is key if you want to start enhancing your "green-ness" because it gets you thinking about the products you use and the effect they have on the environment. Instead of all that packaging, cans, and plastic going to a landfill it will now get used to make new things, a description I tell the 3-5 year olds in my class all the time. We even make bulletin boards to celebrate recycling, like the one seen below where I put my student's pictures inside of a recycling triangle they cut out. We then put the caption: "I know how to reycle" inisde the triangle." I'm glad they don't mind my green-ness too much!
My tip for making recycling even easier...put bins throughout the house to collect recycling and then once they are full, dump them into one main bin. If you've got to walk all the way to your garage or to another level of the house to recycle something, you're not going to do it. Make your life easier and put one close to where you usually have things to recycle. Since I'm kind of a recycling freak, I have a container in nearly every room to collect recycling (kitchen, office, bathroom/bedroom...you know all those paper tags that come on clothes or the boxes makeup and cosmetics come in, well I recycle those too). Below is the box I put my recycling in when I'm in my kitchen. Once it gets full, I empty it in the garage. The same goes for the other containers I have around the house. Now don't worry about going out and buying even more recycling bins, see what you have around the house. I just use old boxes (like the one below) or other old containers to put the recycling in. Easy peasy.
|Jackson reminds us to make a stop at the recycling box|
before throwing something away.
2-Invest in some reusable cloth napkins.
|So long paper towels!|
One easy way to start your "reusing" trend is with a nice set of cloth napkins. Think of it as a paper towel challenge...see if you can go 30 days without using a paper towel. Sound like a daunting task? Again, ease in. Here's a more in-depth post I did specifically about saying goodbye to paper towels that might help you. Start off with purchasing a set of cloth napkins. I have two favorites:
1-Custom Reusable Unpaper Towels from EcoEllie on Etsy. $17.99 for 24 single-layer napkins. These rock because when you get the "custom" napkins, you get to choose from whatever style or pattern of fabric you want...and there are 525 types to choose from! As you can see above, one of my favorite prints was the recycling triangles...imagine that!
|Unpaper Towels from EcoEllie|
2- Unpaper Towels by Made in the Red Barn off Etsy. $23 for 24 napkins (Although I originally got white napkins, I'd suggest another color, such as these awesome hand-dyed ones that way they will look better longer since white tends to stain a bit easier.).
|Unpaper Towels by Made in the Red Barn|
These two are my favorites, but there are tons of brands and styles out there so search around. You could even get a set of washcloths from Wal-Mart to get you going. Whatever works for you is fine. The idea is simple, use the cloth napkins in place of traditional paper towels. So you spill something, grab a cloth napkin. You need to wipe your mouth after a delicious meal of vegan sloppy joes, grab a cloth napkin. Now once they get dirty, simply throw them in the laundry with your other clothes, wash them, and then use them again, and again, and again. Ahhh...doesn't it feel so good to go green!
Just like having a system in place for my recycling, I also have a system for my cloth napkins. I use this "Unpaper Towel House" also from Made in the Red Barn off Etsy ($39) to store my clean cloth napkins. It's great because there's no folding, just lift off the lid, stuff them in and you're ready to go.
|My cloth-napkin dispenser.|
Now after the napkins get dirty, I simply throw them under my sink in an plastic container (just a simple plastic package my spinach came in). Once that container gets full, I dump it in with a load of laundry, and then the cycle begins again.
|The "dirty napkin" container under my kitchen sink.|
One step further: Go beyond cloth napkins and see what else you could switch from disposable to reusable. How about some reusable grocery bags? You know you see those at your local grocery store every time you check out. How about picking one up next time. Yes, they are a bit of a hassle to remember, but it sure feels good to know that I don't need to waste any plastic bags to get my groceries from point A to point B (from the store to my house) and never used again.
3-Invest in some glass Pyrex containers.
|All my leftovers in Pyrex containers.|
Take one look inside my fridge and what do you see nestled up to all my yummy gluten-free and vegan condiments, food, and produce? Lots of glass Pyrex containers. In this next step, we will be cutting out plastic from our lives and replacing it with it's older, wiser, stronger big brother...glass. I used to have a fear of glass. It seemed so heavy, breakable, and unsafe. Plastic was the better choice right? Wrong. I learned that plastic containers can leach all kinds of nasty little chemicals into our food and bodies...some of which can even mimic hormones like estrogen!
Do you have any of those plastic Tupperware containers that are all cloudy, worn, and stained looking? Kudos for trying to kind of go green by reusing them again and again, but they may actually be hurting you by leaching chemicals into your food. They get even more a bad rap when they undergo extreme temperature changes, such as when they are frozen or microwaved. Yuck! Plastic, you suck! Get on out of my kitchen!
|So long plastic tupperware!|
Instead invest in a set of glass Pyrex containers. Such as this set of 7 bowls of varying size with matching lids, which costs $22. There are all kinds of brands, styles, and sizes out there so shop around and see what works for you. The cost for these containers is minimal and you will get use out these for many years to come since they won't scratch or wear down like their plastic counterparts. Even better, you don't have to worry about any toxic chemicals leaching into your food. Just a tip, be sure to take the plastic lid off when you microwave your leftovers in these containers.
|One of the many shelves in my kitchen that's full of glass|
Another green favorite food storage item of mine is mason jars. While they store liquid items more commonly, I also use them to organize my dry-bulk foods like beans, lentils, and TVP. Mason jars sure are amazing.
4-Replace at least one of your cleaners with a green alternative.
|Mixing up some "green cleaner" back|
when I was pregnant with Avery.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, the air inside our home is often more toxic than the air outside. Who knew? Actually I knew, only because I've researched and learned that the "fresh clean smell" we all strive for in our house cleaning ventures, may actually be harmful to health because in order to accomplish this task a number of chemicals and toxic ingredients need to be used. I won't bore you with the details, but the idea is...the simpler the ingredients, the simpler the product. So for this step we're going to trade chemical-scientific sounding ingredients for simpler, more natural ingredients. This can be done by buying a greener version of a clening product you like, such as with brands like Seventh Generation. Or you could make your own cleaners from scratch. Here's some of my favorite green cleaning recipes that are super simple, easy, and cheap to make, as well as my favorite store-bought cleaners.
|My absolute favorite homemade multi-surface cleaner!|
All you need is: water, peppermint castile soap, tea tree oil,
and a spray bottle.
5- Try to go meatless one day a week.
|Sunshine and Morningstar Burgers are favorites around|
this green house.
One step further: Try to cut out all dairy on that meat-free Monday...thus making it a Vegan Day. Too much? Take it similar to the green cleaner swap out, as you run out of one meat or dairy item, try a vegan alternative. Regular butter runs out...try some vegan butter. Skim milk runs out...try some Rice Milk. Maybe you'll find a vegan alternative you like better than the original. You'll never know unless you try.
So those are my top five simple and easy ways to go green right now. I'm sure I could go on and on with many more, but I'll leave you with these for now. Go on and prosper my green friends.