Updated: Jan 19
There's this notion floating around that seems to connect green living with the catch phrase "Go BIG or go home." The fact of the matter is that this is simply faulty logic; more than that, it's detrimental to the cause. Every single choice you make for the betterment of the planet makes a difference. Notorious zero waste advocate, Ann Marie Bonneau, writes:
"We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly."
Over the course of the last year, my family (5 of us, total) has made some pretty drastic changes to our way of life in order to live more eco-consciously. These changes predominantly exist in the way we perceive the world and show themselves in the decisions we make on a day to day basis. This mindset change mostly involves following the 5 Rs (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle, in that order).
Have we made more visible changes too? Yes. Have we tried new ways to live a greener life? Yes. Have we succeeded at them all? Most definitely... not.
Throughout this process I kept an eco-journal so that I could see our progress, or lack thereof, as we journeyed - and continue to journey - toward a life of respect for our Earth and hopefully prolonging its - and our - life. I am choosing to share snippets from this journal with hopes that my experiences show how living a green(er) life is totally possible, even with a family of five.
My journal started:
I want to work on making our home more eco-conscious and minimal. It will be a long, slow process but I've already got the ball rolling and I'm very happy about that.
Although making these changes can seem time consuming, the majority of our first challenges occurred within ourselves. We had to educate ourselves, change habits, make explanations, and teach our children by remaining consistent and leading by example.
One of our first changes was to refuse bottled water and opt for a reusable kind that we could fill at the tap. This extended into hot drinking cups as well, although - I'll admit - we need to work on the regularity of use for those lately. Remember, every bit counts. We must have saved thousands of water bottles (or more) by reusing ours. Since then, we have used this mentality in a number of other situations as noted in my journal:
Most of the “first steps” or “easy ways” for families to live greener, that I've found online, site ideas that we are already practicing like: no water bottles, recycle, compost, grow a garden, etc. I need to take it a step further now to make it feel like progress. I'm going to make a list of ideas that might help:
Reusable straws (glass, metal, acrylic)
Bulk buying in BYO containers
Reusable wipes and diapers!?
Learn how to garden properly and efficiently
Eco friendly dish cloths
We found that purchasing reusable straws worked just as well as the reusable water bottles and selected Canadian products whenever possible. We also tried out shampoo bars for the first time and WE LOVE THEM! That's all we ever use now. Same with eco-friendly dish cloths. I found a local artisan who knits 'scrubbies' that work fabulously for our dishes and have never looked back.
Next, we bought reusable bags... and left them at home. Story of - seemingly - everyone's life. We needed a solution, and fast. We grocery shop weekly and the plastic bags add up fast. What wound up working for us was to purchase a large crate. We shop, loose items in the cart and van (no need to remember the bags or crate), then we use the crate to make one big trip into the house with our food. I personally like the loose items in the cart - the van becomes tricky with bigger shops but we manage - because it reminds me of my mission: to keep things natural and work to revive the Earth. Most things, natural or man made, comes in its own package anyway, so why not use it. This works for us, it may or may not work for you but it's a baby step toward greener living.
Today, as I was tidying and cleaning the main floor, I noticed - purposefully, as I want our green choices to be conscious and meaningful - how many of our everyday purchases come in wasteful packaging. I am going to have to brainstorm how to remedy that problem.
So, we changed what we bought and how we ate. We now have a fair amount of cloth and glass storage containers that house the loose, bulk items we had previously bought packaged. Also, we are buying different types of items that help us to make our own snacks that, when bought in the store, normally come heavily packaged like: bars, lunch snacks, and quick breakfast items. I have to admit, our granola bars are WAY better than any store bought ones out there and another bonus is that you know exactly what's in them. No mystery ingredients here.
Thoughts while cleaning:
“Yes, I know you say it’s a great deal but a good deal is only good if you actually need it. Otherwise it's just another unnecessary expenditure.”
Finally, one of our big, noticeable, changes was to buy cloth diapers and switch to cloth wipes. This was a big step in our eco-living journey as it requires an investment of money - at the beginning - and, more so, an investment of time, throughout. We bought (gently) used and re-purposed our old receiving blankets as wipes. I loved reusing the diapers and wipes, even though cleaning them was less than pleasurable at times, and drying them on the rack seemed to intensify my feeling of accomplishment.
Our disposable wipes are at a critically low level. This means that we will be starting to use our reusable cotton cloths instead soon. I'm a bit nervous, but also excited, about that.
Just to continue this crazy eco-friendly adventure, I took the leap and spent $200 on cloth diapers today. I wound up choosing gently used diapers to save on cost and I chose the “lil’ helper” brand because it's a Canadian product.
Then, winter came. Drying them inside was less glamorous and guests shy away from helping when your little needs a new bum. As caring for the diapers became more of a chore, I became the sole proprietor and supporter of the movement. This was hard and it happens OFTEN. I am a member of many cloth diapering groups and you don't want to know how many times a momma comes online to post how alone she feels in this process. If you are willing and able to take on this task alone, please do! It can be so rewarding and it can save heaps from going to a landfill. Unfortunately, I was not among the strong women who persisted and we are now back to 'sposies. This is me being one of - what I hope could be - millions, living zero-waste imperfectly. We did, however, continue to use our reusable wipes and they are still going strong!
These examples of green living are just snippets into the possibilities for individuals and their families to begin making healthier choices for the Earth. I am motivated to continue on this journey and confident that you can make a difference too. Later this month, I will be releasing the full journal for my readers to get a kick out of and see how the journey may be bumpy but it is oh so worth it.
Slowly but surely working on it… a bit overwhelmed but trudging through. It feels good to do good.
If you have any questions or insights, please connect with me through the comments below or, if you'd prefer, you can email me directly from my Connect page.
Also, I encourage you to connect with me on social media where you will find all things parenting, eco-friendly, minimal, and complete parenting silliness.
I look forward to hearing from you. Please share with your friends!