Thursday, January 17, 2008

Environmentally Friendly?

So, lately I have been thinking more about what I can do to conserve resources and be more ‘friendly’ to the environment. I already drive a fuel efficient car that is about the size of a toaster, my commute is very short, and I live in a small home that does not use up a lot of electricity or gas. However, there are a few things that I do every day that are NOT environmentally friendly: a few times a week, I go to the coffee shop and get my coffee in a throwaway mug. (the other days, I bring my own in a travel mug) I use paper napkins and paper towels. I use Ziploc bags to carry my sandwich and pretzels for lunch. I use Kleenexes very liberally.

I already have been pretty reliable about remembering to bring reusable shopping bags with me to the grocery store and to the mall and such… and these bags are easier to carry, too! I even reuse produce bags if they haven’t had a cucumber go mushy in them…

But can I do more? After reading a thread in the Etsy forums about what people do to reduce their plastic use, I was inspired… and the answer was an emphatic YES, I CAN do more, with only a little extra thought, and almost no extra effort. I can certainly continue to remember to bring my reusable shopping bags with me – I packed them in my purse today so I can go grocery shopping after work, as a matter of fact. What else?

  1. Use cloth napkins – I went out and bought some this week. They are laundered and ready to use.
  2. Talk to my local coffee shop about using my travel mug rather than using a new disposable cup on the occasion that I do go in and buy coffee. I can do this – the owner is VERY nice.
  3. Pack sandwiches and pretzels in Tupperware rather than plastic bags. No problemo, I have plenty of Tupperware.
  4. Wash out Ziploc bags and reuse them – they are definitely sturdy enough to withstand this treatment. I have washed one batch of Ziplocs already; I didn’t enjoy it. However, it might be worth it!
  5. Consider using handkerchiefs rather than Kleenexes, at least around the house. People in public might not want to look at my grody snotrag, but I don’t care in the privacy of my own home.
  6. Look into buying/ making reusable produce bags. They sell cotton/ linen blend ones online for a ridiculously high price, but I could easily sew some up for a few bucks in a matter of minutes. They certainly don’t need to be works of art!
  7. Recycle paper. There is NO RECYCLING for downtown residents where I live. However, it would NOT be that difficult for me to carry a bag of paper to work with me every week or so to recycle it here at work.
  8. Look into where I can recycle plastic and metal. If there is a reasonably convenient place I could swing by every couple of weeks to bring my plastic and metal containers, I could certainly do that!
  9. Reduce paper towel use. I have a TON of rags and old t-shirts lying around. How hard would it be to wipe up messes with rags or an old sponge, instead of using a paper towel? Not hard at all. I guess the trick would be… do I throw the dirty ones in with my regular laundry (ew), do a full load with rags, handkerchiefs and whatnot… wasting extra water and money…. Do I wash them by hand? Dunno. I need to think more about that one.
  10. Reduce waste in other ways. For instance, I have had the same vinyl shower liner for the entire 3 ½ years I’ve lived in my apartment. I have washed it once before, and it was getting all moldy and gross again. I pondered throwing it away, but instead, took FIVE WHOLE MINUTES out of my life and put it in a ‘bath’ of water and a little bleach. I swished it around, let it sit for a bit, scrubbed the stubborn spots (there weren’t many), rinsed, and boom. In WAY less time than it would have taken to drive to a store and get a new one, the shower liner looks much better. Perhaps it doesn’t look quite as sparkly as brand new, but it is certainly perfectly fine!

One thing I haven’t figured out: what the heck am I supposed to use as garbage bags? Plastic does not decompose in giant landfills; pretty much nothing does, because the piles are so huge that air cannot get to the center of the pile to help things rot. Paper? Cloth? (probably not) Do I use a box and dump my garbage right into the dumpster? This might not be TOO bad, because I compost and my garbage is mostly dry. Hmm. Let me know if you have any ideas on that one.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Most of the ideas will take pretty much no effort on my part whatsoever, other than learning a new habit, such as the ones that involve remembering reusable bags and using cloth/ reusable items instead of throwaway items. Some of them will take some effort, like finding a good place to recycle plastic and metal, and taking the time to wash Ziploc bags. But we’ll see what happens.

I’m curious: What do YOU do in your life to be more environmentally conscientious? Or, is it something you haven’t really thought about? That’s fine, too… I obviously hadn’t thought a whole lot about it until recently, obviously. There are so many more levels past what I am thinking about… trying to buy locally, trying not to buy things that have to be shipped from far away (and thus wasting fuel)… dunno if I’m able to go that far yet…


Marianne said...

How do you compost? Where do you put it? I don't have a yard and I have been wanting to compost but I don't know where to put it.

I love my re-usable bags and cloth napkins, I am trying to use fewer paper towels and I've stopped using commercial cleaners and baggies.

I wish we could recycle in Lowell.

Amanda said...

I'm lucky - one of my neighbors collects compost from a few of us on the floor, and brings it to a farm!

Lowell does have curbside recycling... for buildings with fewer than 6 units. The building I'm in does not qualify, nor do we qualify for our garbage to be picked up by the city.

Do you have somewhere you could put a worm compost bin? One of my roomies had one that we kept out on an enclosed porch that got pretty cold in the winter, but not as cold as outside. It was pretty nifty!

sukeyknits said...

Great to hear about the pro-environment thinking. The best thing to do about your trash (plastic/paper/etc) is to do what you do and have barely any trash at all due to composting/recycling and reducing the amount of waste you produce.

I do have it easy being a one person family with curbside recycling, but I take trash out about once a month (and a small bag). It's amazing how much packaging there is in our consumptive world. Making food from scratch and not buying tons (and being conscious of the packing not just what you're buying) is good. Keep it up!

Amanda said...

suzanne - a whole lot of my trash is recyclable, but we don't have recycling at all in my neighborhood. i'm still trying to figure out what to do about that! it's pretty frustrating. the downtown neighborhood association has been fighting with the city about this for as long as i've lived here.

Trinity said...

It seems like you already have your compost issue solved but to Marianne and anyone else who is curious, I am about to embark on composting that can be done inside of your apartment. It involves a mutli-layered "worm factory" and, of course, the worms to work in the factory. It should be an interesting process. I read through the manual and have found that it isn't as easy as it is advertised to be, but I think it will be worth it.