Honoring Earth Day

Earth Day was this weekend and as long time readers know, this is a very special day to me. Though I am of the mind that every day is earth day, I still love that there is a holiday honoring it. I didn’t have time to get this post up in time for the day itself thanks to a hectic work week leading right into the March for Science over the weekend. It is unfathomable to me that we are living in a time when we have to march for facts, when we have to fight for long and well established science, and where politicians with no experience in STEM fields but plenty to gain personally for their denial, avoidance, and ignorance of these crucial and pressing issues are the ones shaping our “policy” (in this case, mainly ripping away crucial protections and funding previously in place.) I have an undergraduate degree in biology and my medical career centers around science. It IS science. The future of our entire world quite literally depends on science. So, we spent the weekend marching and celebrating and thus, this post is a bit delayed.

As I do every year at this time, I try to think of more ways I can do my part to help the earth. One area I have identified as a growth opportunity for myself is to create less food waste. To this end, I have been trying to make at least a dinner or two a week when I cook based on using up items we already have on hand in the fridge, freezer and pantry. This saves us purchasing ingredients specifically for those meals and uses up many items that would eventually be wasted. So far this is going very well and has the added benefit of lending itself to more creative cooking. Combined with my normal meal planning strategy, this should help reduce waste.

On a related note, I am continuing to pay even more attention to being a conscious consumer, particularly when it comes to fashion. This is an ongoing learning process for me and definitely requires effort in seeking answers to tough questions about the things I buy. Where did this come from? Who made it? Was the environment considered in the making of this fabric? etc etc. I’m doing my best to move away from fast fashion in three main ways. First, simply in using what I already have and buying less. Consume less. This might seem obvious but I have to admit that in our consumer culture, this requires a lot of conscious mental effort on my part. Instead of buying things simply because I can and I like them, I am trying to be more mindful of whether a potential purchase is necessary and if maybe something else I already own would be fine. Second, I am making more and more clothing for myself and Caroline, with a few things for Andrew when I find good boy patterns. This is useful both because I can monitor exactly what materials are going into the garments, and because understanding what is required to create a garment by hand from start to finish reinforces my desire to make thoughtful, conscious purchases. Last, I have been really working to use my purchasing power to support companies with good practices both for the earth and for their employees at all levels. I am excited because I think I have found a lot of good sources in this respect and this will be a topic I revisit often in future posts to highlight some of these to share them with you.

On a smaller but no less important scale, I continue to try to cut out plastic waste. I have done this significantly in many areas including converting most of our food storage to glass containers. One thing I have not been great about so far is our use of plastic bags. We use quite a lot in the kitchen for storing partially used foods or for protecting things in the freezer. I’m still looking for the best answers here. I try to put leftover items in small reusable containers rather than use a plastic bag. One notable exception is storing leftover cheese and to be honest, this is our primary source of plastic bag usage. I recently decided to try out these bags and they have been great so far. Hopefully this will help us cut back significantly on plastic bag use. The other thing is plastic wrap and that is, at least for me, a hard habit to break. I am planning to try out Bee’s Wrap or a similar product (sharing just the search here so you can explore other brands as well). If you use something like this and have comments or recommendations, I would love to hear them!

Here is the running list I share every year, which includes even more suggestions on changes you can make at home.

  • Use reusable grocery bags (and don’t forget reusable produce bags as well!)  No need for plastic. For all those who own reusable bags but forget to bring them to the store, put them back into your car IMMEDIATELY after you unpack the groceries.  Then you’ll never be without them.
  • Recycle as much as possible.
  • Buy local, eat local.  Supporting local farms and food providers benefits you, them, and the entire local economy. (Check this site to find farmers markets near you!)
  • Find local markets and support them rather than big box supermarkets. In Indy, Wildwood Market, Goose the Market, and Moody Meats are just a few great options that offer all sorts of local goods.
  • Cook at home instead of going out to eat. So many benefits – saves money, fuel, reduces waste and packaging, and it’s better for your health!
  • When you do eat out, support local restaurants instead of huge chain entities. In particular, seek out eateries that focus on serving local and seasonal fare. It tastes WAY better, and supports the local economy. Win-win!
  • On a related note, bring your lunch to school or work instead of buying food.  It wastes less packaging, tastes better, and is usually healthier. (My Let’s Do Lunch series was created for this purpose.)
  • Make school lunches for your kids. Same idea as above! Follow me on Instagram and check out my hashtag #anniesschoollunches for inspiration.
  • Give up paper towels, napkins, and disposable dishes or utensils.  Stock up on reusable alternatives – they’ll last you a long time and save money in the long run.
  • Don’t use plastic water bottles.  Buy a reusable bottle and refill it instead.  (And don’t drink other things that come in plastic bottles such as soda or juice – they aren’t good for you anyway.)
  • If you do end up with a plastic cup or bottle while out and about and recycling is not easily accessible, don’t just toss the item in the trash because it is convenient. Bring plastic cups, bottles, or other packaging home and recycle them! 
  • Start a garden and grow your own food.  So fun and rewarding! My friend Tara has great gardening info on her blog.
  • Can and preserve your own foods so you can buy less processed food and its associated packaging.
  • Give up your daily coffee shop trips and brew your own treats at home. (Here are a few things I make at home to avoid the coffee shop.)
  • Make your own yogurt and fruit mix-ins to avoid the waste of all those individual yogurt containers.
  • Cut down on junk mail by opting out of catalog and coupon mailings. Visit websites of the offending companies and have your address removed from their mailing list. Much better than recycling junk mail is not having the waste created in the first place. Try the app Paper Karma to help with this!

I normally include a series of giveaways with this post but in the interest of time, I am going to put those off just a bit. I will do them soon but wanted to share this first. Stay tuned for those!