It is Earth Day!
As a Homemade Mother, I consider April 22 to be a very special day for our family. This day gives us a chance to reflect on our stewardship of the planet, and I always take some time to think of new ways we can better serve our planet and Mother Nature.
When I was a little girl, my dad would take the kids (and the family dumpster) out to the country road by our house so we could pick up trash. At the time, I’m sure I rolled my eyes and considered it an icky waste of time, but now I really appreciate the lesson my dad was teaching us: even if we didn’t create the mess, it is our duty as citizens of this planet to pick it up. I think I will do the same with my kids today along one of our city streets.
A point of pride for me is the small amount of trash our family generates. On average, it takes us 1-2 days to fill a small plastic grocery bag with trash, and every week our garbage bin is less than halfway full, while most of our neighbors’ are overflowing. My mom recently asked how this is possible for a family of 6…here is my answer:
1. We don’t use paper towels or paper napkins. We quit buying these common household essentials years ago, and we don’t miss ‘em one bit. I’ve found that cloth towels and napkins are just as handy as their disposable counterparts. This choice saves us hundreds of dollars a year, and it also saves hundreds of pounds of trash from the landfill.
2. We make most of our foods from scratch. Whirring up a batch of homemade peanut butter saves tons of plastic from the trash. Turning water and leftover chicken bones into homemade broth means I don’t have to buy the canned version. Plus, no matter what I’m making homemade always tastes better and costs less.
3. We use cloth diapers on our kids. Parents in the USA use an estimated 27.4 billion disposable diapers each year, which means that every year 3.4 million tons of diapers end up in landfills. I’m glad we’re not contributing to that yucky figure. (Want more info on cloth diapering? Click here for my cloth diapering manifesto: http://homemademothering.com/2009/09/the-cloth-diapering-manifesto.html)
4. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle. We are pretty militant about what is allowed in our tiny trash bags, and even the kids understand that certain items belong in the recycling bin. Our neighborhood recently got recycling service, but until then I brought our recycling to a designated drop-off center whenever I was in the neighborhood. Making sure recyclables go into the correct container is a simple way to really reduce our trash.
5. Donate, Donate, Donate. If an item is no longer useful to my family – but still in good condition – I bring it to the local Salvation Army. Every month I haul a few bags over, and I feel good knowing that I’m keeping that stuff out of the landfil.
6. We don’t buy useless crap. While useless crap finds its way into our house from time to time, as a family we do not buy it. Little plastic tchotchkes, junk from the Target Dollar Spot, mindless toys that offer only a few minutes of engagement. Not only is this “throwaway” stuff terrible for the environment, but our modest city home does not have room for anything that does not serve a regular purpose!
7. We believe in Less is More. Unfortunately, American culture has gotten to the point where we all believe in “More for Less!!!!!!” – most of us strive to find the most stuff for the cheapest price, paying no attention to quality (will this item last?) and the impact on the environment (what did it take to get this thing for so cheap?). Perhaps we all need to take a step back and evaluate why we value “stuff” above just about everything else…
What is your Earth Day pledge??
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