I wanted to find a place to stick the actions we’re taking as a household to lighten our impact on the environment without losing sight of the rest of what this blog is supposed to be, so without further ado I present The Big List. Some of these are new actions, some we’ve been doing for several years now, and still others are one-shot deals that we’re still reaping the benefits of.
When we bought this apartment and began looking at renovations, I was very excited to be able to use some earth-friendly options. As our budget was limited, we couldn’t do everything I wanted, but I think we did pretty well with the big things. Our toilets are low-flow and power flush. Our faucets and shower heads are low flow. Our cork kitchen floor is a hanging installation over the original linoleum (no waste.) All of our appliances are EnergyStar rated.
I was also very excited to enroll in Green Power, and we’ve done so for the past three years. Here in NYC, that means that for every kilowatt hour of electricity we use, one is put back onto the grid from wind and hydropower projects. We use CFLs in all but our bathroom fixtures and have since we moved in.
Our most important action is also the easiest–we take public transportation. I have not owned a car since 1993, and I have no plans to own a car in the future. Clearly it’s easier to do this in NYC than most other places, but I have managed to do so in Northern VA, Albany NY, and Dunkirk NY. This means that the bulk of our transportation footprint is in our yearly flight to Florida. We most likely won’t be making that trip next year, but if we do we’ll probably use carbon offsets this time around.
Other than that, we do the usual recycling, using non-toxic and/or homemade cleaning products, recycled paper towels and toilet paper. Our trash can has loops to hold handles of plastic grocery bags, so we use those for garbage. I carry a cloth bag to the grocery, and we’re in the market for a compact reusable bag that my husband can carry with him for stops on his way home. I have also recently begun keeping a folded up bag in my purse as a just-in-case.
I have become inspired again over the past few months, and we have added a few new things to the list. First, we have joined a CSA in hopes of reducing the amount of packaged and convenience foods we eat. We’ve been getting local milk for the past six months and figured it’s time to go the rest of the way. I hope to get our local food intake to at least 50% by the time the baby is born. 75% would be even better.
A smaller step, but one where I can already notice a difference, was getting a worm bin. It’s pretty staggering to look at the amount of food that would be tossed. With a 4 year old who can’t quite tell the difference between ‘could eat’ and ‘starving’, it’s been a real eye-opener seeing the scrapings in the fridge.
I’m also on a one-woman crusade to reduce the amount of time we spend with electronics running. Heaven knows I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to turning on the tube or internet when I’m bored, and I really want to get myself out of that habit. And, let’s be honest, to get Lucy out of the habit as well. We’ve started noticing how much her speech patterns are moving from ‘conversation’ to ‘narration’ and how much that narration tends to resemble the sing-song repetition of certain characters (Dora, I’m looking at you.) It’s rather sobering, actually. So, yeah, we’re charting how many hours a day the computer and tv are on.
I’m sure there’s more, and I’ll be adding to this as we add actions and as we figure out what’s working and what isn’t.
Other things I’ve started doing:
- cloth diapering
- hanging laundry to dry
- handwashing dishes and using the water to flush toilets
- stopped eating dairy and red meat
- cloth toilet paper
- growing food in containers
- cut our average monthly electric usage by 60% from last year
- cut our heating oil usage by 80% from last year
- reusable water bottles
- buying local or fair trade when buying gifts
- Declining and canceling catalogs
- stopped flying for vacations