Real people, real eco

Recycla was recently reading through the archives of this blog, revisiting posts from the past few years. The Eco Women have offered a lot of advice, most of it about actions that are relatively easy to handle. That’s the Eco Women’s mission — to show you all the easy ways you can reduce your impact on Planet Earth. It occurred to Recycla that it might be helpful to share some things with you so that you can see what she does — and does not do — on a daily basis. She’s not perfect, nor does she claim to be, and some days are easier than others.

Recycla does the basics: She takes her own shopping bags with her to the store about 99% of the time. She never buys bottled water. And she definitely recycles and composts. In fact, Recycla as much as she can. Her town has curb-side pick up for glass, metal, cardboard and paper, and some plastic. Since not all plastic is picked up, she has another bin for the other plastics and takes those to Whole Foods, where all plastics are recycled.

One area in which Recycla could use improving is what happens when she cleans her daughters’ rooms. About two or three times a year, she gets fed up with the messes and goes into the pink and purple bedrooms across the hall and starts dealing with the clutter. Depending on her mood and the extent of the chaos, she’ll do a good job of sorting the junk into piles for donate, recycle, and trash … or if she’s irritated and in a hurry, she won’t and it all will go into a big black trash bag to be thrown out with the garbage. *Hangs head in shame.* But, in general, the family produces only one kitchen bag of trash a week.

In terms of utilities, Recycla’s family lives in an energy efficient home that has good insulation and a variety of water-saving features. Now that it’s warmer, the family is angling the mini-blinds in the windows to block the sun’s rays and therefore keep the house cooler. Most lights have fluorescent bulbs in them and the family is good about turning off lights and other electronics when they’re not needed. They also make a point to only run their dishwasher (Energy Star rated, of course) when it’s full.

One eco thing that Recycla has not done yet — and she’s almost ashamed to admit this — is install rain barrels outside. This is especially galling, as she is an avid gardener, so that water would be so helpful to have in July and August. The main reason she has not gotten rain barrels has to do with the design of her house and the location of the gutter downspouts (far from where she needs the water), but she realizes that she needs to just suck it up and do what’s right.

As for food, the family tends to cook from scratch, even though sometimes it’s not convenient. For example, Recycla’s daughters have never bought lunch at school because the food is usually processed crapola that’s reheated in the school kitchen. So every evening before they go to bed, the girls prepare part of their lunches and then in the morning, Recycla and her husband finish packing them. While there are a lot of pre-packaged single serving foods available, the family doesn’t buy them because they’re more expensive and because they create more waste. Nearly everything in the girls’ lunches is packed in reusable containers and whatever isn’t reusable is recycled in some way.  So, yes, that takes more time, which is a precious commodity in the mornings, but it’s such an ingrained habit now that Recycla can’t imagine doing it any other way.

For the rest of the family’s meals, they cook most nights and it’s almost all from scratch. The only boxed foods in the pantry are pastas, crackers, and granola bars. Yes, Recycla could make all of those things, but she isn’t interested in being perfect and those food are where she draws the line.  Most grocery shopping is done at local stores, including a grocery store, the butcher, a bakery, and the farmers’ market. From late spring to early fall, Recycla’s kitchen garden adds to the family’s meals.  Recycla would like to be perfect with eating seasonally and locally, but she’s not and she’s okay with that. The family does order pizza (from a locally-owned place) once or twice a month. When they go out to eat, they nearly always eat at locally-owned restaurants and never go to TGIFastfood or McCrap. There are almost no pre-packaged foods involved with dinner, other than pasta.

As for transportation, Recycla has told you before that she works at home, her girls ride the school bus, and her husband bikes to work most days.  As a result, the family is able to have at least one or two no-drive days, every week. On those days, she walks or bikes her errands. On her driving days, she bundles her errands so that she is efficient and is careful with her gas consumption.

When taking care of household chores, Recycla and her family are not perfect in their eco-ness. Unlike some of the other Eco Women, Recycla does not make her own cleaning products because, well, she’s lazy in that regard. Instead, she buys eco-friendly stuff at Target, which means that, yes, in this case she’s shopping at a big box store and not a locally-owned one. Recycla has priced the options at the local eco store and found them to be more expensive than the options at Target, so the chain store will keep getting her money .For laundry, Recycla and her family do not have a clothesline in the backyard and instead use a clothes dryer and, for some items, a drying rack. This is mostly because Recycla and her younger daughter have pollen allergies, so hanging their clothes outside this time of year is like rolling around in a vat of pollen. But, Recycla will also confess that she doesn’t really want to spend more time on laundry than she has to, which includes not schlepping baskets of laundry down the stairs, through the house, and out into the back yard.

Recycla should also confess that she does not buy clothes for her family from eco companies, mostly because they’re more expensive and less convenient. She also does not do much shopping at thrift shops, mostly because she doesn’t have the time or inclination to visit regularly to find what she’s looking for, plus her daughters tend to want specific trendy items (tunics and leggings are huge right now) that won’t necessarily be found at the Goodwill or Salvation Army.

So that’s how things are done in Recycla’s household. She’s not perfect, nor does she strive to be.What about the rest of you? Where are you on the eco spectrum?

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4 thoughts on “Real people, real eco

  1. I’m in a similar place – fairly green, but not perfect. I really like my rain barrels; when you get one or two, you’ll be glad you did. I buy some clothes at thrift stores and consignment shops, too. No-Drive days are not possible for our family, so I focus on bundling errands and making personal no-drive days. BYObags – definitely. It’s all in the philosophy; making green habits into, well, habits.

  2. Like you, it’s so hard to buy eco-friendly clothes–esp. for growing kids. For myself it’s an easier thing to do, though. I have a couple gutters that flow into inconvenient places and I’m thinking about pricing it out to move them so my rain barrels can be easier to use.
    Funny how so much of your habits are related to lifestyle–we drive more than you, but don’t have allergies to contend with so clotheslines are a fair option. Public transportation doesn’t run to rural areas, so that isn’t!
    Great and honest post.

  3. Surely if everyone did a little bit it would make more of a difference than a few people doing a big bit? My biggest pet peeve here in the UK is people buying bottled water. I think there is obviously exceptions around the world where water may not be as safe, but we throw away BILLIONS of plastic bottles a year, it’s crazy! I also read somewhere that if each aluminium can in the UK was recycled, we would need 14 million fewer dustbins… If each person (that can) recycled a little bit more, and were slightly more conscientious in regards to reusing bags etc, then people who are really making an effort wouldn’t have to worry about the fact that they’re not going the whole hog!

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