Tread Lightly

Today is Earth Day, and while I am far from the poster-child for saving the environment, becoming a mother has made me even more concerned about the state of our planet than I was before.

Like most people, I operate on a budget. While the bleeding-heart liberal in me would like to donate entire paychecks to animal welfare and environmental causes, buy only organic food and clothing for my entire family, and drive a hybrid car, the penny-pinching freelancer in me won't let this happen.

But I firmly believe that no matter what your economic status, there are little things every single person can do to help the environment.

Here are a few suggestions of cost-effective (or free!) things you can do to go green:

1.) Buy (Some) Organics

Isabella's diet consists mainly of organic foods (always organic fruits, vegetables, and dairy). I've written before about why organics are an important choice for my family, but I recently stumbled across this alarming fact: According to the Organic Trade Association, an estimated 2.5 million tons of pesticides will be used in agricultural production this year alone. These chemicals contaminate groundwater, degrade the soil, and put harmful chemicals into our food chain.

While it's nearly impossible for anyone on a food budget to buy all organic foods, why not buy a few each week? Every little bit helps, and it's my experience that in addition to the health and environmental benefits, organic foods taste better than conventionally grown and processed food.

2.) Reuse Plastic Sandwich and Freezer Bags

I got into this habit when I began making Isabella's baby food and burning through plastic freezer bags like crazy. Assuming you haven't used the bag for something extremely messy or smelly, simply wash out the bag after its first use, dry it, hang it over your faucet handle to dry, and reuse it a second (or third) time. Sandwich/freezer bags are made from petroleum plastics, a nonrenewable resource, and they also produce toxic emissions while manufactured. By reusing bags and cutting down your consumption, you can not only help our air quality, but also save a little money in the process.

3.) Replace Halogen Light Bulbs with Compact Florescent Ones

I've been steadily replacing all my halogen light bulbs with compact florescent bulbs over the past few months. Compact florescent bulbs use 50-80% less energy, and last 6-to-10 times longer than halogen bulbs. They cost a bit more, but in the end, you're actually saving money because you don't have to replace them as often and you'll have a lower energy bill each month.

4.) Buy Products With Minimal Packaging

As a mom, I find it infuriating when I have to spend 15 minutes hacking through massive amounts of cardboard and plastic, twist-ties, and thick tape just to release a new toy from its packaging. The waste one toy generates is often three times as large as the toy itself. I've made a concerted effort to seek out consumer products with as little packaging as possible to reduce waste. I also buy in bulk when possible.

In addition, here are a few helpful links:

For a thought-provoking glimpse at the health risks associated with climate change, check out this post written by Amy (aka Asthma Mom).

Sign this Earth Day Network petition to ask Congress to cap greenhouse emissions and require utility companies to generate 30% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030, in addition to other global warming prevention initiatives. (Thanks for the link, Amy.)

Please feel free to share your tips and techniques to help save our environment. I'm always looking for new ideas to do my part.

Happy Earth Day.

11 Responses to “Tread Lightly”

  1. # Anonymous Lis Garrett

    Great reminders, Kristi! I'll be writing my Eart Day post later today, but I definitely think you've touched on a few of the easiest things that anyone can do to make a difference. :-)  

  2. # Blogger Tracey

    I need to re-remind myself of my passion of a year ago to be better to the earth. That's what Earth day is supposed to do, right?  

  3. # Blogger Mom24

    What a great post...thanks for the reminders. I just wish the lightbulbs were a better quality light. I am using them, but I really don't like them. I'm trying hard to cut back on plastic sandwich bags as well...darn those things are convenient! It's a good idea to wash and reuse though. We use organic milk (ouch!), and I try to buy some organic produce each week. I wish the prices would come down, but I know that's not going to happen anytime soon. I use cage-free eggs, because it makes me feel better, but I find very mixed research as to whether it's truly any kinder to the chickens. Happy Earth Day!

    I'll add one more, DS's school is only about a half mile from our house, yet we usually hop in the van to go to school and come home...I'm trying to be more organized and get everyone moving earlier so that we can walk--there's really not a great reason not to.  

  4. # Blogger Andrew

    *rolls eyes  

  5. # Anonymous Amy

    Hey, much thanks for the link love! You've made a good point, too, about how families (including mine) usually have to find ways to live green and still pay their mortgage or rent.

    Another suggestion for making baby food for moms who want to give up ziplocs altogether (I'm still trying to give them up completely even though the girls are in school!) can freeze the puree in ice cube trays. Each cube equals a perfect serving size, and if you're headed out for the day, all you have to do is pop a cube into a container in the morning. It will melt by the time you need it.

    Thanks for mentioning #4---that's an easy one to follow, but it's easy to miss, too!  

  6. # Blogger Pregnantly Plump

    We bring canvas or other tote bags with us everytime we shop. I've stashed some in each car, so we don't forget. We don't buy the ones offered at the stores, we just for some crazy reason get free totes. These have really helped us cut down on the huge amount of plastic bags we had in our pantry.  

  7. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Use cloth napkins and towels whenever possible. I don't even buy napkins or paper towels anymore - well, very rarely.

    Even if you commit to using cloth napkins for just 2 dinners per week or when you have company, it still makes a big difference.

    They really don't take up any more resources to wash either - I just throw a few in with an already full load of laundry...

    And, try growing your own veggies.  

  8. # Blogger Marie

    We went to all CFLs a few years ago. Takes some getting used to, but they do last a long time & consume a fraction of the energy of the others... We've found the multi-packs at Home Depot to be the best deal around.

    My tip is to buy used stuff whenever you can. (One exception being appliances like refrigerators, where older models are energy-hogs... go Energy Star with appliances) Kids clothes, toys, tools, vehicles,... there's SO much good used stuff out there with plenty of life left in it. Put the $ to the grocery bill instead!  

  9. # Blogger Shannon

    3 and 4 are the easiest for anyone to do... we try not to use sandwich bags but use containers that we can use 100s of times... we also don't use napkins... well of any kind lol... yeah we are messy here lol...

    I think I am going to try to switch us over to orgainic milk now that I am working... just kills me that it is $2 bucks more than the other stuff lol...  

  10. # Blogger Jesser

    Always good to remember the small things we can do that if everyone did them would make such a big difference. I think as consumers we can really change the world, slow and steady like. ;)  

  11. # Blogger Damselfly

    Happy Earth Day to you!

    We try to reuse as much as possible. I also forgo paper plates because that's just wasteful.  

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