January 1st, 2019, I decided to “Go Green”! I wanted to stop using plastics, start a compost, and save the planet. Fast forward to 8 months later and I have learned quite a bit about the environment, plastics, and myself. Here is a list of things that have worked for my family and a few things that failed (miserably).
Composting. If you are new to this term, it basically means to recycle organic material into the soil. This soil is supposedly excellent for your garden. When you compost, you need to have a small bin for your kitchen scraps (vegetables and fruits, eggshells, coffee grounds, and tea, you can not compost meat, dairy or bread) and then a larger bin to dump the smaller one in to. I searched for these bins and was very disappointed to find that they are expensive. I not only wanted to “go green,” but I didn’t want to spend a lot of green in the process. After hours on Pinterest, I stumbled upon this kitchen compost bin idea. By using a plastic coffee container and a charcoal filter (typically used in a cat litter box), you can make your own kitchen compost bin. I made this in January, and it has been so easy and perfect for our family. For the larger outdoor bin, I simply drilled holes in a large trash can (the size you would take to the curb). I keep this in our backyard and stir the contents occasionally with a large stick. I have planted a garden with my compost, and I was AMAZED when I poured my compost bin into my garden bed, and it looked like soil! I felt like a pioneer.
Cutting back on paper products. Over the course of my motherhood, I started using paper towels WAY TOO MUCH. It was wasteful and expensive. I had sponges and dishrags, but since the paper towels were just sitting on my counter, staring at me, I would use them instead. So on January 1st, I took the paper towels off the counter and bought these towels from Amazon. I use them for everything, from cleaning up the table after meals to scrubbing finger paint off of the walls and floors. They have been a great replacement to paper towels, and I love the money saved. I also stopped using paper napkins. We had a few sets of cloth napkins, but for some reason, we have been reluctant to use them. Once I put them in a basket in the middle of our dining room table, we started to use them exclusively.
No more plastics. This one has a few successes and a couple big fails.
I noticed that I was starting to use more and more plastic baggies. I would put everything from leftovers to Barbie accessories in a Ziploc bag. I needed to find an alternative. First, I made a significant effort in using my food storage containers (Rubbermaid, Tupperware, etc.) instead of putting something in a baggie. This was a tough habit to break. I also started using these reusable mesh bags. These are a great alternative to plastic produce bags. We also use these to store hairbrushes and toothbrushes when we travel.
I quickly learned that one place I created the most plastic trash is in the bathroom. I decided to switch to a menstrual cup in an effort to cut back on all the pads and tampons that I go through each month. I purchased a Ruby Cup, I have used this for 5 months and have grown to really love it. Many menstrual cup users say that they can not imagine going back to using pads or tampons, and I totally agree. There is a learning curve to them, but once you get the hang of it – it is life-changing. My husband and friends are sick of hearing about my Ruby Cup, I can not recommend this enough.
I made a huge effort to never buy plastic hygiene products again. EVERYTHING I use: shampoo, deodorant, razors, toothbrush, hairspray, etc. is in a plastic container. So I went to the extreme, I made my own deodorant (basically baking soda) and my own hairspray (if you boil flax seeds, it creates a substance similar to hair gel). I made my family try Shampoo Bars, which did not work for our hair types or our hard water. Eventually, my husband kindly asked for his shampoo, deodorant, and wife back.
No-Poo -I joined a No Poo group on Facebook and stopped washing my hair with shampoo (No-Poo refers to not using shampoo). The premise is that we wash our hair too much and end up washing out the natural, healthy oils in our scalp. If you can stop washing your hair, your body will eventually start making less oil, and your hair will be super healthy. In the No Poo world, they tell you to occasionally use baking soda and apple cider vinegar as an alternative to shampoo and conditioner. About 3 months in I threw in the towel and bought my beloved plastic bottle of Suave and I haven’t looked back.
What I learned:
I deeply love this planet, and the current state of it is depressing. I will try anything to improve the environment. Some of these new ideas seemed overwhelming to start with, but eventually, they became our new normal. I encourage you to step a little out of your comfort zone and help Mother Earth.