Tuesday, April 22

Living Life: Sustainably

Hello again! As a quick recap, please refer back to the first two parts of my three-part series: Mindfulness and Minimalism. This last bit is putting it all together in a way that works for you and your family in the long haul. It's not a diet or a fad, it's a lifestyle change!

According to Wikipedia, "Sustainable living is a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual's or society's use of the Earth's natural resources and personal resources."

I've been a "tree hugger" for as long as I can remember. When I was around 10 to 12 years old I made homemade pins to pass out and attempted to organize my neighborhood kids to pick up trash along the ditches of my country road. Each year for Earth Day I make a New Year resolution--yes, one that I actually follow through with! 

To give some ideas, these are things I've done in the past: 
  • Bought a clothesline 
  • Transitioned to only using cloth grocery bags
  • Stopped buying paper products and requested cloth napkins for Christmas

I don't think we can reverse the current climate change but at least you can prepare for the upcoming ice age, right? Haha! The point is to change your habits permanently and create new, better, SUSTAINABLE habits that will save you money and help reduce your carbon footprint.

Here are my suggestions:
  • Totally eliminate all disposable plastic (i.e. grocery bags, ziplock baggies, eating utensils, straws, etc.) For ideas for alternate food storage options (including glass or stainless steel straws, I never would have thought of that!) check out this website.
  • Totally eliminate all disposable paper goods (i.e. napkins, paper towels, etc.) The one issue I have with this is cleaning up animal messes, but you get used to it. I suppose the same would go for cloth diapers, but I don't have any kids so no personal experience with those (yet).
  • On that note, if you REALLY want to reuse, I have friends who swear by reusable menstrual pads or cups (although I haven't taken it to this level myself just yet). Check out diva cups or glad rags for more information.
  • Totally eliminate shopping at the mall. Purchase from local shops, handmade items (like on Etsy), or used and thrift items. I haven't purchased off the rack clothing since a pair of jean shorts cost me $40--that was my final straw about two or three years ago!
  • Reduce your gas and electric usage: 
    • ALWAYS unplug EVERYTHING! (Microwave, washer/dryer...sometimes we even unplug our refrigerator overnight as it's the loudest monster you've ever heard in your life and we can't sleep.) 
    • Better yet, don't even use your dryer, except maybe in the winter (unless you're hard core), and hang clothes outside on a line or inside on a drying rack. I have one that looks like this.
  • Be aware of the every day products that add chemicals to your body (and waste, pollution, etc.). We recently switched to all natural and organic hygiene products, including soap, make up, deodorant, mouthwash, toothpaste, etc. 
    • I'm OBSESSED with Dr. Bronner's Castile soaps (can also be used for laundry, shampoo and toothpaste--I've never tried it for my teeth). I highly recommend the lavender scent, it will change your life!
  • Finally, become a one car household. Although this is extreme, we have been doing it since May 2011 and we are still married! There are lots of things to consider and it is often very challenging to balance the schedule, BUT now that I'm used to it, I do enjoy the quality time together and even though we now have the money available, I'm in no particular rush to purchase a second (used) vehicle.
    • There are a LOT of blogs talking about this rising money-saving choice. Money Saving Mom blog reports they saved $1,500 per year. 
    • Even if you have two vehicles, increase the time you spend on foot (exercise is always a good thing), carpooling or taking public transport.

Amanda Masters is a pediatric occupational therapist, tree hugger and hippy-in-training.

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