I've recently started reading "Plus-One" a blog about a baby born early due to pre-e. The mother is a fabulous writer, and I adore her pictures. Plus, she's crunchy and writes about balancing all the crunchy parenting ideals, like cloth diapers and baby wearing, with the very real needs of a preemie. (You can't cloth diaper unless the kid is being enough for them and you can't baby wear if the position of the baby would cut off his air supply!) Gee, yeah, I can relate to that.
Her challenge today was to blog about the environmental impact of kids and how to combat that. Now, our "carbon footprint" comes up in conversation (or in shocked whispers behind my back) because I have a "larger than average" family, live in souless surburbia without public transport, drive a gas guzzling mini van and, oh yeah, all those kids.
But you know what? Having a LTA family CAN be eco-friendly! On trash pick up day, I am one of the few families with only one trash can that ISN'T overfollowing. Yes, folks, that's with six people in the house, two of whom are in diapers. It IS possible.
It's hard to type out what we do because it is simply, well, what we do. We're cheap. Being eco-friendly can reduce not only waste but money out of your pocket book if you know what to do and how to do it.
1. Cloth, cloth, cloth- I'm sure there is an environmental impact to using our (energy efficant) washer but I imagine it is much, much less than paper waste. We use cloth towels in the kitchen, cloth diapers on the babies, cloth napkins on the table and cloth rags to clean the house. On an average day, we use two disposiable diapers- total, for nightime.
2. Can you recycle it? Again, we recycle everything we can. Our bin is overflowing by mid week and we have several bags outside of what is in the green bin.
3. Can you reuse it? All the diapers Cole and Georgie wear were worn by someone else, be it friends kids or their siblings. I buy alot of diapers used; I have some covers that went through two boys before going through Joseph AND the other three. Our water bottles are metal and when we have a plastic bottle, I try to use it one more time before it goes into the recycle bin. Alot of the kids clothes come from consignment shops or gargage sales. Aside from being eco friendly, it saves us a TON of money! (We estimate that having two in diapers would run about 30/month, not including wipes.)
4. God gave you feet so use them! We try and walk as much as possible, although in the middle of souless suburbia, this sometimes isn't possible. However, we can walk to school and our local pool. Because having four kids still in car seats makes going places a hassle, I leave the house as little as possible and combine trips. When the weather was bad this winter, I would drop Joseph off at school and head out to do earrands. Why go home, turn off the car and get everyone out, only to bundle us back in and go out... again? Not only does it save gas, it saves time and money! (And sanity! Sometimes.)
5. Buy in bulk- or not Nothing annoys me more than buying something like granola bars in bulk, only to have individually wrapped bars inside a box incased in another, larger box. To buy three boxes of granola bars, I have to deal with FOUR boxes for the recycling bin and lots of little wrappers cluttering up my living room... the bedrooms... under the carseats... Better? Save the coupons and buy the boxes on sale at your local store. Best? Make your own... and mine are far tastier than Quakers, thankyouverymuch.
However, some things are cheapier in bulk. I buy plain oatmeal, cheese, butter, milk and some frozen veggies at bulk stores like Sam's. Not only are these plain foods that can be used for a variety of purposes, but they are healthy and generally inexpensive. It's all about knowing your prices, baby.
My husband and I are cheap bas... PEOPLE... who are trying to live a healthy lifestyle. I need to lose 30 pounds and he's recently become all tough and buff and hot thanks to swimming 3 days a week. Wholesome foods in their natural forms tend to be cheaper, healthier and have more purposes in the kitchen than processed and prepackaged foods. Flour, milk, butter and cheese can make a homemade version of canned "Cream of" soup that is so good I've been known to eat it out of the pot. Cream of cheese soup has one purpose in life- to be cream of cheese soup. When you break it down, I've spent less on making that soup on the stove (and can use my flour, etc for other items) than I have on that canned soup.
I would love to eat organically and locally but, right now, that isn't possible. We buy organic when we can but fresh fruits and veggies are always at the top of our list, organic or not. Buy watching our portions (lose weight, save money and the environment!), eating up leftovers and careful menu planning, I feed all of us for 100-120 dollars a week.
6. It ain't all garbage. If the stupid rabbits stop eating our garden and it stops flooding outside, we should have a nice vegtable patch this year. We compost the non-meat products, turning our food back into ... food.
It's hard to type what we do because it is simply what we do. We have a long way to go; I'd like a homemade version of window cleaner that is as neat and as simple as windex, for example. Yet I use natural or homemade cleaners for the bathrooms and kitchen, which saves money and the environment. Little baby steps.
There are some areas where you will pry my rainforest killing, cancer-causing items out of my cold, dead hands. Take my fresh brewed iced tea and homemade iced coffee from me and I will likely hurt you. Toliets are nasty (DO YOU KNOW WHAT GOES IN THEM?!) and I will NOT clean them with a reuseable wand. I want my Clorox one time use wands so I can drop that nasty sucker right into the trash can. I'm only getting a Diva Cup because I can no longer use Tampons, bless them. I toss the expired, been-in-an-accident car seats because I love the environment, but I love my kids safety more. (I feel properly guilty about it, though!) And cloth toliet paper? ForGET about it!
How did I learn all this? Yeah, I have crunchy, hippie friends and the internet but really? I learned alot of this from my mother, The Orginal Hippie, who has recycled, composted, had a garden, breastfed and used cloth diapers (and more!). Mom and Dad taught me how to reuse, reduce and recycle and be a good steward of the earth. I'm teaching my children the same things. I'm giving the earth four children who will know how to protect and preserve it, which is probably the most eco-friendly thing I've done.