Today and tomorrow I'll get into some of the more...difficult?, unusual?...things my family does to help our planet. Though they really aren't that difficult. And hopefully, in the near future they won't be considered unusual, but mainstream.
This one almost made it on the "no brainer list." It's really not that difficult and thankfully gaining a lot of popularity.
The average person uses more than 300 plastic bags a year. Multiply that times the number of people in your family and that's a huge number of bags in a year. In my family of four, in the 18 years it would take my boys to head to college, my family would have consumed more than 21,500 plastic bags. Um, that is an obnoxious amount of plastic bags.
Seriously, how easy is it to use reusable shopping bags? I use them at the grocery, toy and drug stores. I use them at Target and the farmer's market. This is about 2/3rds of my collection. I won't spend more than $1 for one but so many stores are carrying them cheap now.
Reusable bags are becoming so mainstream that many stores offer some sort of incentive to use them. My (big chain) grocery store gives each customer 5 points of credit for each reusable bag used and my Trader Joe's enters those using reusable bags in a giveaway for free groceries. Some stores are even going as far as to charge customers for plastic bags.
A tip for mamas...
Another reason why I love using reusable bags is that it cuts down on tantruming kiddos at the store. Let's just say that I'm in Target (not hard to imagine!) and I find something, maybe a snack or a toy, that I want to get the kids but I don't want them to have, or even see, right now.
While my boys are distracted, I slip the item into one of my reusable bags siting in my cart. We go on our merry way up and down the aisles with my boys none the wiser (because they can't see through or into the bags).
When I get to checkout, I hand the whole bag to the cashier and ask them to scan the items while they remain in the bag. Usually, once they see what's in the bag and my two whirling dervish kids they understand what I'm trying to do.
The only downside is that Target's anti-theft employees can be found trailing me throughout the store. But hey, it's nice to have some grown-up company while I'm shopping.
Support your local farmer's market
I love shopping at farmer's markets. I wish I could go more often. Often foods and flowers are organic and grown using sustainable agriculture. Another bonus is that the food for sale didn't have to travel thousands of miles before it enters your kitchen.
Luckily my city offers several different markets. To find one near you, enter your zip code at Local Harvest and specify that you are looking for a farmer's market.
Hi! I'd like you to meet my little friend. This is Mr. Compost Pail. He sits in a place of honor on my kitchen counter, right between my kitchen sink and the trash can.
What goes in my compost pail?
Cantaloupe rinds, dry Cheerios that never got eaten, egg shells, bread crust cut from my sons' sandwiches, strawberry stems, carrot tops, tea bags, bell pepper ribs and seeds, leftover pasta with tomato sauce, cookies that expired (oh, wait...we never let that happen around here!)
I can hear you now. "That's...um...great, Carey. Now you have all your yuckiest trash sitting in a bucket on your counter. What now?"
You've got two options.
You can go full out and buy or make a compost bin. This is kept in your yard and you fill it with the kitchen scraps and every so often mix it up. Did I mention the worms? Yes, there are worms in the compost bin (not the pail!). They eat your kitchen scraps and their poop is the compost. "Um, Carey. What do I want with worm poop?" You use it as fertilizer on your plants.
Because we live in a big city and don't have much room for a compost bin or much need for a lot of fertilizer, we empty our compost pail in our city's green can. Our city provides each house with three "trash" cans. Black for trash, blue for recycling and green for biodegradable waste. For most families, they only use the green can for yard clippings. We add the items from our compost pail to it as well. The city then turns it into compost.
Try this: Instead of automatically throwing all your kitchen scraps in the trash let them pile up for one meal (from the prep and cooking to the leftovers on the plate). Anything that is not meat or cheese can be put in the compost pail. You've got a pretty good-size pile right?
Now imagine this: That pile of scraps from EVERY meal, EVERY day!
I fill up the pail every couple of days, maybe 3-4 days. In a year, my family probably empties the pail 100 times. So imagine 100 pails filled with food scraps...it all adds up. But I'm so happy to say that ours doesn't add up in a landfill.
A couple more points about composting:
- No, there is no smell from my compost pail. It has two charcoal filters that prevent any funky smells from escaping. I've had the pail for almost a year and haven't even had to replace the filters yet.
- Compost pails are not hard to come by. They are available on Amazon and at Bed Bath and Beyond for about $25.
- I used to put the food directly into the pail. I'd empty it every couple of days and by that time it would get a bit grody at the bottom of the pail. I was much a much happier composter when I started using biodegradable bags to line the pail. Several companies make bags specifically to fit compost pails but they can be expensive. I buy biodegradable diaper bags at Target and they work great (Nature BabyCare diaper disposal bags; $3 for 50). I can empty the pail, bags and all directly into my city's green can or a compost bin because the bags are biodegradable.
- The city I live in offers a free compost seminar every month and discounts on compost bins. Maybe your city has a similar program?
Any questions about any of the above, bring it on! There is a good chance I won't know the answer (again, I'm not an expert) but I'll happily try to find the answer.
Tomorrow's post is titled Scooters, styrofoam and no-waste lunches...oh, my! Intrigued?