I’ve been thinking about this post for a while now and the inspiration has come from many places. I saw the movie, No Impact Man. I read books about sustainable living and articles like this one about families trying to live with less. And then there was this post I found by one of my favorite bloggers, Ashley English, on Design Sponge where she talked about the small measures, also the title of her blog, she takes to live a more sustainable lifestyle. I related to her list and realized that I do much of the same things to conserve and consume less.
I have to be honest though, I haven’t always been like this. The way that I am living my life today is a work in progress that’s been happening over the past few years. It started with food, being more aware of what food I was putting in my body. But turns out, when I started slowing down and paying attention to the food I was eating, I started to pay attention to other choices I was making. I didn’t mean to â€“ it just happened. It was about food to begin with and then it started to be about life.
It was subtle. It happened as I started washing out and reusing Ziploc bags and “disposable” containers. I looked at my dish rack one morning to see a gallon size Ziploc bag, inside out and upside down hanging up to dry, and had a flashback of my childhood. I remember being in my grandparents’ garage and seeing washed Styrofoam take out containers piled on top of their chest freezer, which was always packed to the gills with their garden’s bounty. When they’d try and save something that the rest of the family would have thrown away, we’d say, “You’re going to save that?” Inconspicuously we’d judge and think, what are they going to do with that? They had been through the depression. They looked at their resources a little bit differently then us kids that grew up wanting for not. At the time, I was ignorant and had no idea how wise they were. I would have never guessed that a decade later I’d be doing the same thing.
I’ve realized that just like eating without thinking about what you’re really putting into your body, we sometimes make choices to consume things without really thinking about what we’re doing. Plastic baggies are seen as materials to be used and thrown away, a flexible container that’s really convenient, but that will take thousands of years to decompose.
It didn’t stop with the plastic baggies though. I switched to e-billing. I started attacking the countless pieces of junk mail I received that always just went straight into the recycling bin. I’d call whatever 800 number I could find on the catalog or mailing and ask them to remove me from their mailing list. I waited on hold and got annoyed with automated phone menus, but was smugly satisfied when I started coming home to an empty mail box.
I stopped buying and using paper towels, except to pat down an occasional pan of bacon or to oil my seasoned cast iron pans. Where I absentmindedly used to go through rolls and rolls of paper towels each year, I now go through one. It turns out a package of reusable rags that can be thrown into the washer work like a charm where paper towels used to do the job.
I saved a shampoo, conditioner, lotion, hand soap, and dish soap container and started buying those things in bulk at the Â Green LakeÂ PCC, my local food co-op.
I made it my New Year’s resolution to always bring my reusable cup to the coffee shop. If I could remember to use my reusable grocery bags, which I’ve been using religiously, then I could train myself to always bring my cup. And I’m not being facetious when I say “train.” I spent many months driving around with a sticky note on my dashboard that said, “Bring your bags!”
My latest effort has been to rid myself of my sticky note dependence. Sticky notes are handy tools, especially when you’re in the classroom – they mark pages in books, give messages to students, remind me of all the pressing things I need to do! It wasn’t until they started trickling their way into my home that I began to take notice. They’re convenient, for sure, but they’re not as indispensable as I’ve always thought. I started saving receiptsÂ and used the back of those to write my little notes and shopping lists that I sometimes need to jot down. PCC (I swear I don’t work for them) gave me this idea when I noticed that their “green” checkout machines printed receipts using both sides. Unfortunately, not all stores are that savvy, so I decided to put them to use. A little spot in my desk drawer that once held a stack of stickies now holds receipts and scraps of paper that can be put to another use.
I feel hesitant as I write this, worrying that I might come off sounding self-righteous, like I have things all figured out.Â I am certainly not perfect though and am not living a completely waste-free lifestyle. But I’m trying. This post is just a reflection of the sustainable lifestyle I’ve created for myself and of the person I’ve become. Life sometimes feels like it’s moving at warped speed, but I’m slowing down, getting creative, and paying attention to the things I’ve consumed out of habit for years.Â Everyday I’m more aware of the simple quotidian choices I make and the impact they have on the world and it feels pretty good.
This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday on A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa. Happy Earth Day, y’all!