You know that old expression "Think Globally, Act Locally"? More and more, I have come to believe those are words to live by.
It's Earth Day today, and pausing to write this blog post is really the only thing I'm doing to make note of it. Forgive me for the cliché, but I truly believe every day should be Earth Day. I can't single-handedly save the environment or influence the U.S. Congress to do the same, but my family and I are doing our part. That's all we can do, really.
Here are Five Cheap and Simple Things we are doing to make our household more green-friendly:
1. Composting. Seriously, this is a biggie. I'm sure we would be generating about twice as much trash if we didn't compost all of the vegetable matter from the kitchen. Admittedly, I've had my issues with composting before and evidently I've got some things to learn about how to do it properly, but even last year's slimy, stinky mess has finally aired out and turned into nice, dark soil to add to the garden. It's cool how nature takes care of things when you let it. And by the way, you don't have to have a garden to justify having a compost pile. It just turns into dirt, so you can use it to feed your shrubs or give it to a neighbor who's got a garden, or whatever.
2. Clothesline. I love hanging laundry on the line to dry outside. It smells good and saves a bundle on energy when we're not using the dryer. Obviously in Wisconsin we can't hang laundry outside year-round, but it works for 5-6 months out of the year.
3. Ceiling Fans. We already try and use the a/c as little as possible in the summer, but we're looking forward to using it even less this year after having a ceiling fan installed in the living room. It'll cost a couple hundred dollars up front, but that will pay for itself very quickly if we're using the air conditioner less as a result.
4. Eat local vegetables. I know it seems like buying your produce from the farmers' market feels more expensive than buying the cheaper stuff at the grocery store. But think about this: every dollar you spend at a local farmers' market is going right back into the local economy. Plus, it's better for the environment for all kinds of reasons. Even farmers who aren't certified organic almost always use fewer pesticides than large industrial farms and their vegetables/fruits don't have to travel as far to get to you. Locally-grown produce is usually more nutrient-dense and therefore healthier for you, too. Isn't that worth a few extra dollars? If you're willing to commit to an entire season of locally-grown vegetables, consider signing up for a CSA (community supported agriculture). You save money in the long run, and CSA subscriptions provide economic security to those local farms we should be working so hard to preserve.
5. Re-using bags. The amount of plastic filling our landfills, where it will never decompose, is staggering and disturbs me greatly. I have fabric shopping bags that I take grocery shopping (most supermarkets and places like Target sell these now for a dollar or two), and I even have some smaller fabric bags I made out of flour-sack tea towels for produce. I have a pattern somewhere for smaller drawstring bags you can use for bulk dry goods. I even wash out zip-loc bags and re-use them until they tear and have to be thrown away.
Some of this stuff might seem obvious. Some of it might not seem like a big deal. But I still think it's important.