Friday, July 17, 2009

Greener Pastures

I am not sure that anyone will remember, but at the beginning of 2009 I made a resolution to change most of our household and beauty products to greener versions, and to generally live a greener life. I did this for several reasons, which I will list here.

1. It's better for the earth. I am nearly brought to tears by Noah Wiley's polar bear commercials, so I just think of them everytime I throw something out or drop terrible chemicals into our water systems. Try it, you may just find it enough of a reason to re-use that bottle as a vase.
2. It's part of my religion. Yes, I am a Unitarian Universalist. In the mission statement of our church, it states that we inspire others to "discover and articulate deeper spiritual meaning evidenced in lives of integrity, compassion and stewardship of the earth". That's right, folks--we're stewards. I have never believed that God would put us on a planet to get closer to him, without wishing that we also bond with other humans, and the Earth itself. It's important.
3. It's trendy. I was a bit ahead of my time (I was composting in college? Awesome!), but now who am I to ignore the current craze?
4. Re-using requires and inspires imagination. I have come up with some pretty awesome, albeit wacky, ways to reuse items. One of my favorite is using the plastic tab that you close bread bags with (do those have names?) as a wire label (printer, monitor, cable get the idea).
5. Going green can occasionally save you money (I will go into this later, as this is both a true and false statement).

I knew it would be a process, and would not happen overnight, so I gave myself the full year to make the switch. I just wanted to update everyone on how it's going and where we are in the process. This will also serve as a reminder to myself to keep on truckin'.

What We've Changed:
Household: As of now, we have switched our liquid dish soap, wipes, and laundry detergent exclusively to green products. We are using ECOS laundry detergent, which we got at Costco when we were members. It is very inexpensive, smells fantastic, and does a great job getting clothes clean. Since we are no longer Costco members (I have probably posted about my rising anger levels when I enter that space), I will most likely ask my mom to pick some up for us whenever we visit next. The wipes and dish soap are both Clorox Green products. I was a big user of the regular Clorox wipes before, and while I enjoy the smell of their green counterparts more, I do not enjoy how much lint they leave behind. Where appropriate, I usually follow behind with a dishtowel to remove the white lint from my black dining table, for example. We also switched to a cloth shower liner (and a glass door, which we squeegee instead of clean with chemicals, washcloths instead of disposable plastic loofahs, cloth towels and rags instead of papertowels, and washing our laundry in cold water. Some of the changes were so natural and effortless that I will most likely forget to mention them here.

Bath and Body: One of the shampoos I use is a green product, as well as my facewash, body soap (that's right--white people do occasionally use soap and a washcloth), and face lotion. Otherwise I am still using up the products I already owned (if you do plan to make the switch, please don't throw out items in order to purchase their green counterparts. It completely defeats the purpose!). I also switched my powder, blush to Organic Wear by Physician's Formula and lip gloss Burt's Bees Lip Shimmers. The powder is alright--certainly not winning any awards in my book--but the blush is awful. It barely shows up, and if it does, it looks muddy. You're better off just pinching your cheeks throughout the day, or getting pregnant for that "natural glow". I love the lip shimmers because they're minty and feel fresh, but honestly, I miss pasty, bright, saturated lipstick. I will do more shopping for a good lipstick, but for now, the lip gloss is great (and the packaging is recyclable!).

I have started a compost bin on the side of our house. It's a closed trashcan, rather than an exposed chicken wire mess, and I have to say, it seems to be doing pretty well. The next time I visit my parents, I will be excited to get our shovel so turning it will be easier (right now I use my "turning stick", which is literally just a stick). I feel like an evil green witch stirring her brew. (Funny side note: The man who broke into our house threw a candy wrapper in the compost bin as he was walking down to our back yard to break into our house. He should have been more environmentally conscientious. Also, breaking people's glass doors = not environmentally conscientious. Or conscientious in any way, really.) I am very happy to say that our recycling bin is generally twice to three times as full as our actual trashcan. I know that recycling is the last ditch effort to save the earth (reduce, reuse, recycle), but it certainly beats throwing things away outright.

Work: All four people in my office are now avid and diligent recyclers, mostly thanks to my insistance and constant vigilence over their trashcans. We have also reduced the amount of paper we produce in general, which is the first step in the cycle--excellent news!

What's Been Hard:
Not much, honestly. I am very much a "greater good" thinker, so I don't mind a few sacrifices in order to do my part (and sometimes the parts of others as well). I do sometimes feel like a preachy b*tch, but someone's gotta do it, right? I do miss things like impulse nail polish and lipstick purchases (I still have some nail polish that I will use up, but the plan is to eliminate it eventually). I am also still on the lookout for good makeup. I want to have rosy cheeks, and the blush I have is not cutting it!

Also, the thought of eliminating some of my magazine subscriptions has also made me sad some days. There are a few I will keep, or at least vow to read at the library, but I also have a few I won't miss, so it will be good to see those go (Vegetarian Times was a pity purchase a while back).

What We Haven't Changed:
Being a penny-pincher by nature, I still cannot fathom spending a lot of money for the green counterparts to some items. This mostly applies to the bath and body products, but also to food and textiles. Since we don't need new towels, sheets, or anything, we haven't yet had to shell out for the organic cotton or anything like that. But how can I pay twice as much for organic potatoes from Peru, when I can buy non-organic NC potatoes for half as much?
Our cats would never go for the pine shavings litter. Kitty used that years ago, and did just fine, but she was such an awesome cat, she would have adapted to anything. These three cats are super sweet, but not so amenable to change. So we'll stick to the clay clumping stuff that keeps them peeing in the boxes.
I am also resolved to the fact that Jim will not use earth friendly deodorant ever. And to be honest, it's probably best that way, especially if you've ever gone camping with Jim (love you, honey!) I might be able to switch a few of his products, but never the deodorant--and probably not the shaving lotion either. Ryan and Melysa got him Anthony shaving lotion for Christmas, and he loves it. At least it's not in an aerosol can, right?
I do still occasionally shop at big box stores, or at Amazon. When in town, I try to support small local business, but sometimes it is hard.
I drive to work alone. If I get a bike soon, which I am really hoping I do, I will cut down on the amount of driving I do. For now I have to settle for lumping all of my errands in one trip, and saving gas that way.

So as you can see, we've made some excellent strides in my going green project, but still have miles to go. For now, I sleep! Goodnight!

PS--Promise I will post pics and perhaps a movie from our trip to Canada soon!