10 August 2010

Confessions of a realistic environmentally friendly mom

I have a confession to make. I buy bottled water. Yes, in these times of being earth friendly, green, and environmentally aware, I still buy bottled water. Yes, I know the horrible dangers of water bottles. Yes, I have a cabinet filled with metal water bottles. But there are times when it's more convenient or I just forget. It happens, ya know, I'm only human. (While I'm confessing, there are times when I don't use my reusable shopping bags. At least I try to only get paper bags then, but I still slip up.)

So there's my big confession - I'm not as "green" as I would like to be or as I even pretend to be at times. These days, depending on where you shop, the cashiers almost sneer at you in disgust if you dare to have an item double bagged or you choose plastic over paper. It's hard to remember what to do - what's the right thing or the "green" thing to do. Frankly it can get downright expensive to stock up on reusable bags, buy the trendy metal water bottles, and even cleaning supplies. And it can get overwhelming as well - to the point of not doing anything. (I believe a good friend once coined the term "analysis paralysis.") But I try to do little things each day, in hopes that even if I do buy plastic water bottles once a week or so, I am still doing my part when I recycle it that next day. Additionally I always make sure my plastic grocery bag does double duty when my husband uses it to empty the litter box.

Right or wrong, here's how I started making some changes - if I can help at least one person make a change, then I've made a small difference.

First, I realized my limitations - overnight my house was not going to be the ideal, off the grid, eco-friendly earth house. As cool as he is, we can't all live like Ed Begley, Jr. We started with recycling - contacted the city to order our blue recycling bin. As excited as I was to get started recycling, we hit a major setback - they were backordered by 3 months! My recycling urge had to wait. However, that blue bin was finally delivered and it now sits right by the back door, off the kitchen. It's convenient and one thing my family needs is convenience - if it's hard or overly complicated, it won't get done. I get excited when the bin is actually full prompting us to order a second bin, just in case. There have been weeks when we've filled both - and yes, I've done a little happy dance about my recycling. Plus, it's pretty cool to see how much less garbage goes into the trash can.

Next, I tackled cleaning supplies. Talk about overwhelming! Walk into any Walmart, Target or grocery store and check out the cleaning supply aisle and you are guaranteed to find numerous varieties of eco friendly cleaners - all, it seems, about double the price of the poisonous chemical laden regular ones. So what to do? You could easily spend a small fortune just for cleaners! I discovered the Mrs. Meyers brand concentrated cleaner - two capfuls into a spray bottle of water and you have a great multi-purpose cleaner to tidy up the kitchen and bathroom - heck I've even mopped with it! Right there, I've saved a bundle - so I splurge a bit on environmentally-friendly tub and toilet cleaners. Right now I don't have a particular favorite. (Still haven't found a good tub cleaner that can handle well water stains. Any tips?) Also instead of Windex, I usually mix up another spray bottle of white vinegar and water.

My next project is composting. I did it two years ago when I was trying to plant a backyard garden. The garden fizzled out (maybe next spring!) but the composting went well. Until it didn't. Remember earlier I mentioned convenience? Well, when I first started composting, I didn't buy an actual composter. Everything I read said that you could make your own - all you really needed was a container with a lid and the ability to mix it. Easy peasy, right? Considering that I was going to have to spend over $150 to order and ship one, getting some heavy duty plastic bins from Target seemed a much better option, right? Right? Yeah, until I couldn't stir it, and I couldn't dump it out into the planters, and it sat. And sat and sat. Until about two months ago, when we dumped whatever remained in a back corner of our yard.

Sitting on my deck now is a brand new tumbler style composter - purchased from Lowes - and I get a kick every time I turn the handle! Composting, for me, is easy. Whenever I am cooking dinner, I keep a large bowl out - all vegetable peelings automatically go into the bowl, and at the end of the night, I dump them in the composter. Chinet now offers a line of heavy duty plates that can be composted - yes, they're more expensive, but that's a cost I don't mind. Sun Chips are now packaged in a compostable bag, so I bought some for the first time in years. I'm still educating myself, and my family, on what can and can't be composted.

I still have grand ideas - I want a rain barrel and even have the perfect spot for it. A raised organic garden bed is on my list as well. Eventually I would like to stop putting my daughters' school lunch sandwiches in plastic bags, but I haven't found a reusable container that will fit her lunch box. However, even if my steps are baby steps, I know that I am doing a small part in making the earth happy, and more importantly, raising my children to do the same.

Kathie Smith is a mother of two and strives to be as eco-friendly as possible. Follow Kathie on Twitter.

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