April 21, 2017

12 Small Steps to a Greener Home

I’m going to be honest. There was a time in my life when words like  ‘green’, ‘ecofriendly’, and ‘biodegradable’ made my roll my eyes, and I thought people who talked about plastic in our oceans or something going in landfill were a special kind of noble but also just doing their thing.   In my dream world, all convenient disposable products would biodegrade into the earth in five minutes so I could use a face wipe at night to take off makeup, put my kid in disposable diapers, use endless paper towels in my kitchen, and store everything in a ziploc bag.

Yep confession: I’m a closet plastics LOVER.

But at some point along the way I realized that I had other values that were actually bigger than my love of makeup removing wipes.  It’s been a slow road for me, but I’ve actually come to love the journey of making small changes in our home. Having a child was a massive catalyst for me on the journey.  In part because I want to raise him in the healthiest home possible, but also because as I make choices for the sake of convenience, I’m doing it looking in the eyes of the generation who will have to sort out the effect of those choices.

Suddenly they don’t seem so ‘convenient’ for me anymore, and its easy for me to pay extra for compostable parchment paper, or a stainless steel lunch box. But it’s a journey, don’t sweat what you don’t do just make a small change and celebrate it! Below I’m outlining 12 small changes we’ve made in our home over the last few years that really do add up and make a difference, and none of them stressed me out or broke the bank!   I hope they give you ideas of a small switch you could make in your life to take care of this beautiful planet, and make your home a healthier place too!

1. Cotton produce bags

Here in California we now get charged for taking grocery bags so most people are taking their own which I love (see my Top 10 Grocery Bags post here) but that doesn’t seem to cover small bags for bulk produce, or for fruits and veggies. Sometimes you can find yourself with upwards of 10 of these at the end of a trip without even thinking so we invested in THESE organic cotton produce bags for our fresh fruits and veggies and bulk goods like rice and quinoa.

2. Stainless Steel lunch boxes

COST: From $15 depending on design but THIS one is my fave

These make the move away from plastic easy, they look good too, and they last forever.  They’re virtually indestructible, are safe to hold food, and I use mine as to go containers from restaurants to take leftovers rather than taking a to go box.  At worst the box is styrofoam which is bad on so many fronts, but at best it’s something recycled and compostable but I love getting to save even those resources.

3. To go Keep Cup for coffee

COST: From $10 depending on size but we love THIS one at $20
I’m really picky about my coffee. The actual coffee yes (of course), but also what I drink it out of. The mug makes it taste different, right?! This is the only to go cup that truly works for me. It does have some plastic components, but as it lasts forever in my mind it’s a worthy trade up from paper cups and plastic lids getting trashed every time! Carry it around with you and ask to have your drink made in it.

4. Using Beeswrap in place of plastic wrap (clingfilm) 

COST: $3 (using this code WHOLEFOODBEESWRAP when you sign up for a free trial subscription) and pays off in 1-3 months, or $19/3 on Amazon 

Organic cotton + bees wax = goodbye plastic wrap. It’s an amazing product that works just the same way but is non toxic, plastic free, and fully biodegradable. Training my mind to think of plastic alternatives has been one of the major places I’ve had to do some rewiring! Beeswrap has been a lifesaving product in my no plastic house mission. And it’s not a huge investment as the cost is higher but it lasts over a year, and can then be composted! You can pick some up for $3 using our code with Mighty Nest.

5. Switching to cast iron skillets

COST: $15 for a good 10″ one (bargain!) and remember you have it forever!

Yes, I go on and on about them but it’s such a cost effective earth friendly, toxin-free-home move to make that I’ve loved. Buying products that last longer, or last forever, is a simple and really good way to take care of the earth! If you buy jeans that last two years instead of one, you’ve saved landfill from taking another pair, and you’ve saved the resources that it takes to create a pair.  Cast iron skillets last literally forever. However trashed they get they can be repaired. Plus they don’t sport the usual plastic saucepan handle, and they don’t release nasty gasses like regular non stick. We’ve completely converted out kitchen over, and if you buy brands like THIS, is doesn’t break the bank at all!

6. Mason Jars for everything!

COST: $18 for 12, but FREE if you upcycle them!

In the move away from plastic, we have a lot of glass in our house. It’s inert which makes it really safe for containing food and drink, as well as being recyclable, and reusable over and over. We use them for eeeeverything. Drinking glasses, food containers, storage for bathroom products, spare change, hot drinks, freezer storage, milk storage, to hold homemade salad dressing, to take lunch to go, plant pots, bulk containers to take to the store… everything.  And most of mine are not really mason jars but up cycled pasta/oil jars

7. Planting a garden (or a single plant!)

COST: Free or more depending on what and how you plant.

Everyone has space to grow at least a tiny plant. Growing plants in your living space is really good for the air (google which ones are best for the air) but also if you can grow one thing, even something small like a herb you’re reducing one thing having to be shipped/flown/driven and using resources that don’t need to be used! Reduce those food miles and eat as local as it gets! We just planted a whole garden for the first time and I’m so excited – we used organic seeds from Seed Savers Exchange but you can take one from a vegetable or fruit, and genius little peet pods that arrive dry and you soak to expand,  You can also start your seeds in a used cardboard egg carton or can!

8.  Soaking dry beans instead of buying canned

COST: Money saver from the start!

There’s a list of reasons to make this switch. Let’s start with cash, it’s so much cheaper! Then nutritional value, in short: it’s way higher in your own soaked beans especially if you sprout them. But you also don’t use the can and trash it, dry beans are smaller and lighter so take less packaging per pound of cooked weight, but if you buy them in bulk in a cotton bag you create zero waste from that meal!

9. Building a compost heap.

COST: $30+

This was actually my birthday gift from Lauren (The Living Home) two years ago and we’ve been filling it ever since.  I put a bucket of scraps in every other day and it stops all of that going in the trash.  It’s also doubling up and creating yummy food for my garden.  I went for a really simple model with chicken wire stretched around poles to make two upright cylinders, but you can buy more fancy contraptions and even ones that work inside your kitchen! Do some research because pretty much any home can actually make it work.

10. Finding a place where I could recycle everything.

COST: Free and in some states in can get you a payout!

My ultimate goal would be not to have any plastic come in to our home, even if it’s recyclable.  We do or best but sometimes it just arrives, or I haven’t found a way to a different option yet.  We also live in a really bad area for doorstep recycling and I can’t recycle much in our recycle bin sadly.  Just last month I was driving and discovered a recycle centre locally (Locals it’s the Bigfoot one!) and now I’m so happy I get to save any plastic that comes into my house.

11. Shopping second hand.

COST: Money Saver!

To me this is the ultimate in ethical, sustainable, eco friendly shopping and it’s my top pick from furniture to clothes… to my son’s crib. When we got married we furnished our entire house from garage sales which saves us literally thousands but it also saved lots of pieces from the trash, and saved the resources needed to create and entire house worth of furniture! We now shop second hand everywhere we can both locally and using sites like ThreadUp.

12. Buying organic cotton (PACT)

COST: Variable but doesn’t need to be noticeably different from conventionally grown

There are so many earth friendly, and people friendly loves to make in closing but one that we’ve started with is moving to organic cotton.  Cotton is a really really chemically treated crop, and most of the cotton grown is GMO. Even though we’re not eating it, it’s so bad for the planet and the people working in the industry to be covered in those chemical and working in that environment so we’re switching over! Luckily, it’s actually not that hard to do and there are tons of amazing companies selling great organic cotton clothing so do some googling, check out sites like The Good Trade, the Good On You site and app for ideas, and companies like PACT which are all organic cotton wear!


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