Happy Earth Day!

Environmental consciousness is a top priority for me, which is why I’ve been working hard to incorporate it as much as possible into my professional life. I write an eco-craft column, am partnered with (alternative fiber pioneers) Southwest Trading Company to create my own line of hemp, soy, organic cotton and bamboo yarns and, am co-writing a book on “green” knitting & crochet.  In my personal life though, I find that I have to work even harder at reducing my family’s carbon footprint on our earth.  Ironically, the demands of a career focusing more and more on sustainability, makes some of the conveniences that ultimately do the most damage to our world harder to give up.  It’s all a work in progress, I suppose.   

I thought I’d take this Earth Day opportunity to exchange information about different ways households across the nation (and beyond?) are beginning to do our parts towards living a bit more consciously.  Here are a few of ours:
1.  Replacing all of our regular lights with compact fluorescent bulbs.
2.  Being vegetarians.
3.  Rinsing out and recycling all cans, bottles and plastic containers.
4.  Using a filtered water pitcher to replace the 36+ plastic bottles a week, we used to go through.  
5.  Bringing reusable shopping bags with us to the grocery store.
6.  Washing almost all of our clothing in cold water.
7.  Instead of disposable juice boxes for the kids, we’ve recently opted for “litter free”(aka reusable) juice containers.
8.  Choosing organically grown food options, whenever possible.
9.  Supplementing our wardrobes with “thrifted” clothing.
10.  Finding responsible recycle locations for environmentally sensitive electronic equipment. 
This obviously isn’t enough, but it’s a start.  In hopes of slowly doing more, I’ve love to hear what it is that you’re doing to live greener.   Post now (even if it’s only one thing–baby steps, still count!) and not only will we all benefit from info swapping, you’ll also be entered into a drawing to win a year-long subscription to the fantastic, healthy parenting magazine, KIWI!  

29 Responses to “Happy Earth Day!”

  1. S

    We are blessed enough to live in a community which has curbside recycling pickup weekly, along with our regular trash pickup. We recycle cans, plastics, newspapers, and envelopes (the junkmail therein is shredded and put out as well.) In summer the recyclers will pick up bagged yardwaste and they will sell mulch to those who need it. It would be nice if more cities took these initiatives! (more info at http://www.recycleannarbor.org & http://www.recycleannarbor.org/pdfs/recycle_toxics_guide_fall07.pdf

  2. Crystal

    I’d like to add doing direct deposit and online banking to reduce paper. My daughter has also promised to take shorter showers and thanked me the other day for sending her to school on the bus instead of driving her – essentially carpooling!

  3. ashleykr86

    I love reusable shopping bags. Since I never get more than one or two bags worth of items whenever I go out I just keep one of my bigger bags in the car and take it in where ever I go (groceries or not). I occasionally am a cashier at Target and it’s pretty frustrating to scan a reusable bag for someone, offer to bag the rest of the items in said bag and have them lecture me about how the bag they just purchased is for their groceries and not odds and ends.

  4. Womanji


    It is hard to be green as possible. But every little bit helps, I believe. I hope the things we do as a family does help some small yet important part.
    1. compact fluorescent bulbs
    2. bags to shop with, not just at the grocery store either.
    3. reusable beverage bottles
    4. cold water laundry
    5. putting out the recycleables for the once a week pick up. We are lucky and have a trash service that offers this.
    6. use environmental friendly cleaning products – I buy Melaleuca for my household

    These are just somethings my household trys to do regularly.

  5. Jenn

    I have a small army of reusable shopping bags that I keep in the car for all our shopping (okay they also do library duty). We have to drive our recycling to the ‘town’ recycling center for the time being, would love curbside service though. Even our toddler helps out.

  6. Kounting Sheep

    I work at Michael’s Craft store and I actually try to bag into the fewest bags possible. If it’s a small item or a very large item, I don’t bag it at all (like frames or items with handles…it has a handle for goodness sake!). I bring reusable bags with me or just carry small items out by hand (books, yarn). I ride the city bus to college classes and I have for the past two years. It only takes about 25 minutes longer to ride the bus, but I get all that time to work on homework or craft projects instead of mindless driving. In my house, we reuse printed on paper from the computer as scratch paper (I’m a writer, so I go through lots of paper…trying not to though!).

    Little pebbles, but they add up!

  7. Lil Knitter

    We’re definitely in the “baby steps” phase but it all starts somewhere, right?
    I wash in cold water…reuse plastic bottles…am addicted to thrift stores….just joined a “freecyle” group today and am now waiting for some of the efficient light bulbs.
    The kids have a bag to collect all our cans and we give them to a neighbor who takes them to be recycled.

    Hugs & Happy Earth Day!

  8. Laura

    My daughter and the other kids in her class save 8 x 11 pieces of paper with printing only on one side (such as fliers from the newspaper etc) and take them to school for their teacher to use to print worksheets, homework, quizes etc on the unused sides. The teachers at her school do a great job of teaching the kids to be mindful of how they live, recycling, reusing, composting etc…”living green”.

  9. ferrous

    i do my best & am pretty proud with the list of things that i do to try to step lightly on the earth:
    – no chemicals for cleaning. i use microfibre cleaning cloths with water only.
    – no soap on my body. again, microfibre.
    – a ‘no junk mail’ sign on my letterbox.
    – no bin liner. i wrap my wet rubbish in newspaper.
    turn lights & power points off when i’m not using them.
    – short showers.
    – wash only full load of laundry.
    – recycling cans, bottles, peper, etc & only put the bin out when it’s full.

    that’s all i can remember now. i’m pleased that these things have become habit, so it doesn’t even feel as though i’m going out of my way to do it. 🙂

  10. Jennie Gift

    I’m trying to do my part everyday and I’m sure I could do more. Like the idea of online banking. I think I’m going to go paperless statements on everything now. I did find these fun reusesable bags today online. http://www.delight.com/

  11. kgmiller

    I have been making small changes here and there and I intend to continue working toward having a positive impact on the environment. Since January, one of my coworkers and I have been alternating driving — she drives one week and I drive the next. Our city does not have a good public transportation system, so this is the next best thing. So I save at least 200 miles each month in driving. Our office goes through an enormous amount of plastic water bottles, soda cans, and disposable cups. I have a large reusable mug for water and my own mug for coffee and tea. I figure I have saved 15-20 plastic bottles a week. At home I clean with baking soda, vinegar, borax and I use the Seventh Generation dish detergent. I launder my clothes by mixing washing soda and borax together. I have replaced all my lightbulbs with CFLs. I unplug small appliances when not in use. I have reusable shopping bags. I have been purging my home of unused and unwanted and unneeded items and I have been doing that through my local Freecycle list. I also shop at thrift stores. I recycle plastic, glass, magazines, newspaper, cardboard — anything I can.

  12. Liz

    As a child I became “conservation” conscious – it was taught in school and at home.
    Suggestion: keep your vehicle for a long time. Keep up the maintenance, too. I have only owned one car at a time and in a 1 person/one car household. Each of my previous 3 cars were kept for 9 yrs and I am on my 4th car (5yrs in). My last 2 cars have been especially reliable. I live in the northeast with 6 mos. of winter, drive 11,000mi/yr and I have easily been able to resist buying a SUV. For about 12 yrs of my adult life I lived in a city and mostly took public transp. to work so my mileage was less. I work evenings now and must drive. My current car is mid-size, 20/28(sticker) mpg and is large enough to comfortably transport elderly parents and extended family. I understand people’s needs and family change – sometimes very quickly! I am offering this idea and specific details, too, so that people can know it’s doable if their situation permits.
    I am vegetarian and recycler, too.
    I addition to issues of ethics and cruelty, a staggering amount of water is used in the raising and processing of meat and poultry.

  13. Jennifer

    I think becoming a mother really caused me to take a look at how we were living. We just bought our first house and were lucky enough to find a neighborhood where the houses were built with solar panels, tankless water heaters, energy efficient appliances, CFLs, etc. I can walk to public transportation, which I use every day to get to work. I now use stainless steel bottles for our “to go” drinks, bought environmentally friendly cleaning products and try to buy organic and plan to start growing some veggies at home. It’s good to know we are trying to do what we can.

  14. Rebecca

    Hey Vickie – don’t know if I am eligible for the contest but here are the Rice family’s recent efforts at going green…
    1. We use online bill pay and request e-bills.
    2. Grow organic fruits and veggies in our garden. Here’s hoping we get a better turnout this year!:)
    3. Traded in my HUGE SUV for a smaller version.
    Much better on gas and emissions. Difficult to do but once we attached a bike rack it seems to work just fine for toting gear for a family of 4.
    4. Went from recycling only plastic and cans to almost everything – paper, cardboard, glass etc. that the city picks up and sorts.
    5. Use mostly Method cleaners and baking soda and vinegar.
    6.Refinishing or repurposing existing furniture to fit my ever-changing tastes in home decor rather than buying new.
    Lastly, I’m looking for some rain barrels so we can water the garden from captured rainwater!

  15. diva mcknitster

    vickie, i do all the of things you suggest already. i’ve been taking my own bags to stores for a long time now and still get funny looks for doing it! i drive the same car i bought when i got my first job (it’s 12 years old and looks like it’s got the mange but it runs great and is relatively cheap for gas!) we go to organic farmers market in the summer and yard sales. i recycle with my son and he gets a big kick out of taking our stuff to the recycling center. i recycle magazines by sharing them with my local S&B or my family. i’m also a big label reader when it comes to buying food for my family – if there’s a word i can’t pronounce (or contains corn syrup) it stays at the store.

    i reuse wipe containers (the kind that are by clorox, lysol or method) into yarn holders (slip the skein into the the bottle, pull yarn through top). a friend from my S&B made the same kind of yarn holder from a container that held peanut butter pretzels. her husband drilled a hole in the middle of the lid, she sticks her yarn into the bottle, pulls the yarn through the hole and puts the lid on the container. yarn containers usually cost $10 at wallyworld and it’s great to make something for free.

  16. Jaime

    i try really hard to be conscious of our family’s impact on the environment, although it’s sometimes very very hard!

    our city does curbside recycling, so our bucket gets filled with all of the junk mail, catalogs, tp rolls, cans, milk jugs, etc.

    i’m also a pack rat–which i justify by the reduce, reuse, recycle slogan. i do get plastic grocery bags at the store–for two reasons–first being that they’re easier to juggle when you’ve got a toddler in tow, and second–because i can slice them up and knit cool bags out of them.

    clothes almost always get washed in cold water, with less than the recommended amount of detergent–one just simply does not need that much soap in one load of laundry! dishwasher gets run at night, when the electric company is off peak.

    these are just a few things that i do, off the top of my head.

  17. Tina

    We changed out our bulbs, installed Austin’s water-saving toilets (they are free guys!), bought an energy saving washer and dryer, installed shelving above said w&d for recycle bins so that we may recycle more than glass and paper, shop Goodwill and half-priced books, reduced fertilizing the lawn, use ‘the method’ cleaning products. We still have a lot of work to do. We still have two suv’s, i need to find more recycling bins, i need to use re-usable shopping bags. There is always more we can do, ‘a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step’.

  18. Pattie

    It is so nice to be in a community that encourages recycling of more than just paper and aluminum cans. We can recycle plastic and tin as well. It’s nice that they pick it up twice a month.

    I have just started using reusable shopping bags. They are nice!

    I decline bags when I buy small items. I just tell the cashier “If you don’t mind” and they’re happy to comply.

    I’ve been a longtime reuser-of-paper, and then it gets recycled. Even shredded paper can be recycled.

    I still feel sometimes like I could do more, but for now, it’s more than many people do.

  19. Anonymous

    Hi all! I made three new eco-challenges for myself.
    1. On March 17th I decided I had enough clothes and wouldn’t buy anymore – new or old – for one year. It is an interesting experience as I realize that the heart of all our woes is a desire to purchase happiness which we know can’t be bought. So when I get antsy or sad I can’t buy clothes.
    2. I’m a Buddhist who has carefully kept up the Christmas madness. No more. Grand kids will get books as usual, step-kids some experience like Camp etc… and everyone else will get love and a slip from whatever charity I send dough to. We will feast the winter and give up cards, wrapping paper and all that jazz. I feel SO good and I told everyone most importantly no gifts for me. I HAVE ENOUGH THINGS!
    3. (and this may seem weird but) I will not spend more than $1.50 for a coffee.

    I plan to add to this as I go along and we already do most of the other stuff -wash in cold, we don’t own a drier or any drying machines like hair dryers etc… we have enough cloth bags for 14 simultaneous shopping trips so…

  20. SSwaim

    Hi Vickie! I thought I would share a few things on how we are trying to make our lives better along with the environment. I have always attempted to be eco-conscious. However sometimes you don’t realize the little things that you do make the biggest difference. My husband and I went on a kick this winter to save money, energy and waste.

    1. We recycle everything possible and reuse what is not recyclable in our area. I headed up a “Green Team” in my office and got a building of about 40 into recycling and being more eco-friendly. It’s hard, and some do not cooperate, but those that do know how big of a difference that it can make. My husband brings all of his recyclables home since they do not current recycle at his work.

    2. Energy conservation- plugging in all appliances to a power strip that we click off every time we are not using them. Phantom load is a bigger draw of energy than many think and we save about $20 a month on our electricity now!

    3. Light bulbs- We installed CFLs when we first purchased our house about 4 years ago. That has been extremely beneficial and we have not yet replaced a bad bulb!

    4. Carpooling- My husband and I work about 1 mile from each other. Our hours differ by 1 in the morning and 1 in the evening but it is worth the hour wait just to save the gas and make less of an impact.

    A few additional things is that I am now more conscious when at the grocery store. I always try to remember my own bags, check the bottoms of OJ and milk containers for the 1 or 2 stamp and not purchase as many single serve items…even though most of them can be recycled. I also read somewhere to use OBs. Of course why would this be something us women would think about? But hey, they are more convenient and create 1/2 as much waste! There are so many things that we can all do to make a difference…growing our own produce, buying that which we cannot grow from local farmers, and so on.

    I hope this being “green” is not a fad. I have high concerns that many will lose interest in being eco-conscious and rebel against it. Ah well…I guess all that we can do is be selfish and do this for our own futures.

  21. Jennifer

    A few things not listed here that we do at home:
    -Clothes and linens that are too shabby to be given to charity are cut up into rags for cleaning. I haven’t bought paper towels in six years. We also use cloth napkins for less-messy purposes, and recycled paper ones for ickier things.
    -I keep a bucket in the shower to capture “warm-up” water, which I then use to help fill the washing machine. It’s only 3.5 gallons per shower, but considering we rent and cannot upgrade our built-in showerhead to a low-flow one, at least it’s something.
    -We used to get two newspapers a day; my husband has cancelled them both and reads online.
    -We keep several windows in our house sealed with plastic all year round (again, lousy rental, single-pane windows).

    Hope this helps!

  22. Womanji

    I have a funny about light bulbs. We have been using the energy efficient ones for around 4 years now and when one finally blew out my daughter (13) told me there was something wrong with the electric in the house. My son (10) told her to go look at the circuit breaker box and see if the switch blew.

  23. Sonia

    Hi Vickie,
    We do 1-10 on your list with the exception of #2.I have a small collapsible tote bag in my purse always,it expands to the side of a plastic grocery bag I love it. Also in spring/summer months the car(we only own one)will stay for the most part parked. We are luckily enough to be able to walk/ride bike into town.The kids ride the school bus to school even the seventeen year old(which is rare around here most teens like to drive their own car)We also use the water collected from our dehumidifier to water our plants outside.This year we are growing our own garden and building a bee box.In the past we always bought our produce from our local farmers markets and depending on how the garden goes this summer(I don’t have the greenest thumb) I’m sure will still go to them this summer.We are also looking to buy one of those compost barrels and a rain barrel.We’ll reuse egg cartons to start our seedlings,reuse milk carton to make ice for our coolers this summer.We also unplug all electrical items when not in use.We recycle books,cds by donating them to the library.

  24. ScrapHappy

    What a great topic —
    last year, I traded in my 12-MPG SUV for a 22-MPG Volkswagen Beetle. Convertible, so I don’t even have to use the A/C! 🙂
    Makes driving carpool a lot more fun…

  25. Stephanie P

    One of my favorite conservation methods is taking the water from the dehumidifier in the basement and using it to water the flowers and plants outside.

    Recycle! We have curbside at our house. I’m working on getting paper recycling going in the high school. At least in my classroom anyway! The students use so mch paper and just throw it away at the end of the year.

    Knitted coffee sleeves! Handmade and resourceful! Slip one of these on your hot coffee cup instead of the cardboard ones Starbucks has to offer.

  26. Penny

    – public transportation & lots of walking (i live in NYC, it’s easy)
    – reusable travel coffee mug for commuting & regular mug at the office
    – reusable grocery bags
    – using the plastic bags we do acquire for the trash
    – handkerchiefs. i do supplement with regular tissues if I’m really sick but for most my sniffles this works best.
    – er… *blush, tmo?* couple showering. one person is using the water while the other is soaping.

  27. ferrous

    i forgot a couple of things & others’ posts have reminded me of them:
    – reusable shopping bags, of course. the last time i used a plastic shopping bag (it’s been months & months & months)i felt so guilty! lol!
    – washable menstrual pads. they are so much more comfortable than the horrible bleached, chemical-full, paper things that the big companies that try to make us feel all weird about our cycles sell to women.

  28. Vickie

    For me, the big 2 energy users are home heating/cooling and transportation. We had our old house insulated, but we have more to do, for example, more weatherstriping, more planting for summer shade. As far as transportation goes, we try to drive as little as possible, and our cars are boring little compacts. I wish we didn’t have to fly but family obligations have necessitated some recent trips.

    Would love to incorporate solar energy if we can in the future.