When Xza asked if I wanted to present a seminar on greener living at MommyCon in Las Vegas, I was hesitant. I am not a public speaker, and I wasn’t sure it was something I was even capable of accomplishing. As time went on and I gave it more thought, I decided that while I may not be the best speaker at MommyCon, it was something I wanted to do. I figured since I love to talk, and am passionate about sharing information on simple ways to live a greener life, I would give it a go. While I’m sure it wasn’t the favorite seminar at MommyCon, I was pleased with how it turned out and even more pleased with the information I was able to share. So since most of you weren’t there, I am going to share a little bit from my MommyCon Greener Living Seminar with you today!
When the twins were born, I had no real concern for living a green or environmentally friendly lifestyle. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, outside of Portland, so of course I was familiar with the three R’s (reduce/reuse/recycle), but I wasn’t overly concerned with living in a way that was simple, easy on our environment, or free from chemicals and the like. When the twins were about six months old we started supplementing with formula, and I started to notice that I was in the minority. Interestingly enough, all of my friends with babies at that time breastfed, and I wasn’t quite sure why I felt uncomfortable or disappointed when I filled a bottle with formula in their presence. I had never given it much thought prior to that, yet I suddenly found myself wishing that I had persevered in our breastfeeding journey.
When CeCe was born, I knew I wanted to do things differently. I wanted a natural birth, I wanted to breastfeed, and I wanted to learn to do what was best. We began our attachment parenting about that time as well. I also started reading blogs on greener living about that time, researching links between vaccines and autism, plastic and autism, and so on. I learned the dangers of plastic and BPA, and I saw that nearly everything we came into contact with contained harmful chemicals. As I read about pollution and trash statistics, I knew I wanted to learn to do things differently.
This was the beginning of my journey towards living a greener lifestyle, and it has been a slow and steady process ever since. I know how overwhelming it can be to want to do things differently, but not know where to start. Which is exactly why I love to share small ways you can make changes that will add up over time. I’m going to share with you the 8 things I spoke on at MommyCon, but will be breaking it up into two posts since there is quite a lot of information.
1.) Anti-Bacterial Products: The Unknown Dangers
Antibacterial products are found in most homes in America. Most of us use them because we believe they will help keep our families and ourselves healthy. I know plenty of people who carry around small bottles of antibacterial hand sanitizer around in their cars, purses, and stash them in random places around the house. They pass them to you before you come near them or touch a child, and would never dream that the very things that they believe is helping them could actually be harming them in the long run. While I myself am not naturally very concerned about germs, I realize that some people are. It can be quite terrifying to think about all the dangerous diseases lurking at every corner, I’m sure, but let me assure you that antibacterial products are not the answer.
Antibacterial products contain a chemical called triclosan, which is known for it’s bacterial fighting properties. However, antibacterial products kill more than just the bad, disease causing bacteria: they kill good bacteria as well. Once the area, or your system, are cleared of all susceptible bacteria, resistant bacteria multiply and take over, which can create drug-resistant super bugs. Even with the small level of antibacterial products found in most homes, bacteria can easily develop that are resistant to antibiotics and antibacterial products as well.
Studies show that exposing a baby to germs is actually beneficial in the long run, strengthening their immune system as they develop immunity. A baby must be exposed to germs in their first year so that they can develop antibodies to fight infection later on in life. As for cleanliness, regular soap and water are more than sufficient for keeping germs at bay.
2.) Recycling Basics/Recycling with Kids
I know recycling is probably one of the first things that comes to most peoples minds when they think about “green living”. But the thing is, most Americans do not recycle. I think when you don’t recycle anything, it can be overwhelming to start.
According to the EPA, the national recycling rate is just 30%. If that number were to double, increasing to just 60%, which is only a little over half of American’s recycling, we would save an additional 315 million barrels of oil each year. Recycling really is so easy, there is no reason why we aren’t all doing it! Did you know recycling one four foot stack of newspapers saves the equivalent one 40 foot fir tree?!
If you don’t recycle at all and feel overwhelmed by starting, I thought I’d share with you have we do it as well as how we involve the kids in recycling at home. For me, the key is organization. I have a medium sized bin under my sink next to my trash can. Anything that can recycle goes into that bin throughout the day, all mixed together. Now, if you are fortunate enough to live somewhere where you have curbside pickup and don’t have to sort your recycling, then your job is REALLY easy. For those of us who live in the middle of nowhere, we have to sort it ourselves. So at the end of each day, or whenever the bin under the sink is full, we head out to the garage to our recycling center. We have bins lined up against the wall with tags on them. I just wrote what each bin is for on a piece of cardboard and taped it to the respective bin, and we take the house bin out and sort it all into paper, glass, aluminum, plastic, etc. It’s very simple and requires very little of our time. We are teaching the kids which types of things can go into the trash and which go into the recycling bin, and then one of them usually helps us sort it in the garage. Once the bins are full, we just run down to our recycling center and dump it into their big receptacles. Very simple, but it makes a big impact.
One neat way to teach your kids about recycling is to let them play recycling games. If you just do a simple google search for “recycling games for kids” you will find all kinds of great resources for teaching kids what recycling is all about.
3.) Re-purposing/Upcycling: Mason Jars
Re-purposing is really just a fancy way of saying reusing something. I love finding fresh, new uses for something ordinary. I know I’ve mentioned my use of mason jars here before, but I have to reiterate: I LOVE mason jars. While I do can a little each year, many of my jars just sit in the pantry unused. A few years ago we started using them for drinking glasses, and now we use them for all sorts of things. My favorites include:
* Storing bulk foods (you can even make a chalkboard label on each one!)
* Organizing: I organize craft supplies, nails/screws, pens/pencils, ribbon, bathroom supplies, homeschool supplies, and so on. Pretty much anything that can fit nicely into a mason jar does at our house. I love that I can see through the glass so I know what is inside.
* Drinking glasses of course!
* Storing leftovers in the refrigerator
* Storing homemade cleaners
* Decorating: Use a mason jar instead of a vast for flowers, fill with acorns, pretty rocks, crocheted beads; the possibilities are endless.
4.) Eating Locally/Responsibly
I think eating locally is one of the areas of green living that intimidates people the most. I know it was for me! Maybe if I lived somewhere with year-round farmers markets I would feel less overwhelmed at trying to choose local food sources, but I don’t. We have a farmers market that lasts a few months and consists of about 5 booths. So when I started researching where I could buy local eggs, meat, and produce I felt hopeless. However, over the last nearly three years, I have been surprisingly successful in my search! I started with eggs, since after eating farm fresh eggs for years, I can’t stomach store bought eggs. I placed a want ad on Craigslist and soon found a consistent egg supplier. That led to buying free range whole chickens from the same family, and soon I found pork, beef, and a CSA.
The typical American meal travels 1,500 miles before it reaches your plate. If we each took small steps towards locavore living, we could change these statistics. The key is starting small, taking one step at a time, until it is a habit and then taking another, and another, and so on. Search Craigslist, or your local classifieds. Place want ads. Find a local CSA (community supported agriculture) and join. Utilize Bountiful Baskets if they are in your area. Read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for inspiration. Find a community garden. Commit to growing one item to feed your family this year, even if it is simply an herb in your windowsill or tomatoes on your porch. Cook one local meal per week, and double the recipe when you do to freeze half. That way you cook local once per week, but benefit from it twice.
It’s not really all that hard to eat locally if you put forth a little time and effort. I know it’s much easier to just drive to the grocery store and grab whatever you need, but it is so much more satisfying to know that you are supporting local individuals through your food purchases!
*Look out for part two in the Greener Living series later this week!