Recycling

Taking Care Of The Earth Is Like Taking Care Of Our Home – We Just Do It

Who doesn’t love a good “be authentic” talk with a dash of eye-roll to “branding,” but those climate scientists have to be kicking themselves for not hiring a marketing team back in the 80s. I can distinctly remember sitting on the bus we had a huge snowstorm after an unseasonably warm winter in Connecticut and a friend, who was maybe 10 years old, said: SEE? Global warming doesn’t exist?

D’OH! Those scientists are all: Why didn’t we call it climate change from the beginning? Unpredictable weather patterns caused by global warming not a literal fahrenheit 451 in everyone’s backyard.

At least the majority of Americans today believe in CLIMATE CHANGE since we’ve changed the name and had flooding of major cities, creepy windstorms called derecho and snow in Spring in the south. Yay?

As I’ve said before, Earth Day is not liberal or conservative, hippie or showered, taking care of the Earth is like cleaning our home — we just do it — except I’m so much better at taking care of the planet. WHY IS THAT?

Here are my favorite ways I’m doing or should be doing:

1) Recycle: We used to have super mean trash collectors who wouldn’t take the trash if there was recycling in it so by “super mean” I mean SUPER GREEN. (I’ve been waiting all my life for that joke.) We set aside a cabinet for recycling and line it with paper bags to make the process as easy as possible. We also bought a giant recycling container because recycling is only picked up every other week and the overflow was discouraging to everyone but the ants.

Recycling
We still have another week before the recycling truck comes. {sigh}

2) BYOB: Bring your own bags. Let’s party like the world isn’t going to end. WOOT WOOT. (This is why I need a PR firm, too.) My husband is awesome at remembering our stash of reusable bags for grocery shopping, but when I’m out running errands, my hands are full of kids and phones and coffee, and I just don’t think of it. So I carry giant purses and I shove things into it until I look suspicious and then we leave. I also get my kids to carry their stuff because they have hands! Because even if the store offers me a reusable bag, the bag didn’t grow on a tree in the store’s backyard. Plus, I don’t need another reusable guilt bag to forget at home anyway.

Giant duct tape purse
My friend made this giant duct tape purse for me and it’s only an eighth full of my stuff. The rest is waiting for errands.

3) Organic versus Local versus Bulk: We have to find a balance between these three thing or create a comic where they duel to the death. Local is awesome, but if I have to go back to the store every 3 days because it is something my family eats a lot and it comes in a plastic package, maybe buying a national version in bulk is better for the environment. Organic is great but if it’s imported from 6000 miles away, maybe the local option from the farm I know well-enough to not need it to be certified organic is a better option. My husband refers to this as Alex thinks a lot.

4) Composting and taking breaks: We compost, but we needed a break a few months ago. Don’t get me wrong, we love our compost bin (between kids and cats and a dog, we needed the bin) and the juice helped our garden tremendously last year. We just got so busy and falling behind on bringing the compost out to the bin is gross because we now had a mini-compost bin on our kitchen counter. Yum. We will pick it up again this summer when our schedules are less intense and I’m feeling better. So compost without worrying about being perfect. Or be better than us and never stop ever. That’s awesome, too.

5) Thrifting: I want to get back into thrift-store shopping. I used to love it, but with little kids in tow, it felt impossible even though little kids clothing is probably the best things to buy used and a commenter once wrote that cotton was the best thing to reuse. We do donate all ours and our kids’ clothing rather than throw them away, but I think we could consume less as a family or making better choices where and what we buy. It has become harder to find people to fix things such as shoes or clothing, but I could do a better job looking as well. I remember sewing up my favorite jeans with patches, but maybe that was just the fashion in the mid 90s? I also am lucky to have a husband who is interested in woodwork and taking things apart and (eventually) putting them back together fixed.

An aside: I am also proud that we spent extra money to replace our heating and air-conditioning units with the best available for the environment as well as installing specialized roof shingles and insulation to improve our home’s energy efficiency, but I know that this is a luxury, which I find frustrating because it should be more available as it is an important part of caring for our planet.

Anyway, happy taking care of our home and Happy Earth Day.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

11 thoughts to “Taking Care Of The Earth Is Like Taking Care Of Our Home – We Just Do It”

  1. We’ve been waiting for the solar panels to get less expensive. Living in NM we get so much sun. If more people had solar panels we could probably have enough energy without needing to burn coal. We’re trying to use some rain catchment (buckets and more buckets) to water our garden with. We haven’t perfected that yet. We are in a drought here, and I know it is bad because I am starting to see commercials on TV about it. We’ve been in a drought for a while, but now I guess it’s becoming “real” and while we have a well and some water rights, the possibility of running out of water is real.

    I laughed about the composting. We have the bin on the counter and it can really get to be a pain sometimes. It’s gross, but the best part is we have so little actual garbage now. Our recycling people take everything, but the styrofoam. Between that and the composting our actual garbage is reduced considerably which is good because we have to take it to the dump every week.

    We have way too many bags to shop with and I almost always forget to bring them. I think I probably need a giant bag like you have. I have been using this little backpack so my hands are free to chase down my daughter in the store. She is getting older so maybe I can switch to a giant bag eventually.

    Thrift store shopping is awesome. There is one in El Paso we try to go to a few times a year and one a little closer that has less stuff but terrific prices. Recycling clothing is so much fun too because then you can have a style that doesn’t look like what everyone else is wearing. It’s the best for kids clothes. I get dresses for a $1 or $2 which totally beats $35 and if my daughter gets dirty and spills grape juice down the front I don’t have a heart attack.

  2. “My husband refers to this as Alex thinks a lot.” LOL

    This is where I am really proud to live in Austin. We recently adopted a pretty aggressive recycling/composting system, and ouor neighborhood is doing one of the testing phases. We have a huge recycle bin (your city didn’t provide you one?) a composting bin, and a small trash can that rarely even gets filled up because we put so much in composting and recycle. As for your indoor compost storage — keep it in the freezer. We dump all of our food scraps in a bin in the freezer then go dump it in the big composting bin outside. Much less smelly, and when it’s frozen it just comes out like a huge cube of frozen goodness.

    Austin also just instituted a city wide plastic bag ban. So we have to have reusable bags everywhere we go. It’s pretty awesome, but I do forget, especially for those last minute trips where you mean to get one thing and end up getting 10 things.

    1. When my husband read this comment, he asked “Does Austin need a pediatrician?”

      Our city only provides the small bins. We have to purchase the larger ones. Where we used to live, we had to bring our recycling to the plant!

      The freezer idea is such a great one. Thanks. Now I just have to get back into the habit. Our city doesn’t do composting at all as a city. It’s individuals and some schools — maybe a few companies like Whole Foods and our grocery store that carries 90% local stuff (Elwood Thompson). What does Austin do with all the compost? Do you get it back for free for your garden or is it used in city parks?

  3. We are HUGE recycle-ers, and I always forget the reusable bags even though we have plenty. We just signed up for a CSA with Farm to Family here in RVA and I’m pumped about it! We are hoping it will replace our grocery shopping and we’ll be more local and earth friendly while saving money and eating healthier, so it’s a good plan. Now if only I can figure out how to live without chocolate.

  4. I’d love to know about your composting. We do vermiculture composting so we have a bin in our laundry room with worms in it. They compost all of our salad-type scraps. We’re not allowed to have real compost bins in our neighborhood (Booo!), or even solar panels, but when we’re ready for that we’ll move.

    As for recycling, it’s not something the city provides here (Booo!), but it is available for a very reasonable fee. I think it’s like $3 a month billed every 4 months. And they provide a huge like 96 gallon bin that they collect every two weeks.

    With regards to where the food comes from, that’s a big deal that many people don’t think of. I also try to get stuff in season at least in the United States so stuff doesn’t travel as far and is more fresh. Why pay $3 for a tomato from Uruguay when it’s not even good because it spent a week on a boat. Canned and frozen is the best way to beat the seasons.

    We belong to a CSA that does its farming about 2 hours from here. This year he’s actually doing the drop at our house because the only people from the farmer’s market we were picking up at are all people we got to sign up (it has gotten smaller every year because another one has grown a lot). We also hit up the farmer’s market on Saturdays to supplement.

    Did you know we bought a cow too? We took half and split the other half with friends. Locally grown cow. It tastes quite yummy and the price we ended up paying was less per pound (for everything!) than we were paying just for ground beef. Might buy a lamb this year too, just because my wife loves lamb so much.

    As for thrifting, there are 2 groups that do local consignment sales for kids stuff. It’s awesome. We get all this used stuff for dirt cheap. Tops are usually like $3 and toys less than $10.

    And then, you probably know about my rain barrels that I posted about. And I mentioned on your garden post that we planted some herbs and peppers here, too.

    1. We can use a bin so we have a small bin in our home and then throw it in the larger bin in our backyard and make sure to add yard stuff (grass from mowing etc) to balance it out. We considered worms but because our bin turns we didn’t end up needing them.

      When we living in Charlottesville, there wasn’t a recycling program and we had to bring all our stuff to the recycling place and separate it so we had bags and bags of stuff. The nice thing was that they recycled a few more things than our pickup place here does. However, the amount of recycling we have plus our schedules would make those trips unrealistic so I’m grateful Richmond has a house-to-house recycling program. I was so surprised that Cville didn’t though since Connecticut where I grew up had had one for years and it was really strict.

      We are looking into rain barrels as our next “thing.” I probably need to get our lawn and garden under control in May first.

      The cow is so cool!

  5. Our recycling containers are small little bins. We pay to have two and they are OVERFLOWING by the time the recycle guy comes (every other Tuesday). But it’s worth the extra $5 a month to us. I would LOVE a huge bin like yours.

    I want to start composting. maybe this summer? My grandparents have always done it. They are in their 80’s, have lived in the same house since they were married, and have never ever paid for a garbage service. this is both good and bad. They compost, my grandpa burns paper goods, but I am not entirely sure what happens to the other stuff. I’m afraid to ask.

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