Saving the Earth… coffee cup at a time

I think my renewed interest in reducing, reusing and recycling comes from the fact that I have very little time to donate to worthy causes. This year, due to scheduling, I am not volunteering for the American Cancer Society or for the agency we adopted MAM through. I can’t justify volunteering for them on the one weeknight a week that the three of us can sit down and have dinner together.

So I’ve taken on the task of saving the earth instead. Little choices add up to big changes. Today I brought my own mug to Panera. I also brought a shopping bag to the mall, and promptly filled it with a few fun things for me and MAM.

I’m getting lots of ideas from Beth at Fake Plastic Fish, and today she’s put up a great comprehensive post about all of the things she’s doing to make a difference. It’s rather incredible. I’m not ready to make my own rice milk yet (I’m sure I’d have to give up blogging to find the time for that), but I am researching composters and I think that we may get one once we have a yard that is ours and not ruled by a cranky Home Owners Association.

As I was talking to my mom about some this, she mentioned that she thought it would take a few generations to get people used to the idea of being green–just like it took a few generations for people to get used to disposables. That got me thinking about my fantastic 94 year old grandma–the way she and my grandpa lived in their house set a great example. I remember a compost can under the kitchen sink, glass jars organizing everything, and NOTHING ever going to waste. It’s a side effect of growing up through the Great Depression and WWII, I’m sure. Just before she sold her house and moved into an assisted living apartment, my mom had to secretly go into her kitchen and throw away the styrofoam trays (from raw meat purchases) she was re-using (that is one thing that probably shouldn’t reused).

Anyway, I think I’m going to keep a tally of how many coffee cups I save by bringing my own, just see how much of a difference it will make.

Blog Action Day

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day–over 12,000 blogs are posting about the Earth today and what can be done to make it a cleaner, better place.

With Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Walmart selling cheap CFL light bulbs and Starbucks giving away their coffee grounds for gardening, it seems like everyone wants in on the trendy “Save the Earth” theme. Sometimes it seems like going green is a tall bill–there are many things out there that contribute to pollution, wildlife endangerment and that what not, and all of that negatively effects the earth’s natural balance…the issues are huge, the solutions complicated. While the environment is an important issue for me, in my day-to-day life, I don’t have a lot of time for researching or debating the topic.

But I want to make good consumer choices that with minimal environmental impact. I want to leave the planet in decent shape for my daughter’s generation. I want to instill in her environmental thoughtfulness. As with everything else, when it comes down to it, I parent by example. So here are five things I have become comfortable with, that she will see me doing as she grows up, that I hope will make her thoughtful about her choices as well.

So here, in no particular order are things that I think will make a difference. I’ve gleaned them over the past few months–reading articles in assorted magazines, listening to tidbits on the news, and reading a blog called Fake Plastic Fish.

1. I bring my own shopping bags now, just about everywhere I go. Why is it cool and trendy to not give out bags at places like Costco and Sam’s Club, but people give you funny looks if you say you don’t need a bag at a store like Target? I have no idea. But, being a teacher, I have a fine collection of tote bags. I keep several in my car and use them as much as I can.

2. I’m buying powdered detergent. I read this somewhere recently–and it makes sense–that liquid detergents are mostly water, even the concentrated versions. You can buy a smaller package of powder and do the same amount of laundry. More truck fuel is used to ship liquid detergent, and you have the issue of the not-really-recyclable lid. Granted, it’s a little neater, but I’ve gotten used to it. The powder boxes are made out of cardboard, and take up less space. Granted, each comes with a plastic scoop, but I’m passing those onto my daughter for sand and water play.

3. I’m letting my dishwasher do 99% of the dishes. It’s true-a dishwasher uses less water than washing by hand (think taking a shower vs. taking a bath)…who am I to argue?? (I would also think the powder vs. liquid detergent would work here too)

4. I’m bringing my own mug to the coffee shop. Not only does brining my own mug save me 10 whopping cents, my latte or chai stays much warmer in my travel mug than it does in a disposable cup with plastic lid.

5. For the most part, I’ve stopped buying bottled water. Think about all of the plastic water bottles in the world today. Think about all of the energy used to “produce” water for bottling, the petroleum used to produce the bottles for bottling the water, truck fuel it takes to get to the store and to get it to your home. Think about how many bottles you recycle…..and how many you don’t. Think about all of the caps that will be here lon.g after you or I or anyone who drank bottled water this year will be around. Think about it, and the next time you are thirsty, you may find yourself walking over to your tap. I did. Read more about bottle vs. tap here at ThinkOutsidetheBottle.

So those are the things that I’ve made a habit that don’t cost any money (assuming you have tote bags, a dishwasher and a travel mug handy, and have to buy laundry soap anyway). It takes minor changes in daily living, but I think it will make an impact on the earth.

Do you have any easy no-thought environmentally friendly tips to share? Please do! And visit the other Blog Action Day Blogs for more ideas on how we can help to save our planet….after all, it’s the only one we’ve got.