In 2019, I decided to make my resolution to add one eco-friendly practice to our family each month. It felt doable and flexible enough for us. I was initially inspired because I was pregnant with my second child, and considering the amount of diapers and wipes we were about to add to the landfill made me shudder.
I made a couple of promises to myself. First, I’d only try one new practice a month. Secondly, I would only stick to what was sustainable for us. Cloth diapers were not something I felt I could commit to, so I decided off-the-bat that we would use disposable.
Here is a list of the 12 eco-friendly ideas we tried, and how they panned out.
1. Replace paper towels with cloth napkins and towels. For the most part, our family has stuck to this. We keep napkins from when we get take-out for things like bacon grease or having company. I’ve maybe bought one package in the past year and a half.
2. No more loofahs. This change was so easy, but we just made the conscious decision to stop buying plastic loofahs and shower sponges. Now, we just use washcloths. No-brainer!
3. No more zip lock bags. Instead, we have inherited a bunch of Tupperware (from my grandma) of all shapes and sizes to store snacks, leftovers and more. We have stuck with this one and haven’t purchased zip lock bags for nearly two years.
4. Get serious about recycling. Most trash and recycling pick-up places have rules about what can and cannot be recycled. I was always lazy at tossing things where I thought they went. My husband continues to do a much better job at following recycling rules. So, we were about 50% successful at the time, but our growth here is measurable.
5. Meal plan to cut food waste. This one felt like a freebie. I had already been meal planning, but I made some small tweaks and became conscious of using up food before it went bad. I purchased less produce and had an intention for every product I purchased. This helps with reducing food packaging waste as well.
6. Compost. Again, kudos to my husband on this one. After I claimed and picked up a free compost bin in our neighborhood, my husband was the one who followed through with utilizing it. However, after a recent move, we have a much better system for composting and we are composting nearly everything we can. Many of our steps have evolved, and we have grown into them.
7. Thrift! Our family’s wardrobe is almost completely thrifted or secondhand. My husband and I have also been consciously buying from brands that will last longer instead of wearing out within a year. It’s taken some research and it’s a bit more costly, but it’s become very easy to make purchasing decisions.
8. Reusable produce bags. This was a complete fail for us. We shop at Aldi where most produce is already wrapped in cellophane. The mesh bags I purchased are now used to organize puzzle pieces and small toys. You win some, you lose some.
9. Garden. Remember when I said I was pregnant? Though we usually plant a garden every year, we did not in 2019. However, we plan to in the coming years.
10. Use disposable grocery bags. This was also an easy change to make (*ahem* Aldi). It was just a conscious decision to put them back into my car after I emptied them. This new rhythm has greatly decreased the accrual of plastic bags in our home.
11. Bring our own water bottles when we leave the house. We weren’t a family that really purchased drinks outside our home, but bringing water for everyone totally circumvents this problem.
12. Use a shampoo bar instead of buying bottled shampoo. In all honesty, this one was never even attempted. I still have plans to give it a trial run, but this was an ambitious ask for a year when I had a newborn and toddler.
We are very privileged to live in a time in history where there is so much… stuff. So often, I consume without realizing the consequences. I’ve learned the hard way that it is unrealistic to make large and grand changes to my family’s life when it comes to being eco-friendly. Taking a year to try some new ways of doing things helped clarify which practices I could and could not maintain. I’ve also embraced that different seasons of life will afford new and different opportunities to be a thoughtful consumer.
What are some small but mighty eco-friendly choices you and your family practice?