Monday, October 27, 2008


A few weeks ago when we went to the grocery store, we had to buy small garbage bags; you know, the kind you put in the small wastebaskets around the house? I had forgotten about them, quite frankly, because I was using my grocery store bags in the trash cans. Much to my surprise, we had finally run out of grocery store bags, and I was INORDINATELY excited.

We are not a green household by any means. It's not that I didn't CARE about the environment. I've always CARED, but like many people, I didn't really believe that any changes I made would make a difference in the overall scheme of things. So we recycled cans and bottles because it's the law, and that was about it.

Then came the summer. We decided that we would save money on our groceries by no longer purchasing individually packaged fruit, apple sauce, cottage cheese, and yogurt for Duncan's lunches. Since he was only attending day care one day a week, we were only packing lunch for him one day a week; we thought we could put a little extra work into it and save a little cash. And we survived.

In mid-August, I decided to give up plastic grocery store bags. I don't think Jamie thought we would stick with it, but he discovered that he could pack the groceries better in the cloth bags. And Stop and Shop gives us a 5 cent discount for each bag we use. I stocked both our cars with bags and bought one for my purse...and we haven't looked back. I knew then that if I wanted to make changes, I had to take them one step at a time and wait to add a new one until the previous ones had become a way of life.

Buoyed by our bag success, I decided to use our collection of cloth napkins rather than store them in a drawer. I said to Jamie, "I know you're going to think this is crazy, but..." He said that as long as I washed the laundry, he didn't care. We still use paper napkins for dessert and for lunches we pack for school, but I've only bought napkins once since August. Yeah!

So, lunches...when Duncan went back to daycare full time, we didn't go back to the prepackaged fruits, yogurts, and cottage cheeses. It takes a little longer to pack his lunch, but maybe there will still be trees and oxygen and grass when he's in high school. I can live with that. On opening day at school, I received my sandwich mats in the mail, and we've been using them to pack our sandwiches and vegetables. Not only do they save plastic bags, but they also save the paper towels we used to make the sandwiches on top of so they're doing double duty.

I read somewhere that baby wash is responsible for a huge amount of plastic in landfills so I bought a bar of baby-friendly soap for Duncan, and no one missed the bottle. What's more, the bar is cheaper and has lasted longer. Who knew?

I'm not sure where I'll go next. We're ready for a new step. I'm excited to compost, but it's not really the season to start that. (I do sneak out from time to time and dump the kitchen vegetable scraps on top of the pile of garden detritus that we dumped in the woods. And when we had a pile of squishy apples, we threw them into the woods for the animals). Maybe I'll give up Diet Coke. Maybe I'll stop using disposable pens. In fact, the concept "disposable" is turning me off these days. Maybe I'll start rinsing out ziploc bags like my Mom. Do I think I'll start baking all my own bread or hanging my laundry on a line...not yet. But we're taking little steps, and I firmly believe that they will make a difference.

By the way, when you're done reading Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, read The Green Book. It will change the way you think about how much you can change the world. Then, loan them both to other people so you can pay it forward. (The Green Book has already been recycled once! Keep it moving!)
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