Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Refresh & Rethink

Happy Spring! I hope it was a beautiful day in your neighborhood. Spring is often seen and felt as a time for resolutions, cleaning out, and starting anew. While Earth Day isn't for another month, some people use the first day of Spring to celebrate too.

As I've said before, I think you are all smart people and you know this stuff. But maybe, just maybe, seeing it again will inspire you to green your routines a little more. Obviously, this list is a minuscule piece of the puzzle, but then again, every little bit helps, right? Here's some of what Mr Official Taster and I do to keep ourselves, the puppies, our bank account, and the planet a little healthier.
  • I would estimate that 90% of our laundry is air dried, on a drying rack, sans dryer, either on our balcony or tucked into a corner of the living room. While this means all of our household laundry cannot get done in one day (because it wouldn't all fit on the rack), we use way less energy. Shower rods also work great, as would a suspension rod somewhere out of the way (you could either leave it in place, or take it down when there's nothing to dry).
  • In that same vein, almost all laundry here at Chez Sweets is washed in cold water. Bedding, both human and canine, gets hot water because it helps eliminate allergens. I don't notice a difference in cleanliness, and I know that it both keeps our energy bill down and helps extend the life of some fabrics.
  • Our soaps, detergents, and other cleaning products tend to be Seventh Generation, Mrs Meyers, or in-house, weird-chemical-free brands from places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. The less chemicals, the better, for us and the puppies. I've never used bleach, fabric softener, or dryer sheets as part of my laundry routine, so "giving them up" isn't so hard for me.
  • As many dishes as possible go in the dishwasher, which is more efficient than I will ever be. They get air dried - I think all dishwashers let you choose whether to heat or air dry. Only wine glasses (they don't fit) and our pots & pans get hand washed. 
  • We don't use air fresheners or candles, so that's less chemicals in our indoor air. We also have a few houseplants that help clean our air (ours were chosen for looks, but there are specific varieties that work best).
  • Recycle, recycle, recycle. Whether it's tomato cans (how-to coming soon!) or wine boxes turned planters, printing on the backs of old paper (only Important stuff gets new, unadulterated printer paper), or storing bulk foods like chocolate chips or quinoa in old glass jars, we really try to get the most use out of everyday items. If we're done with something and it's in reasonable condition, it goes to a local thrift store. Of course, we also put everything our county lets us into the recycling bin.
  • One of the items I looked forward to registering for the most when we got hitched last year was a set of glass storage containers. It's a weird wish, I know, but I love them! We don't have a microwave in this current home, but we have elsewhere and at work, so glass eliminates the dreaded heated plastic. Pro tip: you can write on glass with sharpie and it rises off quite easily in the normal course of washing. I often date our containers so I know what leftovers should be eaten first. It could also come in handy if you send leftovers home with a friend or take a food offering to a neighbor.
  • Our cookware also got greened as a result of us getting married. We bought our set, and it was a big investment, but I'm happy we did. We use Scanpan Professional Nonstick, which I've liked getting to know. The biggest downside is it's weight, which can be a pain while (hand)washing some of the bigger pots. The pros outweigh (ha!) the con, though, and I like that they are truly nonstick without added oil and are made PFOA (perfluoraoctanoic acid) and Teflon-free.
  • Farmers' Markets. Local, organic, sustainably grown food is a priority for us. Real Food as much as possible and an nearly-vegan diet. Sometimes the organic version of food is more expensive, but I think it's worth the price both now and down the line.
  • Reuseable shopping totes. Considering how often I shop for food, I can't even begin to estimate how many plastic or paper trees I've saved and how many bags I've kept from cluttering our homes just by remembering my bag(s). Many stores will give you a refund (anywhere from 3-10 cents per bag) on your total bill, which totally adds up. 
PHEW. That's kind of long, huh? Well, I hope it helps to inspire. What suggestions do you have? What are the top three things do in your home?

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