Green Living in 2011

So, believe it or not I started out this blog NOT to yak yak yak about my life but to share my greenliness.  I’m a treehugger who shaves her pits, I’m an earth mother who wears sexy boots, I’m an eco-licious girl who is going to push myself a little bit more each day, each month, each year, to do what I believe to be right and share my experiences so that others can see it’s possible, it’s beneficial, it’s lovely.

Looking back, I’ve seen how far I’ve come.  Remember when we’d just THROW AWAY paper?  While I was fortunate to grow up in Oregon where we had the first bottle bill, and curbside recycling has been a way of life for a long time, and recycling centers are accessible for those non-curbside plastics, etc., it’s still an evolution.

Shortly after buying my house in 2006, I had the oil furnace decommissioned and financed a a super-high-efficiency natural gas furnace as part of my mortgage (woo hoo!), and because of my 100% financing, used my down payment savings to buy an energy star fridge and washer, had my downspouts disconnected, bought a compost bin, went 100% CFL, installed a ceiling fan, and installed a dual-flush toilet. In 2008, I began bicycle commuting, sold my car and started my Zipcar membership...and this blog!  Yeah baby!  No maintenance, no gas, no insurance, no traffic, no stress!  Oh yes and 20 lbs dropped 🙂

In 2009, I started taking a look at my own environmental footprint, share what I’d been learning, and get a conversation going here on my blog!  So first I documented my life and what I was already doing to be green.  That year, some of my changes included:

* Using a recycled rubber yoga mat * Organic shampoo, conditioner & toothpaste * Vegetarian vitamins (who knew most include animal products!) * Exclusively buying used books * Changing to a recycled plastic toothbrush with a replaceable head * Built and painted my own rainbarrel – $25 workshop, $5 for the kid paint to decorate * Changed to Preserve recycled plastic razor * Completely ended relationship with drycleaner – no clothes of mine ever need it! * PVC-free shower curtain liner * No plastic laundry or dish detergent containers (and phosphate-free detergents, of course) * Not using plastic bags for produce (they honestly don’t protect your food, y’all) * Used Rodda’s and Miller’s low-VOC paint in my dining, living, bedroom, basement, and hallway * Enjoyed farmer’s market eggs – cost prohibitive but hey, that lowers cholesterol and increases quality! * Bought my first pair of hemp shoes – Chuck Taylors (since discontinued, argh!!) * 100% green cleaning – and buying a huge concentrate bottle to refill the bottle * Began buying from the bulk aisle extensively * Ended my relationship with paper towels and went to cloth napkins instead of paper * Planted my ‘driveway garden’ to access the only consistent source of light on the property * Started canning for real – pears, applesauce, tomatoes and jam to begin. * Had blown-in recycled denim insulation treated with ant-deterring Borate put in the walls of my house – entire house cost $1200 (tax refund, woo hoo!) and took only half a day for them to do * Paid my awesome handyman to go into the crawl space under my breakfast nook and insulate with recycled denim cotton batts of insulation for that one cold spot in the kitchen.

So you’re thinking, WOW!  That’s a lot, right?  Definitely.  But look at how small each step is and how much of an impact one person can make. 

So, what did I do in 2010 to up the ante?

* My garden changed everything. After taking evil weed trees down in late ’09, suddenly I had a light-filled blank slate.  I went on the cheap, building beds from leftover wood and cinderblocks found around the property and in the garage, uzing my Zipcar to transport everything, from mulch to soil to the wheelbarrow splurge.  (and it’s cheaper if you go get that stuff – almost half the cost and only $10 for a ziptruck?  Hell yeah).  Make friends with your neighbors, y’all.  I don’t have trees with good mulchy leaves in my yard but a guy down the street was happy to give me a few bags of his, and my other neighbor had leftover compost that spread a nice lovely layer on my raised beds, and then of course there are the bags o’ coffee grounds for the garden that most cafes give away – yay!   And of course, I saved a lot of $ and planted nearly everything (except peppers and tomatoes) by seed, and with very few exceptions, had a rip-roaring garden that allowed me to ‘shop’ in my backyard for many of my ingredients.  And those of you who garden know how amazing that first salad is, or that first snap pea eaten right there off the vine…

* I increased my property value and happiness quotient (nerdy smile) by paying my neighbor to build me a new deck in the front of my house, made from local, FSC-certified cedar.  I got the materials (yay Chinook Book for eco-coupons, saving me a couple hundred bucks!) and in two weeks I had the best place in the world to sit and watch the world go by, with my hot cocoa in the mornings and my glass of wine after work, trusty dog nearby.  Life is good.

* Minimized bus trips and increased bike trips.  Most places I can get to by bike (I’m not knockin’ it, don’t worry) and it’s better for my overall fitness, health (germ-less), fresh air, and decrease my vehicular use overall.  Right now I’ve not been on a bus in three months and now that I don’t have an employer-sponsored bus pass, it makes me think about how far I really want to go by bike – less trips overall, more patronage of nearby businesses, and less $ spent.

* Programmed the heat to 65 instead of 68.  Every degree counts, and I’ve found that 9 times out of 10 I don’t realize it, and in fact in the mornings turn the heat down when it turns on.  I wear socks in the winter in my house and put on a sweatshirt first before deciding if I need to turn up the heat.  

* Major wardrobe and household simplification.  To put it simply, I just have less stuff.  Something about my trip to the UK made me really feel what’s important, and it’s not in material things.  Some items I never thought I could part with, for the dorkiest of reasons, now seem trivial.  This weekend I sat down on the floor in my basement and went through my stuff, putting together boxes and boxes for a spring garage sale.  I thought about how incredibly easy it would be for me to move … when ‘stuff’ is secondary, it’s easy to go wherever makes you happy.  i know if my house burned to the ground that i’d be okay.  sound strange?  in the end, it’s about the beautiful moments and people in your life that make you happy.

* This weekend I finally bought a AA/AAA/9V battery recharger.  Feel like I’m about a decade behind but hey, I did it.  No more disposable batteries!  I don’t do a lot of battery stuff, but my bike lights and a few other necessities require it, so it was worth it. (PS – prices have gone down – got mine on sale for $12).

* Trading with neighbors and friends.  You grow this, I’ll grow that.  I watched their chickens this weekend, I got eggs.  Trading jam flavors.  Winter hats for dark chocolate truffles.  Bartering rocks! 

* Started filling up my bulk containers at the store by bringing my actual containers in, rather than filling up bags in the store.  Takes away the bag thing (just weight it beforehand so they can subtract the weight), AND you buy exactly how much you need.  This includes spice jars, tupperware for detergents, and bottles for liquids like olive oil, soy sauce, almond butter, etc. Cool ‘n’ cheap glass containers at Ikea too!

* Make vacations just that.  People looked at me like I was nuts when they asked “so, what are you going to do on your vacation in Scotland & England?” and I said,”umm, nothing really.”  Nothing I hate more than itineraries.  I had a couple places I knew I had to hit (Castle Grant, duhh, and The Goods Shed in Canterbury).  Other than that, chill out, enjoy the environment you are in, do the simple things, take walks, enjoy the ocean air, cook for someone who appreciates that kinda thing, discover local places when you’re walking to the takeaway place, realize how much you adore that person after a lovely walk in the woods, get to know the personalities at the pubs, snuggle up and watch movies and fall asleep with your head on his chest ten minutes into it.  Is this green?  Sure.  Why?  You’re not buying tons of ‘stuff’, you’re just enjoying simplicity and togetherness.  I’d do just about anything to be sitting across from him, drinking coffee and making our breakfast.  That’s what makes me a happy ecogrrl…

* Continuing to learn, continuing to write, continuing to love, continuing to be grateful for the lessons that life has given me over the years and making sure to tell those I care about what they mean to me.  Allowing them to teach me, allowing myself to become more of who I am and letting things happen as they should. Being okay with the fact that while not everything is where you’d like it, that you are getting a bit closer each day, and that just because you can’t have all of your dreams now, doesn’t mean they aren’t coming true as we speak.  Look at how beautiful it is, cold or warm or mild or rainy or clear…look at how damn LUCKY we are to be alive in a world where we can shape our own destinies…how amazing is that.

How much we have to look forward to in the coming year.

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