(image from earthday.org)
I must admit growing up I didn't really understand what all the hoopla was about. Let me back up a bit.
I was born and raised until the age of 8 on a farm on the coast of Portugal. Everything we ate and drank came from the earth. My mom would be up at 6 in the morning to take our 3-4 cows to the dairy to get their milk out and then she would bring home a carafe of fresh milk. We always had pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks and you name it, grazing in the back yard. Our back yard was also filled with fruit trees ready to picked at any time. Any kitchen waste was automatically recycled by feeding back to the animals. The cows muck was used in the land to fertilize it.
At the time there were no garbage trucks to come pick up bags of garbage for the landfill. Any clothes that I outgrew or became too worn out was handed down to a cousin or neighbour or to my grandma to make rag-rugs. All the wood that we came accross was used in the firepit to cook, and heat water for bathing. Oh yeah, my parents didn't have indoor plumbing until many years later.
When we moved to Canada at the end of 1979, it was culture shock for me. As a child it took me a few years to adjust. I never did drink store bought milk again... it tasted funny to me.
My parents having grown up in an environment where you had to be self-sufficient and re-use and recycle everything until there was nothing left to do with it, didn't understand this concept of blue boxes - so they never used them. They no longer had poultry in the back yard - so kitchen waste was put in the... waste basket. I remember visiting my favourite Aunt F and noticing she had a blue box. hmmm... interesting. My mom never really caught on to the idea.
It wasn't until I met my soon-to-be husband that I was introduced FULL FORCE to re-use, reduce, and recyle. Our first christmas together while dating I went to great lengths to wrap his gift in pretty wrapping paper, bows and ribbon. On the other hand, soon-to-be hubby handed me my gift as-is and went on to tell me about what happens to wrapping paper after it was used (as he opened his gift). At the time I was offended, but now it makes sense. I rarely wrap gifts anymore, and I prefer to re-use giftbags (until they rip).
In our houselhold we teach the kids to re-use, reduce and recycle.
- We compost! We have two compost bins that we dump all of our kitchen veggie and fruit scraps, used coffee groundss and tea bags, used paper towels, newspaper, eggshells, etc. into to
- We buy in bulk. For example, I buy larger containers of yogurt and then divide them into smaller reusable containers for the kids school snacks, etc.
- All of our kids clothes gets handed down to someone else. Most of our kids clothing is handed down from friends and family with older children and so we pay if forward by doing the same thing. Clothing with stains and holes get repurposed as cleaning cloths.
- In warmer months we use a laundry line to dry our clothes. Although I prefer to use a dryer because our clothes come softer, I know that line dried clothes are more environmentally friendly and better on the budget too.
- I buy environmentally friendly cleaning products or use plain vinegar and lemon. I recently read somewhere that Vodka is also a good cleanner.
- Small appliances are unplugged when not in use. I read somewhere that appliaces with a clock or timer are still using electricity when not in use... so I unplug them.
- We don't buy paper plates, cups or utensils. Those just end up in the garbage.
- We aim to only have one bag of garbage everyweek for our family of five. However we have 3 recycling boxes that are generally overflowing.
Check out the website http://www.earthday.org/earthday2010 to see what others are doing.
What are you doing to help the environment?