Saturday, July 18, 2009

Black Thumb, Greener Feet

I have an incredibly black thumb.

This bothers me.

I love seeing beautiful gardens. I want to have a lush backyard with hydrangea bushes, roses, and ferns and lilies. I want the cute little benches to sit at and commune with nature. Actually making that happen requires something I don't have however. I really don't enjoy gardening. It's because I don't have the eye to lay out a good, really good design, I know nothing about plants, what needs full sun, partial sun, is cold hearty, can withstand the heat, etc, etc, etc. I've got great books on the subject. They make sense. But making it all come together, I just don't get it. So we have simple flower out front, mixed in among the sprouting weeds that scream to me to pull them while I make my will save and head inside to get online. Alas...

I also can not keep a houseplant alive to save my ass. In recent years the only thing I have been able to maintain is this awesome woven bamboo plant. But even that has leaves with brown tinged edges from all the times I forgot to water it.

I know that watering plants isn't hard. I FORGET.

I also know that houseplants improve the air quality in a home. I want this. I want to contribute to clean, healthy air for the planet too.

I just can't keep them alive. And I hate it.

So about a year ago I decided that if I was going to have a black thumb I was going to do my best to improve how green my footprint was. You know, my carbon footprint for this third rock from the sun. But gosh, do you know how expensive it is to Go Green?! Jeez. So it's been a slow process to get going.

Prior to this revelation though we were well on our way to a decent start. We both drive fuel efficient 5-speed manual transmission vehicles. We purchased an energy efficient washer & dryer combo (LOVE THEM), we replaced all the bulbs in our home with CFLs. I don't flush the toilet at night for only pee. We recycle everything we can from our product packaging. I use phosphate free dishwasher soap, and other environmentally friendly cleaning products. I use reusable shopping bags, even for Target and clothes shopping at the mall. We're doing ok. But I want to be better.

Two weeks ago I up and decided to follow through on a plan to switch our family to cloth napkins. With two small kids we were using up paper towel rolls in droves. It was ridiculous. I figured that washcloth like napkins wouldn't take up that much more space in my wash, so with a 20% off coupon in hand, I bought 20 simple, cheap cloth napkins for our family to use for meals, spills, etc. I even bought a cute little basket to keep them neat in a cubby by our kitchen table. I have not been sorry for the switch either! It's so much easier actually and today, two weeks after staring this new effort, it was the first day we had to change the paper towel roll. Previously we were going through 1 paper towel roll every 4-5 days. What a huge waste! If you haven't considered doing this yet I encourage you to go for it.

My next two projects are to install a clothesline outside to line dry my clothes, or at least all the bath/beach towels, jeans, uniforms and blankets/sheets we use in a week. If I can line dry even two loads a week I'm using less electricity and producing less heat that just gets vented outside to the atmosphere. My plan is to get a retractable line to our privacy fence, and have a removable post of some kind for the other side. That way we don't leave the line up (annoying neighbors), nor have something the kids can trip over when we play outside.

After that I hope to get a compost pile started. They make these awesome compost bins with a spinner on it but wow, they are expensive too. One of the blogs I follow promised to put up a tutorial of how he made his compost bin for like $30, with a spinner. I am probably going to do that instead. Everyday we have a ton of leftover food waste that would be perfect for a compost container. I know I don't garden but compost soil is amazing and it's a much more environmentally friendly option for your food to degrade than heaping it in a landfill with everything else.

So these are some of things I am working on. What do you do? Leave me some comments and inspire me with what you do to leave a greener footprint each day.


Jade July 19, 2009 at 12:51 PM  

You and Ricki would get along great with the whole cloth napkins thing. Ross had some really cute ones that I thought about getting, but it's just me, so I use regular hand towels. Haha, welcome to the club of not using your dryer. I sort of fear what my electricity bill would be if I did.

Kekibird July 20, 2009 at 2:25 PM  

Wow, I commend you for your attempts here girly. That's pretty awesome stuff. I'm too tired and lazy to get my mail so I don't think that the whole "go green" thing is in the future for me until they make it mandatory or easier (or both).

Jackie Blum July 21, 2009 at 3:30 PM  

I'm with you, sister. I loathe gardening, probably because I stink at it. Really stink. Stefan wants to do a whole bunch of landscape stuff to our yard, and I told him not until we can afford to hire professionals because I sure as hell am not doing it.

The paper towel consumption issue recently became an obsession at our house, too. We went through roll after roll after roll, and never thought much of it. Until we tracked our spending in that category and realized were LITERALLY throwing hundreds of dollars in the trash - via paper towels. So now, I keep a hand towel next to the sink for drying wet hands (our biggest culprit). I also went to Walmart and purchased a pack of shop towels (found in the automotive section) for cleaning, dusting, etc. They are super absorbent and washable. So now if we have a spill to mop up, a room to dust, shower to scrub or anything similar, we grab one of these handy shop towels instead of reaching for the paper towels. Problem solved.

I also use reusable bags and am VERY PROUD to say that each week, we have twice as much recycling instead of trash. I go through the mail over the recycle bin and toss anything appropriate, minus the credit card offers - those get shredded. This has also helped with our budget because catalogs never make it into the house. =)

Good for you and your family! What we do may not seem monumental, but it is important.

Anonymous July 25, 2009 at 12:23 PM  

I kill houseplants too. We have one, ONE, plant that has managed to survive.

I also switched from papertowels to rags. I had cut up the old shirts, and realized my drawer was overflowing, yet I was still spending money?? WTF? So i knocked that off, and switched.