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Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I've been thinking trashy thoughts again.

I have re-read Garbage Land and I've been putting my trash can under scrutiny...and I recycle everything I can. However, instead of focusing on reducing TRASH, I want to start focusing on reducing intake of potential trash into my house and life. Where is it all coming from?

Disposables: For the most part, I have gotten rid of all of the disposable products in our house. The occasional bottled water creeps in, especially after we've been traveling. I hate bottled water, but it tastes so much better than nasty gas station water in the middle of Wyoming! I carry my trusty Klean Kanteen bottle everywhere (and one for Bella too) and we fill it up whenever we can. I am going to focus more on this and try not to get caught "waterless". And for those of you who are buying bottled water for use at home...STOP! It creates so much waste (even if you are recycling). Instead, invest in a water filter. If you're like me and just like to have something cold to grab from the fridge, fill up empty glass bottles with filtered water and keep them in there. Bozeman just announced that it's not recycling glass anymore, so all of my old root beer bottles are now water bottles. Wine bottles work great too and make an elegant water pitcher when company is over!

I am also guilty of one too many disposable coffee cups in the trash. I have a harder time remembering my stainless steel coffee mug when I go to my local cafe, but I'm getting better. Most shops have no problem putting your drink into your own cup...and some will even offer a discount. That's great, but the discount is just pathetic. It's usually around 10 cents. 10 cents! It's just not very motivating. Now, give me 50 cents off my coffee and I'll never forget my re-usable cup. Chains like Starbucks and Caribou usually don't offer a non-disposable option...but many local cafes do. You may have to ASK for a ceramic glass, however, as most will give you a disposable cup by default. It's mind boggling to me to think of how much coffee cup trash I have been personally responsible for in my lifetime (case in point...the above photo is my cup from Sunday!). Here are a few stats on disposable cups. And a great article about how Starbucks could have saved the world.

Packaging: Have you ever REALLY paid attention to the hideous amount of packaging you bring home when you go to the store? I did an inventory of my search of items that I can buy without a package. Check out your own kitchen and see where you can reduce. An easy first step is to not bring anything into your home that is "single serving" or "single use".
  • Cereal...will only be purchased in bulk. This will avoid the box that so quickly crowds my little recycling bin.
  • Granola bars...will be made from scratch. Matt takes a Clif bar with him to work everyday, so I will TRY to start making them from scratch to avoid the box and endless wrappers.
  • Condiments and misc...such as ketchup, butter, mayo, etc. I can make ketchup, mayo, and mustard from scratch (they are much tastier too!). I will examine all options when shopping for these types of items.
  • Milk...most of the time I buy soy or almond milk in cardboard containers. I can make my own nut milks at home and put them in reusable glass containers.
  • Much of what I purchase is already in bulk...spices, grains, flour, tea, etc. and I already have containers at home for them.
  • Other types of packaging...such as that for craft supplies, etc. can be avoided by striving to buy used. The thrift stores don't have any packaging!
Paper: There is so much paper! It's everywhere! Whenever I can, I use an electronic copy of a document and try to avoid printing at all costs. The invention of email/internet was a wonderful thing to save paper waste. Of course, if you print out your emails or articles online, that kind of defeats the purpose. Receipts drive me crazy. I rarely keep them (unless it's a large purchase or I know I might return it). If all retail establishments, fast food chains, etc. would implement a rule to ask if you want your receipt before they print it...just think of all the paper saved! Around the house, be sure to use both sides of the paper, re-use envelopes, etc. for craft projects, re-use padded envelopes for mailing, and shred paper to use for packing boxes. And of course, RECYCLE. However, just becuase you CAN recycle something doesn't mean you should use it. It's best to not use it in the first place. Especially with paper because it can only be recycled a limited number of times, unlike glass which can be recycled endlessly.

I found an interesting little clip detailing our country's trash addiction. It's 19 minutes long, but worth watching. See it here. It is based on the book "Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage". Their website offers lots of statistics:
  • Packaging comprises the single largest category of household waste, taking up 30% of all landfill space in the U.S.
  • About 80% of U.S. products are used once and then thrown away.
  • More than 60% of waste in U.S. landfills could be composted.
  • Methane gas, which is always produced by trash rotting in landfills, is 21 times more heat trapping than carbon dioxide; garbage presents a major global warming threat.
  • Garbage production in the U.S. has DOUBLED in the last 30 years.
I have always been interested in the concept of "Zero Waste". I am inspired by communities who have taken the initiative to make hard changes. EcoCycle describes this in more detail and has lots of links.

San Francisco has recently banned plastic bags AND has proposed banning Styrofoam take-out containers. Go San Francisco! That's my kind of town.

The trash problem in the U.S. seems so overwhelming, but people are taking notice and changes are slowly being made. If everyone makes small changes, it will add up to a big change! What will you do to REDUCE your trash today?

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Blogger Elizabeyta said...

Starbucks has ceramic if you ask. Or just say "for here" :)

4/18/2007 12:19 PM  
Blogger Lynds said...

I saw that our Starbucks sells their own mugs, I am pretty sure you can buy them and they will put it in. I meant to ask last night but it slipped my mind. Thank you for all the links and resources here. This is something I've been working on, the 3 R's and this will be our last unit for homeschool this year. I just bought my own reusable grocery bags, I can't wait for them to arrive!

4/18/2007 12:26 PM  
Blogger KimProbable said...

Another inspiring post, thanks!

Reducing our waste is something I've been working on for the past few months. I used to be in that same mindset that if I'm recycling it's ok to dispose of things, but I'm coming around.

We've made the switch to cloth shopping bags (and I'm getting better and remembering to take them out of the trunk!), I buy way more stuff in bulk now, and I try to choose cereal that's in an eco-pack (bag only, no box). We're also doing a lot more cooking at home and it's made a big difference in how many packages end up in the recycling bin.

We just built our compost bin this weekend and I'm really happy about it. For the past few months, we'd been putting our compost things in a big pail and dumping it in my parents' compost every few weeks. I'm amazed at what a difference it's made in how much garbage ends up in the trash can at the end of the week. Having a compost is also a great teaching opportunity for our kids, and they had a lot of fun on the weekend collecting worms and throwing them in.

I just wanted to share something that irks me that popped into my mind when I read about the disposable coffee cups. In Canada, we have Tim Horton's restaurants (whose coffee I'm horribly addicted to). They periodically have Roll up the Rim contests where you roll up the rim of your disposable cup to reveal if you've won a prize. If you get a coffee "to stay" in a ceramic mug, they plunk down a disposable cup on the tray as well. No coffee ever goes into the cup, but you still get a chance to win a prize so there are all these cups which are thrown in the trash that have never been used. Aaaagh!

I'm going to ponder more ways to reduce my trash even further now...

4/18/2007 12:29 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

Oh my, what a timely post as I posted this morning about the babysteps we have been trying to make to be better stewards of our environment and health. I rarely get coffee to go, but when I do I usually forget my mug (plus I hate the taste of coffee in it), however I whipped up a coffee cuff to slip around my cup instead of those corrugated cardboard ones. I think it makes me feel a wee bit less guilty to not be wasting paper there.

One of our biggest wastes is paper, it seems like it's constantly coming in to the house, or being used by the kids to draw, do school or journal on. We have knocked out paper napkins for cloth ones, and I use rags to do cleaning. One thing I am bad with is paper plates. I dried to give them up, but having to do three loads of dishes a day by hand is frustrating enough without using glass plates for every snack and sandwhich. Maybe someday I'll have a dishwasher and then most definitely I will give them up.

Lastly, just last night I went to New American Dream last night and called and emailed to get myself off the credit card/junk mail list. We strive to not use credit and I am sooooo tired of getting at least 1-3 offers a day. Anyway, for more of my thoughts you can visit my post today at Oh and I'll try and post a pic of my coffee cuff tomorrow or Friday.

Oh....last question what and how do you make nutmilk?

4/18/2007 12:43 PM  
Blogger Adventures In Babywearing said...

Another very important and helpful post!! I will be linking you for sure in my upcoming Earth Day posts! And I totally encourage everyone to forgo the bottled water, too!!!


4/18/2007 12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anna said...

I've been reading your blog with much interest! You shre have given me a lot to think about! I would be all for a smaller house with less stuff and little waste, but my DH and boys want a bigger place with more stuff.

Thanks for the encouragment....keep posting and encouraging me!

4/18/2007 12:48 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

Oh saw this today at, thought there were some great ideas for reusing containers:

4/18/2007 12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wanna do you make mustard??? I wanna know ;)

and thanks for bloggin' more :D

4/18/2007 1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh, and i wanted to ask about you making almond milk.

I've had a soymilk maker before. We really liked it, but i ended up selling it, as the soymilk i was making wasn't fortified, therefore didn't have MUCH calcium at all (around 3% per cup, i believe).

So what do you do about calcium intake? We are i'm just curious! Thanks :D

4/18/2007 1:14 PM  
Blogger tansy said...

the starbucks here will fill your own cup, for a heck of a lot cheaper...a regular coffee is something like 1.75 and if you bring your own cup, it's 50 cents plus tax.

i am excited that sfo decided to do the bag ban. i hope more cities jump on the bandwagon soon.

it is hard to trim the trash. i try really hard, but sometimes, it's just habit/easier to toss something in than to take the time to break it down and, i'm the only one in my household who really, really tries to recycle/reduce every little bit so it's frustrating when my partner gets some groceries and brings them home in paper bags instead of using the canvas bags that are sitting in the seat next to him. and the plastic bags from the hardware store. i just keep hoping that he'll start remembering to say no to plastic/paper bags and start carrying the items out of the store w/o one.

4/18/2007 1:30 PM  
Anonymous TV Free said...

I'm no longer a lurker!

We also have a soy milk maker and love it! We use calcium supplements (but they are probably not vegan).

I have a rant and a question - why do so many communities not recycle glass? Grrr. It is hard enough in Happy Valley, Utah to find a place to recycle but there is nowhere in the valley that does glass.

I am assuming you use(d) cloth diapers for Bella. We used them for DS 1, but DS 2 gets awful diaper rash, so we're currently filling up landfills with disposables. ANy suggestions? Maybe another blog post sometime.

By the way, I love your blog! Just found it a few weeks ago and have been devouring it. THanks for the inspirations!

4/18/2007 1:42 PM  
Blogger lindsay said...

hey, Sara!

good post. since i've been reading your blog, it's got me thinking....i now make my own body oil, body scrub, and save not only on lotions but i put the oils in glass containers and fill 'em back up when they're gone. i also have started making my own cleaning products and putting them in reusable containers. i finally convinced michael to help me recycle, and now that rhys is potty trained, the next kiddo we have will be cloth diapered! i am now considering buying a sewing machine at garage sale and making my own cloth napkins. it's not that napkins are expensive, but we go through them faster than we should!

i also snag those used coffee grounds from starbucks and other coffee shops to use in the garden. (HINT for Des Moines area readers: Zanzibars Coffee composts ALL food waste, and it's yours for the taking, just ask a barista!)

ps - starbucks does offer a discount if you bring your own mug. it's not much, but they will put your coffee/latte/whatever in it if you BYO. :-) of course, buying local is best!

4/18/2007 2:17 PM  
Blogger greg said...

Ikea just started charging 5 cents per plastic bag. I was kind of annoyed at first reaction because they're great garbage can bags- sturdy, bigger than grocery bags- but then I started thinking about what they're trying to do, and it's a great idea! I just need to start getting in the habit of bringing my own bags with or keep them in the car!


4/18/2007 2:43 PM  
Blogger Heidi said...

Wonderful! Buying in bulk just's so much more frugal too!

I'm wanting to start a worm composting bin too since then I can put my kitchen waste in it and I can keep it inside (probably in the laundry room). We are currently trying to sell our house but once we move traditional composting and a worm bin are high on my list!

4/18/2007 3:07 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Amazing post. I feel so inspired! We are also making baby steps towards trash reduction . . . one switch that was big for our family is no more paper towels - kitchen cloth only! And I think we may try to do the water filter and glass bottles next. I am SICK of plastic bottles everywhere, all the time! Thanks again for the inspiration and encouragement.

4/18/2007 3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here in Australia my recyclables are collected by the local council in special bins and include all paper, glass and most plastics. I agree we need to reduce what comes *in*.

Most coffee shops here automatically use proper ceramic coffee cups. No one I know will even go to the American import chains such as Starbucks because they generate so much waste -- and the coffee is never as good as at a small local cafe. If you take away coffee it usually comes in a disposable cup unless you provide your own.

I have never understood the aversion to washing dishes in the US! When I see on US TV shows that people buy paper plates for home-eaten food I am amazed. Nobody here does that.

We live in the suburbs and have two worm farms, a compost bin, and are about to buy three pet bantams to help use up kitchen waste and fertilise the garden. We grow vegies and fruit trees, though the drought has affected that. Like most Australians we line-dry our washing.

Our biggest issues here are:
1. severe drought
2. Excessive dependence on fossil fuels
3. Overall wasteful packaging, excessive consumerism etc.

Our family still has a long way to go; my kids seem to lap up the attitudes about owning *stuff* that they receive from friends, media, internet etc.

4/18/2007 4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the bulk bins:

How do you actually get the stuff home from the store? Do you put things like flour and cereal in reusable cloth bags and then wash them?

Makes me wonder about things like shampoo, etc. Plastic's everywhere!

Thanks for another thoughtful post.

4/18/2007 6:21 PM  
Blogger Summer said...

You are awesome. :)Most people don't think twice about the trash they generate. I'm about to buy some reusable shopping bags, another step to being trash-less. :)

4/18/2007 7:53 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

I got "Garbage Land" at my used library sale. I look forward to reading and trying to reduce my waste. Good links as usual!

4/18/2007 8:18 PM  
Anonymous MelanieMC said...

Sara, thanks for another great post (and for keeping your promise of posting more!!! I did vote for you, afterall!) lol

God bless! Melanie

Regarding the bulk bins:

How do you actually get the stuff home from the store? Do you put things like flour and cereal in reusable cloth bags and then wash them?


I personally have cloth bags that are made to hold spices/grains/pastas from the bulk bins. I take them whenever I am grocery shopping and measure out what I need just like if I was using their bags. I usually use the same ones for the same things, but really they dont get dirty for a while. I simply pour them into glass containers when I get home and shake out the bag to make sure it's empty, then roll it back up. I think I saw on Saras food blog that she has similar bags, though I'm not sure if she does it the same way I do.

4/18/2007 8:25 PM  
Anonymous mari said...

hi, i am so excited to have found your blog. i arrived here via mrs.catherine, who mentioed you as one of her favorite thinking blogs.

i am the recycling queen. no trash is my goal week after week. no plastic in my house. no paper towels. nothing that produces unnecessary garbage to harm the environment. i came to this way of thinking through my former husband, and after 27 years of living this way in berkeley, ca . . . well, now i'm in western washington and still carrying it on. i am proud to say my children are too.

and, berkeley banned styrofoam about 20 years ago.

i love your site.
blessings, mari

4/18/2007 10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Sara!
I really enjoy your blog! You are light years ahead of me, but I'm plugging along. I would like to purge and simplify, but my problem is finding the time...I homeschool 3 children and we just got another puppy! Any ideas???

Thanks, and blessings,

4/19/2007 5:36 AM  
Blogger km said...

Oh, it hits hard as I sit here at work with my disposable cup of tea and a ceramic mug on my desk...just needed to be cleaned! I am doing better by actually recycling now. It's amazing how much less waste the garbage picks up per week now. I hardly ever empty the trash!

Thanks for the insite!

4/19/2007 6:32 AM  
Anonymous Carol said...

Thanks for these links Sara.
I've been working on this for awhile now, but reinforcement is always great to have.

I recently bought several Sigg water bottles {love them!} and have switched to reusable bags for shopping.

The MSNBC article has me puzzling over how this country got to the place where we ship plastic overseas for recycling instead of doing it ourselves. It's as though the "green" reasoning behind recycling got completely lost along the way. And of course our country's own businesses are suffering too. I also was shocked to see how much the recycling rate has dropped.

4/19/2007 7:35 AM  
Anonymous nikki98 said...

I've been struggling with using paper towels (especially for the kids)what can be used instead? Boy I really have a long way in reusing things, but one thing I have found helpful is that when I buy things in glass jars (olives, mayo,etc.), I wash out the jars and use them to store other things.

4/19/2007 7:42 AM  
Anonymous Anna said...

I recycle, have a Klean Kanteen, and use string bags for the grocery store. I think that my next step will be to look around my kitchen and my trash can to see what I can do next. I would also like to get cloth bags for the bulk bins.

4/19/2007 8:02 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

Jess said: One thing I am bad with is paper plates.

One thing that might help...only keep out the number of plates that you need for one per family member. That way, they have THEIR plate and everytime they want something, if it's dirty, it has to be washed. It will eliminate the "pile up". You could even find different ones for each person :)

My almond milk recipe is on my food blog:

I like your coffee cuff idea :)

Anonymous said: So what do you do about calcium intake?

Broccoli, kale, tofu, collards...

Tansy said: the starbucks here will fill your own cup, for a heck of a lot cheaper...a regular coffee is something like 1.75 and if you bring your own cup, it's 50 cents plus tax.

That's awesome! I've never seen a discount like that anywhere.

tv free said: I have a rant and a question - why do so many communities not recycle glass?

Good question. Our town says that they can't find enough places who want to buy it locally and they don't want to ship it. I think there just needs to be an outcry from the communities to start it up again! In the article our paper ran, it said glass is cut from recycling programs all the time. Boo!

Lindsay said: since i've been reading your blog, it's got me thinking....i now make my own body oil, body scrub, and save not only on lotions but i put the oils in glass containers and fill 'em back up when they're gone. i also have started making my own cleaning products and putting them in reusable containers. i finally convinced michael to help me recycle, and now that rhys is potty trained, the next kiddo we have will be cloth diapered!

Woo hoo girly! I'm so excited for you. That's a lot of changes. Can't wait to help you start cloth diapering :)

Kate: Thanks for sharing about life in Australia! It's so interesting to me to see the differences in attitudes.

Anonymous said: How do you actually get the stuff home from the store? Do you put things like flour and cereal in reusable cloth bags and then wash them?

Like MelanieMC said, the cloth bags really don't get too dirty. I have just been using the plastic bulk bin bags lately, but I'm going to start re-using them for my next trip. I usually just re-use them at home for baggies, etc. but I'm sick of them accumulating! The cloth bags are really neat.

Andrea said: I got "Garbage Land" at my used library sale.

Ohhhh! Lucky girl!

Mari said:i am the recycling queen. no trash is my goal week after week. no plastic in my house. no paper towels. nothing that produces unnecessary garbage to harm the environment.

Wow! That's amazing. How do you get away with NO plastic in your house? I've always wanted to try, but it seems crazy because plastic is everywhere. Do you just mean no disposable type plastics? Either way, I'd love to hear more about your you have a blog?

Beth: Just start small. One drawer a day. One corner. One closet. It takes TIME and perserveance, but it can be done.

Carol said: The MSNBC article has me puzzling over how this country got to the place where we ship plastic overseas for recycling instead of doing it ourselves. It's as though the "green" reasoning behind recycling got completely lost along the way.

I know. If the U.S. would just get completely on board, we could have the most amazing zero waste program ever. The majority of people are so clueless about where their trash goes, how to recycle, etc. I think a major catastrophe has to happen for people to get it. Like one morning, everyone wakes up and there is no garbage pick up. You have to figure out what to do with your trash all by yourself. Hmmm....interesting thought.

nikki98: Instead of paper towels, I just use regular towels and wash clothes. It's just a mindset change. It really doesn't have to create a lot of extra laundry, if a towel gets dirty, just wash it quickly in the sink and hang it to dry. I know some people just have a basket of dark washcloths in their kitchen for kids' faces, etc. It's do-able, it just requires a change in thinking/habit.

Note to all: I am working on getting a compost bin solution at our apartment. We were starting one at our last place, but when we moved, it got put on hold. I'd like to do the worm bin, as I don't think our landlord will let us put one in the yard. But I will ask! Thanks to everyone who commented for inspriing ME! When we were composting I was AMAZED at how little trash we produced.

4/19/2007 8:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Sara - Since discovering your blog,I've been taking baby steps towards a more mindful, earth-friendly exsistence.Thanks for the guidance & encouragement.

I love Dunn Bros!I work as a part time barista at the Owatonna,MN location. I always "push" the ceramic mugs.We only offer a 5 cent discount on travel mugs though...

Blessings - Katie

4/19/2007 10:03 AM  
Blogger Jen. said...

Hey Sara! I just got back from Trader Joe's, where I decided not to buy the grapes because they were in little hard plastic tubs. Why must they do that?

Anyway, thanks for continuing to raise people's awareness. I think if I could just get my own family to stop automatically tossing things, I'd be doing good. I'm forever pulling recyclables out of the garbage! Now that I've started composting, I find myself pulling pear cores & melon rinds out of there, too! Ick.

My 15 yo son has finally joined me with the whole food thing, after having watched "The Future of Food". My 17 yo daughter complains that we don't have any junk food in the house! lol

Jess - I eat all my sandwiches on cloth napkins now, and some snacks, too. That may be an option for some of your meals, anyway. Just shake off the crumbs & use them again, later! When I took lunch to class the other day, I wrapped it all up in a big bandana, like a hobo. It served as a nice placemat while I ate.

Thanks again, Sara! It really heps to know there are other folks taking all of this seriously. Most of my friends think I'm a little loopy!


4/19/2007 11:17 AM  
Blogger Carla said...

Reading this makes me wish they had bulk food places here. All the grocery stores got rid of them :( (no one was buying but me I guess!). When we go on vacation, I get all our basics at the Bulk Barn.

I've been getting better about a lot of things but have a long way to go. I'm starting to blog about our journey, mostly to keep me on track. It can be discouraging seeing the waste. We walked home from homeschool group today after dropping the car off to be fixed and everywhere there was trash along mainstreet just everywhere. I may take the kids out for a clean up project soon. People just don't think and I can say that as I used to be one of those people who didn't think!!

4/19/2007 11:47 AM  
Blogger Trina said...

It's really amazing when we stop to contemplate how bad our society has become on our dependency of everything disposable. Your writing always inspires me to rethink our lifestyle. Thank you


4/19/2007 12:28 PM  
Anonymous Carol said...

I meant to add that one aspect of the Sigg bottles I love so much is their uniqueness. Since I bought my bottles I've had many people stop and ask me about my 'artsy' bottle.
It's been a great opportunity to say why I made the change to them- no leaching and no waste. Everyone has thought they were great and asked where they might get them. (Mine are from and REI.)

4/19/2007 12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you would have to eat a LOT of tofu and greens in order to get the RDA of calcium...

4/19/2007 1:46 PM  
Blogger Deeapaulitan said...

I have actually increased in garbage output since we moved. We have people giving us things all the time, which I can't get away from (like a 75 pack of cocoa - each individually wrapped), but then I have also just not thought about it nearly as much as I used to. Its maddening to think about. I feel so frivolus (sp?) and wasteful when I think about the amount of garbage I created yesterday just in painting the livingroom! Uuugh!

4/19/2007 1:57 PM  
Blogger Sheela said...

thanks to a comment from a kind reader on one of my posts on this subject, i am glad i "discovered" your beautiful space, sara.

seeing how much paper tissue i have used to wipe my baby's runny nose that she has been sporting pretty much all her life into toddlerhood now, i have started repurposing her wash cloth and hand wash them when i shower every day:)

baby steps...

4/19/2007 3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey-Here is how we worm bin and it might work out for you in your apartment living. We use a big rubbermaid foot locker. We drilled holes in the bottom, set the bin on bricks to promote drainage, and dump our fruit/veggie left overs (no protein), we add dried bamboo leaves between layers of compost. Works great, contained, no smell (a bunch of fruit flies in the summer but they are inside the bin).

4/19/2007 5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We also love our Sigg bottles!

Great post, Sara. One suggestion: if you give up drinking coffee, you won't have to worry about remembering your mug!

I'm only half-joking--not drinking coffee is such a good way to save money and packaging (and reduce your sugar consumption, because it's hard to resist the goodies they sell to eat in coffee shops). Also, most coffee travels thousands of miles to you, so you can reduce your carbon footprint by not drinking it.

In our home we try to produce only one kitchen-size bag of garbage per week. Most of the time we meet this goal, but the big problem is take-out meals. We try not to do it often, but when we do get our favorite Indian or Thai food, it comes in plastic or styrofoam containers.

I applaud all the individual measures people are taking, but don't forget to lobby public officials at all levels of government. Public policy can accomplish so much, like when Iowa adopted the 5-cent deposit on bottles and cans in the 1970s. It massively reduced litter and encouraged millions of people to recycle cans and bottles.

That San Francisco ordinance against plastic bags is another good exmple.

So call your local officials and urge them to do better on recycling (collect more glass, or yogurt containers, or whatever they don't collect now). If you live in one of those California cities that doesn't let people hang up their clothes to dry outside, work to change that! Or urge them to create more bike lanes on city streets, or require sidewalks in new housing developments.

Contact state officials and urge them to adopt policies that promote energy efficiency, recycling, or whatever thing is important to you. Building codes have a huge impact on how much energy we use.

Contact federal officials, no matter what political party, and urge them to promote wind and solar power, or require government agencies to use a certain percentage of recycled paper, or whatever matters to you.

I saw that John Edwards has released a plan that would cut U.S. carbon emissions by 15 percent by 2020 and by 80 percent by 2050 ( I think it would be awesome if all the presidential candidates from both parties competed to come up with the best plans for preserving natural resources and conserving energy. If enough citizens demand this, they will make it a priority.

Sorry to go on so long--but I do think that it would be helpful for all mindful people to work toward changing public policies, in addition to changing their household's consumption habits.


4/19/2007 8:41 PM  
Blogger Patia said...

If you're like me and just like to have something cold to grab from the fridge, fill up empty glass bottles with filtered water and keep them in there.

Thanks for the idea. I have reusable bottle caps that will work great for this.

4/19/2007 9:31 PM  
Blogger Serena said...

I just found your blog today, and oh, what joy!

Along the same lines as cloth diapering: Ladies can use reusable, ahem, menstrual products. Do an internet search. You'll find loads of information. (This from someone who was incredibly skeptical about the subject.)

A very small way to cut down is to use handkerchiefs instead of tissues when one's nose needs wiping. (They're handy for other things, too.)

I think a lot of people don't realize that one way they can cut down on consumption and waste is in their clothing. How many clothes do we really need? Most of us have a washing machine, or access to one. (I figure I really only need two outfits: one to wear, one to have in case what I'm wearing gets dirty and I have to change to go out or something. OK, I'm exaggerating a little bit.) I have far too many clothes, but I am slowly going through them and giving them to friends or thrift shops. Things that aren't in good enough shape I cut into rags. I found that having stuff to cut into rags was the last little push I needed to go to cloth instead of paper towels. (And knowing I need rags helps me get rid of some things. I am a horrible, horrible packrat.)

Well, just thought I'd chime in on these subjects, since I didn't notice anything about them in the other comments. I'm sorry if I'm repeating what someone else said! I'm so glad to have found this blog!

(Reading your blog makes me miss Montana. Oh, one last thing: my parents did the each-child-has-his-own-plate-and-cup thing, and it worked well.)

4/20/2007 1:54 AM  
Anonymous rebecca said...

What a great reminder! Have you ever read For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care, by Steven Bouma-Prediger? I believe it can be found on amazon. The author came to my college and did a weekend seminar that first opened my eyes to garbage waste, caring for the earth, etc. Now that I'm out of school and living with my new husband, I'm putting many of his/your suggestions into practice.

Since finding your blog back in January, I have started washing my face with oil (homemade in a glass bottle), am looking for shampoo recipes/organic shampoo, made my own vinegar/Dr. Bronner's all-purpose cleaner, am recycling more, and finally, just this week, bought cloth bags for grocery shopping.

I got my bags from, and I recommend the denim ones for sturdiness. They can even custom-make bags for you. The owner employs local (Denver) women who are coming off the streets from a life in the sex for sale trade. These women have a hard time finding employment, but Beth (the founder) gives them just that! So, by buying these, we can support not only the environment, but also women who are working towards a better life.

4/20/2007 7:30 AM  
Anonymous rebecca said...

oh, and i've also bought the mooncup uk (similar to the diva cup) week will be my first go at it!

4/20/2007 7:31 AM  
Blogger Carolyn said...

Ugh!!! Conviction stirs in me again....we have so much trash.

I love the granola bar idea. We livein a small hippish town- I sould have no problem implementing some of these ideas.

Cloth diapering actually opened my eyes to the whole trash thing.I couldnt believe how much less we had in the can.

Thanks again, Sara.

4/20/2007 10:59 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Today, I dried dill in my dehydrator while I was dehydrating nuts. Saved it from going bad, and filled myself a whole spice bottle (which is now saved from the trash.)

Last week, I made ketchup for the first time. It is so delicious my kids wanted to just eat it off the stirring spoon. (I'll try to put a recipe up soon on Green Inventions.)

I also made pine needle tea this week. It was free! And so refreshing. Plus, no packaging.

You are a big tea person, yes? Do you buy your teas? Or mostly make them? My goal is to make all my teas from what grows on my own postage-stamp of a property and stock up for the winter.

4/20/2007 11:34 AM  
Blogger AIMEE said...

got "garbage land" at the library and can't wait to "dive" in :)

4/20/2007 2:57 PM  
Anonymous Aimee W. said...

I love reading your blog...
If you do start making your own ketchup, mustard, and esp granola bars, please post recipes. I have been wanting to do the same, instead of buying. I stopped buying them, but they make great snacks to carry around, so you don't have to buy a snack when out and about with toddler.

4/21/2007 8:46 AM  
Anonymous aimee w. said...

tv free asked about diaper rash and cloth diapers.

Could be detergent used to wash diapers, or the plastic cover.

We switched to wool covers since our daughter's skin was sensitive. They allow air-flow, are very absorbent and are very soft and no leaks.

4/21/2007 8:53 AM  
Anonymous Carol said...

I would also love any recipes for granola bars. I alternate between Cliff bars and ones by Kashi. The higher protein ones are ideal for keeping my blood sugar happy.

As for what to cook them in, I discovered this week that someone used to much force or a sharp knife on my brownie pan. The scratches they left damaged the pan and I will not be using it again. It was a nonstick that I was saving up to replace.

What would others purchase now? I had though of Pyrex but have found in reading that their bakeware has been known to shatter while being used.
That may certainly be a rareish thing to have happen but I think I'll pass. Nonstick coatings are out obviously.

Ideally I want a 9x13 pan for baking that has its own cover so I don't waste aluminum foil.

4/21/2007 1:36 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

I haven't tested any recipes yet...but if you Google "granola bars", "healthy granola bars", or "vegan granola bars"'ll get TONS of results. I saw one out there from Whole Foods Market that looked delicious.

Carol...I use Pampered Chef stoneware exclusively and I LOVE them. They are wonderful. I have the bar pan, the 9 x 13, the small round, and the flat cookie sheet. I used to be a consultant, and had almost every stone, and when we moved, I got rid of everything except these and it's worked well.
I think you can actually get a lid for the 9 x 13 too. Not sure...

I would second the idea of wool covers as a solution to diaper rash. We never had a rash with B unless we were traveling and she was sitting a lot without air flow. Also...don't forget just not doing diapers altogther! With our next child, I'm definitely doing elimination communiation (infant potty training). Not saying you won't need some diapers, but if they are running naked while at the house, you won't have a rash.

Laurie...I actually don't go out for coffee much anymore. If I do, it's tea :) When I'm back in DM, we tend to go out a lot more because my parents go a lot. And that's when I always forget it because I'm out of my normal routine. Thanks for the great encouragement on contacting've always been so activist minded and I appreciate that.

4/21/2007 2:24 PM  
Anonymous Gwyn said...

It's great to see from these comments how many people you have thinking about these things! We are reducing our waste in three stages - so its less overwhelming. First, reduce non-recyclable kitchen waste by going to the health food store and buying rice etc in cloth bags. Next, reduce recyclable kitchen waste by, for example, cooking my own beans bought in cloth from health food shop rather than buying them pre-cooked in tins (not looking forward to this stage really - sounds hard work but we'll see!) and then looking at other household waste (not much).

4/22/2007 2:54 AM  
Anonymous Carol said...

Thank you Sara,
I will look for the stoneware. It does sound ideal.

4/22/2007 8:08 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

You know, we've gotten really bad about this lately, not stopping to think about the garbage we take in. This is a good reminder to get more focused on this!

But I stand strong in my resolve to continue purchasing water for my household! We buy in the refillable giant 5 gal jugs, and are actually going to switch to glass.

They don't make water filters that will take out all the crap in our water! (seriously. It's our pipes. Lead.)

4/24/2007 11:05 PM  
Anonymous Sandy said...

Dear Sara, I just love this blog. I read you comment about the book Garbage Land (which I had never heard of) and I went to the library and got it. I am going to start reading it soon. Right next to it was a book called "Waste and Want: A social History of Trash" by Susan Strasser. I can't put it down! Go figure. A book about the history of our country and it's attitudes about recycling and trash - a page turner? But it is fascinating. I thought I'd recommend it to your blog readers.

I am lucky enough to live in a town in Oregon that has a lovely locally owned health food store/deli and they really do their due diligence about the products they sell and where they come from. I don't have to do a lot of research. We also have an excellent recycling program and I am down to one teeny Safeway bag of garbage per week. With the exception of cat litter. I've tried alternatives to clay, but they are sooooo expensive and my cat turns his nose up to we will see how that progresses.

After reading all the comments I am really starting to consider a worm bin -- I love to garden and that would be a win-win situation, but I'm still a bit squeemish about that many worms! They aren't stinky all packed in like that?

We also have a great farmers market, but I thought, I buy organic, why bother? Well, now I realize I should support local, as well as organic.

Please, also, I have chemical allergies (which embarked me on this lifestyle) so I would love to hear people's comments on how they keep chemicals and fragrances out of their lives and homes and useful/working alternative products. My Grandmother died of Parkinsons and I know in my heart it was all the chemical stuff she was exposed to in her lifetime. There wasn't a housecleaning product Grandma didn't have and her house was spic and span clean but smelled like chemicals! And the garden! Oh my! The stuff we used to dust on those plants! I think about it now....

I don't want to go on and on, but I've learned so much from your blog and your readers comments. Blessings to you for this blog and keep up the good work!

4/28/2007 11:41 AM  
Anonymous magda said...

my husband also had a clif bar addiction. i was so bothered by all of the packaging waste that i figured out my own. now he won't eat the clif bars anymore, cause these taste so much better! you can veganizes these by replacing the eggs with flax seed (1 TBS flax to 3 TBS water, whisked together) and the milk with nut-milk. you can mix in whatever you like in terms of nuts, fruits, etc, and the sugar can be reduced or eliminated without calamity.

1 c applesauce
1/2 c nut butter
1 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c milk

1 c wheat flour
1 c ground oats
3 TBS ground flax seeds
2 c oatmeal
1 tsp soda

1/2 c chopped chocolate
1/2 c chopped dried figs
1/2 c chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350. Beat wet ingredients. Stir together dry ingredients. Add wet to dry and mix well. Stir in mix-ins. Butter a large baking dish (13x9) and spread mixture evenly in the dish. Bake for about 20 minutes, until beginning to brown about the edges, but still soft. Allow to cool completely in the baking dish. Cut into squares and freeze.

4/30/2007 11:28 AM  

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