Hard to believe it has been six months since setting out on this journey to live more sustainably and with less. Lately I have found myself reflecting back on how much has changed in such a short period of time and the little bits of insight I’ve picked up along the way. It’s really exciting to me to think about all the steps that we have taken so far to reduce waste and simplify things in our home:
– Removed disposables from our kitchen
– Started shopping bulk using my own containers
– Started using bulk shampoo and conditioner
– Stopped buying pretty much all frozen foods (with the exception of the occasional icy treat).
– Spent more time shopping at local farmers markets and grocers
– Changed over to milk in returnable glass jars
– Eliminated plastic produce bags by making cloth produce bags using old pillow cases.
– Built a raised garden bed
– Planted a veggie garden (as well as a couple flowering plants for the pollinators)
– Started composting
– Switched over almost completely to cloth diapers
– Used up store bought cleaners and started using homemade versions
– Pared down on a lot of excess stuff around the house
– Held a yard sale
– Minimized purchasing
– Started changing over to bamboo toothbrushes
– Started bringing along own to-go container as well as reusable silver and napkins when eating out
– Got recycling back on track
There are several products in our home that we have been in the process of using up before replacing them. Several things we are using I simply need to research further to figure out the best alternative. And I still need to continue to work on food waste because while its better, it’s still not where I’d want it to be. My hope is that by the end of the year, our garbage production will be relatively minimal.
Most challenges I have faced have all been pretty much related to food and grocery shopping. Lately, I’ve been feeling frustrated by how difficult it is to find local produce through grocery stores. My days vary so much from day to day that I still haven’t nailed down a farmer’s market routine, so often end up picking up produce while I’m stocking up on other goods. I was able to find a list of all the local farmer’s markets that have hours of operation during the week so this past week was much better! One thing that has started to weigh on me is the fact that most of the produce sold in grocery stores is from other countries. While I was always aware of this, I never felt like it hit me in the face as much as it has here lately. If food isn’t in season where you live then it has to come from somewhere and often that somewhere is from across the globe. Thinking more about freshness of food, I have found myself really creeped out by the concept of eating say a pepper that was grown in Holland then picked, boxed and shipped across the ocean where it was then put on a truck to be delivered to the grocery store. How fresh can that be? And how good can that be for the environment? My mindset as a dietitian has always focused around consumption of a variety of colorful produce for the spread nutrients this sort of selection provides but with so much being grown internationally, I’ve become a lot more focused on seasonality. Luckily its summer, and soon everything will be in season so I have some time to develop a better strategy for getting through the cold weather months.
Another challenge has been getting free range, humanely raised, chicken, ideally local, not wrapped up in plastic. For the longest time this was driving me mad. My husband likes meat, so being a 100% vegetarian home isn’t really an option (though most of our meals tend to be meat free). The only place I’ve seen chicken not pre-wrapped was at Kroger but I’m pretty sure it’s the mass-produced variety so that’s a big no. While not perfectly waste free, I have found my best option to be from a farm located less than an hour away who has free roaming chickens and also grow organic produce. I really liked the farmer and the farm’s practices so am really excited to have found him and to help support his business, even if the chicken does have to come wrapped in plastic. Here’s an interesting fact for you: most commercially sold chicken is dipped in chlorine before being packaged and shipped to stores. But not my guy! So yea, I’m more than willing to overlook a little plastic to know that what I’m getting is the best option possible.
Though we have never depended too heavily on convenience and pre-packaged foods, there are a few things that are staples in our life that do come in a plastic packaging that is difficult to recycle, such as tortillas and crackers. Most things we can get around but these are the ones that we tend to buy most frequently. Making grain products from scratch has been a learning curve for me. I have never been much of a baker – too much precision required for me (I’m more of a “little dash here, a little dash there” kind of gal). Despite this, since even before starting on this journey, I have been more interested in learning how to cook more foods from scratch. But let’s be honest: baking from scratch takes time, especially when you’ve never really done it before. For instance, I decided I was going to make buns to take to our family river house Memorial Day weekend because I knew we’d be making burgers and I didn’t want to deal with the plastic bags that come from store bought buns. So, the day we were leaving I decided to bake my own buns. I basically skipped a rest period because we were running short on time, but hey, they still turned out! And I found a cracker recipe that’s pretty easy (and tasty) to sub for store bought, but sure, it takes time. That being said, I’m not going to stop trying to make things from scratch but I can totally see where someone working full time, coming home to kids or simply living life at full speed, might feel like this is a challenge. My hope is to find the perfect, easiest to do recipes for all those products such as bread, buns, crackers, bagels and whatnot then figure out the best way to store them for made-at-home convenience…and then share it all with you!
One thing I’ve noticed is that nowadays I can’t walk into a regular store without feeling this hyperawareness about all the products that are sitting on the shelves. I start thinking about what went into making them and sadly, how more than likely most of it will eventually end up being thrown away. The next time you are in a store, take a second to look around and think about all the stuff you see sitting on the shelves, particularly products with an expiration date. Think about how many stores like that one store exist, duplicating those same products millions of times over, across the globe. Think about the resources it probably took to make them (water, paper, plastic, etc) and then imagine all of it piled up into a landfill, much of it within months, weeks or even days of its purchase. Becoming aware of waste has made me a lot more sensitive to this fact.
I look forward to the next 6 months and all the steps we will take to lessen our impact on the world. It has definitely been an exciting journey so far and hope that you’ll continue to follow along!