Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

Some thoughts I've had lately about these 3 little words. REDUCE: Reducing our consumption (and not just recycling after we consume) is one of the most important things we can do to make a difference. It takes self-control, but once you start to work on mastering your consumer-driven desires, it gets easier.

We've been living in the RV just over 2 weeks, and I am keenly aware of my obsession with reducing. If there is something that is not serving an immediate purpose, it's gone. Nothing is safe! :) We've done two more downsizing sessions since we moved in. The first one consisted of mostly clothes and the second of household items. It feels so good to see open space in my cupboards and to have room to move my clothes around in the closet.

I am also very aware of what is coming into the RV. Even when we lived in the apartment, if I brought some new stuff home, I could just toss it in the closet and deal with it later. Now, I have to deal with it immediately, because if I put it on the couch, where will we sit?! :) I rarely even have the desire to go to stores, or garage sales anymore...because I know that if I end up finding something I "need", I will have to come back and find a place for it. Which, when everything already has a place and there is not a lot of empty space, is a little difficult. So I am content to make do with what I already have and when a need arises, I am better able to determine if it is truly a need.

REUSE: I love Klean Kanteens. We all have our own and we use them everyday, all day. In fact, most of the time, we don't even use cups at meals...just our water bottles! Because we can just re-fill over and over without washing, it reduces the number of dishes. This is a good thing. :) I take it with me everywhere and I will fill it up at random drinking fountains and in public restrooms. When we go to somewhere to eat...for example, Subway, I take it and fill it up with their water instead of taking their disposable cup.

Bottled water is super popular among RV'ers because many people don't trust their tank water. We have a Pur water filter on the faucet and as long as we filled up our tank from a tested source...we drink it. But if you have access to safe filtered tap water at home and on the town...drink it! Well, unless you live in Iowa which probably has the most contaminated water in the nation from all of the pig farms (check out this map!). The tap water/bottled water scandals have been all over the news lately. Here are some interesting tidbits on the topic from Colin at No Impact Man.

There are many coffeeshops switching to biodegradable cups in an effort to be more earth-friendly. I was pleasantly surprised to see one of my favorite spots in Bozeman put out a recycling bin for all of their plastic cups. But even though it's a step in the right doesn't solve the problem...the waste is still there. On my last trip to the Ecopolitan in Minneapolis, I was excited to see that they were requiring the purchase of a glass jar when you bought a smoothie to-go. You had to pay $1 for the jar/cup and you could either keep it, or bring it back in for a credit. It's ideas like this that need to stick...they may seem radical to the general public, but until we start to realize how much disposable junk we use everyday, the landfills will just continue to grow.

RECYCLE: It's been a little more difficult to recycle while traveling, because I'm never sure where the next drop-off site will be. But it's working good so far. Whenever I am flattening a box or washing out a can to recycle...I am usually thinking "did I really need that in the first place?". And the answer most often is no. Again, along the lines of REDUCING before even getting to this step, I want to buy products with less packaging, boxes, plastic, etc. on them. If you must buy something in plastic, try to remember to check the recycle number BEFORE you buy it. I'm always annoyed when I get something home and realize that it's a #5 plastic, which is not recycled in a lot of areas.

I'm soooo far from perfect in all of these areas...but try hard to be mindful of my actions and how they effect others, and if I mess up...I just start fresh the next day.

What are some of your own thoughts about these 3 little words?

The Green Movement

I picked up the Sunday edition of the New York Times a few months ago and I was hooked. The stories are diverse andthe writing is superb. Of course, I am an information others who read it might not be so easily enthralled :) I thrive on learning new and exciting things. My heart literally races as I read facts that have never entered my thoughts before (disclaimer: nearly all traditional media outlets are owned by huge conglomerates and are always read with a critical eye!).

The article that jumped out and called to me was "Buying into the Green Movement". I laughed out loud as I read the introductory paragraph:

"Here's one popular vision for saving the planet: Roll out from under the sumptuous hemp-fiber sheets on your bed in the morning and pull ona pair of $245 organic cotton Levi's and an Armani biodegradable knit shirt.

Stroll from the bedroom in your eco-McMansion, with it's photovoltaic solar panels, into the kitchen remodeled with reclaimed lumber. Enter the 3-car garage lighted by energy-sipping fluorescent bulbs and slip behind the wheel of your $104,000 Lexus Hybrid.

Drive to the airport, where you settle in for an 8,000 mile flight--careful to buy carbon offsets beforehand--and spend a week driving golf balls made from compacted fish food at an eco-resort in the Maldives."

The article goes on to say that even though there are so many eco-friendly products for you to buy...buying them does NOT necessarily make the earth more happy. You are still consuming. When you consume, those resources have to come from somewhere. Is it more earth-friendly to keep your non-organic, yet still comfortable cotton sheets until they wear out, or to buy brand new organic cotton sheets? When you buy the new sheets, cotton needs to be harvested and shipped to a manufacturer. The manufacturer makes the sheets which requires electricity, water, and numberless other items. Then the sheets are shipped in (most likely) a gas-guzzling semi (oh wait...maybe it's a biodiesel semi :)).

Basically, what they are saying is that the "green consumerism movement" is not so green after all. When you buy a lot of new things to be more "green" could be adding to the problem. However, in my opinion, there is an exception when you are buying something that is health related AND it's more green. For example...should I just continue using my Nalgene bottles when there is evidence that they aren't good for your body? should run as fast as you can and buy some stainless steel water bottles. Or, should I just continue to use up my nasty chemical cleaners or use natural cleaners right away? My choice would be to get rid of them immediately (or donate them to someone or some place who hasn't seen the eco-light yet :) ) Should you throw out all of your old clothes and only buy organic, natural fiber clothing? Probably not. Everyone will have a different opinion on what is right for them...just be mindful of your own choices.

Back to the article:

Paul Hawken, an author and longtime environmental activist, said the current boom in earth-friendly products offers a false promise. “Green consumerism is an oxymoronic phrase,” he said. He blamed the news media and marketers for turning environmentalism into fashion and distracting from serious issues.

“We turn toward the consumption part because that’s where the money is,” Mr. Hawken said. “We tend not to look at the ‘less’ part. So you get these anomalies like 10,000-foot ‘green’ homes being built by a hedge fund manager in Aspen. Or ‘green’ fashion shows. Fashion is the deliberate inculcation of obsolescence.”

He added: “The fruit at Whole Foods in winter, flown in from Chile on a 747 — it’s a complete joke. The idea that we should have raspberries in January, it doesn’t matter if they’re organic. It’s diabolically stupid.”

Basically, you just want to use common sense. Make the right choice for yourself and your family, but don't do it just to be trendy. Just because it says it's "eco-friendly" on the package doesn't mean it meets your own personal standards. Just because it's at your local coop doesn't mean the food didn't come from overseas. Be diligent in educating yourself about what exactly you are purchasing. Where did it come from? Who made it? Why do I need this?

When it comes to celebrities touting green lifestyles, etc...I want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. It's a given that there are many companies and individuals who will use the green movement to make money (greenwashing), get their name out there, etc. And there are a lot of people who will say how those people aren't "green enough" or they have other motives. I say...who cares?! Whether they have pure motives or not, they are still spreading the word about living greener and lighter on the earth. Even if one person is inspired to make a change in their lifestyle, all of those little changes will add up to big change.

A perfect example of this is the Live Earth event that happened on 07/07/07. If you haven't heard about it...this event was a worldwide concert spotlighting green living and fighting global warming. Yes, there were celebrities. Yes, they will probably sell more albums because they performed at Live Earth. BUT...think of all of the concert-goers who heard the message of living greener who may have never even thought about it before! Just for that single fact, it was a wonderful event.

How green are you? Are you light green? Dark green? Sage green? Who cares. That's silly :) It's not a change that you make make little changes, one at a time. Let's not judge anyone on how green they are compared to anyone else. Let's just make our own changes and encourage others in their journey as well.

Earth Party

Community Eats

Summer is the perfect time to eat outside and create community. I love eating with friends...and eating OUTSIDE with friends is even better. However, summertime is notorious for creating mounds and mounds of party trash. My friend, Rebecca, is throwing a "Stop Global Warming" Party this month. What a great way to create awareness and have fun! I encourage all of you to throw your own "Earth Party"! Here are a few things you could incorporate:

  • Encourage party-goers to ride their bikes, walk, or carpool.
  • Have everyone bring their own non-disposable plates, cups (or water bottles) and utensils.
  • Have speakers from local environmental groups (Rebecca has the Sierra Club Student Coalition coming to hers)
  • Make it a vegetarian potluck...meat production is a huge problem for the environment!
  • Serve organic, raw fruits and veggies
  • Have a tree planting ceremony
  • Send invites by email to avoid paper trash

Have a great time at your Earth Parties...I'd love to hear how they go!