Kermit the Frog had it right. It's not easy being green. And sometimes it's not affordable either. I have a list of things that I would love to do to have a simple, low waste, organic, healthy home but somethings just aren't feasible for us right now. However, there are things that we are doing and, as I love to learn knew ideas or be encouraged in what I am able to do, I thought I'd compile a list of what I am doing and hopefully it will encourage you to do what you can. Or even give you ideas for your home.
I recycle as much as I can. My purpose is mostly selfish. About 80% selfish, 20% awareness. Or 80% selfish, 10% awareness and 10% convenience... which is still selfish. The reason I say it's selfish is because we mostly do it to save us money. I also do it to get rid of junk. I love sorting through old papers and magazines and de-cluttering the house. Goodwill has been blessed by our donations many times. My husband, Nathan, recycles the soda cans (yeah for Oregon's bottle return deposit!) and since he's the main soda drinker in the house he saves the cash for man stuff like fishing, hunting and tools.
We recycle anything they let us put in the big recycle garbage can outside. This saves us so much on garbage bills. We set our main garbage bin out once a week and our recycling bin (which is almost twice as big) about once a month. I've also been trying to cut back on the trash by putting all our food scraps in a compost pile outside. I recently read here about making your own worm compost and want to try it but we don't have a garden yet so I'll wait.
We have a burn barrel outside and so we burn most of our paper and cardboard. If you don't live in a burn area but know someone who does ask them if you can use their burn pile or barrel to get rid of your papers. It saves money and creates an opportunity for visiting with friends or family. Nathan has found that magazines don't burn well so we have a small recycle bin for those.
As for being organic, this is a little harder for us as most things organic are spendy. Probably our main organic source is our meat. Nathan is an archery hunter and tries to supply us with an elk every year. Although I've had to get used to the difference in flavor I love that elk meat is low fat and organic.
I would love to have a garden but juggling toddlers and a garden doesn't appeal to me right now. I do get organic produce from Costco when I can. I use their organic carrots and organic frozen veggies to make Amelia's baby food. The organic coffee they sell is also a great deal and makes a deliciously strong cup of coffee. I do get organic, eco friendly cleaning products from Melaleuca. I have really liked their laundry and dish detergent and have just started using their cleaners and hand soap, too. If you are interested in their products I have a sister who is a representative of theirs.
Since I can't do much in the organic area I still try to keep us healthy by making meals that are as nutritious as I can make them. Plus, making homemade meals is, a lot of times, cheaper than eating out or buying prepared foods. We get a lot of veggies from Gleaners and so I try to chop, shred and puree them ahead of time and freeze them so they are easy to add to meals I am making. Most of the time my family has no clue that they are eating three to five different veggies which they wouldn't have touched otherwise. I also try to include fruit into one or two meals a day. A lot of times it ends up being oranges or apples but it's still fruit. Balancing out the carb/fruit/veggie/protein/fat ratio in our meals is helping me to feel better about what I serve my family.
For both of my girls I made their baby food. I found it to be more cost effective and if I make it then I know what is in it. I was given a recipe book written by the La Leche League International for making baby food and have used a few ideas. Mostly I steam veggies, puree them and store them in the freezer in the same containers you would use for jam. I make a variety and pull a few out at a time so that Amelia isn't getting bored of one flavor. It is easy and very convenient.
I also make freezer jam for our family. I started a year ago and we have enjoyed the jam almost everyday since. I don't use any sugar substitutes so far but I do like that I know where my fruit comes from.
Because I'm a stay-at-home mom I'm home a lot. Which I like. Which also means I don't use very much gas. I try to only fill my van once every 7-10 days. There are times when I can go many more days and others when I need to fill up more often.
To make things simpler in our home I like to do:
once a month cooking
flexible daily scheduling
And a few more money saving tips:
use cold water for laundry
do full loads of laundry
lights out during the day
in the winter: more clothes/lower temp on thermostat
mainly use wood heat
hand-me-downs worked for the Wilder children it will work for you
And here's my list of things I'm trying to convince Nathan that we should do to save money, etc:
stop trash pickup and take trash to the dump every three months (if you have a trailer this can work for you)
minimize our belongings
haul and chop firewood on our own
Turn our yard into a large garden to make it more efficient
I hope this list is encouraging to someone. Let me know what you do to make your home more simple, low waste, organic and healthy. Let's glean from each other.
Also, in the next few weeks I plan to post recipes for once a month meals and homemade baby food.