Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Today marks the first day of spring for me; and while spring has already officially been here for a few days, today is the day every year that I feel like waking up to a new me, a new world, a new lifestyle. April 1st is my personal New Year's, when I make my resolutions to get outside, enjoy everything around me, be more conscientious, be a better friend, be more involved in all kinds of endeavors. In the spirit of spring, the success of the recent Earth Hour, the upcoming Earth Day, and the current trend of green-everything, today prompted me to start a new "eco-diary" that focuses on what I am doing each day to reduce my worldly footprint, in hopes that it gives you some inspiration that small steps taken by each individual each day will make a huge impact over time. Your feedback and opinions are more than welcome; your snarky comments on how "nothing ever makes a difference" are not.

Today started with me waking up at a decent hour, 8:45 a.m. I eventually want this time to be 7 a.m., but that is difficult for me, seeing that I have another job that keeps me up until the wee hours of the morning on certain days of the week. Waking up early is a small thing that you may feel is nothing, but that is not so. By waking up early, I am setting my biological clock to ebb and flow with the daylight, in hopes of using less electricity at night with my computer, my lights, and my gas/heat, as well as curbing those late night munchies that make me eat more than I should, consuming more products and causing more product waste. The sunlight works with my endorphins to make me happier and more productive, burning more calories, staying healthier, and being kinder to others. Today was a gorgeous spring day, so I kicked open the curtains and the windows to let the sun naturally warm and light my house, and I turned off the heat.

Next comes bathroom time, and it's a shower day. I only shower every three or four days; you might think that's gross, but it saves water, and my body [and hair!] just doesn't need it any more than that. Next comes another thing you might think is gross: I pee in the shower. This saves an entire flush of water and a fistful of toilet paper, and, if you think about it, I am using the shower water anyway, I am going to wash myself cleaner than any toilet paper can, everything will go down the drain, and nothing extra was wasted. I find that pure genius. :) So I shower only a few minutes; just long enough to wake up and get me clean, and I only use a small amount of all the products so as not to go through them as quickly or to make unnecessary waste/production. Today, there are two new shower revelations that I am implementing to make a greener existence: no more shower gel and no more washcloths. Shower gel is a ridiculous amount of plastic packaging waste. A lot goes into making a plastic bottle, resulting in serious amounts of ripping materials from the earth, chemicals used in both the final result and the product, itself, and air pollution from factories, and for what? So I can have a soap in liquid form? The same thing as the bar, with just some water and other chemicals added that I don't need? A bar of natural soap does the same trick with less packaging, production, and chemical waste, and is usually in a recyclable box. And as for the washcloth, it is just a product that I do not need; it is one more item that I have to wash, adding to detergent, water, and energy waste in my laundry, and it is one more item that I would constantly have to re-purchase when the old one wears out, adding to unnecessary consumerism. The bar of soap foams up fine all on its own.

The next revelation in the bathroom is deciding not to use the overhead light on the sink, except only to do close-up face pampering; there is rarely any need to have two lights on in a bathroom if you are not doing close-up work, like shaving, applying make-up, plucking brows, etc. This also leads me to the fact that, as my bulbs burn out one by one, they are being replaced by only 40- and 60-watt energy saver bulbs. Anything over that is just unnecessary in the home.

Next comes brushing the teeth. Small pea-sized amounts of toothpaste are all that is necessary to create the needed foam to cleanse your teeth, anything over that amount just uses up your toothpaste unnecessarily fast, leading to more purchasing/production of the product. When you brush, also be sure only to turn the water on when spitting/rinsing brush, etc. Don't just let beautiful, clean water run down your drain for no reason.

And then sweet breakfast! Don't skip breakfast! A high fiber cereal curbs my hunger for the rest of the day, leading to less consumption, less product waste. My cereal box and my milk container are both recyclable; although today, as I ran out of milk, I decided to keep my milk container for an art project instead, cutting it open for a springtime planter, recycling the top half and keeping the bottom. My breakfast is my "green meal," where I read my email and my feed reader with just the charged computer battery and no plug-in. I drink my first of my 10 glass maximum for daily water [I have decided that more than that just becomes waste of fresh water; yes, my body likes it, but it only requires ten big glasses, so the rest is excess], and I drink juice in the morning. I have a Brita filter, and I strongly suggest anyone who drinks bottled water to get one; bottled water is a massive waste of plastic and packaging, and, although it is a stroke of marketing genius convincing you that you need it, bottled water is a highly unnecessary product. I do think the Brita filter is a good idea, though, for my health and the taste of my water; and since I make art projects out of the old filters, there isn't much waste. Juice is the only other refrigerated drink I purchase because plastic waste and chemical usage is such a threat to our planet [please forgive me for sounding like some sort of hippie... I really am not at all, haha, just trying to make a difference where and when I can], and I only buy juice in a recyclable container. One change I have made recently is with our orange juice container; we used to get a waxy, cardboard container that couldn't be recycled. Yes, the juice was delicious, but not at the throw-away cost; so we started buying juice in a recyclable container. And then, there is the coffee filter. I go out of my way to purchase non-bleached paper coffee filters in a recyclable package, and I refuse to purchase coffee from a coffee shop to avoid paying extra money for extra packaging that just gets tossed. If more people made more coffee at home in their ceramic mugs, think what a difference that would make in coffee cup waste, especially Styrofoam products, which I am adamantly against.

I wash my dishes immediately after breakfast, and I am very careful about wasting water. I do not plug my sink drain and run a whole bunch of water, and I do not just let my water run over the dishes; both of those methods are extremely wasteful. I run enough water to wet my dish, turn the water off, suds up the dish with my soap, clean it, and then rinse it off. Water on, water off. I wash my own dishes, never using a wasteful dishwasher that seldom gets dishes clean, and I let them air dry, never using unnecessary heat energy to dry something that will dry on its own, and not using paper or cloth towels to dry them, since that makes paper waste and/or detergent/laundry waste in the future.

The next big task is lunch, later in the day. I decide to eat out because I don't have much food in the house presently, and it's a beautiful day, so I want to go out. I walk. At lunch, I give myself only one napkin. One of my biggest pet peeves since working in a restaurant is people who will take handfuls of napkins just to wipe their mouths once. Not only is this expensive for the restaurant, which drives the cost of the food you love up and up, but napkins contain an enormous amount of bleaching chemicals and, of course, trees. Please don't waste them. Think small to think big. The next preaching moment for restaurant patronage is do not touch things you do not need; don't dump salt on the table just to do it, don't rip up the coasters that bars reuse, don't shred a napkin just because you're fidgity, don't take the sugar packets just to write a phone number, don't empty out gobs of ketchup at once and then only use a fraction of it, don't ask for an extra receipt if you are only going to leave it on the table. If you want mayo on your sandwich, ask for it when ordering, so as not to waste extra ramekins and packets. If you don't need the silverware in the roll-up, don't touch it or move it so they don't have to wash it. I think you can see what I mean.

So I used one napkin. And I drank one glass of water. I am only allowed one glass of water when I go out; pace yourself, drink slower. People who just drink gobs of water are wasting water, too, despite how good it might be for you. The water helps you digest, but seriously, one or two glasses max during your meal. I ask for no straw so that I do not waste a straw; straws are one of the leading causes of lip wrinkles as you get older, f.y.i., and the water touching my lips adds a nice amount of moisture, not to mention that I am not wasting one more small piece of plastic. I only eat what I need; I do not stuff myself, so that I can take some home and not consume more later, and I do not leave a bunch of food on my plate, which is equally as wasteful; rather, I eat leftovers. Normally, I package my leftovers up myself in my napkin so as not to use a separate container, and then I put them in a reusable container once I get home. Today my napkin was pretty soiled, however, so I needed a container. When the girl packaged it up, I told her that I only wanted the small container, and I did not want it put inside an additional bag. There is no need for an additional bag, so I don't want or need to waste one, even though both are recyclable, which is a start, but using them more than necessary leads to more being produced, and the endless circle of production. When I pay, I leave a nice tip, an overly nice tip: on a $10.40 bill, I left $15. Why? Because THAT is what stimulates the economy in my little big town. I bought local food, handmade at a local, independently-owned deli, and I tipped a server who will go out and spend the money in our little big town. But more than that. I just told her that I couldn't have any more water because I didn't want to waste it, I didn't want a straw because I didn't want to waste it, and not to put my to-go food in multiple containers inside a bag because I didn't want to waste it. Hopefully some of that wears off on her the next time she eats her own food at a restaurant... as well as a nice tip making someone's day, making her smile, and making her pass the good cheer, and maybe the new way of thinking, onto others.

After that, off to the grocery store. I shop locally, and I try to buy locally, and, of course, I walk to the store. I need toilet paper and laundry detergent. I buy the store brand toilet paper because it is the most basic, closest-to-just-plain-paper paper that you can buy. The super expensive ultra soft stuff has multiple sheets, adding to bigger waste, tons of chemicals and bleaches added, and extra materials causing a slow breakdown of the waste in sewage landfills. Plus, the store brand goes back into helping my little store, which helps my little big town's economy. Now detergent: I need a package that provides the least amount of waste for the same ounce size. I go out of my way to go to this store because I know they carry my brand, Seventh Generation Free & Clear Natural Laundry Detergent. Detergents are killer to the environment, waterways, and your health. Be careful what you buy, and read up on them. I make sure I use concentrated so I only need to use a smidgen, and it cleans just as well as non-concentrated. So I grab my toilet paper and detergent and head for the counter with only toilet paper and detergent; I do not take extra time to go shopping for other things that I don't need, thus avoiding that never-ending cycle of consumerism. No receipt (this awesome place doesn't print you one unless you ask for it) and no bag. I try to carry absolutely everything I can with no bag, whenever possible, even if it's a long walk home. If I need a bag, it's paper that I can use for recycling my other paper and cardboard, whenever possible.

It is now late evening, and I am using only my computer and implementing my one-light rule, drinking my eighth or ninth glass of water, and enjoying the night breeze coming through the open window, and I feel great for having been so conscientious during the day. Hopefully this eco-diary inspired you, as well.