Six weeks ago our faithful family minivan blew up coming home from an end-of-summer getaway. After the initial shock, I thought this might be an opportunity for us to live simpler. I suggested we aim for six months of two cars between three drivers. We would coordinate schedules, walk/bike more, and limit expenses on gas and insurance. It also meant we would need to upgrade the older car so that we had two solidly reliable vehicles; the hunt began.
We made it one month. The stress of a busy family going every which way at all hours became too much; one particular day I thought Guy might blow a fuse. We did find an upgrade for the older car; and almost at the same moment another vehicle appeared as a gift from God via a friend—both used cars, together costing one-third the price of a similar new car. We had planned to sell the older car, until we realized that the only potential buyer would be a high school student; we have a high school student a few months from driving age.
So now we have more cars than drivers, and three SUVs. It feels indecent, and necessary.
Then I saw the infographic in an email from the energy company comparing our usage with other households our size. I thought we were pretty good about managing our energy—turning lights off, running appliances at off-peak hours, etc—except for all the heat lamps in the kiddo’s reptile cages. Because of his abundant love for creepy-crawlies, our energy usage crawls off the charts.
Also, recycling is getting harder with foreign countries no longer accepting recyclables from the US. I’m using water to wash items that before I’d just throw in the recycling bin, and I’m tossing items too difficult to clean.
None of this sits easily with a family that likes to consider ourselves environmentalists.
So I’m looking to the little things, the micro changes I can make to take some of the pressure off my footprint. The following suggestions are things I already do, so I’m hoping you’ll offer your suggestions.
- Batch errands. Drop by the library, grocery store, and gas station when you pick your kid up from school, for example.
- Only wash full loads of dishes (if you have a new-ish appliance, no need to pre-rinse) and laundry. Wash on cold at off-peak hours.
- As possible, wear clothing more than once before washing. Wash towels once a week.
- Line dry laundry, especially quick drying clothes like workout gear.
- Eat mostly plants and unprocessed foods; limit or eliminate meat/animal products from your diet. Also, shop at a farmers’ market.
- At the grocery store, buy in bulk and/or choose products with minimal packaging.
- Cook at home rather than eating out. Double recipes and freeze. Also, no need to preheat the oven if you set the timer for a few extra minutes.
- Use refillable water bottles.
- Keep reusable shopping bags in your vehicles so you’re never without one when you need it.
- Buy less stuff.
- Carry reusable straws. Also flatware if you’re likely to eat out.*
- Opt for cloth napkins instead of paper towels or napkins.
- Use microfiber makeup removing cloths rather than wipes or remover + cotton pads/tissues. Wet with warm water, wipe, hang to dry: simple. I use one cloth per week, and a different section of the cloth each day.*
- Take short, just-warm-enough showers.
- Check out your plastic footprint here: https://repurpose.global/ You can see my results below, better than many Americans but still not great. You’ll have an option at the end to make a financial gift to help fund environmental efforts, or you can donate to the charity of your choice, of course.