She Saved The Earth With Flannel

Photo Credit: Flickr user Stavos52093

Photo Credit: Flickr user Stavos52093

Yes, I'm a day late for Earth Day. Yes, I thought it was today until I saw it all over the internet yesterday (including Amanda's great post) and was like "poop". REGARDLESS. Here's your reminder to treat EVERY day as Earth Day! Relevance!

In early March I had a revelation. I'm trashy. Not like that, though. I realized that my tiny household of two was producing a lot of trash. I had gotten into the horrible habit of cleaning up every little spill while cooking with a whole paper towel then trashing it. THAT'S AWFUL. I KNOW.  I also own a Keurig machine. So there goes all my chances of ever being with Leo DiCaprio.

I decided the madness needed to end (or at least become slightly less mad). Here's some of the small steps we've taken Casa Molly-And-Adam to become a bit more Earth Friendly.

1. ENOUGH WITH THE PAPER TOWELS ALREADY, JEEZ. 

As I was coming to the too-much-trash realization, reusable napkins were making a splash (and then cleaning it up) on the Boston Blogger scene. I'm not gonna put the name of the local maker out there becaaaaause I think they charge way too much. I'm all for supporting handmade but this one ruffled my feathers. Plus, it is so, SO easy to make your own for a fraction of the cost.

I just happened to go shopping for flannel when JoAnn's Fabric was having a flannel sale. Thank you, universe. I got over 4 yards of it for under $10! With that, plus an afternoon with my sister's serger, I made 25 full size napkins and a bunch of smaller handkerchiefs. 

That's right. I use a handkerchief now. Secret: I'm actually your grandpa.

We've been putting these to use for the last month and I. LOVE. THEM. Sure, it helps that we have in-unit laundry so we can wash a bunch of them every week. I use old washcloths and rags for the dirtier kitchen cleaning and we still keep paper towels around for even dirtier cleaning (looking at you, bathroom), but for the most part we are 99% paper free on that front.

2. K-CUPS MORE LIKE CRAY-CUPS AM I RIGHT?

Having a Keurig machine makes the most sense for Adam and me. Neither of us are picky about our coffee quality. Is it a dark, hot, caffeinated liquid? Gimme. Also, because of our weird work schedules, it's rare that we're both drinking coffee at the same time so a regular pot wouldn't work. (Plus, if there's a pot of coffee just sitting around, I WILL drink all of it and be up for days.) But those little plastic K Cups that get tossed after one use are ridiculous, let's be real. So much trash for so little product. 

Adam had actually given me a My K Cup Reusable Filter ages ago but I hadn't used it much. There are more of these reusable k cups on the market now but this one works fine with one small adjustment. On it's own, with regular ground coffee you can get anywhere, it makes a kind of weak cup. The trick is to get espresso ground and using this tutorial to create a stronger brew.

In addition to not heaping more plastic into landfills, this also saves a ton of money! We end up spending about a third less on coffee this way because buying grounds is a whole lot cheaper than buying k-cups (which is also obviously a lot cheaper than buying at a coffee shop but neither of us are much into that anyway.)

3. BAG LADY

Does using reusable grocery bags make me feel slightly superior to everyone carrying out their paper and plastic? Yes. Yes it does. Oh, you can't sling your groceries over your shoulder while also saving the world? Interesting.

Anyway, the real trick here is the REMEMBERING TO USE THEM part. I keep a rolled up tote in my backpack so if I make a stop at the grocery store after work I know I have something. We keep a pile of reusable shopping bags in the car and are getting a LOT BETTER at actually using them. 

A new addition to my Superior Bag Person inventory is reusable produce bags. I always tried to minimize my use of those plastic produce bags but usually it's unavoidable. These make me feel a lot better when buying produce and bulk items (the ones I linked to have a fine enough mesh that you could definitely put stuff like rice in there without leakage.)

I realize plastic grocery and shopping bags can definitely have second lives (as poop picker uppers mostly) but since we're not picking up any poop around here, we don't miss them.

4. ANTI-BAG LADY

This one came in baby steps. First, I rebelled against those individually wrapped snacks and 100 calorie packs and made my own with sandwich baggies. I would try to reuse the baggies a couple times but they would inevitably end up in the trash. Yep, more plastic. See ya later, sea life. Now we're using reusable containers almost 100% of the time. Glass is best, but doesn't often play well with small kitchen cabinets. We use a combination of Lock & Lock containers (that all stack together), mason jars, and Pyrex.

 

There is still room for improvement, but I'm feeling really good about the changes we've made. They're small, but doable and definitely make a difference.

What do you do to keep your home or office Earth friendly?

Molly Kerrigan