I tried desperately to avoid making this post on Earth Day. It seemed too cliché. But though I've been working on this post for over a month, I simply haven't had a chance to finish it.
I wasn't raised in a Christian household. My sister, brother, and I went to church on Sundays until we moved away from my grandparents and the drive was too much for my grandfather to make every Sunday morning. However, I was taught to respect the Earth. (If I littered, even today, my mom would probably kill me!) We fed the birds, the fish, and stray wildlife. We did not waste food, period. Wherever we went, we usually picked up trash inconsiderate jerks had left behind. We recycled cans (free money for us kids-yay!) and newspapers, and later milk jugs and plastic bags. We reused anything worth reusing (we were fairly poor, so that was pretty much necessary) and had to think carefully about where we put our money.
This was pretty much just how my mom is. It's not like she sat down and thought, "I must be environmentally responsible. Therefore, I must do this and this and this." She likes the outdoors, and she doesn't think it should be junked up. She's also a softie when it comes to animals, so she did what she could to look out for them. We were kinda poor, and she grew up really poor, so she avoided waste. And her Girl Scout troop? It was pretty much funded by our family. My mom never wanted to ask for much in dues, so she scrimped and saved to pay for as much of it as she could. That meant we figured out how to do as much as we could with reused or donated stuff. And recycling just made sense. (Not that my mom was a perfect environmentalist, of course. We had our share of cheap plastic doodads, for one thing. But she was remarkably sound for her day.)
I've stepped up my efforts on behalf of the environment for a specific reason: I don't think we're doing such a good job taking care of God's creation. Really, this place is His, and I can't help but think that He's not so happy with the way we're taking care of our room. People are more important than the environment, but come on! It doesn't have to be an either-or. There are a lot of little things that we can do that make a difference.
If you want a better-written viewpoint on Christians and the environment, check out the Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change. It's written by Jonathan Merritt, and is quite rational. (Ishy pointed me to it; Jonathan is her singles pastor.) Even if you aren't a Baptist, I think you'll find it interesting.
Before I share my eco-friendly habits, I figure I'll get my confessions out of the way. First, I have way too much plastic junk. And I do mean junk; it's not even worthwhile stuff. I also have an art and craft supply stash that verges on embarassing. And we don't recycle at home, though I hope to change that now that the local recycling center is open. We also leave our electronics plugged in all the time (which means they always draw some power), though I'm going to buy a separate surge protector for the things that don't have to be on all the time. (I refuse to unplug things like the VCR when they're not in use, because I am NOT reprogramming them every day!) One of the worst things, in my opinion, is the food we waste. (I'm working on that one.) We also buy too much pre-packaged food, and we eat out too much. (I need to cook more…)
That was painful. Now on to the good part: the positive choices I've made.
I take public transportation every day of the work week, usually both to and from work. It's actually pretty pleasant, except for the part where I have to wake up before six a.m.!
Skipping plastic bags whenever possible
I try to always carry a reusable tote with me. I use them everywhere, even at places like Macy's, TJ Maxx, or Big Lots. (Makes me wish I still had the wonderful cotton string bag I bought in 1993 or so. I gave up using it because the only place that didn't give me a hard time about it was the natural foods store.) Sometimes I skip bags, like last week when the waitress at the Mexican restaurant offered me one for my leftovers. I can carry a box just fine, especially since I live around the corner! (I don't think she's ever had anyone refuse a bag; she was really confused…)
Reusing plastic bags
Sometimes we're caught without our bags, or with too few. In that case, we use as few as possible and reuse them. We use them in our small wastebaskets in the two bathrooms, and Paul uses them when he takes lunch or other stuff to work. I'm hoping to get to the point where supply drops to equal demand, with only a few bags in reserve!
Cutting back on disposable dishes
At work, I keep dishes in a desk drawer: eating utensils, a paring knife, a bowl, a small snack-size bowl and plate, a teacup, a lidded ceramic mug, and a stirrer. Also, I try to always have my reusable insulated cup with me. Not only does it keep my drinks warmer, but it's way easier to handle when I'm taking the bus. Some coffee shops even give you the option of using a ceramic mug and plate if you're eating in. Yay for less waste!
Homemade cleaning products
My experiments here have been mixed. The homemade laundry detergent seems fine (and is cheap!), and my Windex replacement is a winner. Borax or baking soda as a scrub works wonderfully. I'm still working on my dishwasher detergent recipe, since the first one I tried left a white residue on the dishes. I'm hoping to find a good mold and mildew killer that works, and a good oven cleaner recipe. (The commercial stuff is pretty nasty and rather expensive…)
I like stuff with very little packaging. This is one reason I like bulk, as well as stuff from indie artists and places like Lush. When it will work, I reuse packaging to hold stuff around the house or at work.
Environmentally sound cosmetics
I've been making my own facial scrub since, what, forever? For other stuff, I've been slowly switching to more earth-friendly products. Sadly, I've had to hide from Bath and Body Works, but my addiction to Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has helped. Their scents are so wonderful that it makes everything else seem sub-par. For skincare, I've been haunting Whole Foods. For makeup, I've switched to Alima Pure, which has been great for my skin. My lipstick is Aveda, which has a partially refillable case (those have always seemed wasteful) and is wonderful!
This is a partial list, but I think it's quiet long already, so I'll stop.