Monday, April 22, 2013

Everyday Ways We Care for the Earth

I enjoy a closeness to the earth and feel happy when I treat it respectfully. In fact, I think I'm at my best when out of doors.

One of the first things God told Adam and Eve was to take good care of the earth. I believe that instruction is still in force (and in our culture of convenience, it's harder to do!). I am glad for society's increased focus on caring for this important part of our collective stewardship.

My heart's long-term goal is sustainability. Though there are many changes I can't make right now (driving an eco-friendly car, using solar panels, owning my own jersey cow, etc.), I am constantly looking for little things I can learn to do. Here are some simple things we do at our house to make a small difference (many of these things are also easier on the body and the pocketbook!).

Eggshells ground
for compost
  • Grow some of our own food. When we give to the earth, she gives back. I try to give the children a chance to help in the garden, even though it can be risky business. One day when I have a little more space, I think it would be fun to give each child his/her very own grow box to nurture.
  • Compost! When I've stopped adding to my composter, I throw my kitchen scraps behind a little bush in the front yard. Eventually something beautiful will grow there. :)
  • Cloth diaper. Here's how we do it.
  • Use our Sun Oven. All you need is direct sunlight.
  • We try to support "green" companies (especially in purchasing items for children).
  • Favor farmers who grow their animals sustainably and use organic methods.
  • When we go out walking or to the park (or anywhere outdoors), we carry along a little bucket or two to pick up trash.
Sometimes you come home with a prize,
like this old abandoned baseball Sammy found.

  • Bring cloth shopping bags to the store.
  • I reuse produce bags, jars, rubber bands, twisty ties, aluminum foil, anything plastic.
  • Reuse other people's stuff (yard sales, Craigslist, hand-me-downs, etc...).
  • Repurpose clothing and other items instead of buying something new. What do they say? "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."  
  • We always try to fix something ourselves before having it repaired or replaced.
  • Use a water filtration system (as opposed to buying plastic jugs) and stainless steel water bottles.
  • Buy paper products made of 100% recycled material (80% post-consumer).
  • We tend to use washcloths and kitchen towels in place of paper towels. I generally have a towel for drying hands, another for drying dishes, and another for cleaning spills/wiping the floor. Each gets demoted in turn.

  • Turn out the lights and unplug when we're not using an appliance or device. Even if the power is off, electricity is still flowing if it's plugged in.
  • Use high-efficiency light bulbs.
  • Hang dry. It adds about 10 minutes to laundry time, but I feel good about it when I do it. The dryer is a huge energy sucker.
  • Use blinds, drapes, windows, and doors to moderate temperatures. The A/C and heater are never our go-tos.
  • Support local businesses and farmers (to avoid shipping food and products from across the world). When we have a choice, we buy products made in the states.
  • Shower minimally. If I don't need to wash my hair, I turn the shower on a trickle, wash the important parts, and I'm outta there. Weaning my hair off shampoo started saving me quite a lot of water.
  • My boys probably only bathe once a week. Otherwise, we just wash hands, faces, hands, and other parts as necessary.
  • Spot clean clothes to avoid over-laundering.
  • Plan errands consciously to reduce emissions as well as conserve gas and oil.

  • We chose an eco-friendly paint when we recently repainted the bunk beds, crib, and upcycled a garden box into a sandbox.
  • For general household cleaning, we use baking soda, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds, Charlie's Soap, and Biokleen Bac-Out. Anything you let run down a drain will end up somewhere in the earth.
  • For the same reason, I also use gentle laundry cleaners, currently favoring Charlie's Soap, Naturoli Soap Nuts, and occasionally Oxygen Bleach. In place of fabric softeners and dryer sheets, I use wool dryer balls (when we don't hang dry).
  • We also use safe body products (two separate links there). Since I wrote that latter post, I've fallen in love with Earthpaste for toothpaste. I never knew what clean teeth felt like until I used it. :)
  • Avoid plastic. It is not all recyclable, and some of it will just end up in the ocean. Plus, even if it's BPA and phthalate-free, you really never know what else might be lurking. Along these lines:
    • I make most everything myself, including condiments, which saves me from buying more plastic.
    • To buy produce packed in plastic boxes seems like such a waste to me.
    • For food storage on a small scale, we use glass exclusively.
    • Use compostable trash liners in the kitchen garbage.
    • Once we do have plastic, I basically reuse it to death!

Wherever possible, we buy organic, which has many benefits for the earth. Among other things, organic methods sustain nutrient-rich soil, do not cause chemical contamination, and maintain better balance in the ecosystem. Up until several decades ago, everybody ate organic, right? It was the only way.

I love the earth. I'm sad about the many pollutants and toxins (here and here, for example) that plague both the earth and our bodies, and though I know that one day the earth will be cleansed and purified, I want to do everything I can to make a difference in the meantime. While it's true that my children will inherit the earth as I leave it, they will also inherit my love and respect for it. I think that's more important.

Happy Earth Day 2013! Let's celebrate it every day of the year.

What are some of the simple things you do to take care of the earth every day?


  1. We make it a point to have lots of plants in our house. Plants are natural air filters, and also naturally increase the humidity of their surrounding area. Both thing receive a plus in my book! I think I'll post about that...

    Marvelous post, Nonie!

  2. Cloth diapers are about the most underrated thing ever, in my opinion. Wonderful post. You are amazing.

  3. Thanks Nonie! What a great, detailed post. It's so true that if something is good for the earth, it is also good for our bodies, and also almost ALWAYS good for our pocket-books (especially if you consider potential reduced medical expenses).

    We have not had paper towels for a year now, and I haven't missed them! We just use up cloths, and then throw them into the wash with our other laundry (doesn't take up any extra water or detergent because we go so long between washes). Funny, we have the same system as you: hand-drying, dish-drying, wiping up...oh, and special cloth for baby.

    Definitely taking fewer showers than once-upon-a-time, and my hair stays clean for a week.

  4. What a lovely post! I love all of your ideas. My little Jackson was born on Earth Day and I hope I can teach him to have a love and respect for our beautiful earth. Okay ladies, maybe you already posted this and I missed it, but how to you keep your hair clean for a week?! My hair is pretty grungy after even one day of missing a shower!

    1. I had to train my hair. I used to wash it every other day, but then I started going every third day. It took a while, but my body stopped making as much oil for my scalp since I wasn't washing it off as often. After that, stretching it to washing every four days was easy. My hair is super short these days and all I use is a baking soda/water rinse, followed by a vinegar/water rinse, and it looks great!

    2. Ditto! I used to be able to go only 2-3 days without washing my hair, and now I only wash it once every week. I just added a day here and a day there, gradually. Your head replenishes its oils at the rate you wash them off. So, it adapts as you slowly extend the time between washes.

      I use the baking soda/vinegar rinse every so often, and otherwise use Desert Essence Organic --- the NON-fragrant --- shampoo and conditioner.