letting a little bit of my hippy hang out

A year or so ago I was in quite a fluster about the world, feeling like a single person just couldn’t do enough. I let it overwhelm me to the point that I just couldn’t CARE about it as much. I had to let it go and live in blissful ignorance for awhile. There were just so many things wrong in our world, and so many things that needed to change, and so many people who needed help. I couldn’t fix everything. More importantly, I didn’t know how to fix anything.

I am writing this for any of you who may be feeling the same way. I am not standing on a soap box, I am not judging, I am not egotistically trying to seem “better” than anyone else because I recycle, or whatever. I hate that crap. It is HARD just to make it through one day, trying to do everything that we want to do to make our lives better. Make our world better. Sometimes, you just need to toss out all that trash without even thinking of recycling. I get it. (I drive an SUV!)

I just want to share what worked for me – how I got past that ‘lightbulbsandcarbonemissionsandwaterOHMY” state that I was in. And that is, if you can find something that you connect emotionally to, it makes it so much easier to focus and have the ability to make change. Especially if you find just one or two things you feel really passionate about. You can focus and impart daily change in your life. I am also sharing because maybe some of the changes that I made will work for your family as well.

And I say, if all of us just did one or two small changes, everything would fall into place.

SO, to bring us back to the time line I was on. I had to sit back for a bit, and wait until I connected personally with something.

We didn’t have to wait long. Soon after my little breakdown, I came across charity : water online, and my heart was cut open – wide and deep. I knew I had to do something. Better yet, I knew that I COULD do something, thanks to their simple plan of action. We showed the videos to the children, and they were quick to jump in with us.

Fact from the charity water site: Unsafe water and sanitation causes 80% of ALL sickness and disease. And kills more people than war.

We were inspired by Scott Harrison‘s charity: Water campaign and started one of our own. We raised over nine thousand dollars! Soon, two wells will be built in a community somewhere far away, literally changing the lives of about 100 families. Clean water for EVERYONE is a goal I hope to see within our lifetime. Being able to directly affect this many people was incredibly empowering for all of us. Knowing we have made a direct change on the world is just amazing – and any of you can do it too. This may not be what you personally connect to, but if you do, and you haven’t heard of charity water, a great place to start is with watching this video on their website. I urge you to start your own campaign if you feel the same burn of inspiration we did.

A natural spin off of clean water is eliminating plastic! This is something else all of us are passionate about. We have personally seen the negative effects that plastic has on our oceans and beaches. We have also read about it here and here. We know all about the Great Pacific garbage patch, an island of plastic floating between California and Hawaii that is twice the size of Texas. We have seen these haunting images of deceased Albatross chicks, bellies full of plastic their parents have fed them in mistake for food.

I know that one-use plastic is convenient. I am working on eliminating it as much as possible from our daily life, by finding other convenient alternatives, and sticking to using it ONLY as it was meant to be used. Which in my opinion, is once in awhile, for ease and convenience.

What do we do to help eliminate plastic as much as possible?

We stopped buying plastic storage containers for the kitchen and replaced what we did have with glass.
(This was a two part plan – I also wanted to rid our kitchen of toxic plastic.)
Crate and Barrel has great prices on glass storage containers – we use them for everything.
These are my favorites:

As a family, we take reusable bags grocery shopping/any shopping. THIS IS SO EASY! Small fix, big change. If we forget our re-usable bags, we make sure to bring our plastic bags back to the store next time to be recycled. Or, we ask for paper bags instead. At department stores, I will bring in the large paper bags they gave me last time to use again. The bags we use were brought over to us from Australia before the reusable bag market totally boomed. (Plastic bags are banned in Southern Australia!) But you can find similar bags here or here.

And a side note about plastic bags, I recently watched this beautiful video about the life of a plastic bag on Quality Peoples, a rad surfing/photography blog. Transfixing.

We also use reusable sacks and containers for school lunches, and buy in bulk whenever possible to avoid using snack bags and creating even more trash. In the past I have used bento boxes and the Laptop Lunch system. I found all of the little pieces to be too much to keep up with cleaning every single day. (Multiplied by four children.) So I have now moved to a reusable sack system, found here at Snacktaxi.com. I LOVE these little bags. We place mostly dry items into them, then just shake them out at the end of the day. I wash them about once a month. For wet items like fruit or applesauce, I use the lidded container from the laptop lunch box. I am also interested in trying out this metal all in one system, shared with me by my friend Visty: Planetbox. As she says, “Cool enough for middle school!” edit: Also, LOVING the Goodbyn‘s several people have left comments about.

We no longer buy plastic water bottles in bulk to take with us or drink at home. We have tried the metal bottles and I don’t like to drink out of such a small opening, and can never get past the metal taste. I also don’t like having to take off the lid to use it. We have tried the bottles with straws that pop up, but those straws get lost and you have to wash them separately. We have tried bottles that leak, that can’t go in the dishwasher, etc etc etc. I have finally found the perfect solution! These Contigo bottles are PERFECTION ON A STICK. All in one lid, no extra accessories, large portion of water, does. not. spill, with a caribiner! I found ours at Costco – each pack held three different colors. So we each have our own color all to ourselves. (I bet you can’t guess which is Anna’s.) (Jeff’s bottle is missing in the photo below, but he chose black.)

The kids take these bottles to school every day.

Side note about plastic bottles – Drew recently sent an email out to everyone on his contact list, challenging them to stop buying plastic bottles. What prompted it was a conversation we had one morning on the way to school. I found a video that explained what I was talking about and emailed it to him. He sent a link to the video to everyone with the challenge. You can imagine how much my heart swelled when he did this. It reminded me so much of his Dad-getting all fired up about a cause. This is what he wrote in response to one of our friend’s asking him to elaborate. (Punctuation and capitalization when typing are something we are working on.) ;)

‘i watched that video and thought because i used to buy plastic bottles a lot and said “Why not just stop.”
i think it would also just be better if we used bottles that we could keep on using so people would stop even thinking about plastic bottles
and besides i already have like 5 at home so why not just use them.
i personally recycle all the time i always try to find a recyclable trash can whenever i have something that is recyclable
and i also saw a video about what water looks like in polluted areas
i also did the water wells program for my birthday which asked people to pay charity for water instead of presents for me
i also love sea life especially turtles and whales
so i hope you try to find a reuseable water bottle to buy
i think you can find them at target in the luggage area’

The turtles and whales part always make my throat clench up.

On Earth Day, I would just like to say that if I can do it anyone can. If I can convince my husband to do it, anyone can. (He was a hardcore water bottle buyer for a long time.)

Because my passion is water – I URGE you to attempt any or all of these changes in your own home. Simple changes, simple fixes. Just a small shift in an idea.

Save one-use plastic for times of convenience, once in awhile.

Pick up that plastic soda lid you find in the gutter and make sure it gets to a recycling bin or trash can instead of the sewers that lead out to our water.

Use glass kitchen storage instead of plastic ziploc bags.

Eliminate the trash in your kid’s lunchbox.

BYOB to the store! (Bring Your Own Bag)

Our oceans (and turtles and whales) will thank you!



Join the Conversation


  1. I always reminding my household about the importance of recycling! Save a turtle or think of future generations. At home here we have had the relisation of running out of water and a vote on recycled water…our dams got to 3% which is rather scary. We were not allowed to have hoses connected and no washing the car. 3minute shows and this has been happening for 2years now, we have just received alot of rainfall and the restrictions have eased a little, but our community has made changes to preserve our precious water- rainwater tanks, grey hoses for watering gardens from the washing machine water. I do believe we should go back to basics to save our mother earth, it might slow our crazy lifestyles down. keep smiling and always love reading your blog Tara

  2. the average lifespan in the central african republic is 39?! absolutely heartbreaking. i do love the idea of giving to others instead of receiving presents ~ thanks so much for the insight; when i have $20 (or my next birthday) i’ll definitely give.

  3. love the water bottles and the metal lunchboxes. (so tired of other refillable water bottles that leak, etc., too) and on a fun side note, my younger sister turned 40 today–the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970. After my sister was born, one of the nurses scolded my mom for adding to the population on the first Earth Day! we kept her anyway! :)

  4. Living the the country with the worlds highest per capita carbon emissions I often get overwhelmed by the fact that “little old me” can’t make a difference – thank you for reminding me that I can, and that my actions influence those of my kids which might influence those of their classmates and so on – my background is as an environmental consultant so this stuff is ingrained in me but sometimes I think I’m the lone hippy out there!!! Thank you!

  5. Tara – Thank you for posting this. I too am trying to do what I can to help make this world a better place. We pretty much recycle anything and everything we can. I also no longer buy water bottles…I’m actually going to get the Contigo reusable ones you suggested from Costco the next time I’m there (I kept looking at them but didn’t buy them every time i went)…I’m also trying to use less plastic containers in the kitchen, less paper towels, etc. Drew’s email was awesome! Your entire family rocks! :) Hugs!!!!

  6. Your love of the Earth makes me adore you even more, Whitney family. :)
    I’ve been a reusable bag toter for about 3 years. Love it! And last year we gave up our 2+ case/week bottled water habit and switched to a Pur filter and those very same Contigo bottles. (Even though we did recycle all bottles) It makes my heart happy to not be buying all of that plastic!

  7. Loved this post today! These kinds of things are always on my mind. I’m already on top of most of this stuff but needed a few gentle reminders. Thanks so much for posting all of this wonderful information and for using your voice to make a better world for all of us. Much love to you & the family! xo

  8. Thank you for this post and for making me think! I am completely on board and just sent your post to my husband so he can get on board too! Thank you for making a difference.

  9. Great post! I will check out those water bottles on my next Costco run. I recently bought “keeper sacks” (http://www.keepersacks.com/) for my son’s snack and have been looking at other options to avoid ziploc bags. I love the idea of the goodbyn’s lunch system!

    I was so focused on Turn off TV week, I completely overlooked Earth Day yesterday. Oops! Thanks for the great ideas!

  10. im so glad you said that about your throat clenching up. i didn’t know if anyone else ever knew what i was talking about when i said my throat would close. thanks for the post and all the links. i’m glad i’m not the only one who doesn’t really care for the metal taste! buying a new water bottle. :)

  11. We use the plastic bags we get from the grocery store to line all the little garbage cans we have in our house. So they are getting a double use but still ending up in the landfill. Any good ideas for my small garbage cans?

  12. They do make recyclable plastic bags – but we don’t use anything for the small cans, and just clean them out. I use 13 gallon plastic bags for my big trash – need to find another option for that too.

  13. Great post Tara- something that is also close to my heart. I have to say that living in America makes it way too easy to waste things- it’s all SO cheap ( compared to Aus). We were recently in Grand Cayman. They have no recycling (it’s too expensive for them) and the highest point on the island is the garbage pile. I felt so guilty every time I used anything wrapped in plastic- or in a plastic bottle. It is such a beautiful place and to think of all that garbage piling up made me so sad. But it was good because it made me think more about everything I use here. In a way it becomes to easy to separate your recycling- you don’t have to think about it after that even though we really have no idea what happens to it ( I’m convinced my garbage collection people just throw it in with the trash). It takes away the guilt! I like your idea of bento style boxes for lunch. It drives me nuts that my highschooler and middleschooler won’t take lunch boxes- they insist on brown bags. They don’t even like it when I use reusable plastic containers with snacks as they don’t have lockers and they have to carry them around. So, solutions need to go much deeper. Also having 4 kids (and making 5 lunches every day) I tend to buy in bulk, and then I don’t know what to put things in (like fruit and chips and nuts etc) when I split the bulk packages up. I loved seeing you put the fruit and things into reusable cup cake thingies. It disgusts me to see people littering, or trash left lying around. We live on the water and when there is a high tide we end up with all kinds of trash on our lawns- and to think that so much of that goes out to the sea.
    Sorry for such a long comment- it’s something I also feel passionately about!

  14. i could have written your post word for word. we try so hard to do our part, including carrying home plastic bottles that we find lying around so that we can properly recycle them, henry takes bento box lunches to school each day, we wash all our ziplocs (which drives my family nuts, but whatevs), we use those crate & barrel glassware storage containers (though the ones with plastic lids have a tendency to chip and shatter like sons of bitches), etc. have you watched the movie “oceans” yet? done by disney/the people who did the “planet earth” series? we just took the kids and it had a huge impact on us all. it’s a breathtaking piece of art. thanks for encouraging others to try just a little bit harder.

  15. Oh Tara.. you did change the world.. just a lil. Because despite being in Aust and despite knowing better. I still get the biodegradable bags at the supermarket. We recently went from month and fortnightly shopping to weekly (it is a test).. and now getting green bags seems more possible.. So I bought 2 ‘cooler’ bags and 5 green bags and we didn’t use ANY plastic yesterday at the counter. I am amazed that americans have plastic stirrers for coffee… we just use spoons ;) I am also keen to order the green waste bins our council is offering. We also have tank water and avoid wasting water.. the drought here has helped educate people about its preciousness.

  16. I feel enlightened and inspired to do more than I already do. I thought there was something familiar with those “green”bags, I took a lot of them home to Norway from Australia too. They have reduced our plastic bag usage drastically.

  17. Thanks for writing this. I was moved by it, so I posted it on my Facebook page. My mom called me that night and said she read it and it convinced her to *start* making some changes of her own. So, there you go. Each small step leads to another. You aren’t just helping give people clean water. You are inspiring others to make changes, too. :)

  18. I wanted to tell you, Miss Tara, that you completely smacked me around with this one. I haven’t been able to get over it. It’s been at the front of my mind for weeks now. Traveling this last week, I looked at every piece of plastic and every water bottle (third-world means it’s all bottled water) and just made myself sick wondering where it all would have to go. How was I missing it all before–because it’s Right There.
    There will be changes.
    Thank you for the needed swift kick. (And water bottle review–I’d seen them before, wondered the same things, but was sold with your words. Blasted Costco is out today. But it’s on the list.)

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