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!
Wow… am loving this post. I would like to think there was a bit of inner hippy in me – but hey… I didn’t even realise it was nearly Earth Day! Am loving the look and sound of those water bottles. Might have to track me one down here. Am all inspired :)
lovem love, love you sister. we’re trying, too, and i love all these wonderful ideas!!!! gotta get us some of those water bottles…
i love this post. we just made the switch to glass for our food storage and i love it. plus it looks cleaner in the fridge, i think. i love that my kids (age 3 and 5) ask which trash can to use, regular or recycling when i ask them to throw something away.
Great ideas! My husband is very green. I am green as well, but a bit more lazy than he is.
I do love reusable shopping bags for many reasons. One, obviously is the green aspect, but the other is that they are so much bigger than plastic. I have many less trips back and forth from the car to the house and the bags NEVER rip! Sadly, I am the ONLY one at our local store that I ever see using them!
With three children off to school with lunches next year, this couldn’t have come at a perfect time! I’m totally checking each of these links out and finding what will work best for us. I LOVE all of these ideas. I love saving the cash on plastics and helping the Earth out all the same. Thank you!
love that you posted this Tara!! Here are a couple of other cool “green” alternatives the Goodbyn lunch box http://www.goodbyn.com/goodbyn/default.aspx, kinda like a bento, but all together in one.
Also love reusies http://www.reusies.com/ reusable cloth snack & sandwich bags! lots of cute patterns!! My kids friends love them!! lol! cheers & happy earth day!
That is so funny you have our ‘Coles’ supermarket bags! I will never have to buy a reusable bag again…my kids will probably never have to either…my father buys them everyday when he goes to the shops!! I don’t think he gets it!
thanks for the all the great ideas and inspiration!
Awesome post, Tara! This semi-hippie thanks you. I can’t wait to check out all the links. I really appreciate all the time and organization you put into this post to educate us. It is something I care about and it’s nice to have so much info all in one place.
HOLY SMOKES! I want to reply to this but there is no way the comment box can handle me. I’m going to have to go write “My Reply to Tara” blogpost at my own blog. ;) ha!! Suffice it to say that I could sit and talk to you for HOURS about everything you mentioned here. Your sentence: “I was in quite a fluster about the world” is spot on and a perfect opener to this post by the way. :) Happy Earth Day Tara!
I just watched “No Impact Man” last night and it was truly inspiring…except for the no toilet paper thing. :(
One of the things I use is a steam cleaner. Hand held one for bathrooms and a floor mop one. I LOVE them. No cleaning chemicals…totally sanitizes with hot steam…totally green.
Oh Tara, your son’s email made a huge lump form in my throat and I can barely swallow it down. Your family is. so. inspiring. I have always been a recycler and when I got married, I converted my husband to a recycler too. I’m allll about reusuable bags too, but for me – the hard part is to remember to bring them into the store! I’m starting to carry one in my purse for those quick trips to Target that I often forget bags for. I still feel like we could be doing so much more, and your post solidified that. The fact that your children gave up presents on their birthday to work toward a cause, well – that made tears spring to my eyes. I don’t have kids yet, but I sure hope that my future kids can have some of that worldly compassion in them too. Thank you for this post – I may follow up with an Earth Day post too, and just forward everyone on over to your site to read what you’ve written here.
You have lit a fire beneath me today, Tara! Thank you!!
This is such a good post! I am typically an all or nothing person and so I will confess to having done very little (this is where I hang my head in shame). But you, you just wrapped your arm around me and told me it was okay to do something. Not everything. Just some simple things that make a difference both in our home and on our planet. Good stuff, Tara! Thank you!!
what a wonderful post Tara. Thanks for bringing so many things to our attention- sometimes knowledge is key. My kids school just got rid of all garbage cans in their school so they are now a garbage free school. I am going to try to find several of these things you talked about. Especially the water bottles! About 4 years ago my kids and their cousins started a group call “Can Change Cousins”. Once a month they collect cans and change and donate the proceeds to different organizations. Its been great for them, the environment, and the others they help. If we all do a little at a time we CAN make a difference! Thanks for sharing xoxo PS. THey are on FB under Can Change Cousins if u wanna check them out ;)
Thanks for the inspiration and the links. I am ashamed to admit I send in a lot of ziploc bags in my kids’ lunches. Just ordered two Planet Boxes. They look awesome and and I can’t wait to give them a try!
i had to let you know that i was super inspired by your involvement in charity:water. i am a girl scout leader for a fabulous group of 12 first graders. the massive Haiti earthquake hit just as we were starting our cookie sale. the girls wanted to use the money they raised for disaster relief. they earned enough to provide 12 Haitians with clean water for 20 years. i try everyday to teach my kids that they can make a difference. check out Jack Johnson & Ben Harper’s acoustic version of “My Own Two Hands.” I have a feeling you’ll enjoy it as much as i do. happy earth day!
Thanks for sharing, Tara! Lots of great information. We love Goodbyns! Check them out! http://www.goodbyn.com
You are so dead on , Tara! This movement is big here in the Norcal. Just had a guy stop by yesterday trying to raise money for the Great Pacific Garbage removal. Although, I didn’t give him any money (not big on solicitors) I feel we do our part trying to ban plastic products in our household. I have been pondering the idea about lunch bags. We use paper (mainly because my kids have missing lunch box syndrome) but we were still wrapping our sandwiches and fruit in plastic and I can’t see to get around that one just yet. Any ideas? I do like your bento snack box idea. Oh how I wished my kiddos wouldn’t lose theres! But I am definitly picking up those drinking bottles at Costco. We have miss matched ones with leak issues at our house. I’m sold there. One step at a time…slow and steady wins the race!
One more thing….I live in Santa Cruz county where we embrace Hippies! Love ya!
We have done alot of this for quite awhile.
I wish all stores would ban plastic bags!
We need to get better at remembering
our cloth bags, but we do bring back the plastic
bags to recycle. we have always refilled our own
bottles with water…
I watched Oprahs’ earth day show, so awesome.
you have made some great changes!
thanks for sharing!
I did a little happy dance in the aisle of Costco when I found those water bottles! I love them! FINALLY, an easy perfect solution! :)
AWESOME post, Tara! I feel the same as you on all these issues (& also used to suffer from ‘overwhelmed/what can I do?’ syndrome) ;) ..I wanted to come up with a post that explained what people can do to make a change, but you just said it so well that I think I’ll just link to yours! Thank you! :)
what a powerful post. thank you for sharing all this useful information. you have really inspired me to try and make a change. any little bit helps the environment and when YOU inspire so many who knows what one person can do, thank you :)
thanks for sharing! our 5 year old woke up with a huge grin on her face – excited to celebrate earth day :) we will be getting our own re-usable bottles and investing in some shopping totes. your family is a fantastic inspiration – happy earth day whitneys!
I’ve had the same feeling. Looking for something to do, still not finding ways I can help out.
Much thanks for this post — I don’t feel so alone anymore. And thanks for the references; we still have some work to do in the plastics department, and this is motivating (might even be enough to enroll boyfriend’s help).
I love how the planet box has the little spot in the middle for a small treat, making sure not to leave any trapped white space in the design! ;)
I can make these changes, I will be going to Costco to buy those water bottles, I don’t like the metal one’s either. The bento boxes where did you order them from? I’ve looked at a few online sites which is the best? Little by little I think we can all make a difference.
This is a great post. When I moved to the States from Canada about 10 years ago, I was stunned to find out that you didn’t HAVE to recycle. In many provinces in Canada, you have too, or they won’t take your garbage period. They will also start to fine you. And really, I think that is the way it should be. In Toronto, I have three different bins which are provided by the city. One for food waste, one for recycleables, and one for everything else. It just is second nature to sort at this point, I have been doing it for so long. Plastic bags cost 5 cents a piece here. I always keep bags in the car for shopping. We also installed a reverse osmosis water system in our kitcen, so we do not use plastic water bottles. I am also a big fan of using public transportation versus driving. James and I made the decision a wile back to only have one car versus two to lower our carbon footprint.
Yay for posting what you’ve been doing to help mother earth! Every little step is one more thing that will make this world better for our kids & grand kids. It doesn’t take much to get going and with communities embracing more & more recycling & other earth friendly practices we can all participate in some little way!! Happy Earth Day!!
We already start this at home! In kindergarden the child learn to recycle so they tell us when we make a mistake! In France you must buy plastic bag and in some grocery they don’t have some but there is reusable bag everywhere now! And i stop plastic bottles like you since 2 years. i buy 2 glass bottles in ikea for the house. I’m like you i just want something better for our planet and futur even if is not very much… (hope you understand my bad english!) thank you for this post.
I do the Bento lunches just like in your photo, but I use the ziploc (uh oh, plastic) boxes and then the silicone cupcake liners like you pictured.
I try hard not to use plastic baggies that wind up in the trash. Instead we use plastic (there we go again) containers that go back/forth. I guess it’s better that they’re not thrown out daily, right?
I have to check out those water bottles b/c I now use a gigundous Nalgene bottle that is too cumbersome.
love love love love love this! Seriously!!!! I love how many people are picking up things to improve on and caring about our planet. Thank you for those tips that you have incorporated into your life. I am in love with all the glass storage and am totally going to make that switch, as for the plastic bottles, done and done.
Love your post, love your links. This is awesome. Can’t wait to share the links with my family. If anyone has lunch box container ideas for high schoolers other than plastic bags please post. My 15-17-year-olds use vintage metal lunch boxes we found at an antiques store, but I still struggle with what food containers to put the food into. I do send cloth towels instead of paper napkins. Thank you TARA!!!
This is great Tara, thank you for posting! I wrote about the bad-bad-ness of the water bottle industry once here: http://sevendamesaweek.blogspot.com/2009/08/water.html
But I never thought of glass instead of plastic food containers! My fiance and I are registering for wedding gifts, and I’m going to go make that change on our registry now :) Thank you!
Great post! Have loved your work/blog for a while now…
Here is another video that talks about bottled water that you might find interesting.
Along with these little changes, people should eat less meat. No soapbox, I still eat meat but maybe about 1-2 times a week. We don’t have to all become vegans or vegetarians, but eating more (local) fruits and veggies and less meat goes a long way in helping the environment as well as your own body. OK, tiny little soapbox… :)
Happy Earth Day!
Tried several water bottles and all leaked! I will stop at Costco on the way home today for Contigo bottles. Thanks.
it is so very overwhelming to think about. thank you so much for breaking it down into very doable simple steps that do have an impact. makes it seem doable for even a stubborn water bottle guy like me :)
I just had to comment and thank you for sharing your ideas. I’m buying some of these lunch box systems as we speak!
Sorry that this is a bit graphic but the story needs to be told. A gray whale was found dead near Seattle last week. What they found in the whale will amaze you. 20 plastic bags, golf ball, sweat pants. Check out the story here. http://blog.seattlepi.com/thebigblog/archives/202680.asp?from=blog_last3
So sad that our marine life is exposed to this garbage. Great post Tara!
So very inspiring and well said!!! Here’s something: 16+ years ago, when I worked at Nordstrom, I was low-man on the managerial totem pole, so they sent me to all these lame meetings. And one was about starting a recycling program. Oh the complaints! And I remember the gal from the city who came to get us started saying, “one day…your children’s children will not believe you never recycled”. So true. People think I’m crazy for putting table scraps and pizza boxes in my yard waste bin for composting (they don’t read the directions) , but I think every little bit does help. And I love that my kids are equally as passionate. I love your hippy self :)
What a fabulous post! It’s fantastic to see how you have changed the way your family buys and uses products, the environment will thank you :) Now all we have to do is top the Japanese from killing the whales in the Atlantic!
awesome post. awesome ideas. i’m on board!
Not a single hippy comment in this post – just good, old common sense. This is a Sensible Green post. For me, it was a single lightbulb. Yep, we switched to the CFLs after getting freebies on Earth Day a few years ago. Then, I took a required Environmental Science course for my degree and I was blown away.
So then it was canvas bags, metal water bottles, and organic bedding. I also make my own non-toxic cleaning supplies and try to only purchase the Dirty Dozen in organic. But I don’t preach. I choose to lead by example – which works better than preaching every time.
couldn’t agree more, tara. i moved to australia (from the states) about four years ago, and i’m still so impressed with how progressive australia is with regards to reusable shopping bags. while plastic is still available in most grocery stores, some states have already taken steps to ban it (like south australia). my husband and i ALWAYS keep reusable bags in the trunk of our car, so that there are extras laying around (in case we do last minute shops). also, we haven’t eliminated plastic bottles in our house but we do reuse them all the time. we buy one six pack of bottles every six months, and just reuse and rewash them over and over again. small steps, big impact. :) xoxo
Well done on your earth saving measures :) I still have a way to go… but have recently switched to a reusable drink bottle. The bonus is… I actually remember to use it, and drink more water! I need to get into the habit of reusble grocery bags. Because, sorry to disapoint, but plastic bags aren’t banned in Australia. There isn’t even a surcharge for using them. At least, not the part that I live in :)
my husband & i are major green supporters! i tell everyone to make 1 or 2 changes at a time. we ingrain one thing into our routine and then get excited to tackle the next. i remember how often i used to forget my own bags or coffee mug (reusable porcelain!) again and again and now it’s as automatic as remembering my wallet or keys. light bulbs… water bottles… bags… recycling… more conscious consumption… cleaning products… skin / beauty products… composting… local or organic food… start with what matters to you or seems easy then keep going!
i just try to tell everyone it’s not a sacrifice or compromise! what’s bad about using an awesome body lotion that will biodegrade and not seep horrible chemicals into my skin? what’s so hard about using the glass cups my work provides in my office kitchen, instead of grabbing the paper cups? what is the upside to my old shower cleaner which would leave me with stinging lungs and eyes every time i used it?
we own a store called, The Green Life, which is a shop in Santa Monica, CA and a full e-commerce store (www.thegreenlifeco.com) i just emailed you through the “email me” form so you can pass along a special discount for your blog readers if you want! :)
thank you for spreading the word in your own personal way – its the most effective message for this much-needed campaign. xo
Thank you SO much for sharing this. I try to do what I can to help the environment but you definitely inspired me to go even further. I love the lunch box ideas, goodbye ziplocks!!!
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