Celebrating Earth Day.

Happy Earth Day!  I like to joke that every day feels like Earth Day here in Seattle.  Every restaurant, coffee shop, and bakery has a complicated waste disposal system of recycling, composting, and sorting.  Even the farmer’s markets typically have separate recycling and compost buckets.  It’s great to live in a place that is both literally and figuratively so GREEN!

My Earth Day pledge this year is to try to keep this basil plant alive.  I bought him on Wednesday, and I’ve only had to revive him once so far, so we’re off to a good start.

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My mom has this amazing green thumb, and I don’t know how it totally passed me by.  She’s the type of person that keeps plants for years – rotating them inside and outside seasonally, and spending hours watering her garden in the summers.  I am lucky to keep something alive for one entire season, but maybe this year will be different!

In celebration of Earth Day, I thought it might be fun to share one of the ways that we are being a bit greener in our house.  There are a lot of ways we try to reduce our environmental impact as a family – cloth diapering, commuting on the bus, using chemical-free household products, making some of our own cleaners, etc.  Of course, there are also areas where we could really stand to improve – we drive way too much, don’t compost at home, and we buy too many things in bulky packaging at Trader Joe’s. 

But there is one big change we’ve made this year that has greatly reduced the amount of waste in our house…

We have eliminated paper towels

They are so convenient and easy to grab for quick messes and spills, but I was starting to cringe at the frequency of giant 12-packs I was hauling home from the grocery store.  So last year, we started a new system and tossed our towels for the last time.  I picked up two of these waste sorting bins from Ikea for about $12 a piece.  They are the perfect small size for fitting in the cabinet underneath our kitchen sink.

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I also picked up three of these ten-packs of cheap washcloths (for $5 a piece).  So two trashcans + wash rags = a total investment of about $40.  Very affordable when you consider how much it has saved over the course of a year. 

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We keep the bins under the kitchen sink – the left one filled with clean rags, and the bin in the right waiting to be filled with them once they are dirty.  I also use the dirty bin for Cullen’s bibs after mealtimes, as well as dirty dish towels – it makes laundry more efficient.

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Every few days, I grab the dirty bin and wash it on our sanitize setting – to make sure we get rid of all the gross germs from food and dirt.  Having 30 clean rags has turned out to be a good number – it can definitely last us a whole week if needed. 

When you just use one paper towel at a time, it’s easy to feel like it’s a small thing.  But in our house, especially with dogs and kids, we were using them way more often than we realized.  I often found myself feeling guilty for grabbing a whole paper towel for something as simple as wiping Cullen’s nose.  Now that we have washable, reusable rags, I don’t care how many I use at one time, because I know I can just throw them in the washing machine and start over. 

Here are just some of the many different ways we use them:

  • wiping dog paws after a rainy trip to the backyard
  • wiping Cullen’s hands and mouth after meals
  • wiping runny toddler noses
  • wiping down kitchen countertops
  • dusting other areas of the house
  • drying wet pots and pans
  • cleaning windows and glass doors
  • wiping up spills/dirt on the floor

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It’s a small change that has made a big difference for us as a family, and hopefully a difference in our environmental impact as well!

Happy Earth Day!