Environmentalism isn’t just for Liberal Tree-Huggers

Environmentalism isn’t just for Liberal Tree-Huggers

Why is it that taking care of the planet, protecting wildlife, and preserving our natural resources appears to only concern liberals and environmentalists? These are issues that affect all of us, so why aren’t we all on board?

If you watch the news, the “green” initiatives seem to be constantly touted by liberals while the conservatives are always on the other side of the screen shaking their heads, insisting “it’s no big deal.”

Since this is the impression I have always had of the two sides of the debate, I was pleasantly surprised to find in Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, that there are conservative Christians [even Republicans!] with the same concerns for our shared environment. Of course, Jen is the only one I have ever heard of – and she only cared for a month – but still. This is progress.

She writes with compelling sarcasm that a belief in God as creator of planet earth is a great reason to start taking care of said planet.

I wish I could quote her entire chapter on reducing waste here, but you should really just go get a copy of the book. In the meantime, though, here’s a snippet:

“I’m a Christian author, so my deal is to write Bible stuff, and the hippies can worry with creation.

Wait a minute.

Does ‘creation’ have anything to do with God whom I call ‘Creator’? Oh, pish posh. Surely God isn’t worried about how we handle His creation that He created. His main concern is making His followers happy and prosperous, yes? And if we need to consume the rest of His creation to make us happy, then I’m sure God doesn’t mind. I bet ‘creation’ mainly refers to us humans, and the soil and rivers and animals and forests and oceans and wildflowers and air and vegetation and resources and lakes and mountains and streams are purely secondary, if not inconsequential.

If I’m taking my cues from many mainstream evangelicals, then only Democrats and loosely-goose liberals care about the earth. It’s a giant conspiracy to distract us from the abortion and gay issues, which evidently are the only subjects worth worrying about. Ecology is for alarmists who want to ruin our lives and obsess about acid rain.

I’m beginning to wonder if the unprecedented consumption of the earth’s resources and the cavalier destruction of its natural assets is a spiritual issue as much as environmental…

This month the Hatmakers are doing their part, setting aside apathy and respecting the earth God made and loves.”

Thank you, Jen! I wish more Christians were drinking your kool-aid.

Truthfully, I don’t really care what your reasoning is for choosing to take better care of our beautiful planet – I just want you to do it. I want everyone to do it.

The American Waste Problem

America has a definite waste problem. It’s not like we are without resources to do something about it, and we can no longer claim to be ignorant about it. So, why aren’t we doing more? We know it’s possible. We’ve seen the impact of a country committed to sustainability. Sweden not only sends a mere 1% of household waste to landfills, but they are actually making money off of other countries’ waste by using it to fuel their incinerators [source article].

Then there is America…

According to the EPA, we send 52.8% of our waste to landfills each year [source article]. Don’t even get me started on all the reasons this is terrible [but you can read about it for yourself in this article].

The Solution

If both sides of the debate [virtually ALL OF AMERICA] could join hands and work together towards the goal of a greener future, then we could really get shit done.

And there is hope. If everyone identifying themselves as Christians would “go green” for the good of their religious beliefs, then a whopping 75% of Americans would be changing their wasteful ways. [2017 Gallup poll of religions in the US can be found here.]

Can we even hope for such a transformation? I don’t know, but I did get a little glimmer of hope from Jen’s book.

Ok, I’m almost done…

No matter your religion or political preference, everyone should be behind a more sustainable future for our world. I’m singling out Christians here because they make up the majority of people in this country with the greatest power to change the current consumer mentality that is doomed to fail in the long run.

Written by a Christian pastor’s wife, 7 is a great book that confronts our American culture through the lens of the Bible. For that reason, if you believe in the Bible, I highly recommend it. And I hope that reading it produces a wave of authentic Christianity like our country has never seen – one that encourages, rather than criticizes, recycling, composting, AND tree-hugging.

🌳 🌳 🌳

Karis

6 Zero Waste Swaps You Can Make Right Now without Spending a Penny

6 Zero Waste Swaps You Can Make Right Now without Spending a Penny

Last year, I began swapping disposable products for reusable alternatives and was impressed by how easy and affordable it was to make my home less wasteful. Many times, I already had eco-friendly alternatives lying around anyway. Now, I just had to make the switch to using them. Once I did, I no longer had to spend money on constantly restocking disposables and that alone actually saved me loads of money over the past year.

Contrary to what some might think, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make a difference. You also don’t need to be perfectly, 100% without any waste. A little effort goes a long way, and when choosing zero waste alternatives saves you some cash, everyone wins.

Some of these suggestions are going to sound like no-brainers to anyone who is already living a zero waste life, but these are also some of the biggest offenders in the unnecessary waste department, so we’ve got to be better about even these small simple products that collect in landfills [or our oceans and ecosystems] in alarming amounts.

Here are some of the easiest swaps we made:

1. Cloth shopping bags instead of disposable bags. Most people have bags lying around that can be used as shopping bags. If you’ve ever shopped at Aldi then you probably already have a stash for those trips. So why not use them for all your shopping? Turns out you don’t need a special material or a specific size, and it doesn’t have to have some cutesy environmentally friendly slogan written on it. Just grab a bag – any bag – before you head out for your next shopping trip and pass on the store’s bags. If you literally don’t have a bag, grab a t-shirt you don’t wear and make one – tutorial here.

2. Reusable plates instead of paper plates. This one is guaranteed to save you money since the only thing required is to stop buying paper plates altogether. I assume everyone has a set of real plates (even plastic will do – so long as they are reusable). I know it’s convenient – especially for big gatherings and for packing lunches – but it’s not the only way. Create a system for the party so dishes get rinsed and washed. Eat out of your container at work/school so you don’t need a dish at all. Paper plates cannot be recycled because the paper becomes contaminated by food. And with the global paper plate industry at around 3.6 BILLION USD – that equals a whole lot of paper plates in landfills.

3. Silverware instead of plastic cutlery. Same as above, this will only save you money. Pack a real spoon and wash it. Is it as convenient? Maybe not. Is it free to do? Definitely. Is it important. Yessiree.

4. Reusable water bottle instead of plastic water bottles. I am admittedly a total water snob. I hate tap water – especially my own because we have very hard well water which, even after an elaborate softener system treats it, still tastes terrible. [I am working on becoming less entitled in this regard – but it may take a LONG time.] We used to buy tons of water bottles because they are so convenient, despite being a colossal waste of plastic and money. So, our alternative has been a Primo water dispenser.

This guy conveniently hides a refillable five-gallon water jug.

So, we are still technically paying for water [though we don’t pay for our well water], but it costs less than $2 for five gallons and we reuse the jugs so that we are not creating any waste.

Another good solution for water snobs like myself would be to use water from a filtered dispenser in the refrigerator. We don’t have one of those. Even putting a filter on the sink would be good.

Then use a reusable beverage holder of some kind.

Most people probably have a reusable water bottle lying around their house. You don’t need a fancy stainless steel one [though they are nice to have]. You don’t even need a water bottle, truthfully. You could just use a glass…or a mug…or heck, a sippy cup if you have to. Anything that will hold liquid should work.

5. Kitchen rags instead of paper towels. The attachment to paper towels is very strong and is probably the hardest disposable to stop using. In fact, I occasionally wish for paper towels when I want to clean the bathroom mirrors or have a place to set freshly fried bacon…BUT I don’t use them. We haven’t bought any in a year and we are surviving just fine. I didn’t purchase anything to replace paper towels, I just used my current stash of kitchen towels, wash cloths, and rags. You don’t actually need something that comes on a roll that allows you to rip off individual pieces [though there are Pinterest tutorials aplenty, if you want to make your cloth towels into a roll]. You can just reach into a drawer or cupboard and get a new towel or rag when you need one. This system has been serving us very well AND saving us a lot of money.

6. Reusable containers instead of zip-lock bags. Plastic baggies are definitely very convenient, but they are nothing that a reusable container [tupperware or glass] cannot be – besides made of plastic and very wasteful. I have kept my plastic Tupperware sets to use for food storage and travel and anything else I might need a plastic baggie for, so I didn’t have to buy anything. All I had to do was stop buying zip-lock bags. The only challenge I encountered was freezing certain foods – and for this purpose, I did purchase reusable silicone bags, but now I just cook the meat before freezing [with the exception of chicken which I freeze raw in small portions in the silicone bags].

Try the 30-day challenge

If any of these swaps seem like a challenge, just try doing without for a while – say a month or so – to see if you really do need these things in your life. Yes, there is a minor loss of convenience, but a big benefit for our shared environment AND your wallet. So, it’s a win-win.

I’m sure there are other zero waste swaps that can be made on the cheap. If you have ideas to add to this list, please share below!

Karis

January Clothing Donation

January Clothing Donation

Three notable things happened this month regarding my clothing ban:

1. We sold our bedroom set and moved all of our clothing into our closets.

I have these six drawers [still hanging around from my college days] which contain all the clothes that currently fit [all seasons] and a top shelf that holds all of the clothes that I can’t fit into while pregnant but that I will [hopefully] fit into again someday. I also have some hanging dresses/skirts/cardigans [maternity and regular].

This feels like a big accomplishment – and also makes our bedroom feel MUCH larger in the absence of the huge sleigh bed with storage, two full dressers, and two excessively large nightstands, which of course we thought we needed when we got married.

My, how we’ve changed. Now, our bed is on the floor, two plastic storage bins serve as nightstands, and we have a laundry basket against the wall. That’s it.

[Well, we also currently have a huge collection of items headed to charity along one wall.]

2. Brett bought me a sweater.

I mean, look at this thing! It is basically a Snuggie that I can wear out of the house without ridicule! Would you say no to this level of comfort???

This is the first new piece of clothing I have bought [indirectly] since last May. I’ve received a new work uniform, two race shirts for the Chicago Marathon, and a dress that was a Christmas present, but this is the first piece of clothing to come from our money.

I kinda feel badly about it. [But only kinda.] It was new and it was from Express. Neither would be my preference. But it’s so soft and so comfy and I have worn it literally every day since I got it.

And I technically didn’t buy it…

As penance, I’m giving away an extra ten items from my wardrobe this month for a total of 36.

Hey, I never said I was perfect.

3. I mended some clothes instead of tossing them.

By “mended” I mean I used a travel sewing kit to [very poorly and by hand] stitch a few holes and tears in a couple of clothing pieces that I would like to wear again. A year ago, I would have tossed these and just bought a replacement. [I wouldn’t have even recycled them! Egad!]

Now I’m wondering whether I should try to fix my socks with holes…

[googling “how to darn socks”]

Additional thoughts…

We are in the middle of the “polar vortex” here in Chicagoland with temperatures in the -20s, which has me thinking of all the less fortunate people in my community without warm clothes, without winter coats and hats, and everyone living on the streets who hopefully found somewhere warm to stay today.

It made me think, Why should everyone in my family have multiple coats, hats, and pairs of gloves when there are people in my own community who have none?

So, I am going to give all of our extra winter gear to local shelters who are providing safety and warmth for the less fortunate in my town. We only need one winter coat. And the extra coat that just sits in the closet most of the time might make a big difference to someone this winter.

If you are as privileged as I am to always have a warm place to sleep and lots of warm clothes and several warm coats, I hope you’ll consider doing the same.

Karis

Recycling [or Repurposing] Candle Jars

Recycling [or Repurposing] Candle Jars

Does anyone recycle their used candle jars? I’m not judging – I’m just seriously wondering because I don’t think I’ve ever actually burned through an entire candle until just recently [thanks to my recent hygge kick, you may recall]. I feel like candles are things that every person has a million of and most of them are never [or rarely] used.

Maybe that’s just me.

I don’t remember ever finishing a candle, but I am certain that if I ever did, the jar ended up in the trash because, well, everything I disposed of ended up in the trash in those days. [I’m new to this recycling thing, don’t forget.]

So, now that I have several candles that have been fully burned, I had to figure out what to do with the remaining jars.

First I had to clean them out, which I accomplished by filling with hot water and scraping out the remaining wax with a spoon. Only one candle cooperated.

Folks, this is apparently not the best way to clean your candle jars. I was just trying to use my brain when I should have been asking Google. Apparently, all you need to do is stick the candle in the freezer and the wax will magically separate from the container. [Whaaa?] I cannot verify this, of course, but it sounds much easier than my scraping method.

So now, what?

I have seen a million ways to repurpose candle jars on Pinterest. They can hold cotton swabs, makeup brushes, plants, tea lights, herbs, buttons, candy, rubber bands, and on and on. Basically they can hold anything that will fit [duh]. The problem is, I don’t need another glass jar lying around holding more of the little stuff I don’t want in my house anyway!

So I figured I would just recycle the glass jars. Off to the recycling bin and that is that. After all, we burn a lot of candles these days and if I kept every jar, we would eventually be overrun with empty jars.

That’s when it hit me. The best way to reuse the old jars is to refill with wax and make new candles. After all, WE BURN A LOT OF CANDLES! [This should not have been such a revelation. I am admittedly slow sometimes.] Pinterest was actually a little low on recommendations for refilling candle jars with [wait for it…] new candles! But maybe that is just too obvious for anyone else to even burden the interwebs with.

All I will need is the wax [some of which I can reuse from the bottom of old jars] and I won’t need to buy candles any longer. This provides me with the opportunity to switch over to 100% beeswax candles AND reduce waste AND cut down the cost of our candle habit.

I immediately rescued the empty jars from the recycling bin outside and refilled the little one that I like the best with leftover wax melts we have had in our basement for ages. [Now I finally understand why providence never let me get rid of those…]

Voila! New candle cooling down as we speak. [Yeah, I used a beeswax candle to hold the wick – it’s what I had handy.]

I should also mention that I found conflicting info regarding whether candle jars can be recycled curbside due to some of the containers being made to withstand high heat and therefore not your basic run o’ the mill glass. If you are certain that are glass, then go for it, but if they might be made of borosilicate [I have not the foggiest idea how one is supposed to tell the difference…], it can’t be recycled curbside and you’ll have to scour the Internet for a local recycling center.

This is a fabulous argument for just reusing. If you have a need for a cutesy q-tip holder – then go for it. Otherwise, refill with some beeswax [don’t forget a wick], and you’re all set for clear-conscience candle consumption!

[Well, unless we start talking about indoor air pollution…oy vey!]

🕯 🕯 🕯

Karis

Trash Update: One step forward, two steps back

Trash Update: One step forward, two steps back

At the start of the new year, we finally used the last tall kitchen trash bag from the box of 55 that we had bought at the beginning of 2018. I had been waiting for this day and, since we’ve been using one bag per week, it was a long wait.

The time finally came, so we bought a box of small 4 gallon trash bags that actually fit the minuscule trash can we use in our kitchen.

If we continue at our current rate, this box should last us over half of the year. After these run out, I plan to have so little garbage that I can start making these handy paper trash can liners I read about in the book Zero Waste by Shia Su:

Or at least, that’s what I was hoping.

Unfortunately, there have already been two weeks when we emptied the can twice.

Yesterday, we had some family members over who brought with them a Starbucks coffee [excuse me, “dirty Chai latte”] and a large styrofoam Chic-fil-a cup. The trash can was full from these two items alone. And then we had cake to celebrate a family birthday and a well-meaning family member bought a package of paper plates [oh the horror! 😱]. The trash bag had to be emptied before I could even squeeze the last plate into the bag.

It had only been two days since I emptied the can last…

But the realization that I am not always in control of the trash that comes into my home AND that I cannot do anything about other people’s perspectives on disposables AND that it is worthless to try to bend everyone to my way of thinking on matters of environmental conservancy [or to offend anyone in the attempt] reminded me to let go of perfection.

I can only control what I can control.

So, maybe this box of bags will last us through April. 🤷‍♀️

Karis

My Simple Living Cleaning Routine

My Simple Living Cleaning Routine

In the ongoing saga of simplifying my life, I have now simplified my cleaning routine.

Check out my new cleaning schedule for 2019 next to my new chalkboard planner.

The schedule isn’t actually new. I used the same system last year too. And it made cleaning a breeze.

I hate cleaning. I would much rather be playing with my kids [which is why I read them 26 books before lunch today] or exercising or napping or doing crafts or daydreaming or …pretty much anything besides cleaning. But, alas, it must be done.

My chores schedule involves a weekly rotation of daily cleaning that equals about an hour a day and covers the whole house twice a week, and also a monthly list of additional things that don’t need to be completed as frequently.

This doesn’t actually look very simple, now that I think about it, but, believe it or not, it has significantly reduced the amount of time I spend cleaning…and the amount of time I spend wondering what needs to be cleaned…and the time I spend wondering when that thing was cleaned last.

I’m not saying anyone should follow my exact pattern here, but I have found these three tips to be key in simplifying my household cleaning:

Keep space and possessions to a minimum. Obviously, the smaller the home, the simpler [and faster] to clean. We moved from an 1800 sq ft home to a 1000 sq ft home and, quite frankly, I would never go back. For me, the benefits of a small house far outweigh the benefits of a big house. I can clean my entire house twice a week. In my last home my goal was just to hit each area once a week. A smaller home gives me more flexibility because I don’t need to sweat it if I can’t get to the mopping on Sunday. There is always Thursday.

Make a monthly check list. I may not do everything on my checklist each month, but I always have a record of when it was done last. I also keep track of the dog’s meds and baths and how often we feed the python [only once a month – I know, right?? Why don’t more people own pythons?] and put new salt blocks into the water softener. But it also has cleaning projects that I would just never do if I didn’t have a running list, like cleaning the ceiling fans and the door handles and the refrigerator and the oven, etc.

Do laundry once a week. I have one day a week dedicated to laundry. I don’t do any other cleaning [well, besides general picking up and washing dishes]. I actually enjoy doing the laundry, but I hate how it seems to take days to complete when added to the other usual tasks. There always used to be a pile of clean clothes left in the dryer or a basket of folded clothes sitting in someone’s room. It never got done from start to finish in one day – until now. I started doing this a few months ago and found that not only does all of the laundry get done in one day, BUT I also run fewer cycles in the washer and dryer, AND it feels like a break from the regular cleaning schedule.

So basically a win, win, win!

This system has allowed me to keep things clean and tidy without having to do any major deep cleans and has prevented me from freaking out when unexpected guests pop over. Hallelujah!

I finally feel like I’m adulting!

Now I just need to laminate this list so it will be dry erase and [nearly] zero waste too!

🧺 🧺 🧺

Karis

Two Words that Taught me Contentment

Two Words that Taught me Contentment

Two years ago, we started on our journey to minimalism. At the time, I didn’t even know that it was an actual movement with a name and everything, I just knew that there had to be a better way to use my money than just to buy my family’s comfort and happiness. [We all know money doesn’t buy happiness anyway, right?] I wanted to spend less money on stuff we don’t need so we have more money to spend on people who really do have needs.

I found Minimalism and it helped me be less focused on getting more for myself and more focused on giving more to meet the needs of people around the world.

After two years of changing our perspective on money and possessions [and getting rid of a lot of excess as well], I have found one phrase to be the key to maintaining a simple, minimalist lifestyle – and ultimately to finding contentment.

Do without.

It’s not enough to get rid of our excess crap – we have to stop bringing in new crap. In the past year, I’ve been tempted to buy things that I thought I “needed” only to do without and realize that I didn’t need them at all. Bath mats, dish towels, pizza cutter, organizers, end tables, new dishwasher…the list is seriously long.

Now, before I go out and buy something that I think I need, I do without and see how it goes. Turns out, I don’t “need” nearly as much as I think I do.

Of course I’m not saying you should not buy legitimate things you need like food and toilet paper. I’m saying we need to do without all the extra stuff that we don’t need. And we need learn to tell the difference.

Well, the craziest thing has happened. The more I realize how little I need, the more I see how wealthy I am. The more I feel content with what I have. The less I want.

Now I look around my home see tons of stuff that I don’t need or want – especially when I think of the needs of other people. And all of that stuff represents money that I wasted and can’t get back. Money that could have bought something that someone actually does need – like food or clothing or shelter or clean water or medical supplies or an education, etc. The list of needs is long and the list of people on this planet who need them is so long it breaks my heart.

People think Minimalism is “extreme” or too restrictive. But [for me anyway] minimalism is the greatest freedom. Freedom from American consumerism. Freedom from trying to keep up with the Joneses. Freedom from wasting money on junk that just clutters my home. Freedom from feeling like I constantly need more or never have enough.

Freedom to give more away to people who really do have needs.

So, if minimalism seems like too much for you, don’t worry. You don’t have to purge all your belongings, or own a monochromatic capsule wardrobe, or leave all your walls white and bare. All you need to do is do without the excess. Do without that new shirt you don’t need. Do without that appliance that you’re only going to use once a year anyway. Do without the knick-knacks. Do without the new jewelry. Do without the pizza cutter and bath mats. Life will go on. And chances are you’ll be more content with what you have.

Karis