The Truth About … Going Green At Home

recyclingMy husband and I are having a debate while cleaning up the kitchen. As I carefully curate food waste versus trash versus recycling, he wads up a wet paper towel and hurls it into the recycling. “I don’t think you can do that,” I tell him. “You can’t just throw anything into the recycling.” He looks at me like I’m nuts. “It’s paper. Of course it goes in the recycling.”  I wait until he leaves the room then quietly remove his paper towels, napkins and tissues from the blue bin without him ever knowing.

If you’re like me, you really want to be a good Mom and a good citizen. You teach your kids about taking care of the Earth and want to do the same yourself. But the thought of “going green” seems somewhat overwhelming, and time consuming. It always feels like a way of life rather something everyone should do.

Recycling should be easy, but what exactly can you recycle? Is it better to hand wash dishes or use the dishwasher? And what about all those take-out containers? They can’t be good for the environment, but who has time to cook every single day? Not me, and probably not you.

Truth be told I don’t really know how to be “green.” This is not to say I don’t recycle or try to think about ways to reduce waste, but I’m also a practical person with major time constraints. I don’t bring my own grocery bags to the store (they stay comfortable in my trunk where I always forget them), but I do recycle the ones I get. I don’t drive a hybrid, but I do think about ways to carpool and make an effort not to drive more than needed. And I recycle at home, but am always confused about what “is” or “isn’t.” 

So if I’m confused, I figure you are too. We all want to take care of the planet. We just need it to be easy. After all, what Mom has time to take on one more project?  Not me, and probably not you.

So I consulted the best resource I know, another Mom. That Mom happens to be Jennifer Grayson, an expert on the subject who writes green columns for HuffPo and other outlets. Jennifer put being green into a few simple tips and helped me see the light at the end of the plastic. Here’s what I learned:

1) What “Is” or “Isn’t”?

You can recycle: dry paper products like newspapers, cardboard boxes, wrapping paper and printer paper.

You can not (sorry hon) recycle: wet paper goods like tissues, paper towels and toilet paper.

*Cool tip: when throwing out wasted food like old fruit you can put it in the bin with the yard trimmings.

2) Refuse Whenever Possible!

You use less energy and water re-using plastics than tossing them. But ideally, it’s best to refuse disposables all together.

  • Send your kids to school with metal silverware that’s re-usable.
  • Try to buy in bulk at the market to avoid all those plastic containers and baggies. (You’ll save money, too!)
  • Use cloth napkins at home. You’ll help the planet and your kids will think they’re very fancy.
  • Try cloth diapers instead of disposables. You’ll save money and won’t fill up landfills with your kids soiled diapers.

3) Go Metal!

Get everyone in the family their own metal water bottle and stop buying those plastic ones.

4) Go To The Farmer’s Market.

At your local farmer’s market, you’ll find locally grown food that hasn’t been shipped in. That means your food didn’t have to travel for days on a truck to get to you.  It’s also preservative and chemical free. And, cheaper. Oh, and let’s not forget fresh food always taste better. So take the kids and let them pick out fresh fruits and vegetables. It’ll be fun!

5) You Don’t Have To Buy A Prius.

There’s a lot to consider when buying or leasing a car. Not everyone wants or needs a hybrid. So if you’re on the fence or it doesn’t meet your family’s needs, why not just try to drive less and carpool more?

6) Re-Use Kids Stuff.

Whether it’s that stroller you only used for six months or that bouncer your kid sat in for a day, every parent has a garage full of plastic stuff they no longer need. Sell it or share it, just don’t toss it.  Some other baby could use that stroller for six months, too!

7) Use The Dishwasher!

Finally, the hubs doesn’t seem so lazy for tossing every dish into the dishwasher. You use less energy and water by putting all your dishes in as long as you don’t pre-rinse. And let’s face it, what husband pre-rinses? 

See you at the Farmer's Market!