Reducing your environmental impacts

Recently my household (my partner, a dog, and our four rabbits) have really tried to start reducing our personal impacts on the environment. Even though I am an environmental scientist is an area in which I have been slacking in. I have found that there are a lot of things you can do that are not only eco-friendly but also save money. Here is a rundown of the changes we’ve made in no particular order.

  • I have started to make a lot of the products we use including personal care and cleaning. The only thing I don’t make is dishwasher detergent (a request from my partner), soap (I don’t want to mess with lye), laundry soap (I use soap berries), toothpaste (not messing with fluoride) and deodorant (very hard to make correctly). A lot of what you end up paying for in these products is the water in them. You also have to pay for the water-filled products to be shipped around when you can just add tap water to basic ingredients to make basically everything. I keep a list of how I like to make everything on a list on the fridge. One of the best things I started making was a DIY version of the Lysol wipes. My kitchen gets a lot of use and therefore gets really dirty. I loved that they killed bacteria but hated throwing the wipes out after. Thyme oil actually kills a similar amount of bacteria. I found this recipe and love it! If there is interest I can do a more lengthy post on how to make everything.

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  • I have committed to not buying anything new unless I have to. This applies to household goods and clothing. Goodwill is a go-to store for me. While there are critics of Goodwill they do use their profits to help put people back to work. I also will buy clothes for work from Thredup. If you think about how many materials there are in the world already it’s crazy to buy everything new. Nextdoor also offers a lot of household things for sale.
  • I’ve greatly reduced the amount of junk mail/ past residence mail I have gotten. Whenever I get junk mail I make sure to unsubscribe from the companies mailings by filling out an online form if they have one, or calling/ emailing them. I also write return to sender on all mail not addressed to myself, my partner, or “current resident”. It may seem small but it has reduced the amount of resources being used to send me coupons I don’t want.

  • Because the rabbit need fresh veggies each week and I didn’t have a good way to store them I invested in some silicon bags. One thing it’s important to keep in mind is how much of an impact the production of something has on the environment if you purchase it new. In order for my veggie bags to be environmental worth it, in terms of raw material and energy used to produce them, I will have to use them a lot. The same applies to your reusable grocery bags. That’s why, if a person already has them, you shouldn’t gift them. This article explains that it can take up to 327 uses to make it environmental worth it to purchase a cotton bag. Cotton also hugely contributed to groundwater contamination of aldicarb in the southern U.S.
  • Turned down the temperature in our water heater. Did you know the water in the tank is always heated to that temperature? That’s a lot of energy wasted! Some people even completely turn it off while they are on vacation. This is something I didn’t even think of as the apartment had our preset and it was super hot, like would burn me every morning hot.
  • I finger knit a drying rack out of yarn I got at the thrift store. I started placing clothes on it that air dry well. In order to increase the drying efficiency of my dryer I bought wool from a local ish farm and made my own dryer balls. The balls help to break up laundry in the dryer and so it dries faster. You can make your own dryer balls by rolling the wool into balls a little larger than a tennis ball. You then stuff the balls into old tights and tie off the tights after each ball. Then you just wash and dry the balls on the hottest settings your washer and dryer has. You also can research when the off-peak electrical times are in your area. In Georgia the peak times is 2 to 7 pm. I always try to run appliances after 7 pm. Not only does it save me money it also means the electrical grid doesn’t have to be as large because not everyone is demanding power from it at the same time.
  • I live in Marietta, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. There are very few options for composting here. I can either A. pay a fee for curbside composting which is $30 a month, B. talk a landowner into letting me compost on their property or C. not compost.  Recently my partner, whom works at a school, informed me the school has a compost pile so he has been adding our compost to that pile.
  • I love plants but recently I have started to only grow plants from other plants or kitchen scraps. My dog gets pumpkin every day because she is older and I planted a pumpkin seed at the start of summer and now the plant is almost across my balcony. Two of my greatest victories have been my mango tree and avocado tree. It sounds weird but I feel a deeper connection with them since I started them from seeds. Pineapple tops are also super easy to grow and provide interesting foliage. If you don’t want to go that far, you should try regrowing green onions. All you have to do is place the root and bottom inch or so in water and place near a light source. They seem to sprout almost overnight.

There have been other changes we have done in an effort to save money and be more eco-friendly. I am curious to see how this post does before writing more like it. I’ll leave you with a final thought about something really cool I recently discovered. In the future, after I kill my student loans I would like to start purchasing carbon credits so that I am a carbon-neutral person. I actually found a website where you can do so and offset your particular model of car. https://carbonfund.org/individuals/ I have not fully vetted them but the concept is amazing.

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