In honor of earth day this past weekend, I wanted to share some of the ways our family is reducing our carbon footprint. It’s not easy, but a the same time, it’s also not that hard to make a few small changes that will grow and multiply into a lasting impact.
I’m no expert and certainly not perfect. However, I recently read a new book called Sustainability Made Simple, and it’s caused a huge shift in my thinking. It’s also opened my eyes to the consequences of many of our everyday choices. According to the authors, Rosaly Byrd and Laurèn Demates, using and purchasing less along with supporting companies that are more environmentally responsible should be our most important focus.
When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
As we’ve increased our sustainability knowledge, here are a few of the changes and new habits, we’ve committed to as a family. As an ambassador for Dawn Dish Soap, this post in written in partnership with their Dawn Helps Save Wildlife campaign. For over 40 years Dawn has helped save animals with their gentle but effective product. In order to do our part, we need to strive to make more environmentally friendly choices and build awareness so that our planet stays healthy for all living things!
No, we haven’t added solar panels to our roof or stopped heating our home, but I have started to notice unnecessary energy drainers:
- Leaving lights on. Children need to be taught (and reminded) to turn the lights off when they leave a room.
- Drying Clothes. Checking to see if the clothes are dry rather than relying on the timer.
- Full laundry loads. Sometimes it’s nice to do a quick load here and there, but we’ll save more energy if we wash a full load each time.
- Use power strips for “Energy Vampires”. Energy vampires are those appliance that use energy even when they are not turned on (TVs, computers, small kitchen appliances). They can be plugged into a power strip, and then the power strip can be turned on and off.
Here are a few things that we already do that might give you some additional ideas:
- Dimmers in each room.
- Opening and closing windows and blinds in the summer strategically to keep warm air out and cool air in.
- Change air filters regularly.
- Mind the thermostat (turn down the heat at night and when leaving the house).
I’m doing my best to cut out unnecessary trips in the car. We already walk/bike ride to school, and now that Bergen has started t-ball, we often walk to his games on the weekend since the field it’s only a little more than 1 mile away. Other small driving trips are starting to bother me too, so now that Bergen is pretty confident on the bike, I’m considering adding a bike trailer for Georgia to our gear arsenal.
Food efficiency is one thing we are quite good at as a family. We shop for groceries once a week according to our weekly meal plan, we utilize left overs, and make sure we use up the food that we already have before going out and buying more. We also keep an on-going list of items that we run out of so that we can stay on top of what we need, and not make shopping trips a guessing game. And thanks to our city’s awesome food waste program, we are able to compost all of our food straps.
To improve though, I’m embracing more meatless meals, especially those containing beef. According to the Environmental Working Group, beef and lamb (something we don’t buy anyway) are the top two greenhouse gas emitting foods. Beef is also a water intensive food. 850 gallons of water is needed just to produce ONE 8-ounce steak. I had no idea!
I also want to continue to work toward purchasing locally sourced ingredients, and consuming foods that are in-season. In addition, the more I can do to keep processed foods out, and trying simple recipes from scratch, the better!
Clean and Green Personal Care Products
Here and there we were using products, shampoo, bubble bath, soaps, etc., that didn’t include a lot of toxins in the ingredients. After reading Sustainability Made Simple though, I’m more aware of what these toxins actually do. They not only have negative health effects, but when washed down the drain, they pollute our waterways.
I’m actively searching and on the look out for events and volunteer opportunities that I can do with my children that will impact the environment in a positive way. Garden work parties and trash clean-ups are two ways where I know we can make a difference. And though it might not be comfortable at first, I’ve learned that it’s extremely important to talk to our friends and family about sustainability. Just sharing interesting facts and information can get the conversation going.
Fix What’s Broken
Instead of tossing aside what’s broken, we’re working toward the more sustainable approach! Sewing, repairing, and just taking good care of things in the first place rather than buying new all the time means less trash and less impact on the environment. While traveling to St. John, one of the handles of Slaed’s suitcase broke off. Instead of just sending it off to Goodwill, and purchasing a new suitcase, he brought it to our local luggage repair shop. Turns out the suitcase is still under warranty, and will be good as new in a couple of weeks!
It’s also important to be on top of household issues such as leaks and other inefficient items or aspects of the home. We need to be attentive to our cars, bikes, and lawn mowers; taking them in for regular maintenance will make a huge difference in their longevity and performance.
More awareness, more education
Studying our water, electricity, and gas bills will provide a lot of information on how we can curb our usage, and how new habits are impacting our charges. Knowledge is power! I’m also motivated to continue to learn about more of our household products, and taking small and steady steps to cut out toxins.
By thinking about sustainability and integrating it into daily life, we not only reduce our own direct footprint, but also support a change in what is acceptable and expected of governments and companies – we support a shift towards a culture of sustainability. –Sustainability Made Simple
Who knows? Maybe our list will inspire you to reflect on some of your everyday choices. If so, I encourage you to start small. Start with one area of your home, one habit, or one aspect of your life that you could infuse a greener choice into.
Are you working toward more sustainable choices in your home? What do you think is the best way to get started?
This post is sponsored by Dawn dish soap, but all opinions expressed here are my own! In case you missed the posts I shared following my experience with Dawn and the Marine Wildlife Center in Sausalito, CA or if you want a recap, make sure to head back into the archives where I wrote about environmental stewardship, the amazing volunteers at the Marine Mammal Center, and witnessing the release of two sea lions as they made way back into the wild Pacific Ocean.
As an ambassador this year, I’m sharing more stories of Dawn’s role in helping wildlife along with seasonal information about wildlife and animals, and how Dawn is making a difference in communities. For actionable ways you can make a difference in the lives of animals, see my World Animal Day post with 25 things families can do to improve the lives of animals.
Affiliate links to our Amazon store are also used in this post. If you purchase the book (Sustainability Made Simple) through our link, we’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!