When I started this writing project, it was a way to make sense of the unmoored existence I found myself in as a stay at home mom; no paycheck, no external schedule, no quarterly performance reviews. I had lost the systems that helped me measure myself as a human, and put that value to a number, and coupled with mental health challenges, I needed to get some external focus and feedback; and so my blog was born.
Now 100 posts later, I am looking back at how this project has changed me, and looking forward at the changes it continues to inspire. This project has undoubtedly led me to value my own work more, to perpetually seek to better organize myself in a way that feels functional and beautiful, and to honor the healing power connecting with others has for me.
I am only just starting to really dig into the questions that were loudly lurking in my first few posts; how do we value ourselves without an assigned monetary value? What role does consumerism play in my mental health struggles? How do I stop adding "just" to the beginning of any description of what I do? How does my decision to have only one child impact my role in the greater parenting community? What are the factors that truly make our home enjoyable? How can I take this freedom from a 9-5 schedule, granted by the birth of my son, to reexamine the assumptions I have about how I want to live my life? These are the questions I intend to delve deeper into in my next 100 posts.
This brings me to this month's waste and energy reduction update. On the very concrete side of things:
- We are producing 50% less trash per month than we were at the end of December; this was especially noticeable when I cleaned out the fridge, there was almost nothing to clean out. All eligible food scraps are going to the chickens, and the rest are headed to the compost. We have been far more mindful of the packaging our food comes in, so that has greatly reduced our trash as well. We are still using the occasional disposable diaper when the overnight ones are in the wash.
- Our gas bill is down 35% since we switched to all cold laundry washes, air drying our clothes, and using a water saving showerhead. This is major in the coldest time of the year.
- Our water bill has gone down 1/3rd since December. I credit the water saving showerhead, and greater awareness when washing dishes.
- Our electric use is down 25% from December, but it is 50% less than this month last year. We recently switched or most frequently used light to an LED fixture, but I attribute our current savings to being more diligent about turning off lights we aren't using, and running the fridge more efficiently with clean coils and containers of cold water to help maintain the temperature.
- Our conventional shampoo, body wash, bubble bath, and laundry soap all ran out this month. I am still meddling with shampoo options, but we have switched to bulk almond scented liquid castile soap for body wash, and the same soap mixed with some vegetable glycerine for bubble bath. I just made our second batch of DIY toothpaste, but because I can't find a all the ingredients in low/no waste packaging, we are going to switch to a toothpaste with responsible packaging when this runs out. One of the next products to go will be switching from disposable razors to a safety razor, once the blades for our current razor run out.
- We are switching to soap nuts for our laundry, as non of the DIY laundry soap recipes are recommended for cloth diapers. I used the last of our Seventh Generation laundry soap yesterday, so I will report back about the effectiveness of the soap nuts next month.
- We've been slowly switching over to bulk options for as many ingredients as are available as things run out. We are lucky to have a great co-op nearby with a wide variety of bulk products available. We have switched from boxed tea bags to loose bulk tea. I originally was using a metal tea ball, but I find I prefer steeping the leaves in the cup, and using a metal straw intended for drinking matte that has a filter at the bottom to keep tea leaves out of your mouth. As our various teas run out, we are gaining lots of new possibilities, as we can blend every cup individually; the little guy is a big fan of ginger and hibiscus together.
- We've been replacing our non-stick cookware with cast iron as the old stuff gets damaged and worn, and replacing our kitchen washing set up with bamboo tools instead of plastic.
- I am absolutely loving baking all our bread. I have taken a deep dive into sourdough, which is definitely not a casual hobby, and so now our bread only requires water, flour, and salt, tastes incredibly delicious, and there will definitely be a post this month detailing the resources and tools to get you started if you're interested in jumping down this rabbit hole with me.
On the less concrete side of things, the push to reduce our waste and energy consumption is creating a general shift in the way I think about our overall lifestyle and purchases. I consider the packaging something comes in before deciding if I want to buy it. I strongly consider the longevity of an item when deciding to purchase an item, and thinking more about how care and use can best extend its usefulness. I've decided not to buy anymore clothes for myself this year, something I plan to write more about soon.
I've been assessing each of the foods we buy (groceries are definitely our greatest monthly expenditure outside of our mortgage) and asking myself:
-What is the lowest impact way I can buy this food? (Local > Fair Trade > Zero Waste Packaging >Organic)
-If this food can't be grown locally, is there a local food I could substitute?
-Can I produce this food myself?
I am hoping to find local sunflower oil that I can replace our ever present imported olive oil with. I am not sure what to do about my son's addiction to clementines, but we will buy organic ones for now until we get into a more exciting time for local produce. I am looking into planting local varieties of grapes and blueberries at our house so we can produce some of our own fruit in the future. I am also looking for a good local flour to switch to when my bag of all purpose runs out.
The other impact I've found in reducing our energy consumption and waste production, is our house just looks nicer. Instead of a million loud colored plastic bottles, we have a few clear bottles and a blue glass spray bottle in our bathroom. There's nothing rotting in the bottom of our fridge. Our kitchen shelves are lined with glass jars of beautiful, label free foods. It's certainly not the point of all this waste reduction, but it is a very welcome side effect.
So, I'm off, digging and digging into what makes a good life for myself, and for my family. Thanks for coming along for the ride; here's to the next 100 posts!
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