It was a simple sign: Please Take Only What You Need. It was on the paper towel dispenser at the Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys. And it changed my way of looking at the environment. It changed the way I look at my actions, and the impact those actions have on our planet.
I hate having wet hands. There's just something about it, I can't explain, that irritates me. So I would use a massive amount of paper towels to make sure I got all of the water off. Now, I look at it a little differently. If there's an air dryer, I use that for half, and towel dry (with a small amount of paper towel) the rest (which also allows me to use the paper towel to open the door, because some people aren't as hygienically aware as others). And really, having not-completely-and-totally-100%-dry hands hasn't really bothered me that much. Or harmed me in any way. Who knew?!
When all the eco-friendly products first came out, they were iffy and expensive. They cost more, and seemed much less sturdy. So I kept recycling and trying to leave as a little of a carbon footprint as possible, and waited for those products to improve.
The time has come. I recently purchased a sponge, made from recycled material, that can be cleaned in the dishwasher. I am a clean freak. I can't stand the thought of germs building up anywhere in my house. So typically, sponges are on my not-allowed-in-eyesight list. But, considering it can be cleaned in the dishwasher (aka, little to no effort needed on my part), I am making a significant effort to use less paper towels. Now, I LOVE paper towels. And not just any paper towels-- Viva paper towels.
It started as an allegiance to my grandfather, Jim. He would only use Viva paper towels. After he passed away, I developed a weird obsession with Viva paper towels. In my mind, it was a constant reminder of Gramps, a little way of holding on a little longer. Despite my cleanliness focus, I spill...a lot. So every time I grabbed a paper towel, I would think of Gramps and he would be a little less gone.
Despite my clear emotional attachment to Viva paper towels, I felt I needed a legitimate reason to explain to my husband why no other brand of paper towels will ever enter our house. And so, this is my logic:
Viva paper towels are super absorbent. So despite the fact that they cost slightly more than the average cheap-0 paper towel, we use less and therefore spend equal if not less money, because we're using better paper towels less often.
I hope my going green effort does not harm Viva paper towels in any way, because my yearly spending probably pays for their bonuses... Sorry, guys.
Another green effort I'm making is to get rid of stuff, but without it going into a landfill. Goodwill now loves me, and I'm trying to sell stuff on Craigslist as well. So the junk I no longer want is being repurposed, instead of collecting dust. Well, it may still collect dust, but not in my closet. And that's what's important, right? :)
Now that "green" products are increasing in quality and decreasing on price, the trouble is deciphering the label. Many products are claiming to be green that aren't. Shame on them. Shame, shame, shame. In the Spring issue of Shopsmart, the Consumer Reports household magazine, they tested many different green products and explain how to tell if a product is green or fake-green. I highly recommend it.
Another step-- I'm attempting to grow my own food. This is both a diet plan and eco-friendly. By eco-friendly, I mean the vegetable and fruit market will see a slight dip in my purchasing, and therefore in the long run (assuming this works and I don't starve to death or cave and buy their food), less pesticide will be used on crops. I love organic food, but it's still priced outside my budget (except for Cascadian Farms granola, which is both on sale at Target right now and $1 off coupons are regularaly available online). So while I attempt to grow blackberries, raspberries, grapes, tomatoes and cilantro, I'm telling myself it's a step in the right direction.
I'll keep you posted on my green efforts. In the meantime, happy Earth day. Plant a tree, or see the new Disney Oceans between April 22 and April 29 and Disney will donate something in your name. Which is pretty awesome. Happy planting!