Thursday, February 04, 2010

One Small Change - February (plus a giveaway)

First, a recap of our One Small Change for January: "For the month of January (and hopefully beyond) I will not purchase coffee in disposable cups."

I am pleased to report that I did not purchase coffee in disposable cups for the entire month of January and have shifted my thinking about this wasteful practice so much that I think it's going to stick. Mind you, I have bought coffee, but always in a travel mug. If the mug wasn't with me when I was going by a coffeeshop with an urge for a mocha, I didn't get the mocha. If I had any inkling that that urge may hit later in the day when getting ready to go out in the morning, I brought my mug with me. It was that simple. And it is that simple!

January One Small Change: Score!

Now on to February's One Small Change. January's ban on paper coffee cups really got me thinking about what we casually throw out and call "garbage" every day. I envisioned this post to be a complete analysis of our daily/weekly/monthly garbage with an outline for finding new ways to scale back on the trash. But, this is called "One SMALL Change" so I'm going to start smaller instead.

For the month of February (and hopefully beyond), my family has agreed to cool it on the disposable luxuries that we so casually toss daily in our society. This includes, but is not limited to, paper napkins, plastic utensils, take-out containers, stir-sticks, straws and of course, paper coffee cups.

Need a drink at that cute little cafe that offers ice cold water from their chilled dispenser next to a stack of plastic cups?

Ask for a glass or bring your water bottle.

Always grabbing extra napkins because the kids are so messy?

Bring along cloth napkins, rags, or extra cloth diapers for wiping and clean-up. (We're already carrying a diaper backpack around everywhere we go, so what's an extra cloth or two shoved in?)

Eating on the run a lot but tired of plastic utensils?

Be sure to have your new To-go Ware RePEaT Utensil Set tucked in your bag or purse too!
Seriously folks, this seems like a no-brainer to me and it may be just because we're always carrying around that diaper backpack, so it's not a big deal to toss something as lightweight as this utensil set inside (or clip to the back, since it comes with a cool cararbiner). But honestly, isn't everyone always carrying a bag or something these days? As Hip Mountain Mama says, "Most people have their reusable travel mugs and shopping bags, so adding a set of bamboo travel utensils is the next step in your toolkit for life on the go."

I just ordered a pack of 5 sets of these utensil kits, but only need 4 for my family. Therefore, a giveaway is attached to this month's One Small Change and the winner will receive one To-go Ware RePEaT Utensil set! Just leave a comment on this post with your one small change that you are making to reduce your carbon footprint (or link back to your blog). The winner (selected randomly from the entries) will be announced on ♥Valentine's Day♥, so spread the word about this sweetheart of a contest.
This month's One Small Change is still making me examine everything we buy to find ways to weed out the unnecessary waste wherever possible. We're already using the smallest size garbage bin that our city offers (22 gallons/40lbs vs. 94 gallons/200 lbs), so that puts a limit on us right there. I read once that the Amish have one small bag of garbage each month. Not sure if I'm remembering that right. But whatever the specifics, I'm sure it's a small fraction of our waste, even though we use cloth diapers instead of disposables, handknit washrags instead of disposable sponges, haven't bought plastic food storage bags since last spring when we discovered snackTAXIS, and have used the same toothbrushes for almost 10 years (don't worry, we just exchange the heads!). I'd love to get our total waste down even further.

And of course, before I throw anything away, I spend a little too much time wondering if it can be recycled, reused or composted first. (Too bad our compost bin out back is frozen shut now.) I was thrilled today to discover that a glass salsa jar that was headed for the recycling bin turned out to be a Mason jar that fits canning lids so I can save it for the next canning season. Green Mountain Gringo salsa for the win!

What's your One Small Change for this month? Don't forget to comment and enter the contest!


Jean Wiley said...

My small change relates to waste and gardening. I do small amounts of gardening (containers) and have never had or needed an outdoor compost bin. I am beginning undersink container composting of vegetable waste (and egg shells)to create compost soil for my container tomatoes. If it smells, I'll use charcoal filters (like for covered kitty boxes.) Love all your reduce use info Catherine!

Elise said...

I'll bite! My two favorite ongoing changes are: no more plastic or paper grocery bags! (I have a 5 pack of those envirosax and I use them for EVERYTHING. Best purchase I ever made.) And, I replaced our vinyl shower curtain liner with a nylon one that we can just toss in the washer when it gets grody. Not only are we no longer throwing away shower curtain liners every 6 months, but there's no more beach-ball smell in our bathroom. Win-win. My new year's resolution this year was not to buy any more plastic containers. I'll use the ones we have until they wear out, but then they get replaced with pyrex or glass or pottery or something. Baby steps.

Hege said...

Our small change this month is to use our fabric grocery bags. the hardest part is to remember to grab them on the way out ;)

Lisa Anne said...

We carry cloth napkins with utensils rolled inside in our purse (or man bag). If I am somewhere and receive a plastic spoon before I can give it back I put them in the glove box of my car for road trip emergencies. I have had a hard time thinking of a small change to implement, we already have been doing most of these things for years. I thought about the "family cloth" thing but I am not sure about that yet. I have decided to replace the biodegrable sponges we use (with the loofah that always falls off) with knitted hemp wash cloths, hemp is naturally antimicrobial and is sturdy. The nice thing is that I bought the hemp yarn several years ago, so I am using up my stash as well. Although I was composting the sponges i realized I was still in that consumerist spiral. Don't put me in your contest, we already have utensil rolls: )-Those are super sweet though!

Rebecca said...

I did the coffee cup with you last month! I've got a -big- one I've been working on: recycling baby items. Like the car seat. Any ideas?

For one small change, I'll again follow your lead and join you with the napkins on the road. Even when I make a major coffee spill.

Therese Peterson said...

I try to go for the metal utensils at the cafeteria. It's funny to see some people buy their lunch and then grab plastic utensils. There is the "take out" option for those not dining in the cafeteria. You know that's disposable.

I say this while my desk has plastic utensils. In my defense I have been reusing them. :)

Gin said...

OK so mine might seem little to people but I've been working on recycling more. They don't offer paper/magazine recycling at my apt building but for Feb I have been making an effort to recycle those items anyway and take them to some place that will recycle them. A big one for me since i love my magazines:)

Day to Day Tripper said...

My one small change is to use less wet wipes. I use them so much when we are out and about to clean up the boys. I need to refill the antibacterial gel containers I have and bring them along instead. My long term goal is to use up the extra flannal pieces I have to make wipes, I just need to sit down and sew some. So I will try to get 10 done before the end of Feb. 2 goals in one. These would be big for our family. Less wipes out and about and less paper towels at diaper changing time.

We put our compost on top of our pile but ours is an open pile. I wonder if you could make a small winter bin in the back yard, all you do is cover the compost material with snow and leaves if you do it in the fall, then mix it all together in the spring. We've been doing it that way for 5+ years and it works. It's amazing how little garbage you have if you compost!

Good inspirations everyone.

Ruth's Place said...

My one small change is to take my own mug or water bottle to the gym and not use the disposable cups.

Our biggest, Small Change, was to get a worm bin to process our kitchen waste. It's cut our rubbish by a third and the vegetable garden is going super well from the free fertilizer.

Julie Z said...

This month I resolve to start using cloth diapers as well as cloth wipes. We've intended to cloth diaper since I got pregnant, and now we're just waiting for Baby Girl to grow into the diapers. :) Cloth wipes are new to us but make SO much sense, especially now that we see how many disposable wipes we're going through every day. Such a waste! I have a hunch that cloth wipes will do a better job of taking care of the Big Business, too. I wind up using 3 or 4 disposable wipes per regular poopy diaper - and even more for a big blowout. I suspect that since our baby's only a few weeks old I haven't even begun to experience real BIG blowouts. Hoping that our little change has big impact!

Dan said...

I'm not eligible for the contest, but I'm sharing my One Thing idea anyway. (Granted, I'm already on the boat for the utensils.)

No more plastic straw coffee stirrers. I go through 2-4 every day for no other reason than to quickly stir my cream and sugar in to my reusable mug full of warm java goodness. Stirring takes only a few seconds. Then they sit in the garbage and landfill for thousands of years. Not fair.

No more half-and-half from the tiny plastic disposable cuplets. I will NOT abstain from this milky, creamy, dairy goodness in my warm java goodness. But I WILL abstain from tossing so much packaging to enjoy it: there's nothing that's keeping me from bringing my own from home. In a reusable container.

Hip Mountain Mama said...

I am so excited that your Jan change went well. I am so aware of the throw away coffee cup situation these days! Most people don't even think about it, but once you do, it really is incredible how wasteful it is!
I am so excited about your Feb change and can't wait to check back to hear how it is going. Good luck to the winner of your generous awesome!!!
Thanks Suzy

Amelia said...

This is really inspiring. I am dong an experiment this whole year - yikes! - that started on Jan 1st: giving up coffee completely and alcohol, so no coffee cups or empty bottles at the moment at all. Going fine so far :)

As an artist I try and ensure that all my materials are recycled. I stitch onto vintage and household fabrics that once started off as clothes or bedsheets or similar and now become a piece of work with the material's origins becoming an intrinsic part of the work's concept.

I have now put a bag near my kitchen that collects all the envelopes, card, wrapping paper and any other paper that comes into my house, and then they are being re-made into my artists books and art works . . . I love it - we are given so much free paper and instead of putting it into a recycling bag, I am now using it . . . .

Thanks for the inspiration and do pop over if you have a mo. I'm at:


Jen Z said...

I am inspired by your commitment to do away with ALL disposables! I am not quite there yet, but (coincidentally enough) my small change for the month is no more disposable utencils, so your giveaway would be perfect for me : ) Here's my post about it...

Jill said...

I'm going to stop using paper and plastic bags at the grocery store. I have 3 reusable bags in my car but I always forget about them until I'm checking out.

raquel from miami said...

I love to sew, so I reuse all my old sheets and pillowcases!
Thanks for the chance!

Kristina said...

Our January change has only reinforced our commitment to February! January was no more plastic grocery bags; February is no take-out or to go food containers. All meals are home-sourced (or eaten at a restaurant--hello, Valentine's Day!). Thanks for surfacing this inspiration to do something good. :0)

team krasean said...

My goal is to use cloth napkins instead of paper ones. I need to build up my stock of cloth napkins to make this happen!! Like others, I'm still trying to use less plastic bags in general (stores, sandwiches, etc)

I blogged about your giveaway!

Christa said...

i like to sew and have accumulated some fabric over the years. my one small change is to make gift bags to use instead of paper wrapping. after christmas i heard of how many pounds of paper each family throws away (since it is not recyclable). i am using up my extra fabric (not buying new) and wrapping my gift in a reusable bag.

Michele said...

Well, I hope first that I am eligible for this giveaway. :)
Next, making lots of small/big changes, going vegan/raw in the diet world which has already saved on countless fastfood packaging, etc.... Also, remembering to bring in reusable shopping bags for shopping. Finally, inspired to purchase those SnackTaxis.
Thanks for raising awareness and leading the way!
Mis :)

Meilan Smith said...

Such a cool giveaway! My change this school year was to buy reusable sandwich bags for my kids' lunches. It is amazing how that one little change (and putting soy milk in a thermos instead of buying the boxes) not only reduced our waste, but our grocery bill as well.

Livia said...

Hi! Catherine I really like your idea of using the mug. If we all do simple things like that, maybe we can actually see great changes coming up. By the way, I’m working with Green Mountain coffe, and I think you guys would like to know that we’re having a great sampling promotion going on in Dallas ending this Friday 02/19. Tell friends and family! Minneapolis will be between March 08 and 10, so keep an eye out!You can also blog and tweet about this promotion, but don’t miss it!
Best wishes!