small changes can lead to big differences.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How Eco-Friendly Are You?

How eco-friendly are you? Do you recycle? Do you ride a bike, commute, or try to use reusable water bottles instead of plastic ones? How far do you take it, and why?

I'm curious to know some answers to these questions, especially the "how far do you take it, and why?" one. Over the past few years, I've observed a huge incline of green items. People everywhere are using reusable bags, buying organic food, cleaning products and even dog food. More and more people have discovered farmers' markets, food co-ops, and thrift stores. However, what motivated them (you?) to do so?

Upcycled Gift Tags - made from Monopoly Community Chest Cards by ikcdesign

A few years ago - in 2007 - I discovered the website . I thought it was a very funny website, and it brought an unknown cause to my attention - the enormous use plastic bags. For my entire life up to this point, I never even once considered that plastic bags were harmful to the environment. However, when I found this website, everything changed.
I bought two of the bags (one for me and one for my mom!) and started to bring them to the stores. Let me tell you.. EVERYONE looked at me like I was insane. "She brought her OWN bag?? What?" is what I think everyone was thinking! I swear - it felt like it was unHEARD of that someone brought their OWN bag to the store. (Keep in mind, I still lived in suburbia at this time [I was only 20] so thinking outside of the box is unknown to most people there) But yet I still did it. After about 6 months of this, I started to notice that a few major grocery stores started to sell their own reusable bags. I was thrilled! I couldn't believe that this idea of bringing your OWN bags to the store had finally caught on! Soon after this, everyone was selling their own reusable bags. It was amazing!

I caught on that being "green" was more of a fad when I noticed Target selling t-shirts that advertised that the wearer was eco-friendly. Ok, if it took ME as long as it did to bring my OWN bags to stores, there's no way that half of the American population has become eco-friendly overnight. (I have been obsessed with keeping the environment clean since I was like 2.) I mean.. this was the best fad EVER... how could I get annoyed at the fact that people were advocating recycling!? but still, it sort of felt like a lot of people were just being "green" because it was in style. Honestly, though, i never really got that worked up about it :p

In The City Bento Box Lunch Bag by uhreusable

Well, years have passed, and while the fad of being green has sort of died down, it seems as if retailers and corporations have caught on that they can make a lot of money by creating organic products. If it says 'Organic' or '100% whole wheat" it's prroooobably more expensive. Even organic fruit and veggies are more expensive. But I guess that's the price we pay for trying to take care of ourselves.

When it comes to the environment, what do YOU do to help it? I do plenty of things:
-I use a steel water-bottle for my water. I can fill it up using my Brita Water Pitcher, the water fountains at school, and tap water. I wash it every few days, and it cuts down on plastic, washing dishes, and I save so much money! I haven't bought a plastic bottle of water in weeks.
-I use my own bags (haha, duh!) which cut down on plastic, saves space in my apartment (not as many plastic bags hanging around!) and saves energy costs and money for everyone. It's more expensive and costly to recycle plastic bags than it is to just throw them away, which is why they are awful for the environment. Not to mention the hazards they cause to nature!
-This might be weird to you, but when I'm at school (or anywhere) I bring my own little bag of things for when I wash my hands. I have my own soap (in case the bathroom doesn't have any) and a small wash-cloth. I use the wash cloth to dry my hands because my school doesn't have air dryers - they only have paper towels, which can't be recycled and are all thrown away. By using my own wash cloth to dry my hands, I cut down on waste. It might seem minimal, but by doing this all semester, I probably save an entire roll of paper towels! (I freak out about my hands! I always have to wash them, and I don't really like hand sanitizer. It dries out my hands! I have very strange hands...)
-I recycle e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. Even though Chicago is really behind on the whole "let everyone recycle from their homes" thing, they do have drop-off centers all over the city, and they do allow people to recycle a lot more than we think. We can recycle any plastics that have the numbers 1,2,3,4,5 and 7. This means your plastic containers, plastic cups for soda that you get at mcdonald's, hummus containers... they can all be recycled. I also recycle my batteries and pick up batteries that I see outside. Batteries contain very hazardous materials, and if they're leaked into the environment, it only means more trouble in the long run. Brita filters can also be recycled at select locations, such as Whole Foods. Check out to find out where you can recycle them.

Thank You Have a Nice Day Tote Bag by happyfamily

-Speaking of Preserve (if you clicked that link, you'll know what I'm talking about), I have used Preserve toothbrushes since 2007 as well. Preserve is awesome - you can send in your old tooth-brushes to them (they pay for shipping) and they mold the handle into useful things such as picnic tables for parks! It's a MUCH better alternative to the standard toothbrush handles, which never even decompose - they just sit in landfills forever. And the handles themselves are made out of recycled yogurt lids! It's a win-win situation :)
-I am trying to start bringing my OWN tupperware to restaurants! However, I haven't been going out to eat as much as I used to, so it hasn't been very proactive. But think of how much you can save by bringing your own takeout containers! Especially since so many places use styrofoam.. ugh! I hate styrofoam.

I won't lie - being this proactive for the environment takes a LOT of getting used to. We all have our habits, and don't feel guilty if you are having a hard time remembering to bring your reusable bags or your own tupperware to restaurants. It'll happen if you want it to! I would LOVE to hear what you do to help the environment, and if you have any tips! This is a huge passion of mine, and I love hearing what others are doing - it makes me feel less alone :P

Also, just to let you know, i'm working on my own line of reusable snack bags! I have a few made already and I've been testing them out. So far, so good! I'm using vintage and found fabrics - none of the fabric I use has been bought straight from the store, I try to use what has already been produced. Of course, I wash the fabric several times before using it in my projects!

Until next time,
marjie :]

*all items featured on this post were found by using the search "eco-friendly" on etsy!
**it should DEFINITELY be noted that in the middle of writing this, I got so motivated that I went out and picked up trash all around my apartment! People are so laaaazy!!! :)

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