On an early trip to our city's largest grocery store I was stopped by the security guards standing at the entrance. Apparently, my reusable grocery sacks tucked under my arm were a major problem. Through the language barrier I was strictly told to leave my sacks at the lockers provided. I tried to explain that I didn't want to use the bundle of plastic bags it would take to get my groceries home. Understanding my point, two older gentlemen came to my aide and argued passionately, in Georgian, with the security guard (who had now been surrounded by a group of his teammates, coming to his aide). After much disgust expressed on both sides (and me quietly watching in fascination and a bit of fear!) I was permitted to enter the store with one bag, stuffed into my handbag, and the other six stored in the lockers.
On a subsequent trip, my husband was permitted to carry our cloth bags into the store but he returned home with them bagged into the store's plastic bags! We live in a country without a recycling program. We try to go about our business being as environmentally aware as possible, but (like many other things that one experiences while raising a family abroad) our foreign notions are still considered very foreign locally. On my next holiday to the States, I'll be stocking up on these reusable bags that roll into a tiny ball. I figure I can get at least ten of them by the grocery's security guards undetected in one of my favorite large handbags!
In honor of Earth Day, I offer you a 20 day challenge. A challenge to make your life easier and your world a little bit better in the process. Check out and consider these ideas, one per day.
- Appreciate nature. Go for a walk. Stop. Look at a tree, the ocean or the mountain nearest you.
- Throw a reusable cup in your bag. Use it.
- Gather up a pile of cloth rags-- cut up an old towel, purchase some inexpensive wash clothes, gather up some shammies-- and put them in a container in your kitchen. Every time you would usually grab for a paper towel, instead use one of your cloth rags. (Place a small rubbish bin next to your usual garbage bin and use this to collect your used rags for easy washing.)
- Get take out for dinner and bring your own reusable containers to be filled.
- Want to buy something cool? How about these stainless steel straws?
- Plant something! (Aren't these tomatoes cool?!)
- Clean out your closet (donate gently used items) and reinvent some of your favorite pieces. Mend tears, rework a hem, pair a favorite piece with several different outfits to get your creative juices flowing.
- Find the children's book You're Aboard Spaceship Earth by Patricia Lauber from your local library or your favorite bookstore. The information contained is a simple, straightforward approach on what it means to care for a global community. Who cares if you are 5 or 85-- the 10 minutes it takes you to read the book will be time well spent.
- Place a lidded container near your sink. Collect all vegetable scraps used during the day.
- Place the scraps collected yesterday into your garden (container garden or in-ground garden) and cover with a bit of dirt or other organic matter. If you want to commit to composting for more than the day, here is an attractive small kitchen option.
- Research some people doing amazing things to reinvigorate our passion for living on this Earth-- visit the Surfrider Foundation, read Barbara Kingsolver's nonfiction book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and the newly launched Taproot magazine.
- Is there a baby in the family? Use cloth diapers and you don't have to stress about late night store runs when you discover there's only one disposable left. Plus, I swear to you from experience-- cloth diapering is really easy (and there's a million great ways to do it-- favorite ideas are here, here and here!).
- Make one meal per week meatless and heatless. Come up with a 'go-to' meal and throw it into rotation. Our family loves a meal that we call our french spread (which originated when my husband and I ate this french-style picnic regularly in our Paris walk-up-- throw in a bottle of wine, throw open the french doors and I'm back in my Rue Charbon neighborhood). We grab a big beautiful tray and spread out sliced cheeses, fresh fruits, baguette slices, veggies and usually some olives, cornichons and a favorite mustard. Delicious and easy.
- Switch to cloth napkins-- way prettier than paper. I have my eye on these.
- Make your own cleaning supplies--- easy and they work great. (plus, add your own essential oils and your home will smell the way you want it to.) My favorite recipe for all-purpose spray is: Mix 1/2 cup of vinegar, 1/4 cup of baking soda, 1/2 gallon of water and a few drops of essential oil or a bay leaf. Shake, pour into a spray bottle and store.
- Don't upgrade yet. Do you really want your mobile phone company to tell you when you need a new phone?! Just because your contract says 'you can' doesn't mean you need to chuck your current one if it's getting the job done.
- Use matches instead of lighters. Who needs more plastic in their life? Plus, lighting that match ignites fabulous memories of camping and fireplaces.
- Skip the promotional gift. Skipping the free gift at the store is way easier than figuring out where to put that key chain, logo-ed glass or free pen once you arrive home with it.
- Host a fair trade party! Choose a favorite treat and have guests sample and discuss/score their favorite tea, coffee or chocolates. (Here is one of my favorite chocolates-- fig, fennel and almond dark chocolate!-- from the first organic, fair trade, bean to bar factory in the U.S.)
- The next time you need a pair of great shoes to go with a party dress, look at these! (Designed by Rebecca Mink, these open toe raffia wedge and ankle strap is made of 100% animal-free materials.)