Sustainable Tips from Member to Member
Members frequently ask us about sustainable practices. They not only look to us for products that meet a certain standard, but they also ask us for tips and advice on what they can do to make small changes to their daily lives in order to make a big impact in their footprint.
We asked fellow member Susan Fox to share some of her tips, and this is what she said.
I learned how valuable water is when I lived on a sailboat for almost 5 years in the Caribbean. We had to conserve water aboard the boat as we traveled from country to country. When we visited and eventually moved back to the U.S. it was alarming to turn on a faucet to have water gushing out. It took me awhile not to freak out when I did this. I minimize water use.
I recently read two books on eliminating plastic but had started to eliminate some plastic prior to this. While cruising on the sailboat in the Caribbean we saw plastic on most all the islands and the mainland.
I volunteered for several nights at a Leatherback turtle camp in Panama assisting the biologist. I learned turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and eat them which kills them. These creatures are beautiful and an important part of the ecosystem.
On a trip from the Bay Islands of Honduras to Guatemala we sailed through miles of chopped plastic and other trash for over eight hours. It sickened us.
While we were still living aboard our boat we watched a documentary about a man doing research on the huge plastic trash swirls in the Pacific. We were sickened even more by the enormity of the problem.
When we first moved aboard our boat I read two books about our oceans. I learned how little we know about our oceans and how we've trashed them. We've poisoned sea life as well as ourselves. One day as I gazed out a porthole with palm trees in the distance I realized how "living the dream" is all a facade. I saw overfishing and other unsustainable practices, and the results of it....all for the sake of money and no thought to the health of our oceans or sustainability.
So in eliminating plastic, here are some things I have adopted:
I use only stainless steel refillable drinking bottles and glass water jugs for storing drinking and cooking water at home and in our travel van. I stuck pads around each glass gallon and half gallon jugs so they're cushioned slightly when I store them in the travel van and car. I take 2 weeks worth of drinking water aboard our van. I refill at small stores that have reverse osmosis water dispensers or at someone's home.
I use mesh and cloth bags for vegetables and fruit.(I'm alarmed by how many people still use plastic produce bags. It's so easy to carry mesh bags in a cloth tote.) And after washing the veggies and fruit I store them in muslin bags. They keep much better than when in plastic. I also put berries in bags and return the carton to the vendor. Coffee beans are another item I put in mesh bags when I purchase them. I've also sewn canvas bags to store fruit, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and avocados when we travel in the camper van.
And to eliminate all plastic trash bags I sewed double-sided oil cloth bags for the rv which after dumping can be rinsed out if need be. At home I realized I didn't need to line the kitchen or bath trash cans. I just dump them in the main garbage can in the garage and rinse in the garden if necessary.
I buy bulk liquid dish soap and bulk dishwasher powder and use refillable glass jars. It saves the environment and money.
I buy soap nuts which are wonderful for doing laundry. They're the greenest method of washing clothes I've found. They take up little space in our travel van and are much easier to carry into a laundromat that plastic jugs. They do a great job of cleaning and are antimicrobial. No chemicals.
I've started using shampoo and conditioner bars which I store in metal containers. So no more plastic bottles there and they work great.
I use bamboo toothbrushes with boar bristles. They're great and antimicrobial. They last much longer than the toxic plastic ones.
I quit buying anything canned because of the lining in the cans. I read that even BPA free isn't non-toxic. I also am trying to eliminate plastic packaging on foods. It's more of a challenge. I buy very little that has plastic packaging but if something comes in plastic I pour it into a glass jar. (My partner doesn't adhere to my purchasing priorities but he tries.)
Reducing Paper Waste:
I started with paper towels. They weren't even available in my area until nearly a year after I married in 1967. I'd used rags and dish cloths and dish towels until then. So in 2011 I thought why am I using paper towels when I did just fine without them years ago? I decided it was too wasteful for me to continue using paper towels. They're expensive and take up a lot of room to store. Besides, they don't clean up messes nearly as well as rags. I keep dish rags in a basket next to the sink and loads of dish towels in the cupboard. But for floors or anything grimier I use regular rags which I keep stacked by the washer and dryer. And when we got another sailboat I used just cloth rags and towels instead of paper towels. I do this in the travel van as well. You can make your own by buying new fabric or using old towels.
I have used cloth napkins for years but still bought paper napkins at times. I sewed many of the cloth napkins. I finally eliminated the use of paper napkins, paper plates, and paper cups for picnics and parties. Not only does it save trees and water, but also eliminates trash.
This is all a work in progress. I'm far from lowering my total footprint. I just hope others can see the benefit of eliminating non-green practices that we thought were necessary.