If you read Wylie's News (my son's newspaper) you already know about the Johnson family and their Zero Waste Home policy. I've been reading their blog and am inspired to make some changes around here as well. Nothing as drastic as zero waste, but certainly less waste seems do-able.
I typically do shop in bulk for a lot of our grains, chocolate chips, oils, and maple syrup. Our local Coop is great for this. But I hardly ever bring my own containers (out of shear laziness and disorganization). So, I'm making an effort to bring my own (re-used) plastic bags and canning jars to refill each week, as well as sewing a few cloth bags for grains. My mom recently gave me a cloth grocery bag with slots intended for wine bottles; this works great to transport jars for refilling, and keeps them from clanking around and breaking. I read that mesh laundry bags are great for veggies, so I may pick up a few of those next time I see them.
Another change I'm making is to buy fewer "snacks". I always try to feed my kids what I consider, real, whole foods. Sometimes this includes all natural or organic crackers and granola bars. These are not only expensive, but are excessively packaged. I am trying to buy less of these things and instead offer more fruit and nuts for snacks. We've been enjoying what I call "super snacks", a kind of homemade Lara Bar of dates, almonds, coconut, flax, sometimes some chocolate chips, and a dash of maple syrup all food processed and rolled into bite size balls. I keep them in the freezer and try to pack a few for the car if I know we'll be out and about for the day. These are really yummy, and they fill us up so we don't need to keep snacking on empty calories.
I've been making our own yogurt and granola for a couple of years (cheaper and much less packaging), and am now brewing my first batch of Kombucha (so far its too early to tell if its working out--I'll keep you posted.)
In addition Rob and I have been clearing out anything we don't use or need. He has always been very good at this, me not so much. But so far progress has been made. I've got three large bags full of clothes for Good Will and we've already made 3 different trips to drop off extra kitchen stuff, toys and games, and outer wear that doesn't fit anyone in the house. I suppose this is really just spring cleaning, but it feels good. I'd like to give away a lot more before my attitude changes and I start waxing nostalgic about that dress that I haven't worn since high school (really, even if I could fit into it would look ridiculous on a 30 something mom of three).
I also just watched the documentary "No Impact Man" available to watch instantly on Netflix. Having lived rurally all my life I was astounded at how little connection this guy, Collin had with the environment--even being a self proclaimed environmentalist. I mean I know lots of people don't appreciate the connection between humans and the rest of nature, but I didn't realize how little connection some people understood. There's a part at the end when he realizes that the changing of seasons is marked by changes in the Earth and food--not just in turning the page on a calendar, aha! I can't even remove myself enough from my experiences to realize that people live that way--without noticing the seasons I mean. It makes N.Y. City sound like a different planet. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunities to live surrounded by nature, and to raise my children with that knowledge and experience.
That aside, the documentary was very good. It was cool to see a family who had, before their experiment, been living a highly consumptive life, change so drastically. And, even though they went back to a lot of their old ways at the end of the year they chose to keep some things. I thought there was a real turning point somewhere in the middle when Collin realizes that there are alternatives to seeking comfort and luxury in sustainable ways (ie. solar power) and its not all about giving up what you love. I do feel like he could have done some more research ahead of time and made his entire project much more enjoyable--but maybe less notable as well. Impact aside, I also appreciated the honesty shown between Collin and his wife. There were a few scenes where they had some pretty weighty discussions and I loved that they kept these in the film.
So, if you haven't seen it, do. Its worth it, and good to knit to. Then check out Zero Waste Home, and join me in reducing some waste. I'd love to hear some more ideas on practical ways to do this. I noticed Crunchy Chicken was asking for recipes for homemade cleaning supplies and toiletries recently.
Hopefully she'll post the results soon. If you have any favorites I'd like to hear them.
Post script I do realize that many people in the city appreciate and understand these connections, and that in many ways urban living provides more opportunities for living sustainably as a community. I honestly am only expressing my shock at his realization--not any criticism of city life.