In 2006, I discovered a blog called No Impact Man blog. It’s about Colin Beavan, who lived in New York with his then 2-year-old daughter and wife. They had embarked on a 1-year project of going completely “green,” giving up virtually all of the comforts of modern living — electricity, gas-powered transportation, shipped food and public waste disposal — in a drastic effort to curb their environmental impact. No impact on the environment. The project really inspired me, and made me think about my family’s and my carbon footprint.
Since then, we have worked very hard to reduce our carbon footprint and have made many changes. Some efforts worked and some didn’t. I know we can’t go zero-waste as Colin and his family did, but when a friend encouraged me to post something about what we have done so far, it made me realize we have done a lot. I know there is so much more we can do, so each New Year, we as a family write down our goals for becoming even greener.
Having moved from sunny San Diego to Sweden, we are faced with new challenges. In San Diego, we grew a lot of our own food year-round. We bought 80% of everything else at the farmers’ market every Saturday, and the rest in bulk at our People’s CO-OP. Here in Sweden, naturally there are farmers’ markets only in late summer and early fall. We can grow things only in the summer and, as of August last year, we live in an apartment with little room for growing food. However, we have applied for a community garden plot right next to our building (fingers crossed).
In San Diego, it was easy to reduce the use of plastic since we brought our own produce bags to the farmers’ market and for the bulk at the store. Here, there are no bulk options and everything organic is wrapped in plastic. However, in Sweden, you can recycle pretty much everything and there are easily accessible recycling centers EVERYWHERE. As opposed to the U.S.’s 34%, only 4% of Sweden’s trash ends up in landfills. Anything going to a landfill is burned and used for energy; Sweden actually imports garbage from other European countries.
In San Diego, we used the dryer only for bed sheets; everything else was dried outside and it dried in no time. However, in a winter climate like Sweden’s, it’s not an option and our laundry room is too small to hang all our laundry.
So far, this is the list of things we have done and still are doing to reduce our carbon footprint:
Eat plant based—Vegan food focused on vegetables, fruit, grains and beans.
Eat and use organic food and products
Shop at local farmers market—Love, love the farmers’ market
Grow own food—On a smaller scale these days with hopes of getting a garden soon
Grow our own sprouts indoors—Who said you can’t grow vegetables indoors in the winter?
Make own plant milk—So easy and the kids looooove to help
Cloth diapers and wipes—So easy that it makes me wonder why I was so scared at first
Cloth paper towels—Got some really fun ones on Etsy.com
Cloth napkins—Look much nicer anyway
Walk and bike—This is my way of working out.
Use low energy LED bulbs for our lamps
No cable—We have found that no or very little TV really makes happy children and develops their creativity.
Public transportation—Here in Sweden, kids and parents with a stroller travel for free.
Baking our own bread—So easy once you get going, and now my kids don’t like store bought bread much
No plastic—We do not buy plastic and, if plastic comes with our food, we make sure to recycle it always.
Cook at home—Luckily, we like to cook and we’re darned good at it.
Bee wraps instead of plastic wrap or foil—They are the best things ever and they smell fantastic.
Bring own snacks when out—It’s so hard and expensive to buy snacks for five vegan family members with food allergies that bringing your own just makes sense.
Bring lunch—Hubby always brings his own lunch and is loving it.
Green cleaning products—We buy only toxic-free and all natural cleaning products or make our own.
Soap nuts— Since 2008, we have been using soap nuts for all our laundry and, yes, that includes poopy cloth diapers. We never have regretted it.
Lower inside temperature—We all sleep much better with a cooler house anyway.
Wash laundry on colder temperatures—and things still get clean.
Line dry when possible—Here in Sweden, that means during summer we line dry all the time; but in fall and winter, there’s some laundry.
Recycle—This family loves to recycle and will fill up a couple of bags of it each week.
Unplug appliances—When we aren’t using computers, toasters and coffee makers, we unplug them.
Buy used toys and clothes—Kids really do not care.
Downsize—We have found that it’s so easy to think we need so much, and that kind of thinking leads to tons of things in storage. Out with the old and reduce is our philosophy.
Chemical and toxic free art supplies—If my kids are going to play with and touch it— and sometimes even eat it☺— you bet it will be toxic-free!!
Compost—Worms are my kids’ second favorite pets.
Use No toxic beauty products—We use coconut oil for many things like red baby bums, as hair shine and moisturizer; and we make our own lotion. This way, I know what goes on my skin and into my body.
Gone paperless bills and invoices when possible—and I’m working on removing junk mail but so far have failed.
Use cloth menstrual pads and diva cup—If you count how many tampons and menstrual pads you use in one lifetime and know they all go straight to the landfill, you will see this makes sense.
We have found that going green also helps us save money, which we can use for something more fun. This year we’re starting off with a “stop buying month”: we won’t buy anything besides, gas, subway passes and food. Our plan is to go on a family vacation, and this way we’ll save up money for it.
Of course, I said earlier, we have plans to do more this year. So, we’re planning not to buy anything new, to make our own nut butters and butter, to reduce the use of “fake” vegan meat in our diet and to use our car very little or not at all.
Please share your best less waste tip!