I received so many follow-up questions and comments on our recent eco-friendly stories (“Reusable Goods to Carry Daily” + “Reusable Bags” + “Cloth Diapering”) that I wanted to follow up with further details about the items we use in the cottage and on the go to help reduce waste and/or curb our dependency on plastic. This blog entry encompasses a bit of everything, from recycled toys to feminine care.
Some of our efforts to reduce our footprint have been more substantial commitments, such as cloth diapering, dietary changes, and getting rid of one car and replacing it with a cargo bike. Others have been simpler, like using stainless steel drinking and snack cups instead of their plastic counterparts. Either way, everything was worth evaluating and adjusting, as our Earth needs some love, and she needs it now.
Not too long ago, we had an old mattress hauled away from our house by an LADWP bulky items truck. When the driver arrived, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind also taking a collapsed but oversized and thick cardboard box that was proving to be a challenge for the recycling bin. The driver kindly told me that he would take the box, but that he strongly recommended I find a way to break it down myself since it wouldn’t end up in the recycling center if he hauled it away-- it would instead go to a landfill. It was sobering to hear him reveal just how bad the trash situation is here. I appreciated his advice and honestly. (Later, Adam and I quickly spritzed the box with the hose and then drove our little car over it a few times to soften it up enough for us to fold it further and cut it down for our recycling bin.)
The point is this— I think many of us make consumer and lifestyle decisions based on immediate convenience at the expense of the longterm ramifications. So, from our morning cup of coffee to West's diaper wipes, we’re sharing some of the efforts we've made to reduce the waste coming out of the Cottage. Hopefully this list will continue to evolve and expand.
I'll admit that West has a set of tiny plastic trucks he loves, as well as a few plastic tub squirt toys for his folding bath/water table. But otherwise, we've tried to stick with wooden, handmade, and/or recycled toys. Our two favorite sources are ETSY and GreenToys. You can find so many beautiful and wonderful handmade wooden items for kids of all ages on ETSY. And GreenToys makes their non-toxic plastic toys here in the USA out of 100% recycled milk jugs. (The two trucks in the image below are from GreenToys.)
This isn't the prettiest topic, but let's get right to it. Poop/litter scoop bags. (Ugh.) After doing some research on the topic, I discovered that many pet waste bags can print claims that they're eco-friendly, when perhaps they're not entirely. We tried using old newspaper and repurposing old packaging to clean up after our dogs, but it was just too messy. Now we use BioBag, which is derived from plant and vegetable based materials that make them 100% compostable and biodegradable. We opt for standard packaging rather than the rolls to avoid that little plastic tubing that comes in the center of the roll.
We've found healthy and ethically-produced dog food that our pups really enjoy, but the packaging is a concern for us. So we're still on the hunt! We might start prepping food fresh for the pups, depending on the economics. I'll report back soon...
About 2 years after moving into the Cottage, Adam and I decided to donate his SUV (via KCRW), and we now share our little 2009 Honda Fit for longer distance trips. If possible, we opt to ride the LA Metro-- particularly if we're visiting a museum, attending a rally, or going to a concert.
It's liberating to avoid the extra cost and responsibility of a second car. We simply use our cargo bike or other bikes for local errands and adventures-- it's better for our bodies, and far more enjoyable than sitting in a car in LA traffic.
DINING IN AND ON-THE-GO
I have a tiny bag that's packed with the reusable goods we carry daily-- from straws to produce bags to napkins to to-go containers-- view the roundup here. At various markets and shops, we've been able to offer our tupperware or stainless containers to fill in lieu of plastic packages. When items get dirty from use when we're out, we drop them into a leak-proof BPA-free bag and wash everything at home later.
We've also been reducing our dependency on plastics within the Cottage. West uses these beautiful handmade wooden plates by Timberchild, and stainless steel snack cups + drinking cups + sippy cups. Munchkin has some great hybrid designs, and Pura Stainless has fantastic, adaptable Earth-friendly items for all ages from infants to adults.
Instead of getting plastic plates, bowls or utensils for West, we have wood or metal versions of everything. They hold up just as well to being tossed around, and they're easy to care for.
As far as beverages are concerned, we go through a ton of carbonated water. Instead of buying bottles and cans, we use a Soda Stream here at home, which cuts back on cost and eliminates bottle waste. For coffee, we now have a mini Keurig with a reusable pod so there's zero waste (not even a basic filter) beyond the compostable coffee grounds.
As for West, he was exclusively breast-fed for the first 6 months, and then fed with breastmilk in tandem with his food for another year beyond that point. He now drinks water or milk from stainless steel containers, or paper cartons if we're in a pinch out the door. When we buy milk, we try to select paper cartons that have no plastic components.
We never use disposable cups, nor do we use disposable plates or napkins. We never use cling wrap, and opt instead for beeswax wrap.
Lastly, Adam and I recently adopted a pescatarian diet-- both for environmental reasons, and out of concern for animal cruetly.
CLOTHES / LINENS
We have a reusable/cloth diapering system, which we love. You can read about it here. While we do use baby wipes if needed, we also have reusable cloth wipes, which we use during every changing.
When possible, we skip the dryer (which we share with our neighbor) to save energy, and use a makeshift clothesline that runs between our cottage and a ficus tree. I have some work to do on this topic though. I do still use the dryer for linens that have notable amounts of dog hair on them, since the dryer is basically a magical pet hair remover. We use a Seventh Generation detergent that comes in compostable and recyclable brown packaging.
For West's few pieces of clothing, we try to use ETSY as much as possible. As for me, I use Rent the Runway for special occasions, and have started wearing lots of no-fuss linen, as well as clothes by Daniella Hunter, which are made of eco-fabrics that utilize sustainable plant-based threads like hemp, silk, organic cotton and lyocell. (Meanwhile, Adam basically never gets anything new ever. He's still wearing the shirts he wore when I met him, and I love him for it.)
When it comes to feminine products, menstrual cups are solid options, as there's zero waste beyond their initial packaging. If a cup doesn't work to your comfort, tampons without applicators are a mindful alternative. For example, Natracare organic tampons are naturally biodegradable and vegan.
I recently swapped out disposable cotton rounds for organic reusable/washable cotton cloths. These are available in a myriad of places, such as ETSY and Wild Minimalist. Similarly, we rarely use tissues-- even on West-- and use handkerchiefs instead. (If our skin needs a bit of softening or relief, we just apply coconut oil.)
Our razors are made from recycled plastic, but I'm not really wild about them. Our wood-handled ones fell apart years ago, so I think I'll try a Rockwell Safety model next. Hopefully that will be the last!
I have a separate cleaning post in the works, so I'll pause on this topic until that entry. But I've found that reusable glass bottles filled either with homemade all-purpose cleaner or cleansers from concentrate are not only eco-friendly but space-saving. We use towels and rags rather than paper towels for all forms of cleaning.
I'm sure I'm forgetting so many details, but I look forward to expanding upon all of these topics soon. (In the meantime, if you have any questions, please email us!)