Tag Archives: recycling

Knowing Your Foundational Habits

Not my actual sink or dishes. Because I've never taken a picture when they're bad...but you get the idea.
Not my actual sink or dishes. Because I’ve never taken a picture when they’re bad…but you get the idea.

I feel like my apartment’s neatness comes and goes in waves. Right now, I’m on the upward swing towards neatness.

I have found that there are a few things that I can do to increase the likelihood that my apartment will be clean.

I call these my foundational habits for tidiness.

I think that we all have foundational habits, though they likely vary from person to person. Foundational habits are the things, when done, that drive us to take an extra few seconds and walk something back to it’s proper resting place or to throw something away rather than piling it on the table.

These are my foundational habits:

1. Emptying the dishwasher of clean dishes. If I don’t remove the clean dishes from the dishwasher, then I have to pile dirty dishes in the sink. When the sink gets full, I have to pile them on the counter or table. Any new dirty dishes don’t get rinsed, as the sink is full, so they require more work before they even make it into the dishwasher.

When I see the dishes piled on every kitchen surface, I’m also less likely to put away groceries or anything else that might have found its way to my dining room table. Finally, when I see my table piled high, I’m less likely to allow books and papers to pile at my “spot” in the living room.

2. Taking out the recycling. I don’t struggle with taking out the trash: it gets smelly before it gets full. But the recycling is another thing. My kitchen recycling bin can fill with recyclables in less than a week. Additional recyclables then are piled on the recycling can, table, chairs or on the floor. This adds to the clutter from above and makes me not want to do anything about straightening up.

3. Putting away clean laundry. I grew up in a house where laundry was done in an orderly fashion. It was collected regularly, sorted in the laundry room, promptly done, then folded/hung immediately out of the dryer and stacked in piles for each person in our house.

When I first started doing my own laundry in college, I was equally orderly in my laundry. But somehow in the last few years, I got in the habit of piling my laundry instead of folding it. This got worse when I hung it to dry instead of using the dryer: now it tends to hang on the line in my bedroom until I wear it or I have more laundry to hang two weeks later.

If my laundry is hanging in my bedroom, what drive to have to put away anything else in there?

These are the three habits I’ve found to be foundational, so they are the things I work on first when I tidy up (ideally 10 minutes a day). What habits are foundational for you? Are there any changes you can make to make these less of a bottleneck?

In a couple of weeks I’ll share one way I’ve learn to make laundry less of a hindrance to tidiness.

Trying Terracycle

If you are the parent of a young child, chances are good you have encountered baby food pouches at some point.  This handy pouches  are also great for the busy adult who wants a quick bite to eat on-the-go.

But they aren’t so great for the environment.

There are ways around the environmental impact, of course; there are devices that let you whip up some homemade food and put it in reusable pouches, and while more economical (certain pouch brands can get a bit pricey), for various reasons, this may not be the most practical or feasible for your situation.

It seems like Terracycle was made for just a time as this.

I finally took the time to find out what this little green label is all about!
I finally took the time to find out what this little green label is all about!

While I have not had an opportunity to take part in the Terracycle program fully yet–I am still “collecting waste” (pouches my son consumes)–this seems like a win-win for all involved.  After signing up for a “Brigade” (or several, if you wish–because they don’t just collect pouches!), you collect the items you intend to send in to Terracycle; ultimately, these items will be upcyled into any number of awesome products.

When ready to send in, you print off a shipping label (most Brigades have free shipping, but there is a cost for some), drop it off, and within a few days, points are awarded to your Terracycle account, which can in turn be donated to various charities and nonprofits.  Sounds pretty easy, right?  Anything to reduce the load on our planet, especially when it is relatively simple, seems like a good stewardship move to me!

Have you done Terracycle before?  Any hints, tips, or tricks you would recommend to this Terracycle newbie?

It’s Earth Day!

It may be flat--but the prairie found in my state still deserves some attention on Earth Day!
It may be flat, but the beautiful prairie found in my state still deserves some attention on Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day!

I don’t know about you, but despite seeing this holiday on my calendar year after year, I didn’t know much about it.  In doing the research this blog post necessarily required, I learned a great deal–I urge you to check out an in-depth history of this “hippie holiday” here.

Several ways to honor the Earth Day holiday are mentioned at the aforementioned site, including installing solar panels, or organizing a community event–neither of which is in my realm of possibility at the moment.

So what’s this Striving Stewardess going to do to celebrate?

First, I will probably take out the recycling, like I do every Wednesday.  Since the kids like to help, I will likely take the opportunity to impart a bit of environmentalist education–they are, after all, the future of earth care.  Weather permitting, I want us to spend as much time as possible outside, appreciating and learning about the earth we have been entrusted with.  (Bean has recently discovered earthworms, so observing them will likely feature in the festivities!).

If so moved, I may even send off a letter to a political representative, urging more environmental action.

Some food for thought, taken from earthday.org, as you prepare to roll up your own sleeves for Earth Day 2015:

Do something nice for the Earth, have fun, meet new people, and make a difference. But you needn’t wait for April 22! Earth Day is Every Day. To build a better future, we all must commit to protect our environment year-round.

File that under “Truer Words Were Never Spoken”!

How Businesses Can Promote Green Practices

I have had the pleasure to work for several companies of various sizes and industries. Lately I’ve been thinking about the things these companies did (or didn’t do) that can encourage their employees to behave in ways that are better for the environment that affects all of us.

If we’re going to overhaul our squandering habits, businesses must play a big part of the process. After all, if I as an individual choose to decrease the amount of waste I produce or energy I use, that can make an important, but small difference. But if a business makes the same decision, that’s a bigger difference.

But even more, a business can influence their employees and customers to also practice better habits, multiplying their efforts.

Here are a few ways that any business can promote green business (and personal) practices:

recycling binMake recycling something easier than throwing something away. I must admit that in my judgmentalism, I cringe every time I see a co-worker throw something in their desk trashcan that can be recycled.

I don’t blame them: we have a trashcan at every desk, but I’m only aware of 2 recycle bins on the entire floor, one of which has a can-shaped hole in the lid, so it appears to the casual observer to be only for aluminum (though a small sign nearby indicates it is mult-stream).

One office I worked in converted the desk trashcans to recycle cans, only putting cans designated for trash disposal in break areas. Even my co-worker who saw no point in recycling couldn’t help but do it, because he wasn’t going to go out of his way to stick to his anti-recycling ways.

Promote a paperless office, starting from the top. If you don’t want lower-level employees printing out unnecessary things (PowerPoint slides for every meeting participant is my personal pet peeve) don’t do it yourself. I think sometimes people print things because others do, and they assume it’s required.

Not only are printed notes wasteful, they’re less useful because they’re not searchable.

Incentivize employees to use public transportation or carpool. I was struck on my way home one  day recently at how almost every vehicle I saw had only one occupant, no matter its size. I and my other solo travelers were queued up to wait for the signal to get on the highway, while the HOV lane remained almost clear.

Obviously, I was part of the problem at that moment, though I do prefer public transportation when I can. But what if employers gave out free bus passes to employees that would agree not to drive? Or free gas cards or prime parking spaces for those who would volunteer to carpool? After all, as I read in Jeff Speck’s Walkable City, employers spend thousands on providing “free” parking for each employee.

There are of course many other things that businesses could, and I do believe should do encourage environmental-friendly actions. What have you seen businesses do (or not do) that facilities greener behavior?

Photo by Daniel Tuttle

The First Two Rs

reduce_reuse_recycleI remember as a child in the 90s hearing of the slogan “Reduce Reuse Recycle,” but I never really knew what the first two Rs meant. I just assumed that all three were synonyms of recycling, because that’s all I ever remember anyone talking about.

Even when I started to realize my responsibility towards the world, I primarily focused on recycling. Recycling was something I understood and was comfortable with.

Recycling is a good thing when compared to littering or landfilling. But instead of expending energy in this manner, what if we focused on reducing and reusing instead?

In the last few years, I have gone beyond just recycling and have focused on reducing and reusing. But when I started to do so, I didn’t immediately recognize it was something that I had been encouraged to do since I was young. It wasn’t until the last year when I started to focus on the first R, reduce, that I recognized that there was purpose to the order of the three Rs.

Reducing my consumption should be my first priority. The less I buy and bring into my home, the better. If I don’t buy it, it doesn’t have to be manufactured in a polluting factory and transported by a polluting truck. It’s packaging doesn’t end up in a landfill. If I don’t buy it, I have that money to use for other things like paying off debt, saving and giving. If I don’t buy it, it doesn’t become clutter in my small apartment.

Despite what politics and polls tell us, I refuse to mindless agree to the concept that increased consumption is what is best for our country (let alone our world). Can we be big, bad America without an over-sized economy? Maybe not. And I’m okay with that.

I still have a long ways to go towards reducing my consumption. I find packaging-heavy, nutritionally-light fast food too tempting at times. I would rather buy new clothes than have to weed through items at a thrift shop. I like my comforts.

Next month I’ll be doing a “Buy Little” month to grow myself in this area.

While I should reduce my consumption first, my next task should be to reuse items I am done with whenever possible. I still have work to do in this area as well. Donating items I no longer want is pretty easy, but I want to work at finding new purposes for items that I’d otherwise donate or dispose of. Hopefully this is something that we can brainstorm together as we find new purposes for old items.

What ways have you found to reduce or reuse?

Ronnica’s Story: The College Years

Last week I shared about how my growing up years helped shape my views on the environment and personal finances. Today, I’ll talk about my school years, post-high school graduation.

I went to college at the University of Oklahoma. Those were some of my favorite years, and as they are for many people, they were the years that most helped me define who I am as an adult.

Ronnica_college_blondeMy interest in environmental issues waned while I was at OU. Living in the dorms, I still wasn’t paying (directly) for my own electricity or water, so there was no drive to conserve. I even stopped recycling, finding it too inconvenient (the recycle bin was in the same place as the trash shoot…I’m not sure how that made it inconvenient).

Though I hate that this was the case, the fact that I was getting serious about my faith also kept me (at that time) from focusing on environmental concerns. If you had asked me, I may have told you that there were more important things than caring for creation. More likely, though, I would have given you a funny look. Liberals were obsessed with the environment, and I was certainly not one of those.

The bigger problem was that environmental concerns (whatever you may have called it) were simply not discussed in my evangelical college ministry or in my church. The same was true when I graduated and moved to seminary in North Carolina.

It wasn’t until after I graduated from seminary that my eyes were opened. Reading Jonathan Merritt’s Green Like God was probably the biggest influence in moving me back in the right direction. Here was someone who had the same seminary education as I had, yet he had found a better way.

Suddenly I realized what now seems obvious: of course God cares about how we use and care for his creation.

I wish I could say my actions changed right away, but they didn’t. I did start to recycle my Diet Dr Pepper cans (though this time, it was decidedly inconvenient, as I had to haul them to the dump 20 minutes away). I tried (and failed) to eat less fast food.

I begun a journey to consume less (though I still have a long way to go). I tried to drive less–not just to save money, but to burn less gas.

My financial habits needed another catalyst before they started to get in better shape, which I’ll share about next week.

Ronnica’s Story: The Childhood Years

kansasylWhen I review my story, in some ways it seems inevitable that I’d end up where I am, but in other ways I’m surprised.

Like Amanda, I grew up in Kansas in the 80s and 90s, which isn’t exactly a hotbed for environmental activism. Why would it be: land is cheap, any air pollution is blown away by the wind and there’s no deforestation in a land already rather devoid of trees. Of course, gas prices staying steady at “cheap” for the first 18 years of my life didn’t help, either.

That said, I was thankful to grow up in a family that recycled. It was harder then, as we had to pre-sort our recyclables, bag them up and haul them to the local grocery store. I also remember being encouraged to read about environmental issues (even then, I read about everything).

As for personal finance, I was born a spender. I’ll never forget when my brother (Amanda’s husband) and I were given our first allowance, $1 each. I was 5 or 6, but I couldn’t wait to spend my dollar.

Going to the store, I searched for a toy that I could buy with all the money I had in the world. Finally I found it: a orange juice baby doll bottle that was priced just low enough (turns out, erroneously) that I could afford the sticker price and tax.

I don’t even think I wanted the doll bottle, but it’s what I could get, and I just had to spend money. My brother, on the other hand, decided to save his dollar so he could buy a more expensive toy that he actually wanted later on.

My spend-it-as-I-get it attitude continued through high school. I wish I could have back all the money I spent on vending machine Dr Pepper during those years. My expenses were so low and I made enough money at various odd jobs, that I could have saved a couple hundred dollars a year. I’m thankful that while I did not pile up any savings, neither did I rack up credit card debt.

When I got my first credit card at 16 (necessary, if I was to buy my own airplane tickets), my mom sat me down and impressed the importance of using it wisely. I’m thankful for that lesson.

Next week, I’ll share about how my views changed in fits and starts during my college years.