Taking Stock Part 2: Green/Sustainable

There’s a reason the title of this blog starts with “documenting the journey”. I’m nowhere near an expert on any of the things listed there. I decided to take a tally of where I am now, beginning this process, so later I can look back and see where I’ve come from. I warn you, the details are gruesome!

Here in part 1, I’ll talk about sustainability/being “green”. Where I am now, and where I want to be. This is a long one, there’s lots of facets to being sustainable.

Where am I?


We are the only people on our block who recycle, and one of the very few in our neighborhood. Which really doesn’t say so much about me as it does how badly our local recycling program dispenses information and supplies, especially to immigrant populations. If I put the recycling out the night before, people steal the cans from my recycling in order to drive them to Pennsylvania where they can get cash for them. Our local recycling also has an extremely outdated information webpage that doesn’t even mention recycling codes, just shows some different bottle types. And expressly forbids the recycling of things like aluminum foil, which seems patently ridiculous. Basically according to their information anything that’s not in their categories is going to get thrown out. I need to get another container to start separating out #5 recyclables so I can bring them to our local Whole Foods and recycle them, but for now they’re sadly going in the trash. I just can’t have another pile of stuff in my kitchen. In the meantime I’m trying hard to not buy things that are made of plastic anyway, so I don’t need to worry about recycling.

Plastic Bags

I have a nice pile of reusable bags for going to the store, but I still often forget them. I do my best to not use bags when that happens, to teach me not to do it again. Hasn’t worked yet, I still forget them. I also try to refuse bags when clerks try to automatically put my items in one. Sometimes I’m distracted and I just don’t notice until I’ve left the store that they gave me one, but I’m getting better.

Fuel Consumption

I traded in my Saturn sedan and bought a Toyota Yaris 3-door manual last year. It gets 36 miles to the gallon on average, blended city and highway. I wanted a car that: A) got over 30MPG. B) was within my < $25K price range. C) was the smallest car I felt would meet my daily needs. I think everyone should do that, not just buy the big SUV because the dealers are trying to give you a “great deal”. The deal’s only great because the gas prices will suffocate you. D) had a hatchback so I could get my dog in and out and drive with her more safely. Sedans are NOT good for dogs. And E) hopefully would last a while. Sure, I would have loved a hybrid, but I didn’t find one that could meet my requirements. I’m happy with the 36MPG, it’s much better than the 26 of my previous car.

Our house is 133 years old. It’s a drafty old thing with very bad aluminum front windows, a hollow front door, and no insulation anywhere, though it’s brick which is a good thing. I think currently the only insulated room is the bathroom that we just redid 2 years ago, and the insulation there is under par because there simply wasn’t enough room to put in the heavy layer it’s supposed to get and still fit the bathtub. Thus our winter fuel bill can be very high. However, our heat is usually turned down to 63 during the days we’re not home. That’s about as low as I think our dog can handle without being too cold. Greyhounds have no insulation themselves.


I worked on our garden this year, and did my best to “go organic”. Which to my mind at the time was to buy bags of composted manure and organic fertilizer and “safer” products for bug/disease issues. Since then I’ve read an article on deep organic vs. shallow organic, and I’m going to try to do better next year. This year has been so dry and hot, and I’ve done so much watering in order to just keep the plants alive. Got a relatively good harvest though.

Changing the mindset of “Better Living Through Chemistry”

I’ve started making my own household cleaners, as a way to detoxify my house, reduce my household plastic intake, and just plain save money. I have the ingredients for laundry detergent downstairs. I still have LOTS of cleaners I’ve bought over the years left, some of which are more eco-friendly than others. Some I’ll use up (like basic spray cleaners.  Then I can reuse the spray bottles.), others I’ll give to those who are less discerning on what household products they use (like all my swiffer products, as I now boycott swiffer). I still use paper towels. However, since I usually use reusable cloths for most everything, I’m projecting that the one twelve pack of bounty select-a-size I just bought will last me at least a year.

I stopped buying plastic soda bottles 2 years ago, and now I’ve stopped buying cans of soda for the most part (if I can find some cane-sugar based soda occasionally I’ll buy a twack for my husband). Instead we use our Sodastream, which works great along with the Torani syrups we bought (that come in nice glass bottles). I love a blood orange soda with only half of the “normal” amount of syrup, or seltzer with orange juice and cranberry juice.

Where do I want to be?

• Deeper organic gardening with a compost pile and rain barrels.
• More emphasis on growing/canning/freezing my own food
• Reducing my household plastic intake to near zero
• Spending some money on making our house more energy efficient

I wonder an awful lot how far I want to take the sustainability/green goal.  I certainly could go all eco-guerilla about the whole thing, but I don’t think that’s where I want to be. I’m still a part of this society (unless I win the lottery and can buy that remote farm), I just want that society to adjust to more realistic, sustainable lifestyles and I want to show that it’s possible to do so.

Anything about my current state sound familiar in your life, things you also want to improve upon?

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