Sunday, January 9, 2011

The “Must Haves?”

The other night we watched the movie No Impact Man,and what an impact it had on us. Even though we do so much towards self sufficiency, the movie made me realize we could still do more.

Sometimes I forget that it's not just about us as individuals, but people as a whole. Not only what we do effects us, but the world at large. We are just little guys, but together we can outsmart the big guys.

We are already aware of saving energy (our house is powered by the sun) etc, but after watching the movie I wondered what else we could change. When I think of ourselves as accomplishing milestones I realize they are only “footstones.” There is more to be done.

Today we went to the grocery store with plastic packaging in mind. The over use of plastic has been bothering us for many years – we don't use plastic containers, only glass (although they do have plastic covers) and we don't drink bottled water or sodas or use plastic wrap or baggies, however we still end up with a lot of plastic in our plastic trash bags.

Armed with good intentions, we hit the shelves. This was going to be a lot harder than we thought, now that we were paying more attention. A simple list- cheese, butter (we really do need to make our own), olive oil, pasta, walnuts, sweet potatoes, pretzels and dish soap. Out of that short list the only things not in plastic were the butter, olive oil and sweet potatoes. At least the dish soap bottle can be recycled, not that I think recycling is the answer. I think reducing is a better solution. But how to reduce, without becoming overly fanatical. Maybe that's the answer, to become overly fanatical. Sometimes that is the only way changes are made.

So now my family will have to put up with my constant “plastic complaining”.....the toothpaste comes in plastic (time to switch to baking soda enhanced with peppermint oil?), the toilet paper is wrapped in it, it's touching our food and heaven forbid I forget to take my reusable bag to the store.

We certainly don't have all the answers yet, but we are more aware of our usage and are trying to come up with alternatives one step at a time. The plastic may never be gone from this house, but it will be dramatically reduced.

Each of us can make changes that will impact the earth as a whole. I mentioned to someone a while back that we no longer buy paper towels, we use regular towels or rags. I said how it wasn't much, but made us feel better. He said to me, “But imagine if everyone did that.” Yeah, that would be huge. Sure, at first it was a bit inconvenient, but 3 years later I don't miss paper towels at all and even hate to use them at other peoples' houses; it feels so wasteful.

Since watching No Impact Man, I have been looking at a few things differently. Do I need to buy QTips? Will a towel dry my ears just as well? Cotton balls....don't need 'em. So many items have become a way of life that we don't even question them, just use them and throw them away, not even thinking about what happens when they leave the house. Out of site, out of mind, but not out of the earth.

With baby steps we can make some changes (and save some money) that will, as a whole, make a difference. We can turn the “footstones” to milestones with just a little creative thinking and rethinking. I now take the time to question our purchases and the impact they have, from the manufacturing to the the disposal and I am surprised at how many “necessities” really aren't that important any more.