Ever since the president (ugh) decided that global warming isn’t an issue and that we all shouldn’t care about how our planet is heading for an imminent demise I have seen an influx of articles and questions online about what we can do as individuals to help avert ecological disasters. Obviously, as the country is not going to do anything to help, we all need to band together and do our best as individuals to do something. We can’t stop mass industrialization or the burning of fossil fuels worldwide, but we can help reduce the need for them, and pollution at the same time. The main argument that I have seen thrown around is “stop reproducing”, but I’m too late for that one. And I also think that not having kids and then doing nothing else doesn’t make you master ecologist anyway. For a long time I have tried to work towards being greener, and now as a family we do work hard at it. Hopefully our children will grow up just doing all of these things naturally. Living in NYC made it a bit easier, but ever since we have been living in California we have made an even more conscious effort to live a more sustainable life.
So I have come up with a list of things that we do and we don’t do and am totally open to suggestions on how we can improve our lifestyle even more!
Vegetarian family: we are all vegetarian except for Cesar, but as I don’t cook meat at home and we rarely buy it for him (a roasted chicken now and again), he usually just eats meat at work (mainly chicken, red meat maybe once a week at the most). As I have been a vegetarian for over 20 years, and because I can’t stand meat or fish anyway, I usually don’t even bother using meat replacements. Unless I want to make something that will fulfill all tastes, like a shepherd’s pie or picadillo tacos, or chicken style nuggets and fries (but I don’t like anything that actually tastes meaty). I do get some people questioning our raising the girls vegetarian, but if they want to eat meat later, they can. I’m just not cooking or buying it. I have thought about going vegan, but instead am going to move towards buying milk, eggs and cheese from local farms rather than mass produced products. It’s hard to do that on a budget though.
No car: we don’t own a car, and we don’t plan on owning one just yet. Living in NYC this was EASY, as we just relied on public transport and our feet, and we could easily do our weekly grocery shop with a cart. Here in California we DO rely on my mother and her truck, as well as Uber every so often. We tend to all do our weekly or bi-weekly grocery shop together and try to combine trips together so that we can coordinate everything. Cesar goes to work on his bike and the Light Rail. This does up his commute time by about 40 minutes, but it’s also much more economical and ecological. I just wish the public transport systems on the west coast were as good as those on the east coast… We are hoping to move downtown very soon, so this will eliminate any further need for a car for a while. This does mean that we don’t go out on road trips or to the ocean much, which I miss.
Thrifting: 98% of all of our clothes and furniture nowadays come from thrift stores. It allows us to dress the girls in all kinds of clothes without breaking the bank, and it means that we are constantly recycling clothes, furniture and household stuff. Cesar is great at “fixing” things and recreating one thing out of another, so we have accumulated some really cool and original things over the past few years. I’ve also managed to have enough clothes for the new baby’s first year for less than $50 which is wonderful!
AC and heating: AC doesn’t come on until absolutely necessary, same with the heating. The thrift store is a great place for extra sweaters and thermals, and it’s never THAT cold here (although the heat can get unbearable, especially when you are a million years pregnant).
Breastfeeding: my children are all boob monsters (and I’m assuming that the last one will be too), and they never took a bottle or a pacifier, which I sometimes regretted when I really needed a break, but is really a blessing in disguise. No extra cleaning, no breast pads as I am very lucky and do not leak, no need to buy cans of formula either. This isn’t something everyone can do though, but it helps us keep costs and waste down.
Reusable bottles: we drink a lot of water in this house, and we all have our own reusable water bottles (kids included), that get washed/rinsed and reused every day. I can’t even stand to think how many one-use plastic water bottles get trashed every single day in this country… We are lucky to have tap water that is for the most part drinkable (or at least filters that we can use), so why not make the most of it?
Food shopping: I try to be as efficient as possible and not waste food. We have lived on a budget for a long time, and it makes me so sad to see all the food wasted in this country, and just dumped in the garbage. It’s a work in progress though, I would love to eliminate palm oil completely from our life, as well as as much packaging as possible. Bags have to be purchased from grocery stores here in California, so we use reusable ones.
Fast food: barely ever a recourse for us. We may order Thai for delivery once in a blue moon, but fast food in general is something we don’t really do. It’s not like any of them make a proper veggie burger anyway, so there isn’t much we can eat. And if Cesar is going to have a burger he would much rather have a proper one.
Water: we HAVE to conserve water as much as possible because of the drought, and even though California has had a lot of rain this season, it’s still important to be careful. Short showers, shared baths, no watering the yard and all that.
Recycling in general: we recycle as much as we can (although I am sure we could do better). I do love my books, but nowadays I only purchase the ones that I really want to own, and borrow the others, and I do use quite a bit of paper with my writing and work, so I try to at least buy recycled paper from a sustainable source.
On the other hand there are areas where I failed really badly and I regret it! Such as cloth diapering, which I wish I had invested in before I had Luna. It would have been a hassle as we didn’t have laundry in our apartment building at the time, but the amount of waste that comes with disposable diapers is insane. Same with baby wipes, they may be convenient, but even the ones that are considered “green” aren’t really. Same with feminine hygiene products too. Granted that hasn’t been much of an issue for the past 4 years, but it will be at some point, so I should start thinking of alternative options. I would like to not count on Amazon deliveries as much as I do (although I do try to group everything together as much as I can into bi-weekly deliveries), but sometimes it’s hard to get to the store with no car, two toddlers and a partner who works long hours. Again, in NYC that wasn’t an issue, but here it is as not everything can be walked to. I would love to buy all of our milk, cheese and eggs from local farms, and while I do get some from the farmers market now and again I need to make it a more regular practice. To be honest, it’s hard to do that when you have a limited food budget. I’m honestly not ready to go vegan, and while I have cut my cheese consumption in half, and really don’t drink that much milk at all, we still do. I really should also stop drying clothes in the dryer and use a washing line too… And I could say that we don’t travel much, but to be honest that’s more of a monetary and time off work issue rather than an ecological must!
What I would really, really love is to live on the coast of Mexico in a sustainable home that Cesar and I would build ourselves and mainly live off our own land in terms of vegetables, milk, cheese and eggs. Day by day we are getting a little closer to this dream! And in the meantime I would love learn from others on how to be more sustainable when on a major budget. And yes, we have finished reproducing after this one!