Living clean and green – 12 ways I succeed; 10 ways I don’t
One of my lasting memories of growing up is rushing home from school on a Friday, running into the kitchen, throwing open the cupboard and hearing that satisfying ‘pffssst..’ as I opened a bottle of ‘Friday Fizz’. No, my sister and I were not under-age Champagne connoisseurs. It was just the first time of every week that we were allowed to have fizzy pop / aka soda.
Monday to Friday evening my sister and I had healthy meals, fruit or yoghurt for dessert; water, milk or very weak squash to drink and no ‘treats’. The weekend was more lax, but mainly in the drink and ice-cream department. The vast majority of what we ate was still nutritious and home-cooked.
And as I’ve said in a previous blog, (3 simple steps to a greener bottom) one of my favourite childhood activities was taking the boxes of glass bottles to the bottle bank with my mum, throwing them in and hearing them smash – brilliant! I’ve always been concerned about the environment and am constantly trying to do my bit.
Now in the fourth year of drought in California, the local water company has issued mandatory restrictions on and reduction of our water use. This, alongside April’s World Earth Day, has made me take stock and assess just how healthy our lifestyle is: for me, for my family and for the planet. Are we living clean and green?
Living clean and green: Where we succeed
- I eat breakfast every morning, as do my girls
- Almost all our food is non-processed
- The food we buy is organic, unless it’s on the ‘Clean Fifteen’, and as humanely raised as possible.
- We (go through phases where we) walk the 1.1 miles to school – and sometimes back
- Hubby & I exercise at least once or twice a week, if not every evening some weeks
- We watch our sugar intake, especially refined sugars, finding low sugar / no sugar alternatives. This has been a particularly fun challenge for me when it comes to creating healthier treats for the girls.
- We refuse, reduce, re-use and recycle wherever we can
- I collect ‘grey’ water from hand-washing and dish rinsing in a washing up bowl to water the plants
- Our cleaning, laundry and bathroom products are as organic and eco-friendly as I can find
- I save energy wherever I can: turning off lights, eco-light bulbs, hanging clothes outside to dry, putting lids on pans, turning the thermostat up/down in summer/winter, keeping doors shut (keeping the hot/cold out/in whichever we want at the time)
- Any ‘plastic’ bags I need to buy, I try to make sure they are actually biodegradeable, compostable alternatives
- Any tissue or paper product in our house is of the recycle variety (sorry bottoms and noses) and often unbleached
Living clean and green: Could do better
- Whilst always sugar-free, my breakfast is still too heavily reliant on cereal
- We go through phases of the girls’ lunches being too sandwich based for too long
- Fish-fingers, baked beans, pizza and ravioli are cupboard-staples for my lazy / busy days
- We could make our walk to school the norm – needs better planning and time management. Alternatively, when 5YO starts first grade next year, now she can cycle without stablisers, I’m thinking that cycling will be our regular transportation
- Evening exercising hasn’t yet become a habit we can’t quit – some days I’m just so shattered from being on my feet all day. But we are getting there….. it’s slowly becoming the norm
- I haven’t stopped craving sugar – jelly sweets and gummies are my Achilles’ heel. I try to resist as much as possible, and when I need to give in, eat a square (or several of high cocoa chocolate – the higher the better: 85-90%)
- Though both cars are stocked with enough reusable bags to last us a whole lifetime and more, I do sometimes forget to take the 1,001 bags into the shop! I’ve decided that paying for a paper bag, which is reusable and compostable, and likely to be recycled is the best alternative
- We have two cars. This pains me a lot. Having lived in and around London most of my life and having a father who worked for the railways for 30+ years, I’m a public transport or walking kind of a gal. It’s in my blood. Sadly, now we’re out in California, it’s just not feasible – the nearest train station is 20 minutes drive away, and the buses are few and far between, and certainly don’t stop at the end of the road. Some friends’ houses are walkable, but without a bus or train to take you part of the way, it’s generally a fair old trek. This is why I need to get better at the school run next year.
- I could save more ‘run-off’/grey water. One friend has a watering can in her downstairs loo, so you can collect water while the tap is running hot. Genius. Must sort out something at our house – we need to make the most of every drop of water that comes out of our taps.
- When it comes to toothpastes, face creams and deodorants (well, anti-perspirants), I’m not yet an eco-organic convert. The likely toxic chemicals in the toothpaste, face cream and deodorants I have settled on after years of trying various products eco-organic and non, do seem to work the best. I will keep looking, but for now I get a D- on this elective.
Overall, I don’t think we do too badly. At times it feels so over-whelming to keep trying to do the right thing and make the right choice, at every turn. And I know I am far from perfect.
But every little helps right? I want to be the healthiest version of me I can be. I want my kids to be fully nourished and their delicate little bodies to have to handle as little ‘excess’ as possible – sugars, e-numbers, pesticides. And I want the our world to be as clean and as garbage (mainly plastic and toxic chemicals) free as possible, so future generations don’t have to clean up our mess.
So I will keep doing what I am doing, and work on my ‘areas for development’ and see if I can edge closer to an ‘A’ grade!