Average [Environmental] Joe

Guest Post by Kaitlin Klopfenstein

“How wonderful it is that no one has to wait, but can start right now to gradually change the world.” -Anne Frank

Blog post over.

 

Kidding. But really, throw out an Anne Frank quote and she says it all. And who’s more inspiring than Anne Frank? I won’t elaborate on her point because she’s already made it clearly and concisely. But I will disclose how I’ve acted on her words by lowering my environmental footprint.

[Please note: These are merely my quick and easy initial steps to reducing my impact. I applaud those who are near zero waste. I am far from it, but I believe there’s value in any lower impact step you take.]

Here’s my Starter 7 “Average Joe Approved” Lower Impact Steps:

  1. BYOB or in this case, BYOC :  “Bring Your Own Container”
  • Bring your own travel mug to a coffee shop – Some places even discount for this.
  • Bring your own to-go box to a restaurant – I almost always need a box and given that styrofoam isn’t airtight or microwavable, why not put your food straight in a container so it’s ready to go for later?
  • Bring your own water bottle wherever you go.
  • Bring your own reusable shopping bags or boxes. These aren’t just for the grocery store either. Take them wherever you shop! Some stores give bag discounts too.
  1. Secondhand Savings: Save the planet and your wallet.

Every item you get secondhand is one less item that has to be made, packaged, and shipped to replace a new item bought off the shelf. Stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army are actually some of my favorite stores because you never know what treasures you’ll find at unbeatable prices. When I buy clothing secondhand I end up with brand names I’d never fork out the cash to buy new. Funny how shopping secondhand results in a better wardrobe!

  1. Recycle

Some places will pick up your recycling just like your trash. Where we live is not that recycle savvy. Instead, my husband and I have a few cardboard boxes in our garage for aluminum, glass, corrugated cardboard, plastic #1 & #2. (Look on the bottom of plastics if you have to sort these like we do. Your boxes will vary depending on what your area recycles.) When our boxes are full we drive them to a recycle center, and dump our already sorted boxes into their respective bins. Consequently, we don’t have to haul our garbage to the curb as often and we give disposables a second life.

  1. Power Up with Wind Energy!

We recently received a notice from The Sierra Club  informing us we were eligible to have half of the power we use replenished by wind energy for no extra charge. For $9 extra/month we can have our energy fully replenished with wind energy. If small town Wyoming offers this option, chances are wherever you live does too. Google “Arcadia Power.”

  1. Kick the Keurig to the Curb (or Use Reusable K-Cups)

My husband and I switched from a Keurig to a regular coffee pot (with a reusable mesh filter) to reduce waste and quite frankly, drink better coffee. If you love the convenience of your Keurig, go with reusable K-Cups. This is also WAY cheaper.

  1. ½ Water + ½ White Vinegar = All Purpose Cleaner

Combine in a spray bottle with a few drops of essential oil for added scent. It’s non-toxic, cheap, easy, saves going through bottles of cleaner, and doesn’t produce hazardous chemical waste. And of course, don’t forget to recycle the vinegar bottle.

  1. Go Amish and Make Your Own Soap! … I’m kidding. This is the “Average Joe List.”

Making soap is great… for other people. For me, I’ve reduced my footprint by getting bar soap instead of body wash in plastic containers. You can get bar soap without any packaging or with minimal packaging. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and start thinking,But what about my shampoo, my conditioner, my laundry soap, dish soap, (insert every other soap here)?! Take it easy! This is lower impact. Start with the simple steps, and go from there. Maybe someday you’ll find ways to get all your soap package free, but know that it’s not all or nothing. Think of the things you can do, not the things you can’t.

Whatever you do makes a difference. A small difference is still a difference. While it’s easy to question the impact of one person making a few small changes, my husband once pointed out, “It’s everybody thinking one person doesn’t make an impact, that causes and continues the problem.” So wherever you are, just do something.  Something makes a difference.

 

Beauty in Making Your Own Butter

Slow down and enjoy yourself a little more, don’t be so serious. Life is not a race.
— Christiane Lemieux
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What’s the hurry? Where are you headed so fast?
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Do you remember that as a kid the days seemed so long? Car trips felt longer, play dates in the backyard felt longer, an afternoon walking around town with your friend felt longer. Then as we get older, time feels like it just keeps getting faster and faster. But is the time really going faster or do we just use the time differently? Learning to slow down again makes life more meaningful.
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When was the last time you really looked at someone? Every once in a while it dawns on me that I haven’t really LOOKED at my daughter in a while. Or really listened. Often times our brains are moving a million miles an hour, thinking about something else, or we are staring at our phone just pretending to listen. My mom catches me all the time by asking, “What did I just say?” …. Uhhhhhh, I don’t know.
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No wonder time slips away.
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Get off the dang tech and do something tangible. Make something. Learn how to do something. Create something. Of course you can create amazing things on the computer, but it’s not quite the same. When I am on the computer time just slips away. When I finally look up it’s almost as if I am completely unaware that I am in the room. Hours have passed without my permission. We want life to feel long. Not the – staring at the clock waiting to get off of work – kind of long. But going outside, spending hours with friends with no deadline, making noodles by hand, walking around your town exploring new areas, kind of long. A good friend of mine recently took a long walk from her house to a friend’s to pick up some yogurt her friend had made. She said she felt like she had stepped back in time and slowed down a bit. I love this! It is so much more meaningful and interesting than going to Safeway to pick up Yoplait.
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Slowing down makes life so much more enjoyable. Slow doesn’t mean boring. Invite friends over for a long afternoon. Stay at the party longer, socialize and laugh!
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One way to slow down is to learn to do things by hand. Learn some carpentry skills without using electrical tools! Make your own bread and knead it by hand. I slow down when I make my own butter. Nowadays we aren’t required to make our own butter, can our own food, sew or knit our own clothes. We just buy it all. It is amazing to be able to buy anything we want, but buying EVERYTHING takes so much away. We don’t learn the skills, and we spend less time doing tangible, hands-on things. We don’t have to labor over bulking up our pantries for winter; but now we can do it out of enjoyment, instead of out of necessity. There is nothing quite like knowing you made you own butter, bread, noodles, coffee table, etc. Having the skills makes us feel competent and proud.
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Making butter is incredibly easy. All you need is room temperature heavy whipping cream (I get mine in a glass container, but if you can’t find that just recycle your carton) and a mason jar. If you decide to start making your own butter more often you can buy fancier butter making supplies. I am currently using a Chef’n Buttercup Butter Maker. Once the cream is room temp, all you need to do is shake the cream. Within less than a minute the cream will fluff up with air – you just made whipped cream! Your cream will feel like it isn’t shaking anymore, but just keep going. After a few minutes it will begin to slosh. The cream has now separated into butter and butter milk. Continue to shake until you have a large mass of butter. You can then strain off the buttermilk, put some very cold water in the jar, and shake and then strain the water off to rinse the butter. This will make the butter last longer. Continue rinsing with cold water until the water runs clear. And you have it, BUTTER!
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Last week I picked up a loaf of bread from the local bakery and enjoyed it with homemade butter. It doesn’t get any better than that.
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Slow down a little. Really, what’s the hurry?
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“You’ll add more days to your life when you add more life to your days.”
– Frank Wiederrecht (papa ol’ pal)

Starting Over – Letting Go of the Shame

Everyone is doing the best they can with what they know, and we are all here to learn and grow.
— Alaric Hutchinson, Living Peace
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A couple of years ago I was feeling very passionate about helping the planet. Diving straight in, I attempted to produce as little trash as possible. I would regularly drive with my mom up to Fort Collins, CO to hit up stores so that I could get certain unpackaged products. I even attempted to get cheese and meat put into jars. Didn’t happen.
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I had become friends with a woman at a cheese counter and had told her about my aspirations on living Zero Waste, which is basically to refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle or rot anything you can to avoid throwing it away. By now I had purchased a few items like mason jars, cloth bags, reusable cotton rounds to remove makeup, some hankies, a bamboo toothbrush. I had also scouted out some bulk bins. I had seen founders of the Zero Waste movement fitting several years’ worth of trash in a single jar! I figured, if they can do it, I can do it; but I missed that they had to go through the same process that any newbie has to go through. It takes time to learn, to find resources, to acquire a few necessary tools, and to start a few new habits.
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I had attempted to change everything at once. In the end, this made me resent such a radical life-change. A radical change leaves no time to adjust to new habits. So I gave up and went straight back to what I had always done and hardly tried for 2 years!!! Sheesh. Talk about all or nothing! I felt an immense amount of guilt and shame. I had announced to people my intentions and now I had given up. I’ve felt so guilty that I avoid the cheese lady like the plague when I go to that particular store. I’ve purposefully avoided the cheese counter, and when I see the her throughout the store, I’ve even dodged between isles, hoping she didn’t see me! Don’t get me wrong, she has always been super sweet and kind, but this experience has taught me what deep shame can do to a person.
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You will never find shame or blame on this blog, only encouragement to do what you can. If you already know how to recycle and just haven’t gotten around to it, start there. If all you do for now is refuse a straw at a restaurant, great!
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“Everyone is doing the best they can with what they know, and we are all here to learn and grow.”
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Note to self:
  • It’s ok to go slowly. Be kind to yourself. Anything you do is awesome. Be DANG PROUD of any little thing you do! This experience has been the inspiration for my blog, to show others the little steps it takes to create less waste. Living sustainably can to be sustainable for you. It is entirely possible for almost everyone in the world to significantly lower their footprint, but it takes a little time.
  • Let go of the shame and go talk to the cheese lady.

Small Stones

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
-Confucius
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    This time of year inspires varied reactions. Some people feel inspired to, once again, take a shot at changing their life. Others may feel that it is a hopeless pursuit. Still others could care less about resolving something new. This may stem from the fact that many people think they need to do something grandiose or radical.
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    Personally, I never give up the opportunity to write a new goal – especially during a time of new beginnings. New seasons, new years, birthdays are all ideal times to recreate ourselves. Having new projects or habits keeps us excited about life! It keeps us in wonder mode. It’s fascinating to think, what would happen if I actually stuck to something new? How would my life be different?
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    Almost two years ago I was fed up! I had been struggling to do my dishes. I was in the habit of leaving my dishes on the counter for days until I had no dishes left. I was miserable and my house looked like a pothole. I had finally had enough and decided that I was NOT going to have this problem the rest of my life! So I decided to create a note page on my computer to begin tracking my daily dish routine. A month later, my mom decided to do the same. My first goal was to hit 67 days – no misses! – because I had read that it actually takes 67 days to create a new habit. The day I started was exactly 679 days ago and I haven’t missed a single day. Every dish is washed before I hit the sack. I don’t ever give myself the luxury of a day off. (Habits are powerful, but fragile.) Such a simple change has dramatically changed my life. On the nights when doing the dishes feels impossible, it’s become a joke between my mom and I to say, “its ok, we’re building character.”
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    One lesson I’ve learned from experimenting with habits (and reading lots of books) is to make habit goals – not ending goals. For example, instead of making a goal to lose 20 pounds this year, make a habit of exercising for 10 minutes every morning. Unfortunately, you are not in control of whether your body will let go of the fat or not. What you are in control of is your choices. Choosing to create a new habit that works toward your goal, makes you less likely to give up when you don’ t reach a certain milestone because you have instead made your focus to build a healthy habit.
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    A few keys I’ve found to changing a habit is to keep it simple, make it specifictrack it, and only work on ONE new habit at a time. It is honestly not crazy to work on just one new habit for 6 months or an entire year. Also, pick habits that are worth doing for the rest of your life. Don’t waste your time on temporary habits – make it for life!
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    My personal New Years resolution is to get up at 6:00 every day, which is just 30 minutes earlier than normal, to write about things I care about. At this time, my writing will be for Honey&Loam where I’ll be tracking my journey to simpler and more sustainable living; but at some point, it may be for a book or just for personal reflection. No pressure, everything I write doesn’t have to be life changing. Just write. I would encourage you to create a New Year’s resolution. What better time to make a change?
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What would your life look like in a year if you stuck to it? How might your life be different when you are 80 if you stuck to it?
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Aligning Our Values & Actions

What would my actions look like if I consciously chose them according to my values? Well, I can tell you, they would look way different than they are right now!
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Surprisingly, the things that I really care about, and that leave an emotional lump in my throat, seem to be the things that don’t come naturally to me. I have to really work at them.
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Some of them include:
  • A healthy planet.
  • Simplicity.
  • Kindness.
  • Health.
  • Family.
I’ve heard, and believe, that one of the best ways to create the life you really want is to think of your death bed. Depressing, I know. But honestly if you were to imagine yourself on your death bed, what do you honestly think you will regret? What are you going to regret if you don’t do it? Spending more time with family? Leaving a massive pile of trash in the world? Learning to take the time to be patient and kind – because patience and kindness are skills.
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Taking only a few minutes to ask ourselves this question can be a key to creating fulfillment, and like a potter and his clay, masterfully designing and molding the life we REALLY want.
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If I lived according to these values I might …
  • Walk to class; put my produce in a cloth bag; use a reusable water bottle; learn how to garden. (A healthy planet)
  • Get rid of one thing I don’t love or use every day; put things away when I am done with them; spend quiet time in nature; be grateful for five things I already have; encourage my daughter to romp outside instead of watch TV. (Simplicity)
  • Listen to my daughter before I speak; shovel my neighbor’s sidewalk; think of what is right rather than looking for people’s faults; locate a soup kitchen, call them and offer help. (Kindness)
  • Add a vegetable to my breakfast; walk rather than drive; sit on the floor and stretch; keep sugar out of my house. (Health)
  • Go for a walk with my mom; keep a gratitude journal about a loved one; let my daughter cry, and let her know it is perfectly okay to cry; do something that she wants to do; let my family know regularly how glad I am that they are my family. (Family)
It takes a TON of energy NOT to live according to my values. I know I’m not going to be perfect, but the ripple effect of one small conscious act at a time may lead to something amazing. I’m ready to start taking responsibility.
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If the planet is unhealthy … if the planet is unlivable … none of my other values are possible. None of these things that I care DEEPLY about could even exist!
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What ONE value could you act upon?
It only takes ONE DECISION to create a ripple effect.
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Photo by Miriam Espacio on Unsplash