Saturday, April 16, 2011

The 3 R's

Jack Johnson, my new fav singer, has a song titled “The 3 R’s.”  It’s crazy addicting, and I find myself singing it to myself quite often.  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.   He sings about ways kids can live the 3 R’s. 

"If you're going to the market to buy some juice
You've got to bring your own bags and you learn to reduce your waste
And if your brother or your sister's got some cool clothes
You could try them on before you buy some more of those
Reuse, we've got to learn to reuse
And if the first two R's don't work out
And if you've got to make some trash
Don't throw it out
Recycle, we've got to learn to recycle…"

Such a simple message.  Not so simple to apply to our lives in today’s throw away culture. 
Growing up, my mom & dad were “green” because they wanted to save money.  I thought they were trying to ruin my life.  My mom made us bring lunch from home and use reusable lunch sacks.  Even in middle school! *Gah*  Talk about social suicide.  When we were young, she would find different toys and furniture in the alley or garage sales and fix them up for us.  This was cool since we did get “new” things.  But in all honesty, it wasn’t the same as getting something new in a box.  We saved cans and took them to get cash.  My dad used the backs of envelopes as note paper at his business.  He still does this today.  He also used paper towels to dry his hands and would let them air dry so they could be used again multiple times.  We {meaning me and my siblings} thought our parents were so lame.  Hello, let’s throw stuff away and buy new!!  And I can’t even count the number of times we were told to turn off lights when we left the room and to keep the front/back door closed.  “We’re not paying to heat/cool the outside.” Lame-o parents always ruining our fun.   
And the cycle of “lameness” continues with me and the hubs.  We yard sale, garden, recycle everything that we can.  Lights are turned off when not in use.  Thermostats are set to save a little money.  We use reusable grocery bags {when I remember}.  Electronics are unplugged when not in use.  And now we cloth diaper.   To say that using cloth diapers was life changing would be an understatement.  The amount of trash we throw away is so much less than it was with our first child.  And this may be a little TMI, but it’s not half as stinky as it used to be.  Think used diapers, garbage can outside, and hot Arizona summers. *Gag*  When I made the change to cloth wipes {this was a gradual transition} our trash output decreased even more.  I love that I’m not hauling garbage outside as often as I used to.  And not to brag, but *ahem* our recycle bin often has more in it than our garbage can.
So now, that we’re using cloth diapers and wipes, I’m looking for more ways to reuse things.  Much to the hubs frustration, I’m refusing to use paper towels to clean with.  I use our kitchen towels to wipe down the counters, table, and floors. {Yes, mealtimes are insanely messy here.}  I can use one kitchen towel instead of multiple paper towels.  And when it’s been used, I just throw it in the wash with whatever load is going in, except for diapers.  Easy.  Cloth wipes are also doubling as Kleenex for the boys.  Unfortunately, noses are always running.  Those I’ll throw in with diapers to wash.  Once again, less trash to throw out.  Awesome! 
I’m not trying to say, that we are such a super duper “green” family.  We’re not.  There’s more we could be doing, but we don’t for whatever reason.  I use paper bibs at restaurants.  We’ve been known to use paper plates on occasion.  Paper napkins are always used.  Disposable cups serve their purpose every now and then.  Ceiling fans are sometimes left on in rooms during the summer.  My list of transgressions can go on.
I’m learning that living the 3 R’s isn’t so difficult.  Small changes can have a huge impact.  However, at times it can be challenging.  Cloth diapers on vacation isn’t always the easiest, and grabbing a paper towel and tossing it in the trash means there is one less kitchen towel to fold.  But what kind of lesson am I teaching my boys?  Being mindful of our waste and using what we have is something that they can learn and pass on to their children.  Hopefully, I won’t have them commit social suicide in the process!

What do you do that is green? What are some things you’d like to try to change to become less wasteful?

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