“Oh, Mercy, mercy me. Oh, things ain’t what they used to be, aw-nah, oil wasted upon the ocean and upon the seas, fish full of mercury.”
The first major change was to stop buying and using paper napkins at home. I have a collection of cloth napkins that I wash each week and that we use with each meal. This progressed to carrying my own knife, fork, spoon, straw and napkin in my purse and using them instead of plastic utensils when eating out.
I once noticed how many plastic bags people were using in the space of 20 minutes when I was sitting on a bench a Target store while waiting on a friend to finish shopping. It was a scandalous amount. I began carrying my own reusable bags to the grocery store and left a big stash in the trunk of my husband’s car. This has progressed to purchasing mesh bags for produce and having a portable bag in my purse for unexpected purchases. (I’ve even been known to walk out of store carrying purchases in my hands if necessary.) The current ban on reusable bags has been especially difficult for me during this time of Covid-19. We do use paper bags now for everything we can and recycle them.
We avidly recycle weekly. We also participate in the municipal recycling days to responsibly get rid of things that can’t go in our household bin.
Cooking and Composting
We use a composting service for our food scraps. They bring us a fresh and clean container each week. This has reduced the refuse we discard in the regular trash. I have also learned to be creative with cooking by using the full vegetable (celery leaves are good on salads and as a garnish. Peels and ends make good stock) and animal protein as well as making sure all the leftovers are eaten once a week so that we rarely have spoiled food items to compost. (During the Covid-19 quarantine, I’ve been cooking more than ever so the outgoing bin is brimming each week.)
Reducing and Donating
Proudly, we have been reducing “stuff” in our home, especially books and CDs, donating them to More Than Words book enterprise, which will pick up from your home if you have at least six boxes (for a small donation). I’ve reduced my book-purchasing habit by going to libraries and when I do purchase books, I order from local bookstores and (before Covid-19) picked them up at the store. I’m also succeeding at rarely using Amazon. They use far too much packaging and they don’t accept their empty boxes to say nothing of their exploitative work environment.
No (mostly) to Plastic
Rather than use liquid soap, at home we use bar soap to wash our hands. (I even carry a bar of soap with me to use while out). Packaging is an on-going struggle. We only purchase beverages that come in glass, cardboard or metal containers that can be recycled. We both carry reusable bottles. We are repurposing old towels and t-shirts into reusable cleaning-cloths that can be washed and sanitized, with the plan to eliminate paper towels. I make my own cleaning solutions. I have been on a mission to find moisturizers and lotions that do not come in plastic containers. (I welcome suggestions here.) For cooking, we have a glass jar that we refill from a local store with olive oil.
It used to be easy for me to get my preferred detergent – Arm & Hammer unscented powder = in a cardboard box, but now, for some reason, the two Stop and Shop supermarkets near my home only carry liquid detergent in plastic bottles. So, we hunt for other unscented powders and have found one we like that comes in a tin container. I eliminated dryer sheets years ago and use wool balls in the dryer to help speed up drying and soften clothes. (I’ve planning to order laundry sheets that are themselves and come in packaging that completely biodegradable.)
Electricity and Water
Turning off lights when not in a room; hanging up bathroom rugs once washed rather than running the dryer to dry them are two of the ways we’re reducing electricity use. We now have a rain barrel. This summer we will be watering our garden with this water. I don’t run water while washing dishes or brushing my teeth. (It’s the little things…)
Growing and Gardening
Our home has houseplants in throughout it thanks go my husband’s green thumbs. This definitely contributes to a better air in our home. A few summers ago, we put our names on the Food Project waiting list to get a raised garden bed built so that we can grow our own vegetables. We have found some success. We had a bountiful crop of green peppers, zucchini, herbs, and tons of tomatoes. (There is nothing like the taste of a fresh tomato from the earth!) I had not gardened since I was a wee-child and helped in my grandmother’s garden. Our grandchildren enjoyed helping in the garden during their summer visits. We also support the plentiful local farmers markets in Dorchester and other Boston neighborhoods, including the Fowler Clark Epstein Farm in Mattapan.
I have long donated clothes to Goodwill, In the past few years, I’ve rediscovered the joy of thrift shopping. It gives me a wider selection of styles and I’m able to find more natural fabrics than are available especially at the major retailers. They use too many synthetic fabrics. I like being open to whatever I might find for me or extended family, including coming home empty-handed because there was nothing I truly needed. I miss going to Boomerangs during this quarantine time.
Every day, I think of more ways to reduce, re-use, recycle and eliminate. It has been wonderful to see my husband join me in earnest in these practices. It has brought us closer and truly become our green thing.
Thank you Mother Earth. Some of us are trying.
Here are the fully lyrics to Mercy, Mercy Me The Ecology