Leave No Trace

“Leave No Trace” educational programs began in the 1960s when hiking, camping & backpacking became so popular public land was being “loved to death”.  Education was needed to minimize their impact.  In the early 70’s, The Boy Scouts of America started advocating Leave No Trace’s seven principals –  “Plan Ahead and Prepare, Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, Dispose of Waste Properly, Leave What You Find, Minimize Campfire Impacts, Respect Wildlife, and Be Considerate of Other Visitors”.  National & State Parks, Wilderness Areas, and National Forests have all benefited from these principals.

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Reduce and Reuse in the Kitchen

While recycling is better than sending more trash to the landfills, reducing and reusing first is even better for the environment.  Since most trash and recycling revolves around the kitchen, I’ll focus on that area.

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http://omiusajpic.org/topics/reduce-reuse-recycle/

 

Paper products – Inexpensive large bundles of wash cloths can replace most paper towels needs.  I use one to clean the counter and perhaps a spill on the floor (in that order!), throw it in the wash, and then grab a new one from the pile.  Once stained, they go in the rag box.  Use a microwave cover instead of a paper towel.   Cloth napkins easily replace paper napkins.  And it’s fun – find solids or prints in your favorite colors.  If you can’t give up paper products, buy products with a high recycled content.

Food – Certainly growing your own food is best or buying from the local farmer’s market. Composting food scraps is a great boost for the soil and environment.  I’m not a big fan of garbage disposables but that’s better than putting food scraps in the garbage.  Buy wonderful free-range eggs from local producers and return the egg cartons for reuse.

Plastics – When shopping, use cloth grocery bags.  If you are getting just a few items, carry them without a bag.  Several sources say the US goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually and the average American family takes home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year.  It’s time to break that cycle.  I use the few plastic grocery bags I accumulate for picking up litter and encourage you to do the same!!  If there are still bags crowding your drawer, take them to the local Food Bank for food distribution.  Our local recycling facility, Boonslick Industries, currently only recycles #1 and #2 plastics, so I give my #5 plastic tubs (e.g. yogurt, cottage cheese, margarine) to youth groups for art projects or recycle them in Columbia.  Avoid single-use bottled water.  According to “Ban the Bottle”, Americans used 50 billion plastic bottles in 2014 – that’s 167 per American!  Not good.

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https://centraltexas.surfrider.org/?page_id=102

Food Storage – To minimize using aluminum foil and plastic wrap, store left-overs  and waste-free lunches in Pyrex reusable containers or PBA-free reusable plastic containers.  I store my aluminum foil, plastic wrap and plastic zip-locks in an inconvenient drawer so I think before I grab.  When items store better in zip-locks use them, but wash and reuse them if they still look fairly new.  When leaving food in the bowl, cover leftovers with a plastic bowl cover or “new” shower cap.

Shopping – Shop locally and frequent stores with bulk bins.  If possible, avoid products that are over packaged or packaged in disposable containers.  Single-serve bottled water is expensive, wasteful & bad for the environment.  Instead use a filter pitcher, install a faucet filter to remove trace chemicals and bacteria, or use a bottle with a built-in filter.  I avoid produce packaged in Styrofoam trays and Styrofoam products in general, including “doggie bags”.  While Styrofoam products may appear cheaper than paper products, it’s at the environment’s expense.   The EPA established Styrofoam as the fifth largest source of hazardous waste in 1986 and by volume it now takes up to 25-30% of our landfills and takes over 500 years to decompose.  But I digress – more on that later!  Buy a few cloth bags and remember to use them!!   The Earth Policy Institute reports about 2 million plastic bags are used every minute around the world! Keep cloth bags stashed in your car.  Keep a well stocked kitchen to minimize trips to the grocery store.

Recycling – We have two large tubs designated for our recyclables – one for aluminum/bottles/tin cans and one for our paper products. When the tubs are full, we take to the local recycling center. We also collect other random plastic not recycled locally, although its a bit less well organized.

Other environmentally friendly kitchen ideas –   Energy saving appliances, on-demand water heater and water-filter under the sink, “green” cleaning supplies and turn lights off after leaving a room.

Upcycle – With an expansive Google search, you can find ways to reuse just about everything. I have a wonderful artistic friend, Holly Hughes, who someway manages to combine all kinds of “trash” into art, so I have a box in the pantry where I collect random items for her.

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Holly Hughes, Artist – http://infohost.nmt.edu/~bridge/einstein/start.html

Last Resort – Trash – Before throwing anything away, I ask myself – can I reuse this in some way, can someone else use it, can it be upcycled, is it recyclable?  If every answer is no, it goes in the trash.  Then come trash day, every other week, we only have one small bag of trash on our curbside – A job well done.

 

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http://www.grosirbajusurabaya.top/plastic-bottle-hanging-garden.html

 

The Challenge of Living Green

I’ve come to realize, I need to choose my battles wisely.  My quest to live chemical-free can be exhausting!

While cleaning, I no longer mindlessly grab bottles of chemicals that promise to render me a clean surface with ease.  Fortunately I now know how to use vinegar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide quite effectively after test-cleaning for months – yes months!

Food is always a work in progress as I continue my research.  I’ve found many foods labeled “Natural” aren’t natural at all.  I avoid single serve, over packaged and disposable products as well as farm raised fish full of hormones.  Since GMO (genetically modified) foods aren’t labeled, I call food producers to inquire.  I also study food growing practices to determine the most important produce to buy organic (check out the Dirty Dozen). I have a small organic garden and frequent Farmer’s Markets.  Next I hit the grocery stores – not just one, several!  I try my best to buy locally first and give the store managers feedback about their offerings.  Then I head to Columbia for more healthy food options.

Considering Styrofoam as the biggest environmental irritant of them all, I don’t budge on this one.   Many times I search for the elusive vegetable or fruit not packaged in Styrofoam trays. Worst yet, I absolutely love coffee, at many community events I sadly turn away as I smell the alluring aroma nestled in Styrofoam cups.  As for take-out foods – many times not an option for me.  If only the Styrofoam price tag reflected its environmental damage – then it would be expensive to produce and not so prevalent.

One would think a stroll through the park would be relaxing but no – I’m generally compelled to pick up litter and “mine” recyclables from the trash bins.  Some days, when I need a break, I don’t bring a bag with me but invariably, I see a plastic bag snagged on a tree somewhere so I’m compelled to fill it up!  As for the dispersed cigarette butts – It takes a “full energy” day and gloves in tow for me to grab those.

Reduce/Reuse/Recycle – I’m always considering these principals.  It may take a little more effort but I always save money while conserving our natural resources and Trash Day is always a breeze!

Yeah, being an Environmentalist isn’t exactly glamorous but we do what we have to do.

 

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