Going a little greener

I’m an avid recycler and a little opinionated about it. I try not to offer unsolicited advice, but it makes me cringe a little every time I see someone throw something recyclable away. When the mountain man and I visit people whose communities don’t offer recycling, and who don’t recycle, we try to pack our recyclables with us to take them home to recycle. I just can’t throw it away!

I’ve been inspired to go a little greener, and to take the leap into the dark recesses of the bathroom. (If you’re just starting out with recycling, there are some tips at the bottom of the post!)

If you don’t want to read about how I’m going green in the bathroom, why don’t you CLICK ON OVER HERE.

Just do it.

I already do some “gross” stuff, like not flushing the toilet every time I go (you know, if it’s yellow, let it mellow) and I try to use natural cleaners and cloth cleaning rags. (ew gross, then you have to wash them!)

I frequently think about the fact that I throw away toilet paper tubes, toothpaste boxes, and shampoo bottles. I am an aggressive recycler, but these things end up in the trash because I don’t have a recycling bin in the bathroom, and I’m too lazy/preoccupied to carry it out to my recycling center in my kitchen. So I’m going to put a little recycling bin in my bathroom. I don’t think I’m quite green enough to try family cloth, although it seems like a good idea…

That wasn’t so gross, right?

Well if you’re still here, and you don’t want to hear more, why don’t you CHECK THIS OUT.

I think I am going to stop shampooing my hair.

This is green, not recycling. I haven’t bought shampoo since 2009, and now I’m out and I don’t think I’m going to buy more. I had a lot of partial bottles (that’s right – I would buy more before I needed more!) that I just used up, and then started using Dr. Bronner’s. But now I am going to try baking soda and apple cider vinegar.

OK, that one has some potential ickiness – here’s another.

I’ve started washing my face with oil. I’ve always had fairly dry skin, and lately it’s been so dry that I can put lotion on over lotion and it doesn’t help. I’m using a combination of castor and olive oil, and maybe I’ll add some almond essential oil. I love the smell of almond. Hey, maybe I’ll put some almond essential oil in my hair when I get out of the shower! Here’s my oil wash:DSC_0461

And here we go – it’s the biggie.

I’m going to try the Diva Cup. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, but haven’t been totally convinced. I watched this video and the thing about it being like you’re not having a period – yeah, I can get behind that.

OK, I’m going to show you one so that you know how not-that-creepy it is.

It’s a little flexible cup. That’s all.

Since I’m still breastfeeding on demand I haven’t started menstruating yet, but I kind of can’t wait to try this out. I bought one online and it will be here before I can use it. I’ve always been terrified of toxic shock syndrome so this will eliminate that fear. I know it’s a little icky (yes, you have to take it out and then empty it and then wash it and then put it back) but I’m going to give it a shot. And you can do it all at home – for the most part I probably won’t have to empty it more than twice a day- when I get up and when I go to bed. So I won’t likely have to deal with it in a bathroom stall or someplace where the sink isn’t near the toilet or I’m not actually alone. Those situations could make it difficult. But the cup holds more than the entire average period!

OK, it’s over. You can open your eyes.

If you’re looking to go a little greener, (and aren’t ready to start with the “gross” stuff) I would recommend starting in the kitchen.

Set up a recycling center that works around how you will dump your recycling. In my community everything is picked up together in one bin besides glass. We have to drive our glass to a local fire station to be recycled. So we have a 3-bin system in our kitchen. DSC_0514

  • One big cardboard Costco box collects glass until we have enough to justify a trip in the car. It’s usually every few months that the mountain man loads it all in the back of the truck and hauls it over. When we drop off the glass it has to be sorted, and generally I’m a fan of sorting as you go, but the mountain man sorts it when he’s putting it in the truck so we just dump all the glass in one bin in the kitchen.
  • The other two bins are for our normal recyclables. Our recycling is picked up every-other week, and our giant grey bin is usually overflowing. We empty those two little trash cans of recycling once or twice a week. We just have two so that we can empty less frequently.

Because of our aggressive recycling, and because we compost and try to limit what we buy to minimize trash, and because we eat leftovers for every lunch and don’t buy much packaged food, we only generate one paper grocery bag of trash a week. Yay!

If your community doesn’t pick up recycling it can be really hard to get motivated to do it. I remember as a kid, before recycling was cool or popular, schlepping huge plastic bags full of milk jugs and newspapers and glass and cardboard boxes to my mom’s old volvo station wagon. We’d hoist them into the “way back” and drive them about 12 miles to take it all onto the military base to be recycled. Crazy! I don’t know why my mom did that when it was so inconvenient and not even trendy, but it was great. We had to go on base anyway for grocery shopping or to see my dad at work, so it was just a small inconvenience added to an already-required trip.

If your community doesn’t pick up, there’s probably a fire station or community center around town that has big recycling bins. Find it, and drive by to find out how they require things to be sorted. Then come home and start a bin system accordingly. Sort as you go, and you won’t have to sort in the rain standing in front of those bins!

When you’re recycling, keep all non-recyclables out of the bins. When there’s anything non-recyclable in a collection of materials, the entire batch is often sent to the landfill because it’s too expensive to sort things out.

Rinse anything that has food residue on it.

Leave bottle and jar lids off. The lids are often not recyclable, and if you put the lids back on you may find mold growing in your containers, which is gross and may make the material unrecyclable.

Every couple of months (or when your recycling center is overflowing) drive it over to the collection site.


And you’ll make way, way less trash. In communities that offer sizing options for trash cans at reduced prices, you may find yourself in a surprisingly small bin. When I was in college I nannied for a family that had a “micro” bin, which was a small rectangular black box with a lid that held about the contents of a paper grocery bag. I thought they were nuts! And now that’s about what we generate every week.

Toss junk mail, magazines, catalogs, paper and plastic packaging in the recycle bin right away. I sort and open my mail on the counter right above my bins, so things get tossed right in as I go through the pile of mail. I open boxes and packages there, too.

Another fantastic way to go a little greener and save some money is to pay bills electronically. Many utilities and businesses offer e-pay on their websites, and I can also pay any bill through my bank’s website. I can even pay my rent (which goes to a private homeowner, not a rental company or management agency) through my bank – I set up the homeowner as a payee, add his bank’s name, and the funds are transferred into his account. It can take some time to set it up, but once you do it’s all easy, and all there.

I also have eliminated paper statements from all my bills – credit cards, bank statements, car loans, cable and internet, phone bills – everything. If you set up automatic payments you don’t even have to think about them.

I only run the dishwasher and washing machine when they’re full.

I turn off the water while I’m brushing my teeth or shaving my legs.

There are a thousand little ways to go a little greener – and that’s really the goal, is to do little by little. Taking it all on at once is overwhelming, and requires too much change. Make a little change at a time, and once you are able to do that thing a little greener without thinking about it, add another.

Then you can start trying to minimize packaging when you’re shopping, and to buy used instead of new. Then cut out unnatural chemicals by making cleaning supplies – you can use baking soda, vinegar, even vodka.

Enjoy knowing that you’re doing a little something to keep things out of landfills, reduce your footprint and reduce the unnecessary drain on resources to create new items out of new plastic, glass, and paper. You aren’t bringing chemicals into your home and into your body.


  1. I recently went no poo (2 months ago) and I love it. I dont know how the almond would work in the mix it might get over powered by the viniger. Magbe try making up an after dry spray or somthing to use to add the almond sent. The viniger smell only last half a day or so. I guess I should really write a post about it so look for it this week or next.
    I also got a diva cup a few months back. I have not used it yet (no period) but I have heard so many good things about it. There are a few women in the AP group that convinced me to give it a try. I did not get my period back until my little man was 17 months so I guess I wont have to use if for 7 months or so (fingers are crossed).
    We do not do family cloth either but many times I will just wipe with a cloth wipe and then just throw it in the dirty diaper bag. I guess saving a few squares here and there should help =]
    Great green tips.

  2. Hi Karen - I was actually thinking about doing the almond essential oil directly onto my clean rinsed hair after the shower. I'd love to read more about your poo-free experience! I think I would actually like family cloth, but I don't know how the mountain man will take to it... I am washing diapers anyway, so it isn't that big a deal! Thanks for reading!

  3. What do you mean by this phrase, 'family cloth?'

  4. Hi Courtney - this may go a little far for most, but family cloth is cloth toilet paper. Basically like using cloth diaper wipes for babies, but for your own tush. Most people who use cloth wipes think it's much better - softer, stronger, more durable and comfortable - than paper, and less expensive since you can just cut up old shirts. People keep a little basket of clean and a little bin of dirty near the toilet. (Don't worry, the dirty bin has a lid) and it makes the most sense if you're already washing cloth diapers, but a lot of childless or diaper-less families still do it. Some do it sometimes, and in some families only some members do it. It sounds super gross, but really, if you're already washing diapers, it's not that much grosser.

  5. So me and the Other Half have this serious problem with planning. We like to plan for things months, years if possible, in advance. When we purchased our washer and dryer back in April Matt suggested we go one model above what we'd planned to buy because it featured a cycle setting intended for washing cloth diapers. We haven't even made it to wedding day and we've already made decisions about how we'll diaper our children in the future. We are nuts!

    Oh so back to the topic of the post. It doesn't seem gross to me if it were only used for #1. I do not think I could get behind (Ha!) taking care of clothes the Other Half used for cleaning his hiney!

  6. that's a totally valid and common solution - to use cloth for the "easy" tasks and paper for the mess.

    I say do all the planning you can now - once you have kids there isn't time for planning. I have a post in the works about being a planner/list-maker, and how it's hard to come to terms with the inability to plan all the details once a baby is involved. And of course once a baby is there, all your plans may be out the window!

    We do cloth diapers part-time, and I kind of wish I could go all the way, but for the time being every cloth dipe I use is a 'sposie that isn't in a landfill! I always use disposables at night and when we're out and about, and the mountain man uses paper when he changes the Pie. (and btw, a lot of clothies use disposable at night because they're more absorbant and keep the moisture off the skin better - just so you can think about that, too)

  7. Your naturalist Mountain Man puts paper diapers on your sweet Pie?

  8. He does! I know, it's a little counter to his normal all-natural, chemical-free, low-waste ideals, but it's easy and less messy. He doesn't like dealing with the ick. It's understandable! Cloth is a little ickier, especially because I don't use all-in-one diapers, which are the cloth equivalent of a disposable. I have a three-part system, which involves touching the ick.

  9. The Other Half has had no problems telling me that his number one reservation when it comes to having a family is poop. I think that is pretty funny.

  10. there is a lot of poop. in diapers, on clothes, in the carseat, on the bed, and on you. when it gets out of the diaper we call it a "poonami". some babies poop only once a day or once every few days by the time they're a couple months old - the Pie is more of an "in and out" kind of girl. when food goes in, poop comes out.

  11. What has kept you from using more convenient types of cloth diapers? I get that the three part systems can be icky. I mean diapers in general are icky. I'm just curious - I've got no room to talk because I don't have my own small person who's poop I need to clean.

  12. good question, and probably a post in and of itself! the benefit of all-in-one (AIO) diapers is that they're easy - put them on, take them off, wash them, they're ready to go. however they can take forever to dry... in comes the pocket diaper, which is just like an AIO but it has an absorbent insert, which comes out for quicker drying. My problem with those is that although they're super convenient, they are expensive and once you've used 'em, they're dirty. With prefold flat (or fitted) diapers and clovers, the cover is re-usable as long as it wasn't pooped on. It is a less expensive system and allows for some re-use of some components of the diaper.

    So my system is a fleece liner against the skin (fleece draws moisture through, and keeps the skin a little dryer) a prefold or fitted diaper (the absorbent part) and the PUL diaper cover. When it's time to change, I take the liner and diaper out of the cover, wipe the cover out and put a new diaper and liner in it. I need fewer covers because I can re-use them.

    The additional problem I see with AIO or pocket diapers (aside from needing a lot of them) is that as your baby grows you need a whole new set! There are one-size diapers with snap systems to make the diaper fit different sizes, though.

    Right now I have one pocket diaper, which is on loan from a friend. I liked it, but they cost more than my system. I bought all my diapers and covers used and made my own fleece liners out of an old fleece shirt I didn't wear anymore.

    I recently bought 4 one-size AIO & pocket diapers, so am looking forward to using them when they arrive. I bought them from Etsy, and they're hand-made (not name brand) so here's hoping that they fit and work! They were $10 each including shipping, as opposed to about $18+ each for a name-brand diaper.

    But if you are planning to do cloth, and planning to have more than one child, using the diapers for all your kids means a huge overall savings in diapering expenses. Buy neutrals, make the initial investment, and laugh all the way to the bank.

    That being said, different babies sometimes need different diapers, because their bodies aren't all the same shape. So you may have a whole slew of cloth that fit your first baby wonderfully, and then find that you're back to the drawing board with a second baby and endless poonamis.

    So... I want to be sold on cloth, I want to go 100%, but I just haven't gotten there yet!


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