Stumbling along a Green Path

One of our goals as a family is to live lightly on the planet. We strive to become more self sufficient, consume less and experience more. Moving gave us the opportunity to purge the unnecessary items from our home. Although there are a few things I miss (like our furniture), overall I am happier not to have to be burdened with all that stuff. I recently read an article about a family in Northern California who produces such a minimal amount of waste that the garbage trucks never need to stop at their house. Their recycling bin also remains empty. There are certain things that the family in the article adheres to that I would not be able to do, like living without books and art, but ultimately this is what we strive towards. Mo and I talk about our dream home often. (Being an architect and artist, that's how we wile away the evening hours.) In our dream home we have a giant kitchen. Giant being relative of course because really we would be quite happy in an 1600-1800 square foot space. But the kitchen would be the largest room in our little house and we would have an outdoor one too. Inside and outside would essentially be interchangeable. Wind and solar power would provide us with our electricity and our home garden would sustain us. Oh and a hammock would hang beneath the eaves of a back porch but I digress...

Back to no garbage...we have been working on the 3 R's for years now and in Brooklyn (and America in general) it is easy to reduce, reuse and recycle. Most healthfood establishments and increasingly more mainstream grocery stores have bulk food bins where you can bring in your own container, weigh it and get the amount of raisins, oats, flour, what-have-you that you need. Reusable shopping bags are practically the norm. Farmer's markets abound. Recycling is second nature. (So why can't Congress pass a renewable energy bill?!! But that's a different post...) It's a different ball game here. Bulk food is a different concept. It exists basically in two forms: pre-packaged, giant, name-brand quantities at Price Smart (think Sam's Club/Costco) or pre-packaged, miniscule quantities at the healthfood stores. And most of the grocery stores sell bulk flour, sugar, rice and cornmeal but again it is already packaged in plastic bags for your convenience. Gone are the lovely do-it-yourself bins I had grown to love.

Plastic is a big thing here. Luckily it is one of the few items that is recycled. Plastic bags in particular are way over used. When we first started going to the grocery store, the people bagging our groceries used to put everything in plastic bags first (even those items like flour and sugar which were already encased in plastic) and then they would put them into our reusable grocery bags. It took a couple of trips for them to understand that it was okay to just put the groceries directly into the canvas bags. We have since started going to the market for most of our items so our trips to the grocery store are few and far between. The market is great but they love plastic bags too! There are some items that come in glass jars but glass is not recycled here. On certain days you can return glass bottles to the grocery store but that's about it. Aluminum is also not recycled. Paper and cardboard on a corporate level will be recycled but there aren't any programs yet for residential recycling. Like many things here, recycling is a work in progress.

So we stumble along, making reductions and adjustments where we can but I can't help but think that we are not doing enough. Much of it just comes from knowing where we can obtain the items we want. Like washing soda for instance. I'm sure it is here somewhere (and oh how I'm longing to try making my own laundry detergent!) but it's just finding it.