Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day!

Today marks the 42nd anniversary of the celebration of Earth Day.

Did you know that about 80% of Hormel Foods' product packaging by weight is recyclable and/or made form recycled materials? Over the past few years, Hormel has found many ways to reduce, revanmp and change the size nad material of their packages. When you think of some of the little changes that they have made and how quickly it adds up across the business, it makes you take pause and consider how each little change you make as part of a greater population can have a significant impact. As an example, when in 2009, they reduced the height of their Jennie-O Turkey Store turkey burger carton by just 1/2", they generated a 68,000 pound annual paperboard savings. That is a lot of paperboard! You can learn more about their efforts on package minimization on their site.

It's interesting, a number of things that we have changed in our lives over the past few years for the purposes of convenience and/or money saving, have brought about some environmental savings as well.

When my son was a baby, we started using wipes to clean him up after a meal. Very quickly, we realized that this would amount to a lot of wipes over the coming years. We picked up a 10-pk of white washcloths at Kohl's and have been using them ever since. We used to keep a basket of them next to the bibs, now that the kids are older, they are under the sink in the half bath. These work great for cleaning up the kids boo-boos too! I can't even begin to guess how many wipes this has saved us over the year...all of those wipes and plastic containers have been saved too!

Another change that we made was the move to using cloth napkins at the table. My goal was to reduce the amount of money that we were spending on paper napkins. Understanding that I do laundry on a near daily basis, I figured that having a couple of sets of cloth napkins would work well for us. I wasn't concerned on coordination of the napkins, so I picked up some beige ones at a post-holiday clearance and pulled out some that I had in my linen closet. If we try, we can all four use the same napkin, but generally there are at least 2 or 3 different ones on the table. We haven't bought paper napkins other than some themed ones for the kid's birthday parties in over 2 years. That is a lot of paper napkins not thrown away.

Around the same time, we returned to using more clothes for cleaning. We have old cloth diapers (actually for us they were just burp cloths) and a set of wash cloths that are unique from our actual dish cloths to avoid confusion. We use them for cleaning and then rinse thoroughly before dropping into the laundry. This has reduced our usage of paper towels.

The next move was a change from paper plates to reusable plates. I struggled to find the right solution, finally settling on Correlle dishes, found at the outlet allowing me to purchase just the dinner plates. It was a bit of an investment to move to the reusable dishes, but now that we have them we can use them for every birthday, picnic, etc., saving us the repeated purchase of paper or foam plates and saving the environment all of that waste.

Once we started using real plates, the next move seemed natural...dumping the plastic silverware. It just makes more sense to use real utensils with real plates. It took a while to find just forks, spoons and knives. The answer was found at Sam's Club. They sold 24ct packages of individual types of silverware. We bought one each of forks, spoons, and knives. A handy storage container picked up at Target has allowed us to store them easily between parties.

None of these changes were 'major' for us. All of these changes have saved us money and has reduced the amount of trash that we are generating.

Another change that has saved us a little bit in the form of discounts from the store are reusable bags. For a while, our grocery store was offering a 5c per use discount which essentially paid off the initial investment. They don't that anymore, but Target and CVS still reimburse - Target at 5c per bag used and CVS at 25c per visit in the form of a $1 ECB after four visits. Personally, I am most glad to not have all of those plastic bags to deal with. Now, to be honest, we don't use them 100% of the time, but when I go to the store for my weekly trip and when I go to CVS, I use them everytime. It's those little stops for an item or two or when my husband is running errands that they don't always get used. This is fine, because we do reuse those plastic bags and it is good to have some on hand.

Not a change, but another way that we like to live green is planting a summer garden each year. It is a great way to not only teach children, but also a wonderful feeling of accomplishment when you eat a tomoato or cucumber or other vegetable picked from your own garden.

How are you living more green?

No compensation was received for this post. All opinions expressed are mine or those of my family. I am completing this post as a participant in the Hormel Foods Extended Family Blogger program. Hormel Foods provided some of the information for this post.