Thursday, January 19, 2012

To do and what not to do

I've been trying to go over, in my head, the changes I've made in the last year and what I'd like to see myself change in the future. It's a lot of stuff when it's all added up.

Changes I've made:
-Hang dry most of our clothes
-Take shorter showers with fewer products
-Buy and preserve as much local food as budgeting and space (and knowledge) have allowed
-Tried growing new varieties of foods
-Tried eating new varieties of foods
-Made a conscious effort not to use disposables, even when out and about
-Reduced how often our trash is full from roughly twice a week to roughly once a week or less
-Added to my "homesteading" skills
-Made a conscious effort to reuse dishes that weren't really dirty--i.e., water glasses for more water later in the evening--so that we can cut back on the number of times we need to run the dishwasher (and consequently, do dishes)
-Bought more from local sources
-Bought more organic
-Thought about each and every purchase in terms of, do I really need this? Will it significantly impact my life/someone else's life for the better? Is it good quality? Can I get it used instead? What is the environmental impact of my purchase? (It sounds like a lot to think about, but it honestly goes through my head quickly and I hardly notice myself evaluating things like this anymore.)
-Had some good conversations with Shane about money sparked by my research. What we want to do in the future, how we'll work for it, etc.
-Started composting
-Stopped using paper towels at work. There are no hand driers, so I've either been letting my hands air dry (if I go to the far bathroom, they're dry by the time I get back to my office) or drying them on a towel in the office.
-Started using a handkerchief sometimes, in a very limited capacity. I only have one, so it doesn't get used all or even most of the time. But some is better than none, right?
-Gotten rid of a lot of the plastic in our kitchen and have severely reduced the number of times we cook in our Teflon/non-stick pans.
-Cut back on the number of plastic storage bags we use. In fact, they're used for only sandwiches and freezer foods at this point.
-We're doing our best to eat all of the food in our freezers.

Changes I see coming my way (by category) are

Gardening and food:
-Since we're done with the whole engagement/wedding planning process, this summer I'm going to expand our garden a whole bunch. I've got a giant list of seeds to order, including a bunch of things I've never grown before. It will be an adventure, and so worth it. I'd like to grow at least half of our tomatoes for the year, which is a huge goal but I think with the right conditions it's doable.
-Keeping track of how much I grow. I've never done that before, so this summer I'm going to start weighing my produce in terms of poundage. This way, at the end of the growing season, I can determine if the garden saved us any money. That's not the purpose of gardening (really, I just enjoy it and the food tastes great) but it will be neat to see how the costs compare.
-Try to reduce our food budget even further. For 2012, I'd like to see a weekly average of $100 or less, rather than last year's goal of $125 or less. In this total, I'd like to include my estimate of the cost/benefit of my gardening.
-Source almost all (or just, all) of our berries locally. Our two gallons of blueberries with a few cranberries and raspberries thrown in is great, but not nearly enough even for just two people. I'd like to see it be more like 2 gallons of raspberries, 2-3 gallons of cranberries, and 5 gallons of blueberries, plus strawberries. Plus plenty of berries for jam. I didn't get any local strawberries this year because there's no good source for them. I'll have to add some plants to the garden and see how well I do. (I've never had luck growing strawberries.) If possible, I'd also like to find a local source for currants, which are yummy and healthy. I know they grow here (my grandmother always had some) but I can't find anyone who sells them.
-Expand my skills even further. In the area of canning, I'd like to try making my own pickles and saurkraut. The only reason I haven't tried before now is a)we don't eat a lot of pickles and b)we never eat saurkraut. But I now have recipes using both of those which can easily be made into zero waste recipes if I just make my own.
-Expand my recipe repertoire. As just one example, when we run out of mayonnaise I'd like to try making my own, which I've never done before. And it intimidates me, for no logical reason I can think of. Maybe I should see just how many condiments I can make? I know there are recipes for ketchup out there....
-Bring in more houseplants. I don't know how I'm going to stuff them in, but I do know I should look for more shade loving plants and incorporate them into my household.
-I need to be better about putting a date on the things I store. I get the feeling that I sometimes use the newer things first because they're the ones at the front.

-Reduce waste even further. I know there are places/ways we can cut back still. In fact, I'd like to get us down to one bag of garbage every two weeks.
-Be more vigilant about recycling. Oh, you thought most of our reductions in garbage were because I was recycling more? Nope. In fact, nearly all of what we have left in the garbage could be recycled (with a few glaring exceptions) but knowing that I have to either carry the stuff to work to recycle, or we have to remember to drive it when we run other errands, is sort of a turn-off. I've been lackluster in this department and that needs to stop. No more being lazy.
-Be more efficient with how I store things. I often have very little freezer space, but plenty of space for canned things. Also, be more efficient with my freezer space by flattening things (like pumpkin and zucchini) before freezing them so that they take up less space. Our freezer is a little bit too much like a puzzle, only one that can fall on you and hurt.
-Continue to purge and organize. We've gotten rid of a lot of Stuff in the last year, but there always seems to be more crowding our space. I think the biggest thing, for me, is that I want to get rid of the coffee table. It doesn't work as a table because the glass is unattached and slides right off, so it just sits there looking ridiculous and taking up space.
-Replace plastic utensils in the kitchen with wood, bamboo, or metal. Donate the plastic ones.
-I'd like to get rid of our non-stick pans and replace them with things which won't off-gas during cooking.

-We figured out approximately what we need to save each month to afford our own home by the end of the year. Naturally, a lot of this depends on what kind of employment Shane gets this year. But I'm hopeful that all will be well. We have plans.
-Find a better job? I'm not sure about this one yet. I've been vaguely looking, but it would have to pay much better to pull me away from this job and so far I don't seem qualified for any of the jobs I've seen in the pay range I want.
-Save up for more travel. My family is having a reunion at Christmas in Maine, and I'd like to go to New York first because I've never been there. New York at Christmas--it would be so cool! And expensive! But worth it.

-Use even less gasoline. I want to see if we can get under 550 gallons for the two of us.
-Be better about seeking out used things before buying new. I can be pretty bad about this, unless it's a book I'm looking for. If I know it's not a new title I'll seek out used ones first. With other things, it can just seem like such a hassle to look through all of the pre-owned options out there. I like my instant gratification, too. After all, I've already spent plenty of time deciding that I actually want something, so I should get it now!

These goals are long-term. Some of them (like the gardening) are things that I will definitely do this year. Replacing some of our kitchen items? Long-term. Purging our stuff? That will never end because, even though I try hard not to, we still acquire new things. Also, our circumstances will change. Something that's just right for us currently might not fulfill a need later on, or we might discover that we can do without it. We'll see.

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