Facing the ugly eco-truth

Yesterday, I alluded to the several pounds of carbon emissions I contributed to the atmosphere (I’m guessing) by driving all over hell’s half acre and back, and how we’re really going to have to capitulate to suburban living in the next few months by buying a second car.

I don’t want a second car. Aside from the fact that I’m reluctant to take on the cost of buying and maintaining and insuring a second car, I’ve always been a pleased with our reduced eco-footprint as a single-car family. I’m happy to content with tolerant of commuting to work by bus.

Now, not only are we looking at a second car, but we need seating for five, and room in the back seat for three car seats. I’m holding out hope for the Mazda 5, but am thinking we’ll have to capitulate to a (whimper) mini-van. Talk about joining the dark side! At least, I suppose, it’s not an SUV. Or a Hummer.

So anyway, I’m writing all of this while I’m thinking about the BlogHer Act Canada September Challenge, which asks us to consider the various ways we can reduce the disposable packaging in our lives.

I know, I know. You’re thinking, “What the hell? She’s supposed to be writing about how we can reduce our eco-footprint, and she’s talking about how she’s planning to DOUBLE hers.” The point is, I need to compensate. If we’re going the way of the two-car family (the minivan-and-car family, David Suzuki forgive us) then we’re damn well going to have to find some other way to contribute.

So I took this Eco-Footprint quiz to give myself a baseline, and to maybe see where I could make some improvements.

The Eco-Footprint calculator measures the amount of natural resources an individual consumes in a given year. The “average” Canadian consumes the equivalent of 8.8 global hectares per person per year. According to the quiz, I’m consuming 7.8 hectares per year… but on average the world has just 1.8 hectares of natural resources per person. I’m doing a little bet better than the average Canadian, but barely.

The kicker? “If everyone lived like you, we would need 4.3 planets.”

Ouch. And that’s BEFORE the second car.

The quiz also showed me that while I am doing (relatively) well in transportation and shelter, I really need to improve in the categories of “food” and “goods and services.”

And lookit that, here we are back on topic. What better way to start than to look for ways to reduce excess waste from consumer packaging.

Here’s what I am going to work on. They’re small changes, but I’m only going to commit to what I’m sure I can manage, and go from there.

First, I’m going to get a thermal mug and carry it with me. Inconvenient, yes, especially for the person who always forgets to wash it out at the end of the day. But I’ll save 25 to 40 paper cups a month – that’s a good start.

Second, I’m going to be more diligent about using my reusable shopping bags. I actually LOVE those new ones from Loblaws… you can fit more in them, they stand up in the back of the car better so the apples don’t roll all over the place, and you can fit way more stuff in them. I’m not bad at remembering them for the big weekly grocery trip, but I have to remember to bring one with me for smaller excursions, too. Hoping to eliminate 50 plastic bags a month.

Third, less Ziploc baggies. Oh, how I love Ziploc baggies for everything from sending snacks to school to wrapping up the leftover grated cheese for storage. I have to break this unhealthy relationship with Ziploc baggies. Can I make due on a single box for an entire year? I’ll try!

Fourth, less juice boxes and water bottles. So convenient, but so wasteful. I’ve been lazy about juice boxes for Tristan’s snack lately; time to shake it off and start reusing the rubbermaid straw bottles again.

Fifth and finally – way less takeout lunches. This will be good not only from an eco-perspective, with less styrofoam and other disposable packaging, but from a financial and even dietary perspective. This may require a strategic investment in some decent tupperware-type serving containers. Any recommendations?

It’s not much, I know, but it is a start. If you want more ideas, check out the original BlogHers Act Canada challenge post. Through this Sunday, you can even write your own post and play along on the challenge!

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

14 thoughts on “Facing the ugly eco-truth”

  1. I love the Loblaws bags too, but I always leave them in the trunk. When I get to the door I see the big ads, turn my cart around, go back to the car and return. Every time. (Still worth it though.)

  2. Did the quiz, 8.6 🙁

    Like you, Rob and I try to do little things to help the environment. We put in energysaver bulbs wherever possible. They supposedly make a huge difference. We too use those Loblaws bags, and we use biodegradable poop bags for the dog.

    Rob and I were even considering cloth diapers before Gabrièle was born…it’s not too late I suppose. With a diaper service, they pick-up the dirty ones, and bring you clean ones! At first it might seem pricey, but when you compare it to disposable diapers, it comes up to about the same. But where you really save is by keeping thousands of diapers from ending up in landfills.

    Do they have Hybrid Vans?

    Dal 😉


  3. We were looking at trading our minivan for the Mazda 5, and one of our 3 kids is a giant! I find the van guzzles gas, and the Mazda 5 is surprisingly roomy, easy on gas, and very versatile inside. Take it for a test drive ( and remember that soon there will be 2 boosters which take up less room).

    I love those reusable grocery bags too – I feel so guilty when I forget them at home!

    And I used cloth diapers for the first 2 kids ( disposable at night). It’s really not a big deal to wash them yourself – dump them in the washing machine, hot water, a little bleach, and hung outside to dry.

    I think every bit helps

  4. Just checking out some of the posts at BlogHers Act Canada/MBT.

    I made a commitment to using the reusable grocery bags a few months ago. They are in my car, but if I forget to bring them into the store, I buy more. The grocery stores are loving me; my husband is less impressed.

  5. Great ideas, and thanks for posting this – I’m off to look at the other bloggers and their ideas / resources. I also just realized there is enough natural light coming in that I could turn off my overhead light 🙂

  6. Ihave a gas guzzling van and it so bothers me every time I fill up. And I’ve had the thing for 6 years now. MY Next vechile will be fuel efficent. Jack drives a diesl Jetta. WAY more fuel efficent than my van. at 1000km per 55 L tank. It’s aweome and the car is now 7 years old.

    Here’s what I do already
    Line dry my clothes all summer. And hang most stuff up in the winter. Shirts and stuff like that.
    Rubber maid containers or Dollar store ones for lunches Hardly ever you ziplock.
    Wash out milk bags for lunches too. Sandwiches and leftovers go in these.

    I have the bins for gorceries
    eco Freindly lights almost everywhere.
    Although I have stop buying cheeze sticks. Alot of waste on thoses.

    So Dani if you buy that mazda five I will be watching you because I was thinking that what my new car should be.

    Good luck!

  7. I don’t use a dryer, but I don’t know how feasable that is for a family of 5 with a spit-uppy new baby.
    If you have an old plastic bag or two in your car or purse, you can use them for groceries etc, and they’re also pretty useful when one of your kids suddenly starts feeing pukey while you’re roaring down the 401 in rush hour! That way you don’t feel terrible when you forget the reusable ones at the grocery store.
    Of course, eating less red meat is the new eco-friendly measure that’s in vogue right now, as well as eating locally. Besides, local fruit and veg is tastier.
    Spaeking of which, they’re expectig frost over the weekend, so get your marketing in today!

  8. I have another one: don’t use bottled salad dressing. Homemade takes half a second, is healthier, tastes better, and will contribute to reducing your carbon footprint.

  9. I recently heard about these cool wrappers you can use to replace some of your ziplocs: http://www.reusablebags.com/store/wrapnmat-p-2.html. I didn’t buy any myself, but I realized that I have quite a few cloth napkins that I can use to wrap crackers, sandwiches, or whatever else that is relatively dry, and just throw an elastic around it.

    For lunch, I use a small Corningware dish that comes with a rubber lid. I don’t like heating food in plastic containers because it seems unhealthy to me. (I’m okay with using plastic containers, but heating them up supposedly releases yucky chems I don’t want to think about.) I have four Corningware dishes and use one for myself and one for Jade every day. That way there are (usually) always two that are clean.

    For groceries, we use cloth bags as well as collapsible plastic bins from Ikea. I like the collapsible part because it means they take up a lot less room in our already-cluttered car.

  10. Are you sick of me yet? I just remembered that I wanted to mention to those still doing diapers that one can also use cloth wipes when doing cloth diapers. I just cut up some old towels, or you can use baby washcloths, and throw them in the washer at the same time as the diapers. There are lots of recipes for wipe solution or you can just use water.

    To take things one step further (and one that I admittedly have not gone in) you can also buy more ecologically friendly feminine-hygiene products these days. I saw a reusable “cup” for sale at the drug store, and when I bought cloth diapers, I also got an insert for reusable cloth pads from this company: http://www.newmoonpads.com/pads.html.

    And of course, there are always cloth breast pads (which I did use) for those leaky months after breastfeeding begins.

  11. I have given up many things in the name of the environment over the past year, but I cannot bring myself to give up the ziplocs. And my kids would starve without string cheese.

    Good luck with the car thing. I went with the fuel efficient SUV I must say. The fuel economy is the same as on the minivan…although the price tag was not. My next car will be a hybrd though.

  12. you can wash out your Ziploc bags and reuse them, that’s what I do. just make sure they are perfectly dry before storing.

    You can wash out breadbags and larger plastic bags too, and hang on the clothesline to dry. (or in the dishrack)

    I have been using Pandora Pads (Cotton Feminine Pads) for many years now and I am really quite happy with them.

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