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Green Guest: Seattle Stevie

14 November 2011

I am so super excited to feature my first guest blogger here at Using This, Not That. Stevie has been a blog friend for a while now, and has awesome ideas about living a little greener. Traveling only by bus and not even living in central Seattle is impressive! Check out her post and feel free to get in touch with her if you have questions.

Hi everyone! I was so excited when Elizabeth invited me to guest post on this new blog of hers. I love the idea of tackling such a HUGE topic with every day, simple changes.

Over the past several years I’ve made many small, yet significant changes to my lifestyle in order to reduce my negative impact on our environment. Today I’m going to share some tips & tricks with you.

Say “no” to Plastic

No, I don’t mean to stop using plastic altogether. That would be pretty much impossible. I mean reducing and/or reusing the plastic we use on a regular basis. How can you do this?

  • Bring reusable bags to the store. Not just the grocery store, but every time you shop. I like to use bags similar to these. They collapse into a small bundle that I can easily toss into my purse when I leave the house.
  • Reuse plastic bags. If you do forget your reusable bags and come home with several plastic bags, recycle them or reuse them around your house for trash liners, pet waste disposal, carrying your lunch to work –just not at the same time, please. That would be rather unsanitary! Other household plastic I reuse includes Ziploc bags and plastic food containers (yogurt, sour cream, etc.). Think about all those sandwich bags you throw away – a quick rinse with some soap and a small drop of bleach, if necessary, and the bags are like new.
  • Buy in bulk. Keep smaller containers around the house for things like dry goods and cleaning products and refill them as needed from a larger container.
  • Get your craft on. If you happen to be an arts and crafts kind of person, I know you can find a million and one uses for the plastics around your house. I use many of the aforementioned plastic containers to store my craft supplies. I also use them as palettes to mix paint colors!

Take the Bus

I know not everyone lives in a city or town with public transit*, but if you do, listen up! Start taking the bus once a week. Whether it’s to your job, to school, to happy hour…make an effort to use public transit. Yes, I know it takes longer and is not always as convenient as hopping in your car, but it makes a difference.

I have lived car free for almost 3 years now, and my boyfriend is almost at 2 years. It has its challenges, but we are less stressed, our wallets are thicker, and we’ve both gained a new appreciation of our surroundings by walking and busing everywhere. Not to mention the great stories we get to tell about the crazies we encounter!

For those in Seattle (and anyone to whom this applies) we’re approaching (or smack dab in the middle of it, as the stores would have us believe) the holiday season, which I think is a great time to use public transit. It’s such a treat to be downtown this time of year, but the experience can be ruined by the traffic and expensive, limited parking. Hopping on a bus will take that worry away. Just make sure you can carry all your shopping bags with you!

Public transit is also a fantastic option for going to sporting events, festivals/fairs, concerts, etc. (just be sure you can get home afterward, since not all routes run late at night)

Go Natural

Elizabeth has been talking a bit about natural cleaning products, and I’d like to add on to that.

In our house growing up, we had the standard cleaning supplies under the sink: Windex, Scrubbing Bubbles, some other kind of foul smelling cleanser…you get the idea. But more often than not, our house smelled of vinegar and lemon when floors were being mopped or showers were being cleaned.

I thought this was normal until I had my first roommates. “VINEGAR?!” they gasped, as they insisted we all chip in on Costco sized bottles of caustic household cleaners. And I did chip in. Even though I knew vinegar was effective, for much of my early adulthood I happily wandered the aisles of Target, throwing every other cleaning product into my cart. Until I got my cats.

I worried about them being exposed to harsh chemicals, especially when they were teeny tiny kittens, so I decided to go back to vinegar. I also supplemented with Method brand cleaning products, which I still use and LOVE.

If you’re interested in switching to vinegar, here’s a simple recipe:

All Purpose Vinegar Cleaner

Fill a bucket halfway with warm water. Dump a few cups of vinegar into the water. Dip sponge and/or mop into bucket. Clean your house.

And for those of you who own cats and houseplants, add this mixture to a spray bottle. Spray it on your plants regularly (it doesn’t hurt the plants and actually helps prevent mildew/mold in the soil). A sprinkle of cayenne pepper in the soil is helpful, too. Cats HATE that stuff.

(Don’t worry about the vinegar smell. It goes away once everything is dry.)

This is only a short list of some of the simple changes you can make, but if you’re reading this I hope you decide to implement some of these changes in your own life. But if you forget your reusable bags or drive your car to work every day, don’t beat yourself up over it. If you can do ONE of these things, once a week, even once a month, it can make a difference.

Think about it: Let’s say you go to the grocery store 3 times a week, but only remember your reusable bags once a week – that’s still 52 times a year you don’t use plastic bags! And if your average shopping trip takes 3 or 4 plastic bags? That’s more than 150 plastic bags that won’t end up in a landfill or choking a wonderful marine creature that’s likely already endangered.

If you’d like to discuss or learn more about the changes I’ve made, I’d love to hear from you.

*If you’re in the Seattle area and have questions about Metro/Sound/Community Transit, please contact me. It can be an incredibly difficult system to navigate, but I can help!

Please contact me any time seattlestevie@gmail.com or on Twitter @seattlestevie.

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