My husband was mortified last Thanksgiving when I showed up at my mother-in-law’s house to help prepare dinner with a big plastic container from home in tow. I’d just gotten a tumbling composter and I was eager to fill it up with food scraps. I figured our feast would generate plenty of vegetable peelings, eggshells, and other fodder for the composter, which might as well be brought home and put to good use!
My mother-in-law, however, didn’t bat an eye when I started filling up my container, since she has been known to have her own extreme green measures. Years ago, when her neighborhood association voted against paying for a private curbside recycling service (at the time, her municipality didn’t offer it), she was known to load up our car with her bags of empty bottles and cans, so that we could take them home and put them in our own curbside bins.
Assisted by a poll of my friends (many of whom, it turns out, are even more fervent about the environment than I am), I’ve created a list of ways you can tell you’re crazy about saving the environment. And, as it turns out, I came up with so many great examples of Extreme Green-ism, they wouldn’t all fit in one post! Without further ado, here are the first five signs you’re an Extreme Green. Tune in next week for the other five!
- Your kids think that picking up trash is what everyone does on hikes and beach trips. Several of my friends say they automatically grab a trash bag (a repurposed one, natch!) when they’re heading to the beach, a hike, or a walk to the park, and they pick up trash and recyclables along the way.
- You use “family cloth” instead of TP. You can’t get much more Extreme Green than using reusable squares of cloth to wipe after you use the bathroom. But when one friend mentioned it, a bunch of folks chimed in that they’ve done this before. I did some research and it actually makes a lot of sense. Old cloth diapers or used T-shirts, cut into squares, seemed to work the best, and a simple wet bag or covered container stores the used cloths until they’re laundered. You’re saving resources by not buying toilet paper, which is often made with virgin paper (unless you buy recycled toilet paper). You’re also cutting down on the amount of waste that needs to be treated. People even report it feels gentler on your nether regions. Inhabitat has a great introduction to reusable toilet wipes, complete with pros and cons. When I mentioned the concept to my husband, he responded with an emphatic, “NO!” But he did consent to installing a bidet, which has helped us cut down on the amount of TP we use.
- You pack used recyclables to take home from vacations. I’ve been known to tote around empty water bottles and paper trash in my purse or car until I can get them home to my curbside recycling bin, but it turns out some folks I know will even hang onto recyclables during long road trips and even airplane rides. Says a friend who frequently travels to the Caribbean and brings her empties back with her since the islands don’t recycle, “The TSA doesn't know what to make of my carry-on full of empty bottles when I travel.”
- You’ve chosen not to have (biological) children. One of the biggest choices that people can make to help the environment is to not have children, or to adopt instead of having a biological child. When the world’s population hit 7 billion in 2011, that’s the choice that environmental reporter Erica Gies made, and she wrote quite eloquently about it for Forbes. With overpopulation causing overdevelopment and resources to be strained, many people believe that having fewer children is one way to help reduce the toll on the environment. And while this might not be a choice that everyone can, or is willing to make, it’s a solution that works for you.
- You’re a guerrilla gardener. Do you use the cover of night to plant some pretty perennials on a particularly ugly street corner? Throw “seed bombs” over the fence into vacant dirt lots? You’re part of the Green Guerilla movement, which, since the 1970s, has sought to make the urban landscape a little more pleasant, one plant at a time. Not only do these mini gardens beautify an otherwise bleak area, but they can improve air quality, reduce erosion, and yield unlooked-for produce.
We’ll share our next five Extreme Green examples next week!