1. Taking public transit instead of a taxi when out late.
  2. Using cloth napkins instead of paper, and cloth to clean up instead of paper towel.
  3. Getting off of catalog lists, and reducing junk mail of all kinds.
  4. Actually using my re-usable mug at school (instead of paper cups).
  5. Kicking the Amazon habit: buying from local stores, that I reach by bike, on foot, or on public transit, instead of ordering online.
  6. Eating less red meat, and then…
  7. Eating less meat of all kinds, and maybe…
  8. Becoming vegetarian (again).
  9. Exploring the world without flying.
  10. Offsetting carbon from flying.
  11. Line-drying instead of the dryer.
  12. Buying secondhand instead of new clothing.
  13. Creating notepads from wasted paper (at school).
  14. Growing herbs.
  15. Kicking the meal-kit habit.
  16. Going one month without buying any plastic bottles, and then…
  17. Going three months without buying any plastic bottles, and then…
  18. Going a whole year with none!

Meal Kit Madness

We’ve experimented with Blue Apron, Plated, and now Hello Fresh over the past 4 years or so. We love that there’s very little food waste, but there’s plenty of packaging and a big box has to get driven to our door once a week. I know how to cook, and I enjoy cooking, but I find we fall into a rut when I do the menu planning. I like that the planning and shopping are taken care of and exactly match what we need for each meal. It’s made it possible for us to cook good, balanced meals at home 4-6 nights per week while holding down our jobs and spending time with our toddler. But I know in my heart that it would be better to walk (or bike) to the store or farmer’s market to buy fresh ingredients, reuse bags whenever possible, and do our best to eat leftovers and find uses for extra ingredients. So how to phase out the meal kit?

One thing I’m experimenting with is Real Plans, which (for a small fee) provides a personalized weekly menu plan that you can tweak in all the ways you’d want to. It even generates a shopping list for you! Right now, we’re sticking with Hello Fresh and I’m just using this for the other dinners that we need to plan, to see how it works and start to get in the groove.

Progress report

This week, I bought two plastic bottles (one water, one Coke) at times when I was caught away from home with no water. I also bought us each a new glass water bottle to try to prevent this going forward. Although I’m trying to avoid the “buying new stuff to go green” thing, in this case I realized that having a water bottle with me when I’m out means having 2-3 available – at home and work – so they are available to grab or already in my purse.

I canceled several catalogs via CatalogChoice. My original plan was to keep all our junk mail each week and get some stats on it before throwing it out, but we don’t really have space for that.

This wasn’t our strongest week for kicking the Amazon (and online ordering) habit. I bought a few items of clothing for my daughter from Kidizen, a great app for finding secondhand kids clothes; the downside is that it necessitates delivery. Most of the packages are small and come via USPS, which is coming to my door regardless, so I think it might balance out overall. My husband ordered some books, and I ordered a bulk order of an electrolyte mix (for running) which I couldn’t find locally except in single-serving packets. I also bought some shoes from a brand that’s not in stores. So, lots of packages, lots of delivery miles driven.


The “Do Not Buy” list

I’m not sure where I got the idea for a “Do Not Buy” list – it might have been during the time that I read The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up and a half-dozen articles about it.

Wherever the idea originated, it honors a basic truth: an afternoon spent cleaning a closet, cupboard, or other space in one’s house almost invariably reveals stashes of single objects that one buys, unwittingly, again and again. For me, it is disposable razors. For my husband, dental floss and notebooks. We both buy quinoa and cans of black beans in apocalyptic quantities.

Our solution? Keeping a “Do Not Buy” list on the fridge. It lists items that we have large stashes of, that we are not allowed to buy until we’ve used up what we already have, at which point we can cross the item out and buy it only when needed. It draws our attention to the things we chronically, mistakenly think we’re out of, and helps us remember the existence of the stash and its location.

On the current Do Not Buy list:

  • quinoa
  • black beans
  • razors
  • sponges
  • trash bags


The things I do already

It’s important to recognize the things you do every day that you take for granted. Here are some of ours:

  1. We bike to work most days. I do rely on Juno for a car on extremely cold, snowy, or rainy days, but I try to bike whenever possible. Public transit to my workplace is available, but very slow, hence the use of cars in a pinch. My husband takes the subway when he doesn’t bike.
  2. We live in a small apartment, in an urban area, allowing us to walk and/or use public transit frequently.
  3. Neither of us belongs to a gym, so we’re not burning electricity to work off extra calories!
  4. I buy very few paper books these days, preferring to read on my Kindle while also avoiding unnecessary clutter and avoidable use of paper.
  5. We buy toilet paper, paper towels, etc. made from recycled paper.
  6. I avoid extra printing at work by using Google docs for collaboration.
  7. This list has other suggestions for conserving use of paper. Proud to say we do most of them already! I don’t think we’re going to use family cloth instead of toilet paper, but I plan to experiment with cloth napkins and rags for cleaning.
  8. We have several reusable water bottles, for ourselves and our daughter. I’m not perfect at carrying mine with me at all times, something I hope to improve, to prevent those “I’m so thirsty!” moments when out and about.
  9. We have reusable grocery bags, though we aren’t 100% consistent about bringing them with us to the store.

Kicking the Amazon habit

Ah, Amazon Prime! A quick search, press a few buttons, and anything – ANYTHING – will be delivered to your door in hours or days. It was an easy habit to get into, particularly in the weeks after my daughter was born. It was a bitterly cold winter, the sidewalks were iced over, my body was still recovering, and there were so many things I had no idea I needed until the moment I needed them. And so it began.

I’m not unique nor even particularly bad in my online shopping habit, by any means. Overall, I think I buy less than many others, though not enough to qualify as a true minimalist. Still, living in small apartments, and the experience of decluttering, has taught me to be careful about what I acquire, to ask myself if I will truly use an item, if the space it takes up will be worthwhile, if I’ll be putting it out on the sidewalk the next time I do a thorough cleaning.

Yet, I still use Amazon to buy new toys, books, and necessities for my daughter, along with other things, from gifts to household items. And I do most of my clothes shopping online, not usually from Amazon, but on other sites that require packaging and shipping, which amounts to the same thing.

So, from now on, before I buy anything online, I’m going to ask myself two questions:

  1. Can I buy this locally, from somewhere that I can bike, walk, or take public transit to?
  2. Do I need it so urgently, or have so little time to shop locally, that it justifies delivery?

I started yesterday, by buying running gear from JackRabbit Sports, and a book from the Community Bookstore. (Normally, I read as much as I can in my Kindle, to reduce paper waste and clutter and because I love reading as I fall asleep, but I wanted to be able to pass this book on to others after I’m done.)

On the other hand, I ordered a game from Amazon a couple of days ago because I was – let’s face it – too lazy to call around to see if anyone was selling it. The challenge for me is likely going to be those items that are easy to find online, but hard to know where to look for in the local stores.

Reducing paper mail

Nothing feels more wasteful than getting the mail, only to immediately throw half – or more – of it away.

The last time we moved, I used CatalogChoice to opt-out of as many catalogs as I could, especially ones going to our old address! Since then, the number and variety of catalogs we get has been creeping up again, and it’s time to get back to work opting out of them.

Starting today, when I want to throw an item out immediately upon receiving it, I’m going to save it, and once a week I’ll go through the pile and add the catalogs to my CatalogChoice opt-out list. By collecting all the junk mail in one place each week, I should also be able to note progress as the pile should shrink over time!

Flyers and fundraising solicitations are tricky. It seems like those require a phone call to the organization. I’m going to start with the NWF and Tanglewood, both organizations that I’ve made donations and purchases from, but don’t need mailings. (It particularly irks me to get solicitations from environmental organizations!)

This site, DMA Choice, allows you to take your name and address off of lists that various catalog, magazine, and direct mail companies use to try to get new customers and subscribers. It only takes a minute (and $2) to remove yourself from all the lists. However, if you purchase something from a company, this won’t prevent you from getting catalogs and offers from them.

I don’t get many credit card offers, but Opt Out Pre-Screen lets you opt-out of them for 5 years (if you do it electronically) or permanently (if you do it by mail). For now, since I’m not near a printer, I went with the 5 year option.