January 2023: Family Sustainability Goals

by | Jan 27, 2023 | Eco Home, Family, Sustainable Kitchen

Toward the end of (a very busy and stressful) 2022, I made a few significant waste and eco-friendly resolutions for the new year. They weren’t New Year’s resolutions, per se; they just took me the whole 2022 year to make them happen.

We have a five and a seven-year-old. Anyone with kids would agree that focusing on recycling and waste reduction goals is challenging when you are up to your neck in parenthood and work. Some things just have to go to the back burner.

So when I finally got this website rolling towards the end of 2022, I knew that whatever changes we started with needed to be uber simple.

January 2023: Family Environmental Goals

I picked three specific goals to focus on for the 31 days in January:

  • Compost 90%+ of our food waste (in our Lomi)
  • Eliminate paper towel usage
  • Create a separate plastic recycling collection (our curbside pickup does not take plastic)

I decided to give the following goals a thirty-day trial period. If they proved doable, they would become a permanent change, and I would pick three more for the next month. So, three in January, three more in February, three more in March, and so on.

 If all goes as planned, we will have made 36 permanent environmentally positive habits in 2023.

We are at the end of January, and I will share the outcomes of our experiment, why I chose them, and precisely how we made them happen.

Sustainability goals

GOAL #1: Compose 100% of Our Food Waste

Our xeriscape yard in our new Chicago home inspired me to start composting. If you are unfamiliar, a xeriscape yard is a landscaping practice that involves designing the yard and garden with drought-resistant plants (no extra watering!). By the end of summer, our yard resembles a semi-manicured but purposeful jungle (we get our fair share of summer rain).

In short, I envisioned nourishing our new outdoor space with healthy, home-grown nutritive soil. I also wanted to create my own organic home garden, and teaching the science behind composting to my kids sounded like a great idea.

You can read more about my visions of composting here.

The Bigger Reasons Why

Impact on the environment 

Composting helps to reduce the amount of organic waste that ends up in landfills. The most significant benefit of composting food scraps is that it allows them to break down aerobically, releasing carbon dioxide rather than methane, a potent greenhouse gas. 

To feed our own yard and garden

Compost is rich in nutrients and organic matter, which helps to improve soil health and fertility. This can lead to healthier plants and better crop yields.

Composting also reduces the need for chemical fertilizers, which can negatively impact soil and water quality.

To teach the kids about composting (& have a cool science experiment)

Composting can be a rewarding and educational experience, allowing you to see the process of decomposition and the creation of nutrient-rich soil.

So far, they think composting is cool and enjoy adding their scraps to the bin.

Other fun benifits of composting with my kids include:

  • It is a hands-on activity.
  • We can use our compost to grow plants.
  • We can teach the kids about caring for nature in a way that will help them feel empowered to make positive environmental choices.

In case you want to learn more about composting:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides resources and guidance for communities, organizations, and individuals interested in starting or expanding composting programs.

How We Did It

We used an outdoor rotating bin to compost last summer. But I got an indoor Lomi composter over the holidays and have been using that ever since. It is typically too cold to compost in the winter in Chicago. Hence, the indoor composter works well in winter, but I will add outdoor composting when the weather gets warmer. 

Additional recommended reading:

GOAL #2: Eliminate Paper Towel Usage

Several months ago, I read an article about eliminating paper towels in the home (I regretfully admit that we were using an exuberant amount every month).

At the time, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how any family got through most days without at least a couple paper towels.

But people do it, so we decided to give it a thirty-day trial.

The Bigger Reasons Why

Impact on the environment 

Paper towels are made from trees and require large amounts of water and energy. They also generate significant amounts of waste.

The cost

Paper towels can be expensive in the long run, primarily if you use them frequently (it is also way more convenient with little kids around). Cloth towels or reusable wipes can be more cost-effective.

There are great alternative options 

There are many alternative options to paper towels, such as:

  • Cloth towels
  • Reusable wipes
  • Unpaper towels: reusable cloth towels that can be used in place of paper towels for cleaning and drying. They can be washed and used again and again.
  • Sponges: Natural sponges, such as those made from loofahs, can be used for cleaning dishes, counters, and spills. They can be washed and reused but should be replaced periodically.
  • Bamboo towels: Absorbent towels that can be used for cleaning, drying dishes, and wiping counters. They can be washed and reused multiple times.

How We Did It

Bamboo towels are 100% the way to go here! We made it through January without using a single paper towel. And the best part is that it wasn’t that difficult, and my kitchen and dishes are just as clean as ever. 

This is exactly how we did it

  • Bought a batch of bamboo towels
  • Left one bamboo towel hanging next to the sink for hand drying
  • Left a stack of bamboo towels on the other side for dish drying
  • Left a few under the sink for wiping counters
  • Kept an “unpaper towel” hanging behind the sink as a backup.

Additional information on bamboo:

Bamboo towels are a great eco-friendly alternative to paper towels for the following reasons:

  • Bamboo is a fast-growing and highly renewable resource. It is a type of grass that grows up to 91 cm (35 inches) per day!  
  • Bamboo fibers are biodegradable, meaning they can be broken down by natural processes and do not contribute to pollution or waste.
  • Bamboo requires less water to grow than cotton, making it a more sustainable choice from an irrigation perspective.
  • Bamboo towels are more durable and have a longer lifespan than paper towels, reducing the need for frequent replacements and waste.
  • Bamboo fibers are naturally soft, which makes them gentler on the skin.

Note: Make sure your bamboo product meets acceptable standards:

Look for certifications by organizations such as:

These certifications indicate that the bamboo was grown, harvested, and processed in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.

You can also check for compliance with the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) guidelines for production industry standards.

These standards address sustainable harvesting, social responsibility, and environmental impact.

GOAL #3: Add a Separate Plastics Recycling Collection

We have been recycling for years. But it wasn’t until last year that I discovered that plastics are not all the same, nor are they all recyclable. 

Our culture creates way too much waste and doesn’t make recycling simple. At the end of the day, I feel crummy wasting things so frivolously.

Last year I was on an environmental committee at my daughter’s school to meet other like-minded moms. It ended up not being the social activity connection I expected. Instead, my job was to pick up the plastic waste collected in trash bins at my daughter’s school, load it into my car then drive it to a plastic recycling location. Over 20 pounds of plastic trash filled my car’s entire trunk and backseat. 

I did that every week for the first semester of school.

It was then that I found out plastic recycling is a very different situation from many other types of recyclables.

Additional recommended reading:

The Bigger Reasons Why

Our village does not do plastic curbside pickup:

Some curbside recycling programs do pick up plastics. But most don’t. It is essential to check with your local recycling program to see which types of plastic they accept. 

To help lower greenhouse gas emissions

Plastic production and disposal are significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions; recycling plastic can help lower these emissions.

To help protect wildlife and the environment: Improper disposal of plastic can harm wildlife and the environment.

For example, suppose plastic ends up in the ocean. In that case, it can have a devastating impact on marine wildlife and the health of the entire ocean ecosystem. Many animals mistake plastic for food and ingest it, resulting in life-threatening outcomes. Additionally, plastic debris can damage coral reefs and other sensitive habitats and entangle marine animals, leading to suffocation or drowning.

How We Did It

The school’s plastic collection initiative ended in December. Since then, I have collected our family’s plastic in a separate receptacle and dropped it off at the same plastic recycling collection center.

A note on plastic:

It is a good idea to recycle waste when you can. However, it is even more beneficial to not create unnecessary waste in the first place. This is especially true of plastics.

You can read more about how and why very little plastic is actually recycled and ways to reduce plastic usage at home.

New February 2023 Jividen Family Environmental Goals

I can’t believe January is almost over. Is the world spinning faster?

I will make another post about goals for February 2023 soon! For now, here are my environmental goals and ideas for the month:

  • Taking my own coffee cup to Starbucks- no takeout waste
  • Zero disposable straw usage
  • Talking my husband into not buying plastic water bottles
  • Not ordering anything through Amazon online delivery (this one will be hard!). Instead, picking up groceries with my own reusable bags.  
  • Looking into Amazon alternatives such as Earth Hero, thrive market, imperfect foods, and loop – where can we buy products besides Amazon??
  • Looking into sustainable fashion options!