A Green-er Life

Tuesday is garbage collection day here at the Komatsu/Erickson household and every other Tuesday also happens to be our recycling collection day so I thought it would be fitting to write a post about a few “green” measures that Matty and I take (and make) in our home and lives. There are so many articles, blog entries, Pinterest pins about green cleaning supplies, so why not add my 2 cents? 🙂

First things first: Recycling. Can you believe that the city of Anchorage doesn’t have a recycling program as of yet? Well, I shouldn’t say that. Certain parts of the city have recycling pick-up throughout the City of Anchorage, but my neighborhood does not. We aren’t slated to actually receive curbside recycling until this summer. I will believe it when I see it, but even if it does go through, Matt and I will not be recycling with the city of Anchorage. Gasp! What?! No, Matt and I will be sticking with our current curbside recycling program through Alaska Waste. I understand this is a lot of jibber-jabber for one who doesn’t live in Anchorage and doesn’t care what curbside collections are going on, however, my point is to let those of you know who don’t have curbside collection to do a bit of research and discover what programs are available to you in the area where you live. Yes, Matty and I pay a bit extra for this service, but the amount we pay equals $.32/day. I can afford this and it gives me a peace of mind knowing that a 40 gallon container picked up every 14 days is going to be recycled rather than find its final resting place in a landfill. By the way, most of these curbside recycling programs that you pay a little extra for may actually recycle more than a city recycling collection. For instance, the city of Anchorage will not pick up cans, brown glass bottles, or plastic shopping bags. Seriously? In my opinion, that’s a shoddy recycling program and I know people are going to throw out those things they can’t recycle rather than save them and then tote them around in their car until they bring them to a collection site. Thumbs down for city planners of Anchorage Waste.

My recycling containers in my pantry to help me stay organized.

40 gallon recycling container

** Side note: For those strange things that you probably throw away that you shouldn’t: batteries, fluorescent bulbs (which are pretty much all you can buy now anyway), plastic shopping bags, cell phones, etc.) Target offers a recycling program at select stores. So bring your batteries (drop them off at the service desk), plastic shopping bags, old cell phones, and glass bottles when you go on your next Target shopping spree and you will find bins near the check lanes where you can drop these bad boys off. In regards to the fluorescent bulbs, do not throw them in the trash. Ever. Why? They contain mercury and mercury is hazardous. They always have and they always will. So do not touch the bulb with your bare skin (and if you do, wash your hands well) and click here to find where you can recycle your bulbs. Home Depot has a recycling program for those who do not want to click the button. **

Recycling doesn’t end with recycling the non-food items in your house, but should include the compostable items that you throw away. I really shouldn’t be one to talk type about this seeing that I haven’t composted a single item in months. However, Matty and I have been doing our research on how to compost during the winter months in Alaska and here’s to us committing via putting it down in writing that we will be composting this next winter. This spring and summer will be when we get started, but there is much to learn about composting when living in colder climates. While we lived in South Carolina we had a compost pile using a compost bin much like this one: (I have a photo of ours somewhere on my external hard drive, but I am completely disorganized with the photos, so this photo will have to suffice. I suppose that should be one of my goals in 2012: Organize my thousands of photos.)

Image via Eat Drink Better

If you click on the photo it will bring you to a great article on composting if you are interested in getting started. Composting in S. Carolina was a breeze. I am sure the damp and humid area was to our compost’s pile favor. During the summer, we had rich soil within two months of dropping watermelon rinds, coffee grounds, eggshells, etc. onto our pile. The key is to ensure that you are keeping the balance correct and not adding items that will turn rancid (butter, fats, meat) or make it to acidic (orange peels, lemon peels) and keeping it layered with soil, leaves, etc. It is so rewarding to pot new plants using the soil from your compost pile. Unfortunately, for me, I usually killed the plants regardless. Yep, I’m still working on perfecting my green thumb. At least I have the compost pile down pat.

Besides recycling, Matt and I have found a way to lessen our carbon emissions. We are a single-car-family. I can honestly say I don’t know how long this will last, but these past seven months with one car have been awesome and we have both mentioned this to one another on more than one occasion. Now, for some, I am aware that this arrangement is pretty much darn near impossible. I would have said the same two years ago, but even so, I think there is more you can do in this area than you realize. For instance, I carpooled to work with a coworker of mine while I worked and lived in S. Carolina. It was great to have someone to talk to in the morning and evening and it also made me leave my house on time seeing that someone else was counting on me to be ready or to pick them up. Who knows, maybe it’s an option for you. Matty and I downgraded (we consider it an upgrade, though) to one vehicle right before our move to Alaska. I don’t exaggerate when I write, “right before.” I sold my Mini Cooper September 1 and we pulled out of Columbia, SC on September 2. Matt sold his Toyota Tacoma truck about a month prior to our move. In between Matt selling his truck and selling my Mini, we bought the “man-i-van”, aka: Honda Element. Matt had been eyeing this vehicle for a few years, and I really wasn’t impressed. First, the appearance of one looks like a rubber tote on wheels and the second, it looks like a rubber tote on wheels. Ha! U-G-L-Y. I have always liked “good looking” cars, fast cars, cars that say a little bit about my personality. I am a car lady. Seriously. I will admit that I had a brief lapse in judgement (actually, it was just because I needed a car and my parents were too kind to buy me the vehicle) when I owned a 1989 Thunderbird super coupe. I may or may not have attempted to find a photo on hand of that suh-weet car. But I have a serious love for all european cars. A Saab hatchback and convertible, a Land Rover Discovery, and a Mini Cooper have been my kind of vehicles so I felt like a big weenie in a Honda Element. But, in all honesty, it’s been a great car. It gets good gas mileage, it has a good track record for little to no maintenance, the seats maneuver in ways that makes it quite a useful vehicle, plus it’s all-wheel-drive. It has been nice to only have one car to maintain, to wash, fill up with gas, clean, and take up space in the garage. In terms of payment, Matty and I got a good rate on a loan and placing a hefty down payment on the loan from the profit we made on selling two cars plus a little extra. I have also been paying extra on the monthly payment each month so we will own the vehicle that much sooner.

The “Man-i-van” (Honda Element)

If you want to know more about the Honda Element, I’m sure I can put you in contact with one of its greatest enthusiasts, my husband. Let me forewarn you that you can’t have him mention the Element without him stating, “Did you know that you can take a hose to the inside of that thing to clean it out?!” We’ll see how that goes in a few weeks. Wish us luck…

Where are we? We recycle, we don’t compost, but we will be starting this spring, we own one vehicle…what else? Oh, yay, my favorite part! “Green” cleaning products! One of my goals in 2012 is to go “green” with all my cleaning products. So far, I haven’t conquered this goal…yet. I do, however, use a homemade and “green” multi-purpose cleaner, degreaser, and antibacterial spray. I still would like to make a window cleaner, laundry detergent and some sort of grout/tile bleach, but I am unsure of the last one because each one I try seems to use bleach and I don’t know how “green” that is. If you have any recommendations or links that you have tried, please pass them along. I am in love with the cleaners that I made and I will not take a single bit of credit for it and I will not discuss how I made them since I got the idea from here. They deserve the credit and if you want to make your own, please visit their site. I will say, though, that is is extremely easy and I already had everything on hand. Who knows, maybe you will, too.

“When life gives you hands make homemade.”

In terms of laundry detergent, I still have two bottles that I am trying to use up along with some window cleaner, but once I find a few products I like, I will let you know. I currently use Green Works and Seventh Generation Free & Clear laundry detergent. The most important thing to know about laundry detergents (and cleaning products in general) is if they use the process of ethoxylation; a process that creates a harmful contaminate or by-product called 1,4-dioxane. You can click here to find our more and to see if your favorite laundry detergent uses this process. It will not be found on the label because it is not required. The bottom line, know what is in your products that you use. I will definitely be sharing more posts with you about this topic because it interests me and also concerns me. In the meantime, do a bit of research and be a responsible consumer for your own safety.

Green Works is free from the process of ethoxylation.

My last rant is about the use of paper towel. I smile as I type this because growing up my mother was always on us about using too much paper towel when we were growing up. We still joke with her about it to this day, but once I started buying paper towel and saw the price tag, I knew why she was on her three children to use less (thanks, Mom!). A couple years ago I started doing research on paper towel alternatives (before the Pinterest days of finding something in a mere second) and I found this little beauty of an Etsy shop, Athena Creates. The creator of the unpaper towel is a genius and I ordered a few and then I received a few more from my sister-in-law for my birthday and I’ve been hooked ever since. I use them for everything that I would use a paper towel for except when I am cleaning up dog puke or soaking up bacon grease. Sorry, you may have twinged your face when reading that, but that is why I use paper towel because even thinking about it is gross. Seriously, you need to do yourself a favor and buy 50+ of these bad boys and put them to use. You will love them.

I keep a pile of unpaper towels near my sink in the kitchen.

Also, find an alternative to your favorite Bounty or Viva brand of paper towel. One that is preferably recycled and not bleached since most paper towel brands use virgin, soft wood to create the towel. The commissary on base sells Marcal Small Steps paper towel. It is in a package of eight 2-ply for $6.99. I think it works pretty well and it’s nice to know that the entire product is 100% recycled and uses 0 new trees.

Marcal Small Steps

Well, have you survived the post? Good job and thanks for humoring me. I seriously wish I could talk to a few more people about green cleaning products because most people I speak to usually nod their head in approval, but I can tell that they really could.care.less.what.I.think. Oh well. Once again, this is why I write. For me. If you read what I wrote and want to join in on the conversation, make a comment below. I would love to hear what you have made and works (or maybe what hasn’t worked) or any tips for me so I can live a bit more “green”.

4 thoughts on “A Green-er Life

  1. thanks for sharing jean! i’ve been trying to take small steps and appreciate your tips. mom just sent me some essential oils and super washing soda but forgot to ask for castille soap! what kind do you use? the annoying thing is that i have to order everything because can’t easily find it here…
    Japan has a nazi-run recycling system (they recycle everything and there are about a million rules about separating) but i guess it’s good(:
    at a loss about laundry detergent-can you easily find bar laundry soap like Fels-Naptha?
    I will have to research apartment composting-not sure if i can do it on my porch?
    Finally, i’ve been meaning to order the towels on Etsy but in the meantime i’ve been using old cut up tshirts for all my clean-ups/drying except for the same doggie delights that you mentioned-haha.
    Go Green Jean Go!

  2. p.s. do you like how i offered no tips of my own but just asked more questions?(:
    i made a daily shower cleaner of 3 parts water, 1 part vinegar, and few drops of essential oil to make it smell better. cuts back on how often i have to do a major scrub down…

    • Lee-ron! Thanks for the shower cleaner tip. I have been meaning to make one myself. You should have seen me the other day, I was standing in the shower (fully clothed) attempting to bleach the grout with bleach and baking soda using a toothbrush. That’s a joke and it doesn’t work, or at least it didn’t for me. However, I will definitely be making your shower cleaner because it could use a good clean. I blame Matt for the dirt. 🙂

      Castille Soap: I use Dr. Bronner’s castille soap (I use it as an everyday body wash). Can you get it at the commissary? Lemme know and I can throw some in your bday package
      Recycling Nazis: ha! Have you seen the Portlandia episode about recycling? I picture Japan to be like that.
      Apartment Composting: Check out this link: http://compostingtips.info/apartment-composting-tips/
      You are a genius for using cut up tshirts. I only do that with dust rags, but duh, I could use them for anything.
      Go Leeron, go! 😉

      • i can’t get castille soap so if you want to send it as berday present that would be awesome! but don’t send anything else-that’s enough(:

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