By Hannah Van Sickle
My daughter was home for a long weekend in October–her first visit since leaving for boarding school in late August. Following an otherwise routine lunch, Kathryn got up from the table and headed straight for the compost bin to the left of the kitchen sink. With one swift flick of her fork, she scooted the remains of a clementine peel and several errant crumbs into the bin without missing a beat; she then paused to wave a paper napkin in the air. “Is this compostable?” she inquired, uttering a question to which I had no answer. “I’m not sure,” I replied. “I don’t think so,” I added hesitantly. “Well, it should be,” was the answer from my not-yet 14 and a half-year-old. Which got me thinking: I can do better.
There are myriad simple changes we can employ at home to support a more sustainable and “green” way of living. Not to mention, as adults our actions are especially important as the responsibility to teach younger generations how to take care of the environment ultimately falls to us. Unless your kid goes to a school that makes use of compostable paper napkins–then it is undoubtedly their job to teach you how to be responsible, and make sure that you are.
Which got me thinking: what can each of us do individually–and realistically–as responsible adults to make the world a better place? Starting in our very own homes, here are a few ideas for inspiration:
- Pack your to-go lunch in a Mason Jar. While soups and stews make the most sense, these versatile glass jars–in sizes ranging from ½ pint to larger than a quart–are perfect for yogurt, fruit and granola parfaits; layered salads (with dressing on the bottom); individual servings of fruits, veggies, and dips. The uses are endless, and tight-fitting lids make this an easy, mess-free solution.
- Invest in a reusable stainless steel mesh coffee filter. And look forward not only to great tasting coffee but also to being able to easily compost your coffee grounds without the hassle of a paper filter. These handy filters come in a range of sizes–from those compatible with individual K-cup machines to 12-cup carafes, it’s a seemingly simple swap that packs a powerful punch insofar as impact.
- Replace paper napkins with cloth for meals. Not crazy about wiping your mouth with someone else’s leftover spaghetti? Invest in napkin rings that can either be personalized (think fun DIY project to do with your grandkids while they visit for the holidays) or mix and match so that each family member has a distinct size/shape/color. For those looking to add a splash of color to the table, consider using mismatched napkins to keep track of whose is whose.
- Create custom drinking glasses for each family member…by reusing the glass jars in which your favorite products come. In my house, I always drink out of a pint-sized Ball jar; my partner drinks out of a peanut butter jar; my older daughter prefers a Hosta Hill kimchi vessel; and my younger daughter opts for a half-pint quilted jelly jar. When one of the kids’ friends joins us, they always get a Bonne Maman jam jar. This clever system not only cuts down on confusion, but it also reduces the number of glasses that end up in the dishwasher each day.
- Tuck a reusable straw into your handbag. And thank me later! Americans use about 500 million plastic straws a day, most of which end up in the ocean. As a result, straws are coming under attack especially in environmentally conscious communities–like Great Barrington–where single use plastic bags and now water bottles have been banned. Soon to be disappearing from local eateries? The single use plastic straws. Eco-friendly alternatives, ranging from stainless steel and silicone to glass and bamboo can be fun and stylish…not to mention trendy.