Join the Journey to a Simpler Life this Earth Day
EARTH DAY, 2017
This Earth Day, I want to take you through my journey to a greener, simpler and more purposeful life. And I want to share some of the Earth-friendly products that I use everyday. This journey has influenced every aspect of life, including my photography. Converting to a simpler life on the farm 5 years ago forced me to take a look at how my consumer choices were impacting my life and ultimately the world.
I began the journey of Minimalism- of unburdening my life of all the stuff/junk that interferes with my well being. Minimalism, including Eco Minimalism (consuming less, reducing my negative impact on the Earth) has opened the doors to a simpler life filled with freedom. I have more time to love the people around me because I am able to spend less time caring for, cleaning up, organizing and looking after the 'things' in my life. I am able to enjoy the freedom of photographing children as they move and play instead of worrying if the props I'm using are in the frame and look perfect. I've been purging some of my props and backdrops and trading them for more natural, simple and minimalist backgrounds. I've found that at times props interfere with my goal of photographing souls, and so, I've learned that I need to let some of them go.
I used to be a sale rack shopper. You know, that end aisle in Target with all of the goodies that you convince yourself you'll need someday? I've learned that someday is not today and will probably never come. Most of the time those amazing deals turned into junk lying around my house that stressed me out and that ultimately ended up in the trash or in a garage sale. I've stopped bringing purchases into my home that I don't have an immediate need for.
You've probably heard the phrase, "Voting with your dollars". By spending money on a product or service, we are influencing the types of products that are manufactured or provided in the future. I like to think of it as "Cheering with your dollars" instead. Which products and businesses do I want to root for? Am I willing to drive further and to spend more money to be a part of the action- cheering for my favorite team?
And that isn't because my family is making more money now than before. I'll spend more on products that I know are helping my local community, our Earth and its people. My local farmer charged around $100 for a large, pasture raised, organic turkey this past Thanksgiving. He deserves every penny for his labor and his commitment to sustainable agriculture. He deserves it because his turkeys are a billion times better than any Butterball, and a whole lot healthier too. He deserves it because he isn't getting the government subsidies that the Big Agriculture Farms are getting. Your local farmers and business owners need you!
SIDE NOTE: Shop at your local farmer's markets this summer. I find that when we are at the grocery store we don't think twice about paying the listed price (I believe this is mainly because we don't even pay attention to it and don't know what the price is), but when we are at the market we study the prices and often walk away thinking they are too high. In reality, local market prices are many times lower than grocery store prices! The food is often organic, always super fresh and contains more nutrients too. And, you're cheering on your local farmers! Boy, do they need it!
All of this is a lifelong journey for me and I often feel like I'm not doing enough and that I'm getting nowhere. But, when I compare where I was 5 years ago to today I can see the progress. Sometimes a few baby steps is all you need to start heading in the right direction. My goal as I continue on my journey is to consume less, make more Earth-friendly choices and 'cheer with my dollars' when I do consume. I'll continue to purge my home and my schedule of the junk that keeps me from enjoying life and loving people.
Join the journey! Here are some of my everyday, Earth-friendly essentials that will help you get started. These aren't locally produced items (though I did purchase the Bees Wrap at a locally owned shop while in P.A.) but they are products that I want to cheer for because I know that they are offering a better solution for our planet. If you want to start "Cheering with your dollars" start by visiting your local farmer's markets. You'll find dozens of businesses that you can get to know and start cheering on! Also, visit your downtown area's locally owned restaurants, shops and boutiques. I know that we have some spectacular ones in downtown Fort Wayne.
Journey on, my friend...
The only paper napkins in our home are the cute printed ones that my mom sends me as gifts. I save those for larger parties. When Dominic went to Kindergarten I sewed several vehicle themed smaller napkins for his school lunches. I expanded our collection with other simple-to-make handmade napkins. Sometimes for small dinner parties I will purchase fabric and just cut it and leave the edges to fray. If you choose heavier fabrics they last for a long time, even with the fraying. A note on Paper Towels- this is a debated product in our home! I'd love to do away with them completely and I rarely use them. But, my husband cleans the bathrooms and likes to keep them handy for that. I'd rather he continue to clean the bathrooms, so, we still buy them occasionally. In place of paper towels we use old dish rags for everything else.
STAINLESS LUNCH BOX & REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE
I'm committed to packing 'zero waste' lunches. If you ever have the chance to join your kids for lunch at school take a look at all of the plastic and trash that is left behind. Inside a lot of that plastic and trash was processed food that is high in sugar and all kinds of unhealthy ingredients. I'm sure that you've seen me post photos of my son's holiday lunches on my Instagram and Facebook pages. Most days, Dominic's lunch is pretty ordinary and simple- like this. It doesn't take me long to prepare. He loves snack-type lunches. This Planet Box lunchbox lets me pack him a variety of healthy foods. These lunchboxes are an investment, but we have had ours for 4 years now and it is still in perfect shape. And, think of all the money that you'll save on plastic and paper baggies. And no more squished PB & J!
Next time you shop, pay close attention to the number of items that are placed in each of your plastic bags. It's crazy how wasteful stores are with their bags! Sure, you can reuse them and I do when I forget to carry my own, but it is better to avoid using them in the first place. I love these produce bags from Norwex. I throw them in the laundry with my cloth napkins and dish towels.
Our family would be lost without Mason Jars. We use them for so many things. We purchased a large amount of them for canning when we moved to the farm. They have replaced our drinking glasses, plastic freezer bags, plastic tupperware and more. We use them for canning, flower vases, to fill with goodies for gifts, to make and shake salad dressings in them- really the uses are endless! For freezer storage I simply write the contents of the jars on the lids with permanent marker. The marker washes off with hand washing but not in the dishwasher. Most times I don't even bother to wash it off.
If you know me really well, you know that plastic stresses me out! A little nuts? My husband thinks so sometimes too (maybe most of the time!). I find it to be unnecessarily wasteful and so easily replaced with sustainable and eco-friendly products. But, sometimes we feel like we need plastic wrap. For those times, I love Bee's Wrap! It is reusable cloth coated with bees wax that you can use to cover bowls and to wrap up half of a piece of fruit or cheese. The manufacturer says that it lasts for about a year, though I've kept mine longer and it worked fine. Once it no longer has its 'stick' you can compost it.
SPRING PLANTERS- REUSE RECYCLABLES
Since I just finished filling my Spring planters I thought this would be the perfect time to share this tip with you. My large planters can hold a huge amount of potting soil. The cost can add up quickly! Before I fill my planters with soil, I gather my recyclables and layer them in the bottom of the planter to reduce the amount of soil I need. I reuse the recyclables year after year. Typically, I will take our used egg cartons back to the farm that we purchased the eggs from, but in this case I didn't have enough recyclables to fill my container and needed to use them.
I feel like I'm just getting warmed up! I could talk about this stuff for hours. But, I'll leave you with that for today and hopefully on this Earth Day you will choose to tread a little more lightly.
Let's start a conversation in the comments! I'd love to hear your thoughts and I am open to answering any questions that you have.