extreme enough?

9 May

Crunchy Chicken’s Extreme Eco Throwdown has begun. What exactly is this challenge about?

No plastic, no paper products, no driving, local food only, no garbage output, no excessive water usage, no electricity.

It is just what the name says: EXTREME!

Except for the driving part, we have already been doing something in the other areas, but accepting the challenge was another story. It was just too extreme all in one go. But instead of focusing on that, we’ve decided to jump in on the ones we could practically do, and improve on what we are already doing: but thinking LESS OF, instead of the absolute NO.

LOCAL FOOD ONLY: This would have been very doable in the summer. For now, since we live in Minnesota, and the bulk of our grocery is produce, and since we couldn’t justify buying meat, I’d say can’t do right now.

NO LESS PLASTIC: Though we buy minimal processed food, the fact remains that these babies would always come in plastic or paper, or some other mean packaging! If you open our freezer, we have bags, and bags of frozen fruits from Trader Joes. For their price and convenience, and for what we use them for, we are just not ready to give them up yet.

On the positive side, I have acquired more, and better, fabric produce/bulk bags from Etsy. I’m also bringing my own containers to refill vinegar, oil and other liquids at the co-op.

My awesome husband has been bringing his own bags at the stores CONSISTENTLY. This is such a big deal (to me, at least). The first time he brought canvas bag to the Asian market, the owner commented that in his 18 years of owning the store, he’s never seen anybody bring their own bag there. The next time, the girl at the register asked him, “What’s the bag for?” (LOL)

PLASTIC FOR NON-FOOD: We buy coconut oil and cocoa butter in jars for moisturizing. The lotion we use is refillable at the co-op; so are the shampoo and conditioner. Our cleaning products are mostly homemade. I make homemade toothpaste too, but some of us still have to use the tube kind (including me, when I feel too lazy to open the toothpaste jar), you know.

NO PAPER: We stopped buying paper napkins ages ago, and recently- paper towels, but have made further changes as I mentioned in this post.

NO LESS ELECTRICITY: Our latest $30 electric bill says it all, and I’ve talked about giving the dryer a much needed break by using the clothesline. So what else are we doing?

  • I put a lamp in the main bathroom, so that we are not always using the multiple-bulb vanity lighting.
  • The whole family usually stays in one area of the house in the evenings, and lights in other rooms are off.
  • Between me and the children, and my husband working at home part of the day, we have quite the computer usage. But (to appease me) everyone hibernates them when done, and they always get turned off at the end of the day, or when we leave the house. There will be more days though, when the children are not allowed to go on the computer, and mommy- just to check emails or pay bills. Did I mention no TV? Go outside and explore!

NO EXCESSIVE WATER CONSUMPTION:We started doing this even before the challenge, and is by far the most gratifying adjustment of all. I have now been so conscious of running water when washing the dishes. I also used to just let the water run when brushing teeth, and it had to be warm water. (My husband seemed to have more sense in this area than me!) That has changed, too.

Since we are home on most days, I figured less showers make sense, especially for the little ones. I am also convinced now that I don’t have to wash my hair everyday, or I could simply turn the water off while shampooing. I have learned to take navy showers, Aliyah and Ron take “Filipino showers.” Of course, you’d have to be a Filipino, or know a Filipino, to know what that means:)

My family in California, and even my in-laws here, each keep a bucket in the tub. They have been doing it for years and I never got it! Until now, that is. Our bucket stays in the tub to catch shower water that we could use for flushing the toilet.

Reflecting on these changes, and also the one-month Buy Nothing Challenge, none of these seem so drastic and hard for me (and my husband) considering where, and how, we were raised. Water and electricity (even paper products) were, and still are, precious commodities in third world countries like the Philippines.

Our family never had to deal with water shortage, because we were blessed with our own hand pump, and electric pump. But I’m telling you, even as a kid, you would use water very wisely when you have to pump it yourself, and then bring it in using a bucket into the kitchen, or the bathroom. We also didn’t have hot water, so if you want a more tolerable bath in the early morning, you would have to boil water and mix that with the cold. Even driving a family vehicle was a privilege not to be taken for granted. And yes, gasoline has always been expensive.

For us then, these changes are really more like going back to the basics, with EXTRA benefits to be enjoyed: with hot water always available just with a spigot-turn… no pumping water… no washing clothes by hands… no worries that electricity might be off for days or weeks at a time! None of these are really an inconvenience or sacrifice. See it for what it is: a better appreciation of the GOOD LIFE!

We are but stewards.

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