By Amy Mazurek
Sustainability Studies Student
As we approach Earth Day, we’ve decided to share a series of reflections on how one person is trying to move towards a more responsible, and sustainable, lifestyle.
Moving to an organic, sustainable, and greener lifestyle sounds great, but can be overwhelming. The earth-loving life is enticing, but the idea of giving up my hair products, my old fashioned Sunday newspaper, or even my chemical filled junk food is overwhelming, to say the very least. Hopefully, by taking baby steps, the process will be more enjoyable and less scary than anticipated.
Another place I looked to become more environmentally conscious was our home. We recycle and keep our heat and air conditioning regulated, but I’m trying to find all those little things that help on a daily basis. I recently contacted Energizing Indiana to get a home energy assessment. All AEP and Nipsco customers are eligible to have a professional check heat and air conditioning, duct work, sink aerators, and showerheads for their energy efficiency level. They will then advise of areas that need updated, repaired, and even energy saving tips. I’m not only looking forward to an experts’ opinion on how to make my home healthier, but also to saving a little money!
As I run out of cleaning supplies I’ve started trying natural ingredients to make my own rather than replacing them. I’ve found that by using basic kitchen staples like kosher salt, baking soda, or vinegar, I can eliminate most of the cleaning chemicals from my home. Using items that were already in our kitchen not only saved my family money and cleaned up the air we breathe, it gave us some peace of mind about what we’re ingesting inside our own home. Thedailygreen.com website has some great recipes for cleaning supplies, and at an average of $5 a bottle for each item I no longer purchase, the savings is unbelievable.
Because most of the time we have a house full of boys and two large dogs that love be outside, we also wanted to make sure our yard was as green as it could be…pun intended! The first thing we wanted to do was eliminate chemical fertilizer. “Chemical fertilizer and pesticides accumulate in the environment, with long-term effects on both human and environmental health that are only now being realized” (Thompson). By checking into what we were putting on our yard just to make it look good, we found that in a 10 pound bag of fertilizer, we could be using up to four pounds of nitrogen. As little as a 30 minute exposure of breathing nitrogen can lead to asthmatic and respiratory problems requiring emergency services. Chemical fertilizers affect soil by stunting its growth. Because soil is a living organism, its lifespan is damaged both short term and long term by the phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium that are applied just to visually enhance it. By composting a mixture of kitchen and animal waste we can create a healthy yard, not one that we need to repair every year by covering it in harmful chemicals.
Something we have yet to purchase, but are looking forward to is a rain barrel. After living in the desert where solar panels are everywhere, I felt like I needed to look for ways to use the natural climate of the Midwest to our benefit. After doing some research about how to keep from wasting water that we have access to naturally, I was surprised to learn that barrels are used as much for pollution control and reducing wear and tear to paved areas and storm drainage systems, as they are for recycling water.
While I’ve got a long way to go before I’m a vegan, I’m continually looking for ways to adapt more sustainable living. I’m teaching my children what I learn along the way and hope that they will live an even cleaner lifestyle than I am. Who knows, maybe I’ll even give up my chemical filled junk food one of these days!
Read more: Thompson, Paul A. The Agrarian Vision. The University Press of Kentucky, 2010.