As published on https://liberateandlather.com/blog/39512/interview-with-rebecca-wenrich-wheeler February 8, 2023 for the WOW! Women on Writing blog tour.
Becoming an eco-friendly household can be overwhelming when considering the magnitude of the climate crisis. Instead of thinking about every possible lifestyle change, start small, and choose one or two tasks and build from there. Yes, my family is now one with a composter, pollinator gardens, and solar panels, but it’s not something we didn’t all at once. Whether your family is just beginning on this journey or has incorporated some eco-friendly practices, reducing single-use plastic usage and composting are inexpensive places to start.
Reducing single-use plastic
According to plasticocean.org 50% of all plastic produced is for single use. Individual families can make a difference! First start by surveying your plastic usage and determine what can be cut. Start with one item. For instance, you might ban plastic sandwich bags from lunchboxes and change to reusable containers, ditch the plastic straws, or use refillable water bottles and coffee cups. You might also commit to using reusable shopping bags, and if you do end up with plastic shopping bags, pledge to re-use them.
To go a step further, you might try refillable soaps and cleaners in glass or aluminum containers. There are many more options in the refillable soap market than just a few years ago. My personal favorite is Blueland for hand soaps, laundry booster, and toilet cleaner. And the best part is over time you do save money, because you are only buying the refill tablets and not paying for yet another disposable container. I also use Grove Collaborative for dish detergent and laundry sheets, and I went back to old-school powder dishwasher detergent in a cardboard box.
For those who love clothes, research clothing companies that use recycled plastics in their fabrics or even shop consignment. Every little bit helps. Start small; ditch one plastic item, and then see how far you go! Visit earthday.org for more tips on ending plastic pollution and even calculate your plastic footprint to help you determine where to cut.
Let’s talk about home composting. So why compost in the first place? According to the USDA, food waste is estimated at 30-40% of the food supply. And most of that waste goes into landfills. Every 100 pounds of food waste sends 8.3 pounds of methane into the atmosphere. Yes, composting does create methane, but at much lower levels. Landfill emissions are about ½ methane and ½ CO2, and compost gas emissions are mainly CO2.
About 50% of what goes into landfills can be composted, and that’s where families come in. We’ve been home composting for almost five years. We purchased a 37-gallon tumbling composter from Target for about $90. We keep a small stainless steel compost bin on our counter, and when it’s full, we transfer to the large composter.
The first step is to cut down on food waste and leave as little as possible uneaten. But if you do have waste, most of it can transfer to home composting: coffee grounds, egg shells, bread scraps, fruit and vegetable scraps, tea bags, nut shells (make sure to crush for quicker decomposition), paper, cardboard tubes, cardboard take-out containers. Even some yard waste like grass clippings, crushed leaves and sawdust can be composted. You do want a balance of greens and browns in your bin. Check out the EPA website for more home composting tips: https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home
Animal fats and proteins should not go into home compost, as it takes a lot more heat than a home composter can provide to break it down. You’ll get rot before compost, plus animal products attract pests. If you have access to a commercial compost service, like Compost Now, they can take animal byproducts as well as the cups, utensils, and bags marked for commercial compost. Also never put pet waste or unused medicine in compost. Check with your local health department for proper disposal of medicine.
I grew up on a peninsula, and water was a part of our town’s survival. Not only was it a source of beauty and recreation it was also our livelihood. I remember being taught about pollution in elementary school in the 1980s, and those lessons stuck with me. The natural world is infused in all my writing, and sometimes not even intentionally! My pictures books: When Daddy Shows Me the Sky (released November 2021) and When Mama Grows with Me (to be released Summer 2023), are about yoga and astronomy and yoga and gardening, respectfully. My novel YA Whispering Through Water is set in a coastal Virginia town, and the book is filled with water and bird imagery. Whispering Through Water was released January 4, 2023, and can be purchased wherever books are sold.
Spring is around the corner! If you are interested in watching the evolution of my pollinator gardens, follow me on Instagram. Blooming will happen soon!
Keep looking up.