The Least I Can Do

The Least I Can Do…

(The 12 Least Intrusive Ways I Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle in the Suburbs)*

    Over the past few years, I have become more conscious about how my decisions impact the world around me.  Unfortunately, the more I learn, the more my stress level increases because I am not certain how to achieve these changes in a realistic way.  I created “The Least I Can Do” to summarize the modest progress our family has made over the past few years (hooray for us!) and to offer inspiration to other families who might be feeling the same pressures.

1. Bring my own bags to the store.

It took several years to work out a system because I never remembered to bring them.  Or I would bring them and leave them in the van!  These days, my reusable bags live in a re-purposed cabinet by the door that also houses my purse and serves as a landing/launch pad for various papers/receipts.  I stop there before heading out the door.

2. Grow tomatoes.

We grew tomatoes in planters on the deck railing last summer.  It was the only place we could think of to keep them away from the rabbits and our nosy schnoodle. My tween really, really wanted to do a garden patch but we didn’t get to it.  I think herbs and tomatoes may be a good goal for next summer.

3. Use cloth napkins.

THIS, my family does well.  We have a stash of paper napkins to cover food in the microwave, but for everything else, we use cloth.  It has been over 3 years!  (We even use cloth when entertaining kids – though I often feel the need to remind them not to throw the napkins away.)

4. Use cloth towels.

We do this well too!  No paper towels in this house – well, except for the roll in the far bottom cupboard behind the paper napkins for the microwave.  My sister left it when she visited from Michigan.  Cloth kitchen towels just don’t work for her, so she brings her own paper towel roll 🙂

5. Recycle, recycle, recycle!

Our suburb does not charge for recycling, so there is a monetary advantage here as well.  I re-purposed a lined, lidded, wicker laundry hamper in the kitchen to gather recyclables.  Recycling is more work – what with all the sorting of packaging, but it is the least I can do!

6. Hang to dry.

I never thought I would do this one, however…our dryer went on the fritz at the end of December 2010.  We hung clothes for a couple of days…and then a couple more days.  And then we worked out a system.  And then the weather got warmer.  And now here we are!  Never got the dryer fixed and have only had to hit the laundromat twice for major bedding loads.  (Gas and electric bill are each about 10% lower.)

7. Wear less.

In September 2010, I attempted the “Six Items or Less” clothing experiment.  Now, the average amount of clothing I keep in rotation is about 12 Items or Less – rotated monthly.  (For example, instead of purchasing a new shirt for “The 4th of July,” I purchased a shirt “for July.”  I had four other shirts, four shorts, one pair of slacks, and one pair of jeans in rotation.)  It really reduces stress about what to wear.  Really!

8. Avoid buying on impulse.

One of the most powerful weapons stores have is how they market items on the shelves.  Have you ever been tempted to buy a soft blue blanket when walking past an end-cap?  Remove it.  Carry it over to a home decor aisle that has colors similar to the interior of a room in your home.  It doesn’t look as good when it is not between the green and pink blankets – does it?  The least you can do – is resist the urge.  Put it back.  Reuse what you already own.

9. Reduce whining.

No means no 😉

10.  Resist spoiling my kids.

Proper nutrition, enough sleep, and plenty of time to play.  This is advice I give other parents:  Reduce the number of “outings” you take.  Kids don’t need constant outside stimulation.  I recently read that boredom breeds – creativity!  Teach kids to re-use what they have.  For example: ball mismatched socks for rainy day sock wars, invent new card games, build forts with couch cushions or barbells from milk cartons.  Make sure they have chores that are appropriate for their skill level and teach them to help prepare meals.  You won’t regret it.

11.  Learn.

I am currently researching rain barrels, composting, and a garden plot (or, at least, an herb garden).

12.  Have one responsible car.

I drive a 2004 silver Honda Odyssey mini-van, but our other car is a 2008 red Prius.  We are becoming more aware of when we an walk or bike.  It’s the least we can do!

I am inspired by creative solutions.  So tell me, “What cool ways do you do to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle?”

*Format inspired by posts on

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