10 Half-Year Resolutions

This post is my contribution to the June Green Moms Carnival: Half-Year Resolutions, hosted by OrganicMania.  

In April, I set three Earth Day Eco-resolutions. I am proud to say, that I have accomplished two of the three goals:  stop using single-use plastic produce and shopping bags; stop my junk mail.  But I still haven't accomplished the first goal: make my own yogurt.  The Green Moms are setting some half-yearly resolutions, just in time for summer, when the weather is wonderful and everything seems possible.  So making my own yogurt is at the top of my list now.  I also came up with nine more resolutions for 2011.  As you can see, I like to stick with small, doable goals, rather than grandiose visions of all that could be.  If I even accomplish half of these, I will consider this exercise a major success.

For many of these goals, I could use a little advice or guidance (see the questions at the end of each goal).  Please add your wisdom in the comments!

1. Make my own yogurt.  
We have been going through a lot of yogurt lately.  Sometimes two or more 4-cup containers in a single week (at least I never buy individually-sized portions, right?).  Although I can recycle my containers with Terracycle, I would rather side-step the plastic packaging all together.  My yogurt-making friends tell me I can also use the whey (from straining the yogurt to make it thicker) instead of buttermilk. I go through a lot of buttermilk to make pancakes, and the containers have to be thrown away.  If I make yogurt using my Straus milk (bottled in reusable glass containers), my yogurt (and buttermilk-replacement) would generate virtually no plastic packaging.  What is your favorite method for making yogurt?

2. Plant something.
I have a dream of a large kitchen garden that provides delicious organic produce my kids are dying to eat and saves me oodles of money (and food miles).  But it's just daunting to get started.  I may have missed the boat this season, but I want to at least get the ball rolling by planting something. . . anything.  I think I should try a potted tomato plant or mini herb garden.  That seems doable, right?  

3. Buy houseplants.
Houseplants help purify your air, and are also a great way to bring a little bit of nature into your house.  Buying houseplants has been on my to do list for about 3 years.  Let's see if this resolution helps me acquire a few before the end of the year.  What is your favorite hard-to-kill houseplant?

4. Take my children outside every single day.
Regardless of the weather. Walking to the car in the driveway does not count.  How do you incorporate a "green hour" (or "green 5 minutes") into your daily routine?

5. Learn the names of some of the local flora.
Maybe I'll get a book on trees.  The only local plant I can currently identify is rosemary.  And maybe a cherry tree, if it has cherries on it.  What are your favorite resources for learning about your local ecosystem?

6. Hang a bird feeder.
I'm still kind of sad that the owner of our home won't allow us to have a dog (or probably any other animal with fur for that matter).  Recently we noticed a birds' nest in the vines growing over the little trellis on our patio.  My kids get so excited when they see any wildlife (including snails).  I remember having a backyard bird feeder as a kid and trying to identify the bird species using a field guide to birds.  So fun.  Any advice from seasoned bird feeder users?

7. Learn more about composting.
I could have put just "start composting," but I like to set myself up for success.  I have a good friend who composts both with and without worms in very inexpensive/ free containers.  Although she's always trying to convince me how uber-easy it is, I still think it's not easy enough for me.  So I want to look into the different types of containers: how easy they are to use, how much they cost, and so on.  Maybe check out the Craig's List listings for any available locally for super cheap.  If you compost, what do you use?

8. Take my children to a natural place once a month.
Natural places would include beaches, state and national parks, anything wild. This is entirely doable where I live.  If nothing else, we could just hike in the nearby county park once a month.  But these outings usually do require more planning and effort than walking to the neighborhood park, so I need to psyche myself up for them.  What is your favorite wild place to visit with your children?

9. Try a shampoo bar.
I would actually like to try the vinegar rinse thing, but the shampoo bar seems like something I am more likely to actually get around to trying in the next few months.  I would love to reduce the amount of plastic from my hair care  routine.  I would also like you to know that I typically wash my hair about once a week, but lately I have gone as long as two weeks without horrific results.  Believe me, my husband would tell me if my hair smelled or looked gross.  I tell you this so that you might consider washing your hair a little less often.  It's a great way to reduce your consumption of shampoo, conditioner, plastic packaging and water.  I suppose it should also be noted that I don't try to look wonderful that often (I'm a SAHM and rarely feel the need to impress anyone).  Do you have a favorite shampoo bar?

10. Limit my screen time.
My blog is a little over a year old, and I have been tempted to delete it more than once.  I like being part of the green community and sharing ideas on the web, but I find the Internet to be a major, MAJOR time-suck.   Recently my Internet connection was down for more than a full day, and it ended up being such a wonderful day, especially because I was much more present for my kids, that it made me really think about my computer use.   I want to check my email no more than 3 times a day, budget my blog time so that I only work on posts a few times a week at scheduled times, and practice an Internet fast once every week or two.  Have you managed to find that elusive happy medium with respect to the Internet?  How did you do it?

Please share your advice and own green goals in the comments!  Feel free to include links to relevant resources such as a post on your blog.

Photo credit: TooFarNorth

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  1. love #10. i love that you're trying to only check your email 3 times a day. awesome. now that i have my iphone i check it a zillion times a day.

  2. Well, we'll see if I actually do it. That might be the hardest one of all. I'm glad I leave the Internet when I leave my computer, BUT if you have an iphone you can just check your email and be done (right?). Whenever I check my email, I end up doing about 10 other things while I'm on my computer.

  3. Great list. I like number 8, and it's something I'm trying to do with our daughter. We have so many state parks all around us and wonderful places to go to see. I'd love to do number 3 as well, but my cats would only eat them!
    Visiting from Oh Amanda's.

  4. I have never heard of a shampoo bar - now I want to find out more! I also love the idea of half-year resolutions!

  5. What a great list! I have to tell you that you are already such an inspiration to me. Going green seems to be such a hard prospect if you are not used to it and it is easy to get discouraged. I love your site because you make it seem doable.

    One tip for the computer. I turn my computer off so that I would have to wait for it to boot up to use it. That keeps me from just popping on to check my email and wasting 30 minutes.

  6. Thanks, Jessica! And that is a great tip for the computer. Also, it would keep my laptop from over-heating, which is frequently does. And save energy too!

  7. Half-yearly resolutions? What a great idea!

    I especially love #4 and #8. I'm pretty good at taking my kids outside every single day (they beg to, even in the rain!) But we need to get out and explore natural places that are a little more exotic than the backyard more often!

  8. I love Lush shampoo bars! They are also great for traveling because you don't have to cart around a heavy (not environmentally friendly) bottle with you. Great resolutions, Betsy, and I hope that you do not stop your blog! I do understand, though, about the Internet being a major time suck. My husband would be so happy if I quit my Internet "addiction" - for Father's Day he asked that I abstain from the Internet and blogging for a day! (I almost made it, but had to update my FB page!) Thanks for sharing your resolutions - I'm inspired to make some of my own.

  9. Thank you so much for this post. It contains some really great ideas. I don't know how to make yogurt, unfortunately, but I do know it is pretty difficult to kill philodendrons and my japanese peace lily has successfully made it through a bit of abuse/neglect (too much heat, too little water).

    I incorporate "green" time into my day by taking a walk around the block/through the nearby nature trail or set a camp chair outside with a craft or book. A bit of daily sunshine is healthy!

    I think the best way to learn about natural ecosystems is take a field class at a local college or park. The Chippewa Nature Center in Midland, Michigan has some great programs for both kids and adults, so I'd imagine other parks would have similar programs. At the very least, local parks should have "nature walks." I went to a nature walk advertised "how to survive in the wilderness" and ended up mainly learning names of plants.

    Birdfeeders!!! I absolutely LOVE watching the birds at my mom's house in Bridgeport, Michigan. She is very consistent with making sure her birdfeeders are full and uses black oil sunflower seeds because she claims mixed seed brings in raucous, mean-spirited birds. She also has special feeders for Orioles (Jam and oranges?) and Hummingbirds (Sugary water mix?) and Squirrels (not a bird, I know, but...corn works for them) and Woodpeckers (Suet). I've written a few posts from my feeder observation: http://zoekyklos.wordpress.com/category/wildlife-observation/
    I think consistency is key, and maybe you could encourage your kids to write and draw what they see!
    Oh, and I'm pretty sure (but not positive) this is the field guide my mom owns: http://www.amazon.com/Birds-North-America-Revised-Updated/dp/1582380902

    I live in an apartment, so I "freezer compost." I had been putting scraps in old plastic bags from bread and produce, but the plastic kept sticking to the frozen scraps when I tried to empty out the bag. SO, I switched to paper bags because then the whole bag can just be tossed. Easy-peasy! Though, I have heard good things about the composting worms... : )

    As for great wild places to take children in Michigan...Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes (kids will love running up the dunes) & Green Point Environmental Learning Center in Saginaw, Michigan (the rangers there are absolutely great with kids and teaching).

    Haven't tried a shampoo bar...yet. : )

    Happy mediums are best found through sticking to a schedule. I think your plan is a good one.

    Thanks again for sharing!!!

  10. Thank you for the shampoo bar recommendation, Outlaw Mom.

    Thank you, zoekyklos, for leaving so much great wisdom on so many topics. I will look for your favorite plants next time I'm at OSH or whatever, and I love the idea of taking a class at a local college or park - that's just perfect! Can't wait to check out your bird feeder posts -- your mom sounds like a real expert in that department. I'm not sure I get the freezer composting. After storing stuff in the freezer -- what then?

    I'm not in Michigan, but great ideas for any readers who are!

  11. Aloe vera is the easiest house plant! I forget to water mine for weeks and it's fine. Plus it's useful and a good air cleaner.

    Here is a post I did about composting- http://www.greenphonebooth.com/2011/03/making-composting-easy.html

    My favorite shampoo bar is this one- http://www.nurturemybody.com/organic-soothing-shampoo-bar-sls-free.html

  12. Thanks for the tips and links, Lisa. I did read your composting post again, got me thinking about a rolling bin. That post has good tips from others in the comments too. Check it out if you are interested in composting!


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