I promised in an earlier post that I would write a little about our attempts to be green on the farm, and some of the unavoidable actions we take that aren't even remotely greenish. So, here is part two. I was planning on making it once post, but the thing is...it's a lot of explanation because of our lifestyle. So, I'll focus on one thing at at time and make this topic a series of posts. You can read the first post on carpooling here.
A lot of the things I do that are green are things I've done for a long time, not because it was trendy to be green, but because I really believe they are good choices for my lifestyle (now our lifestyle.) A lot of our green choices are also because it will save us a tremendous amount of money.
First off, it's much healthier than buying produce from who knows where. We live an area where stores could sell entirely local produce (and some do, I will say). But there are others that are getting their produce from who know where with who knows what on it. Not a fan. We also live an area where fresh produce cannot be grown here year-round. So, we're either getting something from far away that is not remotely fresh, or we're getting something that's been processed and has all sorts of preservatives. Also, not a fan. By gardening, we're supporting local produce (I look pretty carefully for local plants). We're controlling what we put on our fruits and veggies. We know how they were grown, how they were picked, and how we preserve them. I can and freeze a lot during the summer. The ultimate goal is to be entirely self-sufficient year round when it comes to fruits and vegetables. We're not there yet, having only lived in our house for one summer, but we're well on our way.
We're saving a lot of money by gardening on our own as well. We grocery shop about once a month. We spend about $150 when we go to the store, and supplement throughout the month for parishable things - milk, eggs and some produce. When looking at my $150 grocery bill, I realized that at least $50 of that was produce. Some months, it's all the way up to $75 of the bill (depending on what I'm making for dinners, if we have any holidays or family dinners coming, etc.) I could spend one month's $75 fresh produce budget on plants & seeds, and the packaging products to preserve them and be set for the rest of the year. So, that's the goal.
We own a foodsaver (well, actually 2 - just like the one above) and have a fair stash of bags leftover from each year's supply for butchering meat. I won't use anything but foodsaver brand bags for freezing, even though they're more expensive. It's worth it me to spend a little more at the begging rather than throwing away all the veggies and fruits I've taken the time to preserve properly. I will occassionally use a ziplock bag to freeze something I'm sure I can get all the air out of, but it isn't often. Foodsaver bags are resealable, if you cut off the first seal. We will definitely cut our bags a little bigger if we know it's something we want to reseal. That way, we're not wasting as many bags for smaller portions. I also highly recommend using the rolls of bags versus the pre-cut bags. I'm not sure what the cost difference is (if there is one), but in the long-run, there's less waste involved, which means less money spent. I can custom cut the bag to whatever it is I'm trying to preserve, rather than having to find a bag that's big enough and possibly wasting a lot of plastic by cutting it down. The only time we buy pre-cut bags is for items we know will fit in there - mainly when we butcher. Even then, I still cut and pre-seal a lot of bags to custom sizes.
Jars for canning (and the rims) can be used over and over again as long as they don't get cracked or broken, and the rims aren't bent and will still seal properly. The only thing you have to replace are the seals themselves. And they're very reasonably priced, and universally sized (wide or small mouth)...I stick with wide mouthed so I don't have to have two kinds of seals on hand. I also sometimes use plastic jars that are specifically designed for freezing. Again, completely reusable, and much more durable and longer lasting than plastic bags (though, I don't imagine they last forever.) So far, I've only used these for different salsas, but I'm sure they have a ton of uses (marinades, drippings for gravy, fruit purees, etc.)
We do a little recycling in the areas of gardening, too. When we mow, the grass clippings are used as sort of a mulch between rows in the garden. It helps keep the weeds in check. (We never get rid of our grass clippings - the majority of them go to feed the cows.) We use milk cartons as sort of incubators for small plants when they are first planted - helps keep them from getting wind blown and keeps heat in from the sunlight.
Sort of on the same note as gardening - when we can't grow produce, we try to buy it from farmer's markets. Our local farmer's markets are amazing in both Omaha & Lincoln. I'm so excited to go to my first one of the season next weekend (they've been open for 2 weeks now, but our weekends have been crazy so far in May). I very strongly support buying from local farmers, so there isn't another option as far as I'm concerned. We'll adjust our meals to whatever produce we have available from the garden or from the farmer's market. If I really need something specific, I will, like I said above, shop at a store that sells local produce. There's also green benefits to buying local - less transportation distance equals less of a carbon footprint.
Next up, Part 3 in the series: Laundry & Dishes