Natural Living, pt. 2 (aka, pre-motherhood opinions)

After reading some of the stories that people submitted to the challenge at Walk Slowly, Live Wildly, I’ve decided I need to add just a little.  Obviously, I have no parenting experience whatsoever!  So you can call this my pre-motherhood opinions…

Attachment parenting, babywearing, cloth diapering, breastfeeding, cosleeping…these are all basically buzzwords that lots of parents do without being “activists” about them.  Personally, I am all for each of those concepts, but I would imagine that you can’t truly make the decisions until you have children to raise.  Babywearing–how much easier than trying to ignore a crying baby who just wants to be held while you do other things.  How loving to reassure them that you have time for them.  Cloth diapering–much more work, but less chemicals for baby!  (See last post on my “chemical” opinion…)  Breastfeeding–OF COURSE!  Formula seems kinda like fake food if you ask me.  Breastmilk is created just for the purpose of being the perfect food for baby, changing as the baby grows, all that good stuff.  Plus it would certainly be easier to deal with in the middle of the night.  If breastfeeding doesn’t work out (and I know lots of times it doesn’t) I suppose you would just have to trust that in the midst of the synthetic vitamins and palm kernel oil, they really knew what they were doing when they made the formula. 

And finally, cosleeping–sounds easier than getting out from under your covers and going to another room to comfort a baby who wakes up in the night.  I’m a little skeptical about the whole “they will happily transition to their own bed when they are ready” part of it.  What if you have three or four kids who all feel that they are not ready?  Where do the parents sleep???  🙂  I forsee myself transitioning my kids on purpose at some point if they don’t just “want to” go to their own rooms.  I also forsee specific issues, like I wouldn’t want to go to bed at the same time as my toddler, so what would I do, tuck him or her in for the night in my bed?  Another would be…”quality time” with your husband.  Although, upon further research into the topic I read that some parents do put their kids to bed in the parents’ bed, or give the kids the choice of going to bed in the parents’ room or their own room as a way of encouraging them to consider sleeping in their own room.  For “quality time,” one article was written by a father (I think it was entitled “Real Men Sleep With Their Babies”), and said that the bedroom was the boring place in the house to do that with your spouse, and you should get creative about it whether you had kids or not.  😉

Perhaps I should spend my time in more relevant ways.  I’m not going to need any of this information for quite awhile.   Walk Slowly, Live Wildly, you got me curious!  🙂

Natural Living

A blog I visit regularly, Walk Slowly, Live Wildly, recently blogged about her journey towards environmentally-concious living, natural living, and simple living, and challenged her readers to do the same.  I really had no intention of doing so, since my journey is slow and in the beginning stages.  But, it is a journey that has begun, nonetheless.

Here’s my one small token of knowledge: It’s all about habits.  I’ve been in the habit of reduce/reuse/recycle since I was a kid, because it was just something we did in our house.  Same with shopping at thrift stores and buying things used when appropriate, although I didn’t realize that was an earth-friendly habit until recently.  (If I buy it used, it doesn’t go in the garbage, and resources don’t need to be used to make the new one I would have purchased.) 

I came across this today:

What’s the most efficient way to travel?
1. bike and walk
2. mass transit (vehicle ¾ full)
3. carpool (3 people, 21.5 mpg)
4. intercity train (average occupancy)
5. economy car (1 driver, 40 mpg)
6. mass transit (vehicle ¼ full)
7. jet travel (US average occupancy)
8. average car (1 driver, 21.5 mpg)
9. SUV (1 driver, 15 mpg)

Interesting.  For me, flying is more efficient, per mile, than driving by myself.  However, those are my most common ways to get around.  (I don’t even think I can count flying as a “common” way I get around…once in eight years???)  Six of the nine choices are more efficient than what I usually do.  I’ve been becoming aware of my energy-guzzling transportation habits over the past year, I’m just not sure what I can do about them.  Here’s what I’ve got so far:  I could move to a city with a great public transportation system.  I could move closer to my job.  I could get a job closer to my apartment.  I could spend about 2 hours on the city bus each morning, making my way ALL the way across town.  I think I need to keep thinking.  🙂  If I still live in this apartment, I know of a few coworkers who would be close enough to carpool, but everyone has such different work habits.  Some people go early, some people stay late, some people have meetings and extracurriculars.  Some people have to drop off kids at day care on their way.  Some people just want the freedom to not plan whether or not they will go early or stay late. 

Another thing I am aware of is that it takes more resources to produced animal-source food than plant-source food.  I am not a vegetarian, and I probably never will be.  I have a few stereotypical “vegetarian” recipes that I love, like soy spread (I know it sounds gross) and hummus (even grosser…) and spinach lasagna (maybe you should just try them).  I also just tend not to eat meat.  It’s more expensive and I just don’t like it enough to buy it just for me.  I don’t think I could ever be a vegan, because I love my dairy products!  But on the topic of habit, I am definitely in the habit of eating more plant-source food than animal-source food on a daily basis.

I am, on the other hand, becoming more and more anti-chemicals in my home.  I like the idea of natural products to clean my house and my body.  I no longer buy toilet bowl cleaner, I clean my toilet with Pine-Sol instead.  That, I know, is a tiny step because Pine-Sol is obviously still cleaning chemical of some kind, but in my mind it just seems more gentle and harmless.  I also really hate anti-bacterial anything.  It kills 99% of bacteria–the weakest 99%.  The other 1% is the strongest little buggers that can survive the chemicals.  If they survive the chemicals, do you think my immune system can fight them off???  Regular soap, on the other hand, washes the germs off my skin/dishes/floor/whatever and down the drain.  Maybe not 99% of them, but most of them.  And it leaves a random sample of germs.  When my immune system comes accross a not-so-strong germ, it can easily defeat it and I will be immune to all of that particular species, strong and weak.  At least, that’s how it was explained to me and it makes sense, yes?

I think my blogger-friend is right to call it a journey.  We can’t save our world in one day.  I can’t change my life overnight.  I can just take one babystep at a time, change habit by habit, and always have a goal of making progress.

my impact on the earth, my mother’s influence on me

I am feeling “earth-concious” today.  I found this quiz that you can take to find out what your impact on the earth is.  Basically, you find out how many acres of resources it takes to sustain your lifestyle.  Worldwide, there are 4.5 acres of resources for every person on the planet.  In the United States, the average person uses 24 acres of resources.  Digest that fact alone before you move on.  Wow.  My quiz results say that I use 22 acres of resources.  So great, I’m using 2 fewer acres than the average American.  (Sense the sarcasm.)  But as it says, “If everyone lived like you, we would need 4.9 planets.”  Yikes. 

There is one obvious thing that you would think would cause me to be so…consuming.  I live 20 miles from my job, and I drive there every day in my car.  That fact has been bothering me a little for a couple of weeks.  Not the driving, I don’t mind that.  Just the impact.  I, alone, could use so much less gas, and create so much less pollution by living 5 miles away instead.  Hmm.  I could take public transportation, but I’ve looked into that, and believe me–in this city, it would take hours!

Believe it or not, though, only 1.7 of my acres are used in mobility.  The other categories are food, shelter, and goods/services.  I’m going to have to go back and take the test again to see how I got such high scores in those categories. 

This is as good a time as any to talk about what I alluded to the other day…I am my mother’s daughter after all.  She was the one who encouraged reduce/reuse/recycle at our home.  I don’t remember NOT recycling, even though it meant packing it in the trunk and taking it to town on the way to the grocery store.  Reduce/reuse/recycle has been so well burned into my brain that I can’t NOT think about it!  You can’t JUST recycle…First, you find out if you can make a choice that will bring less waste into your home to begin with.  (ex-buying one large container of applesauce instead of the little individual packs)  Then, with the waste you have, you find out if there’s any way to reuse it.  (ex-washing out the applesauce jar and using it to store something else)  Finally, after you’ve used it all you can, you recycle it.  (obviously-recycle the applesauce jar)  In any case, between the recycling and the homemade food and many other things that I feel strongly about, I think it’s obvious that the two of us are actually related… 

It’s funny, because I have a rebelious streak a mile long.  Most people might not even see it, but I know for a fact my mother knows it’s there!  At this stage in my life, it’s only a war with myself.  I rebel against the rules I make for myself.  But not too many years ago, it was full-blown, all-out teenage behavior towards my poor mother.  I can only hope that I was the most difficult of the four of us, and prepared her well for the next three.  Only she knows.  In any case, the end result of all this rebelling was that for a long time, I wanted to be as different from her as possible.  I wanted to be more ME and less HER.  Just to clarify, it wasn’t because of her, it was because of me.  I could have had any mother in the world, no matter how different or similar to my mom, and my stupid self would have still needed to be different from HER, whoever she was!  Actually, at the tender age of 25, I’m just barely coming out of it.  It comes and goes, and from day to day you never know whether I will be as accepting of our similarities as I am right now, or if I will be battling to be different just for the sake of being different.

It turns out, after all this “maturing” or whatever, that some of the things that best define me, I got from HER.  🙂  My mother was baking whole wheat bread long before anyone was preaching about the benefits of whole grains.  She protected us from the influence of sugar just as most kids were discovering kool-aid and candy.  She stayed home with her children in a generation that taught women to put career above family.  She breast-fed her babies when lots of babies were getting formula from the day of birth.  She slept with her babies just when “co-sleeping” was becoming such a huge, controversial issue.  And she did all these things without making us one bit aware that our family was so out of the norm.  I can’t even begin to thank her for the impact those things have had on my life.  She did things according to what she believed was best for her family.  And possibly the best part–she taught us to be non-judgemental.  Everyone makes the choices they believe are best.  She chose to stay home with us, for example, but I was never taught that it was “better” than having two working parents.  It was just what my parents chose for our family.  There are lots of things that I would do the same as her, and many things that I would choose differently.  And many of those I’m sure I’ll change my mind a hundred times before I have my own family!  But the point is, she taught me to make my choices based on what I believe is right, and what is right for me, rather than what seems to be what most people do.  It’s a tough thing for me, since I am easily pulled into wanting what is “normal,” or what everyone else does.  But whenever I do succeed at making a choice Mom’s way, it’s always right.