I practically fainted when the movers rolled up on my house with their giant stacks of packing paper, dozens of boxes and what seemed like tons of plastic wrap. For someone who’s pretty eco-conscious (yup, I’m the reduce-reuse-recycle queen over here), all of these resources going to waste makes me cringe.

Okay, no, not waste. Because I do really want my stand mixer to make it back to Virginia, preferably in one piece and working properly. Maybe more like one-time use, to be thrown away after we unpack. All I can see is all the trees I just killed.

I get it if you’re not totally nutty about saving the planet. Blame it on my New England roots, but I’ve been in a family that primarily recycles since birth.

Woman taking out her recycling containers at home

Be Better to the Planet Even With Your Crazy Military Life

Except I kind of slid into complacency over the last, I don’t know, decade. Between all the moving, kids and just trying to survive, I’ve started to turn from an eco-friendly green to more of a throw-it-in-the-trash beige.

Getting back to my eco-friendly ways was going to take some doing, especially with military life getting especially insane. But it’s happening. And you can steal my easy hacks to green-up your own military family, too!

These are the exact things I already do (or plan to do) to make our family a little bit greener and help our planet, too!

Start with One Thing

My one thing was recycling. Did you know that plastics take forever to break down in landfills and dumps? Yup, and while they’re degrading, they’re also sending tons of chemicals into the soil and water. Gross!

I committed myself and my family to putting as much of our waste into the recycling as possible.

Here’s how:

  • Double check your community’s recycling rules to learn what’s allowed
  • Set up recycling bins or use ones provided by your town or landlord
  • Walk “resistant” family members through the process – rinse out food residue, place into appropriate container, done
  • Watch your trash output decrease

Did I still throw stuff out? You betcha! But our recycling cans were always full after we started this effort while we only needed to really truly take out the trash every other week. This is gonna save us some money since our new trash service charges by the bag.

Revamp Your Meal Plan

I have a serious dairy allergy which means I already can’t eat a whole category of food. It’s a shame since I’m pretty sure that Breyers and I would really hit it off otherwise.

As we slid toward PCS season, I noticed that we were eating a lot more pre-packaged convenience foods. Which meant more plastic in our trash. Not ideal, but we also needed to survive with some shreds of sanity. I’m giving myself a small pass on this one.

At the same time, I’m also making a huge commitment to greening up my family’s diet ASAP post-move.

Here’s how:

  • Join a local CSA – support organic, ethical farmers; get yummy, locally grown foods. Plus, it costs less than what we paid at the grocery store for produce weekly!
  • Limit meats – we’re only eating what comes with our CSA
  • Increase plants – we’ve got to eat something

Moving to a whole foods-based diet and (hopefully) away from pre-packaged “easy” foods will help my family reduce waste and increase our health. Total win-win!

Grow It Yourself!

Yes, the CSA will help but my 2-year-old can eat his weight in blueberries. I’m gonna need some reinforcements. Which means I’ll be breaking ground on a garden this summer.

The kids and I will be headed to the local (not big box) gardening stores to get some first-hand knowledge about what to plant when. They’re excited to eat tomatoes right off the vine. I’m pumped to not spend $100 on those tomatoes.

Growing some of your own produce, whether it’s just herbs or a whole farm’s worth, saves you money. Plus, you’ll never run out of your favorite veggies when they’re literally right outside your door!

Here’s how;

  • Pick a spot or some pots; ask at the local garden center for advice about what grows best where
  • Get some soil ready
  • Plant your seeds or seedlings
  • Water, fertilize (see below), weed
  • Eat

Compost Those Scraps

Suggesting this got me some mean side-eye from my husband. What can I say? He’s a city kind of a guy and I’m pure country. Turning the compost pile was a routine chore for us growing up!

Luckily, they have scent- and liquid-tight composters that you can rotate with the turn of a crank. Way easier than trying to do a whole huge pile with a pitchfork or shovel. My back is already thanking me!

Composting is actually pretty simple (I hope!). Here’s how:

  • Collect kitchen scraps like uncooked vegetable peelings, but not cooked starches or meats, in a scent-tight bucket
  • Add to your composter container or pile
  • Balance out with “brown” material like straw or dried leaves
  • Add yard clipping and cut grass
  • Turn periodically
  • Add nutrient-rich soil and “compost tea” (the brown liquid that drains or collects from your compost) to your garden
  • Repeat

You could also get things started with a compost starter. And they make special systems just for pet waste, too! But don’t add anything containing dog or cat waste to your edible plants.

Walk, Don’t Drive

My one requirement for our next house (other than a better than decent school system) was walkability. I needed to be able to walk to most places I would need on a daily basis. Things like: grocery stores, a post office, restaurants, the bank, parks, a library and the school.

Decreasing your driving and choosing walking is a great way to both improve your health and help the planet. Those are a few less miles worth of exhaust in our atmosphere!

Yes, in the grand scheme of things, I’m sure my little trips around town aren’t the big air quality killer. Just let me hold onto this happy thought though, please.

Also, I get that this isn’t realistic for everyone. I see you, Fort Sill. Do what you can, where you can. Maybe park in one central location and walk to each store instead of driving between super close places?

Get Bulky

You don’t even have to join a gym, either! I’m talking about buying your non-perishable pantry staples in bulk!

There are stores nationwide that offer bulk shopping options.

Here’s how:

  • Bring your own empty plastic or glass containers to the store
  • Get them weighed at the front before you fill it up
  • Fill each container with food – flour, coffee, cereal, oatmeal, granola, nuts, dried fruits, spices, seeds, peanut butter, etc.
  • Bring your now-full containers back to the front to get weighed again
  • Pay by weight for your purchases

I’m pretty stoked to see just how much my family can cut down on our waste and green-up our lives over the next year!

Is your family into being eco-friendly? What are your biggest tips to help our planet, one small step at a time?



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