Ode to the Earth

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 - Personal
In case you haven't noticed, today is Earth Day. Some of you may ask, "So What?" I used to be one of those people. It was just another holiday marked on the calendar, that we never got a day off school or work for. As I have become a (somewhat) more responsible adult, and have had the fortune to be educated by a dear friend, Joel and I have started a journey to becoming more earth conscious. Since last September, we have really taken some baby steps to fulfilling the motto, "Reduce, Recycle, Reuse" I know we have a long road ahead, but we are pleased so far with these little steps we have made. So what have The Wiebners done to become more green? Here's the start of a list that I hope will continue to grow and grow and grow...

Things we have done at home:

1. Stopped using paper plates and disposable cups. We used to be VERY wasteful with our meals. Almost every meal we were eating on paper plates and occasionally using disposable plastic cups, just so we didn't have to do dishes. (Laziness I know!) Now, we don't even buy paper plates for the house and eat every meal off of our ceramic plates, and with our reusable cups. Don't look at my dishpan hands!

2. Started buying recycled paper products. For the paper products that we do need at home, paper towels, tissues, and toilet paper - we buy 100% recycled products. Some people ask, "Are the recycled products really that great? Do they rip or tear easily?" I love them. Seriously, I really don't need the strongest paper towel in the world, or the quilted toilet paper - I am perfectly content and happy with these products. We also buy most of these products in bulk to help cut on costs. Amazon is a place we purchase from often - I would like to patronize a local place that could sell these things in bulk, but haven't found one yet. If anyone has any suggestions - leave it in the comments below!

3. We planted our very first vegetable garden. We are so excited about this! We were at our favorite local coffee shop, Chestnut Hill, a few months back and saw a flyer for Home Grown Edible Landscaping. We hired Tasha and Will (another husband/wife team!) to transform our poor excuse for a backyard (we live in the city so it is only a small 10x10ish plot) - into a beautiful organic vegetable garden! We are so stoked about this and Will and Tasha worked hard the first week of April to get it all done and most of the plantings have been made. We can't wait to have fresh vegetables throughout the summer. It will help cut down on our produce costs, plus it will be so educational for the boys. We couldn't be happier. Prior to deciding on the garden, we were considering a crop share with Lancaster Farm Fresh - Organic Farm Cooperative, but decided we wanted the experience of growing our own garden. I always had a garden growing up, and it was something I wanted to share with Haydn and Zane. Joel now has the bug, and wants to move to a farm. :) Really, he just wants to have goats. :) Oh yeah, and Will and Tasha installed an automatic watering irrigation system too, for us busy folks, that are always on the go in the summer. Now I won't forget to give our veggies a drink!

4. Eating organic as often as possible. This was actually one of the first things we started doing. Some good friends of ours were all organic eaters and were opening our eyes to the benefits. We have been slowly converting over the last 6 months or so, and now just about all of our groceries we purchase are organic. We even went through the pantry one day this past winter and cleared it out completely of non-organic things, and donated the food to the Water Street Rescue Mission. We haven't gone back since! It's a little trickier shopping organic, as a lot of stores do not have huge organic selections. If anyone local has any favorite stores that I have not listed below - please share! Also, I may do a future post on some of our favorite organic foods. But for now, these are the places we shop at currently (Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are also very awesome, but those stores are an hour plus away from us:

Miller's Natural Foods, an Amish-run store in Bird in Hand, PA that sells bulk foods, and has a large organic section. We get a lot of things here such as: dried fruits, raw honey, maple syrup, raw cheeses, etc.
Rhubarb's Market - this is in Lancaster and is a small organic store that is a little pricier but has a lot more of the organic brand name products.
Central Market - now one of our favorite places to shop, it contains many stands from local farmers - and has 2 organic stands - Cuton Organics (Tom is a hoot!) and Green Circle Organics. There is also a grass-fed beef stand there that we purchase a lot of our meat from.
Giant Foods - This is our "big" grocery store locally, and we use it only when we need to, but specifically the one in Lititz, has a very large organic section - several aisles worth, that we have not found at any of the other Giant locations in the Lancaster area.
Savemart - This is a great place to go for organic beauty and personal products. They have the largest selection in the area (that we have found) of these items.

5. We purchased a food dehydrator and a juicer. Ok, so WE didn't actually purchase these ourselves, but were lucky enough to have generous family members that gifted us these items for Christmas this past year. It has been great making our own fresh organic orange juice and dehydrating foods that we can eat as snacks. We have even made our own organic dog treats!

6. Our pets also eat organic. :) Sometimes people forget about their pets. With so many recent recalls on pet food products - its super scary out there. (A good read is Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine) Our dogs and cats also eat organic now. Organic pet food is easier to find than you think - just about every pet store in Lancaster has some. Why shouldn't our beloved animals eat healthy too?

7. We stopped using plastic bags. For any kind of shopping, we now use reusable/recycled bags. The only thing we still use plastic bags for is picking up the doggie doo-doo - but even those are at least bio-degradable. We found those at Petsmart.

8. Using steel water canteens. This one we are still working on, but we try our best to use our steel water bottles and fill them up at home before we go somewhere. It keeps us from having to stop at a mini-market and grabbing a plastic bottle of water. We also put a filter on our faucet at home, so we now have fresh water coming right out of the tap, and no longer need to buy gallons to put in the fridge. Stop the plastic waste!

9. Cut back on the "stuff". Our lives revolve around stuff. There is cool stuff to buy everywhere. This is something I have always been a sucker for - especially for the kids, and we are seriously trying to cut back. The kids have so many toys - and they hardly ever play with them! We have stopped buying things for them every time we go somewhere. We are also working on cleaning out a LOT of those unused toys and will be donating them to a shelter or Salvation Army.

10. Making smarter choices - TV, Movies and Books. Joel and I LOVE movies, we are junkies. We have been trying to put that love to a different use, and have been watching more documentaries on our food system and the planet. Some of our recent favorites are: King Corn, Super Size Me, and An Inconvenient Truth. We also have the entire Planet Earth series, and have watched several of those episodes. I am excited to complete the series. As for TV, we watch a lot more Animal Planet, Planet Green, National Geographic, etc. than we ever have before. I don't know if it is because of all of this, or if it is just because our tastes are maturing as adults. Regardless, I love it! And with books and magazines, we have been delving into books about eating organic and about the planet. It's all so exciting!

Things we have done at the business:

1. Purchasing recycled products. We have been making conscious efforts to purchase recycled paper products - from paper towels to printer paper to paper plates. Also, other office supplies such as pens - there is a wide selection of recycled pens readily available at office supply stores.

2. Reusing boxes and packaging materials. We get so many shipments in - all of the boxes we reuse to ship our client's products. The packing material also - the bubble wrap, packing peanuts etc. We save it all and it goes right back out to our clients.

So there it is. The start of it all. I know we have a long way to go, but we both feel really great about these things we have done so far. If you have any ideas to share, please leave them in the comments below! We would love to hear from you! And because we can't have a blog post without some photos - I pulled some great photos of The Wiebner family over the years enjoying our lovely earth. :) Have a wonderful Earth Day!

The first few photos here are of our new garden! Thanks Will and Tasha!
Camping Memorial Day Weekend 2008 in West Virginia with Joel's brother and his wife.
The boys in the cornfield, sometime in '08.
Camping at the beach - summer '08
Arizona - Spring '08
Joel sledding in the snow :) Winter 2007
Indian Echo Caverns - Spring 2007
Las Vegas, NV desert - photography convention 2007
Salton Sea, California - August 2007
Joel in Atlantic City - summer 2007
And going WAAAY back - some never before seen images on the blog. Cape May vacation 2005
And even further back (look how little the boys are!) - spring 2004 at Shenk's Ferry Wildflower Preserve.
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