My Family’s Journey to Sustainability: Part 1

earth friendlySix months after my daughter was born, I traveled to Des Moines with two of my girlfriends.  One of the things we talked about was our greatest fears.  Theirs clearly focused on their kids: choking, strangers, leaving them alone.  Mine did as well, but in a less obvious way, like financial ruin.  But then and now, my number one fear is global warming/climate change. 

Last year a report released by the UN predicted that we have 22 years before we start seeing major environmental catastrophes. Remember the Polar Vortex?  Other events include widespread famine, droughts, massive wildlife loss, increased coastal flooding, and loss of environments we will never see again. 

If this report had come out 3 years ago, I would not be writing this post for a mom’s blog, because I would not have had children.

The fear I have regarding the state of our planet played a major part in delaying my decision to have a child and almost stopped me completely.  What kind of person would I be if I had a child while feeling quite certain the fate of the world he or she would live in was dismal at best and hopeless at worst? In my lowest moments, I imagine her foraging for food in a desolate wasteland beset by drought or caught in a car as she lives through a real-life version of The Day After Tomorrow.  In every scenario, I’m helpless to stop it or do anything to help her. For a while, I thought my anxiety was weird.  Turns out, it is more common especially among my generation and younger.

Eco-Anxiety

In a 2017 report, the American Psychological Association stated that “Some human health effects stem directly from natural disasters exacerbated by climate change, like floods, storms, wildfires, and heatwaves. Other effects surface more gradually from changing temperatures and rising sea levels that cause forced migration.”  These other effects can include “an increased sense of hopelessness, or fatalism, or intense feelings of loss.”  This describes my mental and emotional state in regards to climate change.  Common names for this type of anxiety are “climate grief” or “eco-anxiety.” 

When it comes to my anxiety in general, taking stock of what I can control makes me feel less out of control.  So after that conversation in the car, I reevaluated our lifestyle and found that we weren’t very eco-friendly.  We recycled, but our single-use plastic had increased. No wonder, with all the baby food packets, single-serving snack bags, and a boatload of paper towels, not to mention the endless diapers and wipes.  This evaluation process started me on my path towards creating an eco-friendly, sustainable home and family. 

Our First Steps to Sustainability

One of the first steps we took was reducing our paper towel usage.  There are several alternatives including bar towels, microfiber cloths, dishcloths, and bamboo paper towels to name a few.  After reviewing the options, we settled on bamboo paper towels.   We liked that they were

  • Inexpensive
  • Washable with our other towels
  • Super absorbent and fast drying (reportedly)
  • They would fit on our existing paper towel holder
  • Longevity: 1 sheet can be washed 100 times and there are 30 sheets per roll

We’ve been using bamboo paper towels for 2 years now and have only used 3 rolls.  Full disclosure, we keep a roll of regular paper towels for really gross clean-up jobs like when the cats throw-up!  Otherwise, we use bamboo paper towels to clean our counters, the bathroom, dry dishes, wash faces, everything!  When they start to tear, we throw them away.  While not 100% sustainable, it was an easy switch as we tried to be more eco-conscious.   We are currently looking at other options to hit that 100% sustainable goal.

Full disclosure: I believe in climate change.  I believe our planet’s makeup is changing and not for the better.  I believe humans are stewards of this planet and it is my responsibility to do my part to reduce mine and my family’s carbon footprint and negative impact on the planet.  But we are not perfect by any means.  In future posts, I will share my family’s progress toward sustainability. Until then, here are some other ideas on how to go green.

Hopefully, it will give you some ideas about how to start your own sustainable family journey.   


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Ashley is a converted Iowa girl having moved to Cedar Rapids when she was 12. After years away at college and graduate school, she returned and put down roots with her husband, two cats, and daughter, Hattie. She loves her job as a busy IT manager for a transportation company and strives for that work-life integration nirvana. Ashley finds joy in being involved with her family, mom-tribe, and the CR community. Having her first child later in life, she tries to let the small stuff go (hello cleaning service!) and focus her free-time and energy on her family. Once life calms down a little (haha) she hopes to pursue her passion for "fancy" baking and painting.