A Major Sustainability Swap

I have sadly fallen behind on my sustainability swaps that I used to do once a month. Mostly this is due to getting a puppy and quickly realizing that taking care of a puppy is a lot harder than I thought. I am going to try to pick them up monthly again, but it’s possible this may not work out.

When I was 18, my dad really wanted me to drive a stick shift. Right after this was taken, I crashed into the fence. That was the last time I drove stick.

However, since it is Earth Day, and the anniversary of starting these swaps, I wanted to write about a major change. We bought a new car! For the past few years, we’ve leased cars, because once you start to lease a car, it is easier to continue leasing. We wanted to stop doing that and actually own a car. We also wanted something that used less gas. It would have been nice to get a totally electric car, but also too expensive. So we bought a hybrid. I don’t actually have much else to say about that, because I have never been interested in cars. I try to drive as little as possible. However, I am grateful to have a car when I need it, and this hybrid car has not yet needed to be filled with gas in the two months we’ve had it.

Another Yard Update: Dirt and Groundcover!

Just in case it hadn’t been obvious, my yard and yard-related chores has been a real comfort to me these last few weeks! Anyway, I had wanted to dirt put down last fall, but frost hit and we ran out of time. So the yard stayed bare and barren all winter. Yes, it was a little depressing to look at, but honestly it was better than the cement. I’ve discovered that a cement yard really upsets me. The contractor who had originally busted up the concrete had a landscaping friend, and together they were going to get a large truck full of dirt delivered. But he began being unresponsive to me, for some still unknown reason. I called around to companies large and small, but could not seem to get anything. At this point I was anticipating having to to all the shoveling myself, but still wanted it done, as the level of the dirt was way below where it should be, volume-wise.

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My kids are “helping.”

Finally, with the threat of stores closing and the increasingly valid desire to not be around anyone, I ordered two pallets of dirt from a store a few blocks from my house. I didn’t bother thinking about how difficult it would be to do the work myself, because there was no choice. It took only two and a half adults (my two kids each account for a quarter of an adult) to spread all of the dirt in my yard in two days.

But of course spreading the dirt is not the end of the job. The contractor had recommended me to get turf, but I didn’t want turf. I know I’m in the minority, but I don’t like the look of an overly even lawn. I wanted something that looked organic and a bit chaotic. I also wanted to see the grass grow from seeds. So I bought grass and clover seeds and single-handedly spread them over the yard and then spread another layer of dirt on top. The night I planted the seeds, there was a lot of rain, which continued for days. After that, I watered it a few times. I didn’t want to buy a sprinkler, as I had been advised. I think it’s a waste of water. Grass grows in fields that are never watered, so why couldn’t it grow in the yard without a sprinkler?

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This is actually from a week ago, and it’s so much greener now!

Then came the days of waiting. But after about two weeks, I started to see little shoots emerging from the ground. I was so happy, I started crying. It’s starting to fill in a bit now, but looks chaotic, which I like but may upset others. Also, I’m planning to plant a few more actual plants, like some flowering vines on the back fence (the green fence in the photo above), so I would not consider it “finished.” But I am way happier now than I was with the concrete!

Another Earth Day (or Month) Project

Last April, I started making sustainability swaps, and I’ve both kept up with and continued to do these. So this April, one year after starting this, I decided to write about a big, drastic, and potentially even (a little) life-changing multi-month project.

This story starts more than seven years ago, when we bought a house. The house and having a washing machine inside it is great, but it also fulfilled a dream of mine of having my own outdoor space. Being in Queens, NYC, of course that backyard space is pretty small. And unfortunately, it was also 100% paved, and that cement had been put in about two or three years before we bought the house, so it looked brand new. I thought it would be stupid to bust it up when it looked that good. I tried to have plants in containers, but it never worked out that well, and I didn’t spend that much time out there, because it was bare and dull.

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I didn’t take an official “before” photo but this is indeed the yard before. Most of the cement is to the left, but just looks likes plain cement, so do we even need a photo?

Last fall, only a few days after having my older son’s birthday party in the yard, we busted up the cement! And when I say “we,” I mean paid contractors. I am not operating a jackhammer! I assume everyone knows concrete=bad, but maybe I am wrong. If you want to read about how bad cement is for the environment, you can start here. And personally I couldn’t finish this article because I started crying, but maybe you’ll do better.

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Dramatic photo mid-bust!

Anyway, it’s gone, and I’m so happy! But of course, this bare surface cannot possibly be the end product I was looking for. And it’s not, but I will save the rest of the story for next week.

Another Month-Long Project

Last month, I played the Minimalism Game, which was fun and also a relief when it’s over. I will definitely do it again in the future, maybe next March, maybe this September. But I’m taking at least a month or two break from decluttering. However, I do have an idea for another month-long project, and it’s appropriate to do in April, the month of Earth Day.

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These two are part of the reason I want to adopt more sustainable habits.

For this month, I intend to start being more ecological in my choices. In order to make sure these are changes that last, I am going to concentrate on changing one habit a week. For this first week of April, I will focus on beverages. In the past, I have attempted to bring a water bottle with me/never buy plastic water bottles, but for this month I’m promising myself I will not buy a single plastic bottle. That means if I am out somewhere and forget my bottle, I have to drink from a fountain or find some other solution.

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My reusable water bottle (with Buffy the Vampire Slayer decal) at work, enjoying the view of NYC.

And don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about straws! I thought about buying a metal or bamboo re-usable straw, but I don’t really like drinking from straws anyway, so I will just forgo all straws!