Going Low Waste – 5 simple changes we’ve recently made in our home.

If you’ve been following me on instagram over the past month, you’ll know that we’ve been headed in the direction of living with lower waste in our family.

Last spring, I remember being so intrigued by several “Zero Waste” accounts I found on instagram. In my attempts to live more “minimally,” within our home, I often threw too many things in the trash can without even thinking twice.  I was feeling awful about how much waste we were producing as a family of 5 and wanted to change this. But we had a newborn, life was a little overwhelming and the steps to get there felt so daunting. I didn’t realize at the time, how simple it could really be.

About 5 weeks back, as I was planning out an earth day unit for the boys schooling, I began to feel compelled again by all the horrific facts I was reading regarding pollution and waste and the issues we’re currently facing. When I thought about what had stopped me in the past from making better efforts in this area, it was these 3 main things: 1.) laziness 2.) believing that it was much too difficult/impossible to live zero-waste with young children. 3.) The thought of my small efforts not making any difference.  Well I’ve realized since, that all of these reasons were just excuses for something I knew we needed to start doing as a family. I was letting laziness and the fear of failure stop me from making simple changes that over time can make such a big difference.

So a month ago, we challenged ourselves as a family to make some changes. It was so fun to incorporate this into our homeschooling because it turned our book work into a hands-on project within our home! The boys love a good challenge and got 100% on board with making this happen. They remind me when we’re off to the store not to forget our reusable bags and they’ve noticed the few times I forgot my mug at home when stopping at the starbucks drive-thru. I need that accountability! 

I’ve also noticed how maintaining a healthy lifestyle and living with zero-waste go hand in hand which has been so neat and motivating for me. So even IF our efforts to help the planet were minimal, the habits we’re developing as a family are beneficial to our health and wellness and that alone, motivates me to keep going! Less processed foods, less chemicals in plastic leaching into our food, less unsafe chemicals in cleaners, and the list goes on and on. Our society has become much too focused on convenience and as a result, the earth as well as our personal health have both suffered in the process. SO here’s a few simple changes we’ve implemented over the past month:

Composting: This is one of the most obvious ways to cut back on waste in your home but you would be surprised how many people don’t compost. I’m actually so disappointed that we were throwing out so much food waste for so long when we could have been recycling our food, by giving it back to the earth. I found this great blog post all about composting if you have never composted before and would like to get started. We bought this kitchen composter to sit on our counter. And thankfully we already had a back yard compost from the previous owners but if you don’t have one, this one is a great and affordable option!

Reusable shopping bags: We’ve been diligently using our own reusable bags for groceries for about the last year now. Even this small change could be SO big if more people committed to doing it. Think about how many bags would not be thrown away if even 20 people committed to doing this after reading this post. (8 plastic grocery bags/week x 20 = 160). 160 less plastic bags going to the landfills each week. Now what if 100 more people started doing this. That would mean 800 less plastic bags going to the landfills each week. And 3,200 less per month. So while you might think it’s a small change. If we all did even just this for lower waste efforts, we would be creating SO much less plastic waste. And the thing that I have been trying to get better at is bringing my bags not only for groceries but also if I run into the drug store, the mall etc., My goal is to never have to accept a plastic bag no matter where I am shopping. These compact ones are neat for keeping in your purse or diaper bag so you don’t forget!

Reusable Produce bags: If half of your grocery haul is produce like ours, within your plastic grocery bags, is likely tons of smaller plastic bags. If you want to take things a step further, order some reusable produce bags too! I found these mesh ones on amazon and I now use them instead of plastic when packing my produce.

Shopping at the Bulk Barn (or other bulk stores): This is something recent we’ve started to do and I’m seriously amazed at how much of our grocery shop we can do there to cut back on packaging! And if you didn’t know, you can take in your own containers, jars and bags to fill up. They check the tare weight of your containers before you start shopping, make sure they’re clean (have to be completely washed, no crumbs or anything) and then they weigh them again after you’re done. I will be doing another blog post to share our master bulk barn shopping list but just to give you an idea, some of the main things we’ve started purchasing there are: oatmeal, granola, rice, pasta, flour, nuts, crackers etc., All stuff that we would have previously purchased in plastic packaging from the grocery store.

Metal straws and reusable coffee mugs: We love to use straws in our home and I feel embarrassed to say we always had a huge carton of plastic straws for smoothies, iced coffee etc., Last month, I grabbed these affordable metal straws now and the plastic ones are no longer. And if you’ve been following me for a while, you likely know I love starbucks and yup, I was definitely using their paper cups each time I went. My husband and I have now both started bringing our personal cups each time we stop for coffee and that’s another small change that over time can be huge.  (especially if you drink a lot of coffee like us! ;))

I hope this gives you some guidance on how you can get started with producing lower waste as a family! And again, we’re not committing to perfection around here and there are some things that just won’t happen while we have young children. There will be days I’ll forget my resuable coffee mug and weeks when I’m just too tired to bake homemade muffins and protein balls and end up grabbing a box of granola bars instead. But we’re committed to trying our very best. Our realistic goal as a family right now is only to produce 1 small white bag of garbage each week. This is a HUGE difference from what we WERE producing some weeks. 🙁 We would like to do even better but we know from experience that you can’t set unrealistic goals right off the bat or you’ll set yourself up for failure. We’re really just having so much fun with it right now and doing what we can to send less waste to the landfills.

Join us?!?!

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the importance of goal setting as a couple

When I shared on Instagram a few days ago, that Ron and I sat down (with a platter of nachos ;)) to touch base and make a 2019 plan together for our family, I received so many questions and people asking me to share more. So I thought it would be fun if I explained how we do this while also giving you some tips and pointers on how to get started if you don’t already do something similar with your partner/spouse.  

We’ve been doing this every few months on a smaller scale for a while now and its honestly been a game changer for our relationship but also for actually evaluating progress and getting things done.  It’s easy to make lists and write down big goals, resolutions, whatever you want to call them. Anyone can do that.  But to actually follow through and cross things off, we’ve discovered from experience that in a marriage relationship, (and even more so when you have a young family) you’re MUCH more successful when you goal write and chase those goals together. You have to get on the same page, come along side each other and cheer each other on. You have to really make effort to understand and appreciate each others personal goals and dreams and adapt them as your own. Then figure out a game plan together.  

Establishing family values and writing a mission statement – If you’re new to this whole idea, I feel you really need to start with establishing family values and writing a family mission statement together.  It’s so important to decide together what is important to both of you, the type of atmosphere you want to create in your home and what you want to focus on as a family, long term but also a more narrow focus this coming year. So from the list of values here, we each circled the 6 things that we valued most. We then took some time to share with each other why we value the things we chose. (For us, there was some overlap and likely would be for you as well!).  We then narrowed it down to 8 words together and used those words to create a mission statement.

A simple example of a mission statement (the bold words are values) would be something like: 

In our family, we will show respect to all, be thankful daily, and make effort to always think positively. We will give of ourselves and prioritize our health  while seeking adventure. We will show kindness and support each other always. 

 And then when sharing goals and deciding what we were going to work on and chase after as a couple and family, we referred back to our list of values and mission statement to make sure it all aligned. Make sense?  I’ve created a PDF template you can get here to help guide you through the process and below I’m sharing tips on how to have a successful goal writing date!

Make it Fun – when we first started to do these, Ron was a little sceptical. I mean, most guys probably don’t want to sit down for 3 hours and talk about life goals and make lists together. I get it.  Not their idea of a fun date night? But (and I checked with him to make sure) if you pulled Ron aside today and asked him what he thought, he would say how much he enjoyed this time we set aside to plan together. You have to make. it. fun! If you can get a sitter,  go out to your favourite restaurant, notebooks and planners in tow and order apps and drinks. Go to a fun coffee shop. Or we like to have date nights in and make sushi or a giant plate of nachos. And once you begin to see how good it feels to be on the same page and work together on goals, it will become something you will both look forward to. I promise!!!

Narrow the focus for 2019 –  I’ve heard a lot of people doing a “word” of the year for their family and I always thought this was a cool idea. But we didn’t actually come up with one intentionally until this year. I love this because once you have agreed on values and a mission statement as a long term plan of things to work towards as a family, a single word will help you to focus on something specific for the coming year. Some examples might be: Content, Grow, Rest, Encourage, Gratitude, Minimize, Learn,…  you get the picture. 

Spend some time prior to make a list of your own personal goals, priorities and dreams – This is the whole point. See, our personal needs, wants, goals and dreams change and evolve as time goes on. So something I may have been passionate about 8 months ago, might not be a top priority for me anymore and thats ok but if we’re not consistently checking in with each other, Ron might never know that and I might not think to share that with him.  It’s so easy, especially in the busy season of raising kids, to become unaware of where the other person is at without realizing it. So a list of what you are hoping to achieve this year – personally, as a family and as a couple is what you will bring to the table. Categories that may help organize your goals would be financial, health and fitness, business, spiritual, family, marriage, parenting and personal.  And then you will share and chat together about how you can make those things happen! 

Be open to adjusting/compromising – It’s so important to have an open mind regarding the possibility of adjusting a goal or priority prior to your chat.  Before our most recent chat, there was an opportunity I was seriously looking at pursuing. I was excited about it and ready to jump in but I knew that it was important that I discuss it in depth with Ron, that we pray together about it and weigh out the pro’s and con’s for our family. Although a large part of me was hoping we would come to the conclusion that I should go ahead with it, I also had to be prepared to decline or at least put it on hold for the time being if that’s what we concluded. And for that particular opportunity, based on our family values and mission statement, we did decide together that it wasn’t the right time for me to go ahead and pursue it. Ron’s opinion is very important to me and if something doesn’t sit well with him, then it doesn’t sit well with me. 

It’s ok to circle back to something later – If something you’re talking about is causing a point of contention, something you just can’t agree to work together on, move on and go back to it later. We don’t always see eye to eye on everything and that’s ok. Maybe you each just need more time to think/pray on it separately. Take a break from that topic and revisit it at a later date. 

Creating action steps together and putting it on the calendar – This is key to supporting each other and making things happen. One example for us, is that Ron has been wanting to start a podcast since last spring. He has slowly been working on content, jotting down ideas here and there but his goal was to launch in September and it’s now January. So why didn’t he start? Because we didn’t have a plan in place together. He works long days, I’m home with the kid’s all day. He comes in the door and jumps right into helping me with whatever I need while we do supper, baths, bedtime and then we’re both just exhausted after the kids are finally in bed. He hadn’t set aside any purposeful time to work on the podcast so it just wasn’t happening. In our chat this week though, we discovered that he is still very passionate about making it happen and so we now have it on the calendar that a certain evening each week,  I will do bedtime and after supper, he will head downstairs to plan/record his podcast. With that specific time dedicated to it now, we’re going to make this happen. Together. Team work. Get it?! And we did this with each goal that we worked through. Purchasing a larger vehicle was a priority on both of our goal lists, so we discussed how we will budget accordingly, decided on the amount of $$ we’ll put aside each month etc., to meet that goal by the time we agreed on. Prioritizing our health and fitness is one more goal I’ll share that we both had written down ahead of time so deciding together when I’ll get my runs in, when Ron will hit the gym etc., is something we had to decide together and now we can support each other and cheer each other on to reach those personal goals. If a goal is to spend more 1:1 time with each other or each of your kids, plan how you will do that – put date nights in the calendar, book the sitters ahead of time. A goal without action steps won’t happen so this part is crucial for setting your family up for success. 

So you see how getting on the same page and coming up with a plan together can be so effective?!? I’m hoping we can get as many couples on board with this for the month of January so please share this post and when you sit down to make a plan on how you’re going to goal chase together, story a photo and tag us so we can cheer you on! 

Thanks so much for reading you guys! Have fun! 

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why graco’s extend2Fit ® convertible car seat is perfect for our suv

When we found out we were expecting Everest, the challenge of fitting all 3 kids safely into our vehicle, was one of the first thoughts that came to mind. We played with the idea of just taking the plunge and buying a mini van (like all the other cool parents out there) but decided to stick out our SUV for a while more (basically until baby #4) and put the kiddo’s three across for the time being. It worked, but was a pretty tight fit with the seats we currently had.

So, I was so excited when we had the opportunity to try out Graco’s Extend2Fit ®  Convertible  Car Seat for the twins, and to add to the excitement – they fit perfectly with the Graco® SnugRide® SnugLock™ 35 DLX Infant Car Seat we have for Everest.

The twins were excited for their new seats too… mostly about the double cup holders though. Their suggestion was that one side be used for their water bottle and the other side to fill up with snacks. Perfect!

Besides the double cup holder though, this seat has some incredible features. Had we gotten them earlier, the twins could have been rear-facing for a lot longer than they were. The seat has a 4-position extension panel that allows 5-inches of extended legroom, allowing children to ride rear-facing longer and more comfortably without their little legs being all squished up.

My husband was the one who installed them, but he also commented on how easy it was to install compared to other seats we’d used in the past. And the markers on the side are so helpful, because you can see for yourself if you’ve installed it correctly.

Over all, I’m really impressed with the Graco’s Extend2Fit ®  Convertible Car Seat and have a
feeling we’ll go with the same seat for Everest once he outgrows his infant car seat.

Thanks so much for reading you guys!

Natalie

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Fall Road Trip?! And Everest’s New Carseat

Around this time last year, we were on our way to Nashville with the twins and Everest was still all cozy up in my belly. Now look at him! He’s 8 months old, is crawling and toddling around the furniture, and if you scroll down a few photos, you’ll see his first little tooth. Where on earth has the time gone?!?

We’ve sort of made a little tradition of taking a road trip together each fall. Two years ago, we did Chicago, last year we did Nashville, and this year… is still to be determined. We haven’t decided yet if we’re brave enough to venture out with the three kids while Everest is so small. One thing is for certain, whether we decide to be adventurous or not though – we recently got all the kids new car seats – so they’ll definitely be both comfy and safe! Up until Everest was about 6 months, we were using one of the twins old bucket car seats and probably the biggest issue I had with it was how darn heavy that seat was! I dreaded lugging it even from the car to the house because it was that hard to carry.

When we got our Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 DLX infant car seat for him and I used it for the first time, its light weight design was the first featureI loved about it! No more sore arms and aching back. Phew!

My second most favourite feature about this car seat is that the button to adjust the handle is located right in the middle of the handle. This may sound silly but in the past with our old car seats, I had to push buttons on both sides of the seat at the same time to adjust the handle which was always so inconvenient and nearly impossible when the seat was in its base in the car, so this feature was a total game changer for me. As for some other awesome features, it features SnugLock™ technology, making it super easy to install in just three easy steps. All you have to do is buckle or attach UAS, remove the slack and then close the SnugLock arm! it makes a loud clicking sound to reassure you that it’s installed properly. This is a great feature to help grandparents or friends who may be driving my kids around and aren’t as familiar with carseats to know they’ve installed it safely. The seat also came with removable support cushions that add extra support for the head and neck of smaller babies. And of course, because I’m picky like this, it had to be pretty and sleek, which it definitely is!

Graco is currently running a promotion until the end of the year where they are offering an extra car seat base with the purchase of any SnugRide SnugLockinfant car seat. So if you or someone you know is in the market for a new car seat, go here for details on this promo!  Thanks so much for reading!

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Sherkston Shores Beach Resort

This past weekend our family vacationed for 4 days at Sherkston Shores Beach Resort in Sherkston, Ontario. The twins have declared it their favourite beach vacation to date and Ron and I are in agreement. If we hadn’t driven the 2 hours ourselves, we would have never known we were so close to home. It had that tropical beach resort feel and once we were there, we didn’t have to leave the resort at all. Everything you need is right on site including a grocery mart, cafe (with the best iced coffee! yesss please!) and a Boston Pizza for that night you’re so wiped from swimming all day and can’t muster up the energy to even fire up the BBQ. 

The little cottage we stayed in was so cozy! It was completely updated and so clean and had everything we needed. We didn’t have to worry about bringing dishes, sheets, towels etc., That was a relief! And the twins were obsessed with their bunking arrangement….mostly because they had a T.V. in their room!!

During the daytime, we took advantage of the on site pools, splashpads, skateboard park, minigolf etc., that we had unlimited access to. And every evening after supper, we would go down to the beach with a blanket, throw rocks in the water and play in the waves. We rented a golf cart to get around the resort and this was hands down the twins favourite part of the trip. They thought it was the coolest thing and loved “helping” Ron drive.

This 4 day getaway was the absolute best end to our summer and we began planning our next trip back to Sherkston Shores before we even left the resort!

Thanks for reading you guys!!!

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