I posted this poll a few months back, about what people re-use and what they throw away. I didn’t have a big green agenda about it, I was just curious, but the results made me realize I’m not as green as I think.

I was already planning this follow-up post for today, after an awesome day of grocery shopping with 15 cloth tote bags and doing three loads of laundry, but I am also sort of responding to who asked in her LJ what her readers are doing to limit their planetary impact.

It turned out the two big gaps in my general choice to wash or toss were baby wipes and cloth shopping totes. Giving up baby wipes was easy; I never used them to wipe the baby’s bottom, but for more general spill pick-ups. I just stopped buying them and started carrying a little kit with a water spritzer and a couple of washcloths, as well as my diaper cream and hand sanitizer.

I expected cloth totes to be harder. One commenter to the original post echoed what I had always thought would be the stumbling block – I buy a lot of groceries. How many totes would I need to bag up a two-week supply of groceries for five people? Where would I get them? How much would they cost? Would I remember to use them?

The answer turns out to be that I already had about a dozen cloth totes lying around my house in various closets. I gathered them all up as we decluttered the house for sale, and stored them in the back of my van.

I’ve gotten good enough at remembering to use them that I’ve run out of my stockpiles of paper and plastic, and been forced to get creative about how I transport dirty diapers (in a waterproof canvas tote gave me for the purpose a few years ago), how I empty out litter boxes (straight into the kitchen trash when the trash can is almost full), and how I pack up lunches and snacks and little things that used to go into grocery bags (in cloth lunchboxes that we had lying around those same closets).

Using cloth totes for groceries is AWESOME. I remember to do it because it gives me pleasure, not because it’s “green”. They hold more groceries, never break, and I can carry four bags at a time without straining, because I can put two over my shoulders. Plus, the grocery store clerks always flirt with me when I whip out my stash.

In addition to learning to shop with totes, my green efforts lately have gone into:

ECing my baby. I heard on NPR the other day that by 12 months of age the average American baby has consumed as much natural resources as the average person from [an African nation that starts with a Z and whose name I am embarassed to be forgetting] will in his or her lifetime. Most of that goes into their diapers. I was already ahead of the curve on this one, since not only have we cloth diapered from the beginning, but we were lucky enough to get all our diapers for both girls as hand-me downs or buy them second-hand. The one I put Serena to bed in is diapering its fifth child. I wash them in a high-efficiency washer, but that’s still a lot of water and electric, so we’re working on using the potty. With the added bonus of getting to play more and fight over diaper changes less.

– moving to within a quarter mile of ‘s office, and into a shared house, so that we can cut down to one car and limit our driving from roughly 100 miles a day to maybe that much in a week.