We’re Dirty Hippies Now

And by dirty hippies, I mean environmentally-conscious. Portland has turned us into granola-munching tree huggers…ish.

Don't just hug trees, make out with them.

Don’t just hug trees, make out with them.

Coming from the Midwest and being part of a super Republican family, I laughed when this whole “green fad” started. (February is apparently the month of Erin making fun of herself.)  After all, only hippies would care about lame things like, um, the planet. I was wasteful and obnoxious about it. *hangs head in shame*

These days, we live in the Mecca for hippies — Portland, Oregon. I swear the recycling is picked up more often than the trash. And in such an environment, we’ve become much nicer to the Earth. Behold our new dirty hippy tendencies:

We recycle. While I would put paper waste in the recycling bin at work in Ohio, that’s the only time I recycled…anything. These days, we turn cans and bottles back in for the deposit (which is a genius program, and should be a thing everywhere) and all other recycling goes downstairs to the recycling bins. Anything else we don’t want, like clothes, is sold or donated, not trashed (unless it is beyond repair).

We drink from the tap. We have been purchasing one to two cases of water per week since the beginning of our marriage. A few months back, I decided to go the filtered route. But before I even purchased a filter, I actually tried the tap water. And it was good. Like, really good. Portland’s water rocks and we haven’t bought bottled since.

We have a reusable grocery bag. For like $5, we bought a decent canvas reusable bag from Trader Joe’s. As we don’t drive to the grocery store, we only bring one bag of stuff home at a time anyways.

We walk everywhere. With the exception of Steve’s commute, we literally walk everywhere. There is no reason not to. I can go literally anywhere I could ever possibly need to go by walking a mile or less — bank, grocery store, hospital, Chipotle.

We live in a smaller space and own very few things. We take up a very small amount of space (400 SF) and energy. We also don’t own much at all. While we are considering actually getting furniture (say, what?), we will first be considering gently used items and then locally made products.

We consume less. We rarely buy anything not food or hygiene related and we just use less in general. For instance, these days, I wear makeup maybe once a week so there is no need to buy it on a regular basis. I also don’t need special work clothes because my boss (me) doesn’t care if I look like a troll.

All that said, we have some areas on which we could improve. Dirty hippies would scoff at the following bad habits:

We use paper towels. I know they are the biggest waste of money and are totally wasteful in general, but I cannot wrap my head around using rags. Do you immediately put them in the dirty bin once you clean a single surface (I’m assuming you aren’t cleaning the toilet and sink with the same rag)? How much water and energy is then used to wash them? Are paper towels really that bad? Enlighten me, please.

Steve drives to work. There is public transportation straight to his job, but he is currently driving. There is a somewhat valid excuse for this. We’re currently trying to sell the car and as such didn’t renew our parking pass. So it can’t be parked here during the day without getting a ticket. Once it is sold, he will take public transportation exclusively.

We have an addiction to aerosol hair spray. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get rid of this. Aerosol hairspray just rocks and keeps my crazy hair in check. Have you ditched aerosol sprays yet in your home?

We both shower daily. So we aren’t literally “dirty” hippies. I’ve showered daily for my entire life and just recently found out many people don’t. I feel like absolute crap if I skip a shower. Do you shower daily?

So, we’re like halfway to dirty hippy-ness. Which is much better than the wasteful heathens we used to be. Turns out “going green” often saves some green (oh dear god, Erin, that was so lame) and less consumption = lower expenses. Win for the environment, win for frugality.

Are you a dirty hippy? Is your city dirty-hippy-friendly? Do you have any suggestions for being even nicer to the environment?

Image from imgur


  1. I never realised how lucky we were with the tap water in NZ till I travelled. Seriously.

    Ditto recycling. It almost physically hurt me to throw away cans and cardboard, for example, when we Airbnbed in New York.

  2. I’d love to live in a place where a car isn’t a necessity 🙁 My boyfriend and I recycle most of the time and I bring reusable bags with me everywhere. I have one that folds up in my purse just in case. I save plastic bags for use in our small bins and when I run out then I forgo my reusable bags on one grocery trip to stock up. My boyfriend’s mum uses rags to clean all the time and it’s a habit he’s picked up too (when he does clean haha). We still use paper towel for some tasks – I can’t stomach using a rag on some spills like a dropped egg or exploded sauce bottle. I toss the cloths in the wash with our tea towels and bath towels. If they are truly gross I soak them first.

  3. Living in Portland has made me totally more conscious of my eating. I care about everything I eat. I also recycle, but can’t compost where I live. I bike or take the bus everywhere, and my bf drives. He showers a few times a week, I shower almost every day, but sometimes skip a day. We bring reusable bags as we remember them, but we are not perfect.

  4. ​Within the last year, we’ve become hippies. We stopped buying paper towels mostly because we didn’t have the extra income to throw them away. We bought tea towels and even some Terry towels and we just throw them in with the regular towels every couple days.

    My dryer broke a year ago and we found out it saves us 40 dollars a month, so it’s still broken. We just hang everything to dry on a rack or hanger in the bathroom. Then later found that it was “green” to hang your clothes.

    The only disposable paper we buy is toilet paper. I use my grandma’s old fashioned hankies (they sat in my nightstand for several years)… they’re so pretty. And I have a memory of grandma every time I pull them out.

    And feminine products are reusable. There are some really great options out there if you look.

    We have to work for recycling because our condo doesn’t recycle. So we load up the recycling and take it to the recycling center about every 3 weeks.

    We both drive. Hubby drives about 30 minutes to work, no commuter options there, especially for his wacky all over the clock schedule . I do drive a big honki​​n truck because we have horses. And getting someone to haul you around is far more expensive than just owning everything, especially when you have a sick horse that needs to go to the emergency vet. 2 hours away.

    We do make most of our cleaning and hygiene supplies, who needs all the toxic chemicals. I don’t buy coffee out,. I drink organic coffee that I love. I have a Kleen Kanteen that I carry everywhere. It starts as coffee and then later, I have a brita pitcher at work that I use. I even make my own creamer.

    I also cook at home mostly from organic foods and I try to buy with little to know packaging. I feel like I’m doing a big disservice to the environment when I eat out because of all the packaging because there’s always left overs and trash.

    I’d love to join a CSA but our budget can’t handle the upfront hit…even tho we’d save a lot of money. Maybe next year. Last year was kind of tough on that front.

    And I shower daily…it’s a must and it feels so good.

    • Yeah, toilet paper as a disposable is a must. I will never budge on that one. I want to look into the reusable feminine products options, as tampons are so freaking wasteful, especially the ones with plastic (which is sadly what I use).

      We buy less and less stuff with excess packaging as time goes on. We’ve started cooking more meals in the house and using better ingredients. We don’t buy mostly organic at this point, but want to when the budget allows (have to wipe out at least the credit card debt first!).

  5. Coming from an area close to your former residence I can relate to the lack of environmental concern as well as my own (shamefully) lack of concern. It’s been only in the last couple of years that I have become aware of my own personal relationship with the environment and how incredibly one sided and selfish that relationship has been.

    One of the things I have been doing lately is separating all of my garbage for recycling and taking it to the recycling drop off location. I don’t eat meat and all of my food scraps go out to the composting pile. I basically end up with three containers of recycling; cardboard paper, glass/aluminum and plastics. When you actually see the trash generated in a months time it’s really hard to get away from. The biggest thing I became aware of was how incredibly wasteful the simple act of eating has become. I would estimate that 70-80% of my trash generation comes from food packaging products. That is insane!!

    Envious of you living in Portland. Visited the area for a week back in 2012 and fell in love with it.

    • Portland rocks 🙂

      I need to look into this composting thing, although I think it would be pretty difficult indoors in a 400 SF apartment :/

  6. I cut up old t-shirts and put them in a container with vinegar for cleaning. Also they fixed the aerosol problem with cfcs in the 90s so you can keep your hairspray.

  7. I like that “Steve drives to work”, but “WE still use aerosol hair spray”. Does Steve also use the hairspray? =)
    I’ve always erred on the tree-hugging side, but I worried recently that I’m verging on yuppie territory when I got excited about a new yoga place that’s within biking distance to my house, and with an organic farmer’s market another 20 minutes further away by bike. If my Saturday mornings turn into yoga + organic produce on a bike I’ll have gone full yuppie.

    • Not a typo! WE both use it. I have more hair, so I use more of it, but we both use it. Haha, yoga and organic produce? Dig it! I’m contemplating getting a bike, but everything is so close I can just walk it.

  8. Woohoo for saving the planet! I’m a pretty big hippie, especially in my neck of the woods. We only have one car (there is zero public transit here) which is huge since most people we know have 2+. We recycle everything, just rags and vinegar and baking soda for cleaning. We try and buy as much stuff locally as possible, but that can be a challenge sometimes. AND, the heating system in our home is 100% green and the most efficient form of heating on the planet, which is a giant plus.

    All that said, if we move back to the city, we’ll be exploring ways to take our hippie-dom to the next level, because you only get one planet.

  9. I’ve definitely wanted to become more hippie-esque and turn to more sustainable habits/products this year. We were never too wasteful to begin with, but I’m trying to get a little more DIY with some things rather than buying everything commercially. I also want to get better about sourcing our food better – last year we went to farmer’s markets when we remembered to do so, but we were pretty forgetful/lazy. Would like to just make it a habit to head there weekly for fresh stuff grown locally!

    PS – We use paper towels too and I am NOT giving them up. I make sure I don’t waste them, but I just can’t use a rag or sponge. I’m not a total germaphobe, but personally, rags/sponges just gross me out when they’re used in the kitchen (sinks are usually the germiest places in homes) or the bathroom. For other cleaning purposes, that’s fine, I can use them and wash them. But otherwise.. paper towels all the way.

    • Rags work better, IMO. You just need a big pile of them so that you don’t need to keep reusing dirty ones.

      If you compost, paper towels are a good “brown” material to add in, though.

    • This summer I definitely want to utilize either a CSA or the farmer’s market. We try to buy products locally when possible, but we don’t buy much. Our mattress was made locally 🙂

      Sponges freak me out too. But I really do want to try to switch to rags.

  10. Rags do a MUCH better job of cleaning than paper towels. I wouldn’t even consider going back to paper now that I’ve switched. I reuse them if they’ve only wiped up water or food spills but avoid any cross-contamination between things like bathroom and kitchen. I clean mostly with vinegar so there’s not a lot of chemicals left on them.

    If you don’t have old shirts to cut up, Sam’s/Costco sell giant bags of pre-cut rags for about as much as a giant package of paper towels. Except you’ll never have to buy rags again 🙂 I wash them with regular towels and hang dry.

    My city recycles a lot of stuff and recently switched to a San Francisco “single stream” style, so it’s super convenient. Only thing they don’t take are plastic bags (I used to bike them to the grocery store, but I’ve been lazy about it lately) and category 6+ plastics.

    I compost in the backyard. Even if you have no outdoor space, it’s super easy to compost indoors with a worm bin. It doesn’t smell at all (well, it does, but it just smells like dirt). Kids love digging for the worms when I turn the bin. Science at work!

    • That’s another thing I want to do — switch to natural cleaning products like vinegar. We go through cleaning products super slowly so it will be a while before I need anything else. Doesn’t vinegar smell bad though?

      I don’t know much about composting, but I figured it would be something to look into once we own. I’ll do some research.

      • I use straight vinegar, but will soon start using a recipe I got from Miss Growing Green. Save citrus peels (we eat a lot of oranges), then fill a large Mason jar with peels, 1/2 vinegar, 1/2 water. A very effective cleaner with (supposedly) a much nicer smell.

        My kids always shout “yay, it smells like dill pickles!” though 😛

        Baking soda comes in (primarily) by sprinkling on a surface, then spraying it with vinegar. The acid/base reaction acts as a more powerful surfactant for cleaning. Some people use just baking soda and water for a mild abrasive, but coarse kosher salt is also a good natural abrasive.

        Composting is dead easy. I don’t even worry too much about the proportion of “green” (nitrogren-rich, basically all food stuff) to “brown” (carbon-rich, think dry leaves, dry grass, paper). Vermicomposting (worms) is very simple to do indoors, but I haven’t needed to experiment since I have a yard.

  11. haha I approve!

    So glad you’re off the bottled water… my heart stopped when you said how much you’d been buying. Yikes!

  12. My apartment complex doesn’t recycle and it sucks. I love using reusable grocery bags but I need to start bagging my own groceries because the baggers out here suck at cramming everything in them. They’re heavy-duty, load ’em up! We got all of our grocery bags for free. When we visited Morro Bay, CA in 2012 they were just starting a ban on plastic bags and gave away a free bag for every x amount of dollars you spent in groceries. I wish everywhere would ban those pesky plastic bags!

  13. Good on you for making the change! We’re kind of crappy environmentalists, but will do some stuff as long as it doesn’t require too much work. We recycle, use a fairly low amount of gas per month due to the scooter/bikes, take navy showers…stuff like that. But we still, you know, create trash and turn on the AC in the summers. I don’t think we’re at the hippy level yet, but a boy can dream!

  14. I think you spelled Hipster wrong…

    Good for you for taking some steps to a more “green” life. I still live in the midwest and I can see signs my city is working its way towards being more green. We do what we can, such as recycling and trying to remember to use our reusable bags (which they give away as sawg a lot of the farmers markets around here). We tend to be a shower every other day family, because neither of us really has BO, the excpetion to this is when we run more in the spring/summer.

  15. I guess we fall into the category if dirty hippies. We recycle, we use rags, we drink from the tap, and we shower every other day..mostly (I have been known to go a full week without, if there is no work to be at and I go swimming). 🙂

    • I just can’t get over the feeling of griminess if I don’t shower daily. I sweat a lot though…

      Good for you for being such a dirty hippy 🙂

      • Wearing a moisture-wicking base layer MIGHT help with that. I bike a ton, and even in the winter I turn myself into a sweatsicle (like, literally my jacket has frozen sweat on it) but there are days I don’t smell even if I don’t shower because the sweat is wicked off of my skin so fast.

        But I think there’s nothing wrong with hygiene 😛 Cultural hygiene has changed a ton throughout history. We’re actually relatively dirty compared to, say, the upper class Romans.

  16. We have pretty good tap water here as well, which I’ve always been grateful for. Now that we are in a basement apartment, I just filter it. I shower every other day, but I’m always cold so I don’t really sweat, and my hair is usually good for 2.5 days. My parents used to recycle so I’m used to it now. If it’s glass, plastic or a can it goes into the wrap pail!

  17. I worked at horrible McDonald’s when I was 14. It always cracked me up when very large people would order a ton of crap food and then get a diet coke to go with it. Ummm yeah, you’re not seeing the forest Mr. Heart Attack on Legs.

    Same thing with bottled water. Half my family can’t get along without it because “the municipal water has chemicals in it.” Well, how about all that red meat, potato chips and bacon? Yeeesh!

    Good for you for doing the right thing. Question though: Will you be carless when the car sells? If so, does that bother you at all? I hardly drive, but the thought of having 0 vehicles with 4 wheels just doesn’t sit right with me.

    PS: Portland is awesome; one of the best places on earth. Almost worth it for Powell’s alone.

    • Haha, I always ordered crap food and a Diet Coke! But that’s because regular pop hurts my stomach. (But crap food does too, so…) People who pick and choose what to bitch about crack me up. I’m sure I’ve done that a million times as well, complaining about how something is unhealthy whilst eating a cheeseburger. I’ve been a lot better about healthy food lately though, and it hasn’t been difficult. It just has to be prepared in a delicious way!

      We will be carless! And no, we are super excited to get rid of it. We can walk or take public transport literally everywhere and if we absolutely NEEDED a car for a day, we can just rent. Still way cheaper and uses way less energy 🙂

      Portland rocks my socks off. Although, Colorado would be our second choice for places to live, it’s freaking gorgeous!

      • No car, nice!

        Good point about renting. Waaaaay cheaper. No car payment. No insurance. No maintenance. That;s huge.

        I’m guessing that Portland has pretty excellent public transportation?

  18. When you moved I knew this day would come… haha, I jest. One of my earliest posts was about being an “accidental environmentalist.” I don’t particularly go out of my way to care about Mother Earth (a la Greenzo) but I do what I can to pinch a penny. I’d get charged if I don’t recycle so I do. AC would hike up my electricity bill so I don’t use it. Britta filters are way cheaper than bottled water (I just can’t do tap here). Luckily I don’t pay for water so I’m still taking all the long, hot showers I want. I imagine my tune would change as soon as I started getting water bills…

    • Haha, I’m all hippy dippy now! Oh, Greenzo 🙂

      We don’t have an A/C, and don’t need one as the summers are so mild. An open window is perfect! We don’t pay for water either (actually all our utilities are covered with rent). I’m still pretty aware of energy usage though.

  19. NYC actually has some of the best tap water (it’s what makes our pizza so good) because it comes from the pristine Catskills region of NY state so I love tap water, although terrible plumbing in an old building can necessitate the need to still use a water filter.

    I had to comment though because of the shower thing. I actually realized I can shower less frequently in the winter, and it is kind of necessary for my skin. It can get really dried out if I shower daily. I also wash my hair every four-five days, which I personally love as it saves so much time in the morning. I still wash my face daily, I still use deodorant, and I of course put on CLEAN underthings daily, but I can alternate showers since I’m not in a profession where I sweat all day.

    If you want to see some true conservation, you should watch Alaska: The Last Frontier on Netflix. It’s a reality show, so some of the talking-directly-to-the-camera bits get annoying, but it’s crazy seeing how people truly live off the land in such a cold and dark location. The one family doesn’t even do laundry during the 8 months of winter… that’s a little too much for me, I need my clean underthings!

  20. I think I’m doing a lot more driving than you, but I guess at least I don’t commute to a job. I also still…at 43…have a lot of hand me down furniture. I don’t see the point of buying most stuff new. I also have a pretty small footprint as far as utilities. I still do occasionally forget my reusable grocery bags and if desperate, buy bottled water, so there is always room for improvement.

  21. There are some crunchy things we’ve always done, like recycle, compost, and drink tap water, commute to work (I do, not my husband) but we’ve become more granola since having a baby. We clean with rags (different rags for different surfaces) and use hankies, cloth diaper, cut out processed foods, make own cleaning supplies. This spring/summer, I hope to grow my own food.

    None of the above were intentional- as in, I’m choose to be more green and whatnot. As I discovered different ways of doing things, it just seemed to make sense.

    • We’re looking to make our own cleaning supplies once our current stuff runs out. And we have been cutting down on processed foods as well! Hmm, even greener than I thought 🙂

      It’s awesome you guys are so environmentally friendly!

  22. Oh, but I do blast the A/C in the summer. That’s been something I can’t seem to part with.

  23. We’re so dirty-hippie-ish that we…
    Turn vegetable scraps into soup stock
    Scrape the fat off cooled chicken broth to use for frying
    Make our own yogurt, wine and beer, and lately have been making our own bread
    Save and re-use plastic containers (sour cream et al.)
    Glean feral raspberries and rhubarb
    Use scrap wood to build raised beds and supports for the peas
    Turn worn-out clothing and linens into cleaning rags
    Get many items from the thrift store
    Drink from the tap (because Anchorage has GREAT water)
    That’s all I can think of at the moment, but there’s probably more. And yeah, we live in Alaska and can still find ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.

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