More people hitching a ride on the green train

These painted rain barrels were auctioned in a silent auction at the Artists in Paradise Gallery on Big Pine Key.
These painted rain barrels were auctioned in a silent auction at the Artists in Paradise Gallery on Big Pine Key.

Looking around my neighborhood recently, I see little changes that show me that instead of being part of the problem, some residents are choosing to be part of the solution.

For example, at the Winn-Dixie on Big Pine Key, I notice more lone male shoppers walk into the store with their stash of reusable bags. It really makes my heart swell.

My husband takes his own bag into the grocery store. It's a large, strong, orange Home Depot bag with molded handles that clip onto the insides of the cart. He throws all his shopping into the bag, unclips it from the cart and throws the mesh straps over his shoulder. He likes the fact that it is big and strong and he doesn't have to mess with a bunch of small bags.

My road has embraced recycling, judging from the number of recycling crates put out Thursday mornings. Even homes that are vacation rentals have recycling crates out by the road. Kudos to the homeowner or property manager who encourages the renters to recycle.

I know there can be confusion as to what can be recycled. One of those confusions is plastic grocery bags. They can be recycled but not in the recycling crate. If you have them and you can't repurpose them as a doggie poop bag or wet waste bag, then return them to a bag recycling point at Winn-Dixie or Publix.

They should not be placed in the recycling crate, the contents of which are transported to a recycling facility in Broward County. At the facility, the metal arms sorting the recyclables get jammed up with plastic bags and cause costly and time-wasting shutdowns. They really don't want plastic bags in the recycling crates.

I am always surprised by the number of people I talk to who grow their own vegetables. Some have herbs on their porch, some grow tomatoes, some have more ambitious raised bed plots and grow collards, eggplants, squash (which really spreads out) and other greens.

I had a terrible growing season this year but am pleased to report my two surviving bell pepper plants seem to be having a late spurt of energy and are producing several peppers right now. What can taste better than homegrown produce that didn't travel hundreds of miles, is freshly picked and is free of heavy pesticides?

The Lower Keys Green Drinks group meets the third Thursday of each month at The Wharf restaurant on Summerland Key. In April's meeting, Kim Gabel, horticulture agent from the Monroe County Cooperative Extension Service, gave a talk on rain barrels and raffled a free rain barrel.

During the first week in May, my rain gauge measured 2.7 inches of rain in just one day. There were photos of people kayaking down Duval Street in Key West that week. The lucky raffle winner got his rain barrel in the nick of time.

It always encourages me to hear about how some people redirect their downspout water to their plants in lieu of collecting in a rain barrel. Some have rain barrels they connect via overflow spouts and some throw their veggie-rinsing water onto their plants -- all different ways of using water that otherwise would've been wasted.

It's great to hear about actions people are taking. They all add up over time and it doesn't have to be a big grand gesture to make a difference.

Shirley Gun is a member of the Keyswide nonprofit Green Living & Energy Education she can be reached at