Monday, January 14, 2008

Is it easy being green?

Oprah says it is. Last week I caught a rerun about Being Green and it did get me thinking, "What can I do? What can I change?" After about 10 different segments, though, I started to feel that it's not so easy, and that if I don't do everything they talked about I am letting the world down. Luckily my perspective has settled down after a few days, and I've been taking mental stock. I already have a few environmentally sound habits. I could try to pick up a few more.

One of Oprah's guests was Elizabeth Rogers, author of The Green Book: The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time. Sometimes I'm a sucker for a good how-to guide, but not this one. I don't need the simple steps like using fewer paper napkins and refusing ATM receipts. True, I could do those, but I still need to do some glaring basics. I already know I should avoid styrofoam and use the back of printer paper. I know I'm late to the game and I'm proceeding in baby steps, but I think I can do a little more. Besides, there's plenty on the internet and that doesn't use paper like a book...

Here's my mental stock -

Already doing:
  • For big shopping trips I bring my own fabric tote bags. I've been doing this for years so it's second nature to grab a pile of them on my way out the door. The other advantage to using these is they hold more and have long handles. This is handy for hauling groceries across a parking lot, down several blocks, through a series of locked doors, and up several flights of stairs. I don't know what it is to park in a driveway (or garage, even!) right by my front door.
  • Recycle plastic, glass, paper and metal
  • Reuse ziploc and plastic shopping bags
  • Use refillable water bottle from home instead of buying bottled water
  • More as a consequence of our location and forced lifestyle than as any effort we're making, we use very little gas for the car, and walk or use public transportation for the most part. But hey, I can still claim we do that.
Ready to try:
  • Non-toxic household cleaners - I ordered Shaklee's Basic H2 Organic Super Cleaning Concentrate and some spray bottles. If I like the clean it produces I'm definitely willing to switch. We haven't had any problems with more mainstream chemical cleaners, but I know I'll feel better using non-toxic products, both for my family's health and the good of the environment.
  • Eco-friendly detergent - I still have 1/2 a bottle of Tide I'm going to use up, but then I'm willing to try a new natural detergent like Charlie's, Seventh Generation, Allen's, etc.
  • Non-chlorine diapers - I'm a Pampers fan myself but I just ordered a package of Seventh Generation non-chlorine diapers to try out. I found it leaked in the overnight trial but works great for daytime (shorter time span.) These are notably more expensive than other diapers, but I will continue to buy them when I can and maybe alternate with cheaper ones. Of course cloth diapers are the ultimate way to go green here, but I'm not quite there yet (at least not until I have my own washer/dryer.)
  • This is kind of a general one, but I'm ready to consciously buy more organic food and maybe even clothes. I know it can be better for my family and the environment, and I want to support organic growers. Again, weighing the cost, and keeping practical. But I am looking forward to living near a Whole Foods again!
  • Use fewer paper towels - I admit I use them a lot. But I've started more consciously keeping dish towels around the kitchen and on the table to wipe hands on, and old baby washcloths to clean faces and hands after meals.
Maybe someday:
  • Cloth diapers - I feel like this could be my ultimate green contribution to the environment, considering how many millions of diapers our family uses. And they have come a long way since even Hazel was born - they are very user friendly these days. I just can't face it until I've got my own laundry, but that is only 6 months away. I should also consider cloth wipes.
  • On Oprah's show, a family had their energy company come do an energy audit of their home, resulting in energy-saving suggestions like outlet gaskets, low-flow showerheads, and window weatherstripping. This seems like a great place to start conserving energy and energy bills...when I have a home.
  • Energy saving light bulbs - I saw an Oprah a few years ago with Leonardo DiCaprio pushing these bulbs. It sounded reasonable so I got some for our living room. I kept them in for 6 months but couldn't stand the life-sucking flourescent light and switched back to energy-sucking incandescents. I don't know, I'm very particular about my mood lighting. That living room didn't have any windows (cheap dungeon basement apartment), so the light bulbs really affected things. However, I would use these bulbs in places like laundry room, porch light, garage, home office. I just don't have any of those rooms right now.
  • Hybrid car - why wouldn't I? Our clunker is not getting any younger so we will be in the market for a new car, possibly two, in the next few years. There are several makes and models of hybrid cars and it's a smart and responsible way to go if you can find one to fit all your safety and other needs. A glaring gap in the market is a hybrid minivan, but apparently it's on the way. That's what I'm waiting for.
Obviously there's always more a person can do. I'm sure most of you are doing more than I am, but we all start somewhere.

What do you do? What products or activities have you embraced in an effort to treat the earth right? What other suggestions do you have for me?


Mia said...

Honestly, I am really behind on the green movement. There are things that I am terrible at... like I drive EVERYWHERE. And, we live out in the relative country so I actually have to get in the car to get anywhere. I am not up on the reuseable shopping bags, but I have commited to using them this year. And I am such a costco junkie, that unless they start carrying organic cleaners I will probably stick with the commercial brands for cost cutting. But there are a few things we do pretty well. We never print recepits any where: fast food, atm, gas station, any where they give you an option. We reuse paper that we have printed out but don't need what ever is on the front side. We also use the funky bulbs. I notice the tone of the light, but it doesn't bother me enough to switch back. We have a new house (2 years) so it is pretty good on the energy efficiency. We are going to do a few things like line our trap door to the attic with weather stripping. We have digital thermometers that turn the temp dow at night and during the day when we are most likely to be gone. But other than that we are not doing as much as we could. This along with food storage are two big goals of mine this year.

kat said...

i'm seriously curious if the cost - energy - of the laundering of the cloth diapers outweighs the use of my tried and true disposal friends. i have no data to support or refute this, i'm just curious. and since you just watched oprah, maybe she DID have the numbers and can help sway me. :)

i'm also curious about all the hype on the hybrid cars. again, an idea that sounds great in theory. i'm curious about the products that are used to MAKE the cars - e.g., giant nickel batteries - and the effect that production and disposal have vs. the energy savings. just something i think about.

i do need to bust out some cloth bags. i think of that every time i'm at the grocery store and get irritated that i didn't at least RECYCLE the plastic ones from the last time. those little baggers are so eager to put one item per bad it makes me a little crazy!

i'm going to put in a big plug for the low-flow toilet. easy to install - although that is still roger's job - and the jaquuzzi (sp?) model really does get the job done. 1.4 gallons vs. over 5? think about how many times you flush a day and you do the math!

Maren said...

I agree on the low-flow toilet and showerhead. The shower heads aren't as bad as they used to be at all.

Speaking of not as bad, you might want to give the new CFLs another chance. Check out this article at Popular Mechanics magazine about light bulbs.

I am totally with you about the mood my lighting gives, and was loathe to try CFLs again. But this article made me try one more time. I bought a few GE Soft White CFLs and put them in my kitchen (which is the light fixture that is on ALL day long). It took a couple of days to get used to it, but the light doesn't suck the life out of me and it's brighter than before. I'm cool with it now. I haven't gone so far as to switch out the bathroom mirror lights, but I did notice that Tona has one incandescent and one good CFL in her bathroom.

I tried the green dishwasher detergent last time, and it was just fine. It's expensive, though, which I don't understand. I would have thought that the materials it uses would be relatively cheap. What I hate is when green products jack up the price to make you feel like they're high quality. Make a good product, fine, but charge a fair price!

Our grocery stores give you 5-10 cents back for every tote you use each time. That's cool, but I always forget to bring them. It's all I can do to remember my list. I could do better.

I bought an insulation jacket for the water heater this year, but I need Quinn's help to put it around the thing, so it hasn't gotten done yet. This old house could use a lot of energy upgrades (windows, doors, insulation), but that's for another year.

We try to do water bottles, reusable containers for lunches, etc. We recycle like crazy. I'm sure there's more, but that's all I can think of now. Katy had a fun little link on her blog back a while. It's here. Just don't let the guilt of not being perfect drive you crazy. Do what you can and improve little by little.

Disco Mom said...

Maren - thank you for the light bulb article - it looks like there are a lot more options than when I tried before. I printed it off (what a paper waster I am!) and will take it shopping with me to get some new ones to try.

Kate said...

Wow, I'm impressed with your efforts. Here's a few things I've been attempting.

I have the new green light bulbs and haven't noticed a difference. They work great.

Reduce consumption of meat. Eat unprocessed food. Try to buy locally.

Reusing material instead of buying new. Check out Freecycle, I LOVE it. Try to buy from Ebay or second hand instead of new.

Drink tap water. It's the same as you get in the bottle minus the pollution making bottle.

Buy what will last instead of what is immediately the cheapest. What lasts will be cheaper and enviro healthier in the long run. I know that's not easy to do with the growing kind but I see tons of kids clothes on freecycle.

Live with Aaron, he keeps the house FREEZING in winter.

This is a great blog that might have some tips you like:
They guy tried to live totally green for a whole year in your neck of the woods with his family.

And I do know that reusable cloth diapers win over the plastic since the plastic takes like a thousand years to rot away. I'll try to find you an article for proof.

Disco Mom said...

I'm totally thrown off. Is Kate Just Katy's alter ego? I only know one Ka... living with Aaron and it must be the Aaron that comes from the same gene pool as me because I keep it freezing in winter too. We're on the top floor of an apt building with old radiators I have no control over so it gets very, very hot up here and all our windows are open all winter. Love the nursery blog, by the way - I'm passing it on.

Disco Mom said...

Excellent point about recycling clothes. I buy all the girls' shoes & coats on ebay, and many clothes, too. Shoes & coats are so expensive new, and they grow out of them so fast! I sell on there, too. I've heard of freecycle but never checked it out - I don't understand how it works so I'll have to look into it.

Just Katy said...

Drat, you discovered my secret identity. Kidding, yeah I'm Kate and Just Katy. I've been working on getting this nursery blog started up and I forgot to switch back to my personal blog name.

Freecycle is great. Go to to find your local group. In my area they have a yahoo group and every day I get a summary email of the offerings. If anything looks good you email the offerer and go pick it up.
According to freecycle law everything MUST be free. Last week I snagged some great blocks, you know the old wooden letter ones? I was second place to getting a mountain bike yesterday. And if you have any need for furniture there are always a ton of sofas chairs and tables being offered.

Disco Mom said...

I've noticed this month my bills have little messages on the envelope saying, "Go Green - Pay online!" I pay most of my bills online anyway to save on stamps and for convenience, but I guess that can count as a green effort, too.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...