Saturday, December 13, 2008

Being Green (Or at least trying)

I bought a Prius about a year and a half ago, and while this wasn’t the start of our “green” journey, it certainly marked the no turning back point. We’ve been recycling for years. Even before the city began providing recycle bins, we would take our recyclables to the dumpsters behind Sevanada when it was on Euclid (remember when you could recycle and go through the magazine bin at the same time?). When we moved to Grant Park eleven years ago, one of the first things we did was set up a composting area. Mr. Man built a three stall, open front system, so that we could turn the compost between two stalls and use the third for holding finished compost. This works great if you don’t mind the work (it needs to be turned fairly frequently). This year we bought a two-sided compost tumbler, which is great for ease of use, you just throw your organic matter in and give it a turn. It also saves on space and is less unsightly than the piles, as well as controlling for rodents and smell—not that these were really problems for us, we have three cats. Each season we have enough compost to apply a layer on the garden before mulching. It’s amazing how little “trash” you have when you recycle and compost.

Once we bought the Prius, I started to get a little more serious about being green. Amanda began referring to me as the “green police,” and any time I’d talk about it, which I admit was/is often, she would roll her eyes and say “Mom!,” in that tone that implies no one wants to hear it. When I wanted to buy holiday gifts for people that would encourage their being greener (like hemp string reusable grocery bags; who wouldn’t want those as a gift?), she, in her teenaged wisdom, stopped me—I still haven’t given up the idea.

There are several really good websites that give advice on little things you can do that can have a big impact. One of my favorites is
Campaign Earth where you can sign up for a monthly “challenge” my first was to give up plastic water bottles for a year (eight out of ten plastic water bottles end up in landfills and according to The Green Book, “it takes 1.5 million barrels of oil annually to satisfy America’s demand for bottled water.”). We gave up all plastic bottles, for good, and I began to see them everywhere. At my office, at friends’ homes, at local events… At the office, we’ve always offered bottled water to guests, and we still do, but I noticed that staff were using bottled water when making tea or coffee as well. After talking with the office manager, we put a filter on the faucet in the kitchen and have really cut the amount of bottled water consumption. At the time, my building didn’t recycle, so I brought all the bottles and soda cans home to put in our recycle bin, luckily we are a very small office.

The next challenge was to lessen the amount of junk mail and catalogs we were receiving. There are several websites to help with this. I went to
Catalog Choice and entered all the catalogs we were getting (we were getting a lot, sometimes two of the same catalog, one mailed to each of us) that we didn’t want and they notified the companies to stop sending—it can take a mailing cycle or two before it takes affect. There are some companies that won’t comply with the request, and Catalog Choice lets you know the status so you can go to the company sites to make the request. We probably cut our mail by half, saving trees and the mailman’s back. You can also go to DMAchoice to reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. Other challenges have included changing our light bulbs to compact fluorescent, and this month, lowering the temperature on the hot water heater to 125 degrees (Mr. Man’s not yet on board with this, but I’m working on him).

We did buy some of those hemp string bags for grocery shopping (1 trillion plastic bags are thrown away each year!). They stretch a lot and hold up to 40 pounds, and when you shop at Whole Foods they give you a small discount for each bag you use. We buy recycled products whenever we can and try to reuse things (aluminum foil, plastic storage bags) as much as possible. We’ve also recently begun thinking more about what we are buying. We look at labels to see where things are being shipped from in an effort to buy regionally and we joined a local CSA (
Community Supported Agriculture), for vegetables and eggs. This has had a great affect on the variety of vegetables we eat. With our CSA, D&A Farms, you get what is ready for harvesting each week, so we are eating vegetables we wouldn’t necessarily buy (this fall/winter has included acorn and butternut squash, lots of greens—kale, bok choy, arugula, lettuces—sweet potatoes, radishes, baby turnips, broccoli). I can’t wait to see what the spring/summer brings. And the eggs, they are so fresh and flavorful.

I’m always looking for other ways to be green—not getting an ATM receipt when I make a withdrawal (it blew my mind to learn that “if everyone in the United States refused their [ATM] receipts, it would save a roll of paper more than two billion feet long, or enough to circle the equator fifteen times!1
” That’s a lot of trees!), turning off lights when we leave a room, turning off the computer when it’s not in use, etc.—and Mr. Man bought me a great book, The Green Book: the Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time, that is full of small things you can do that add up. And if everyone was doing it, just think what we could accomplish.

1 The Green Book: the Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time

No comments:

Post a Comment