- Politics and Social Issues
My Quest For A Greener Life
"Thoughts About Going Green"
The first thing I'd like to make clear is that I'm not, by any means, a poster child for the eco-movement.
I love to travel but I don't like airplanes and I've had a couple of really, really disastrous train trips so travel by car is my first choice.
I'm sure I waste more than my share of stuff and buy things I shouldn't. Need to work on that, too.
That said, I do believe that it's important to do whatever I can to live a healthier life and be more earth friendly.
So this article is about some of the small steps that I'm taking to do my part. I don't know 'em all, that's for sure, but as I figure things out, I'll share what I learn."
Be Aware - Be Mindful
Notice The Little Things...
Quest For A Greener Life, I've developed an awareness or a mindfulness that I didn't have before.
Being mindful of what I'm buying.
Being mindful of waste.
Being mindful of the consequences of my decisions.
Being mindful of the impact on the future.
This is the easiest and most important way to start living a greener life. That's a good thing.
I love this photo that I took of the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, California....how can we not protect this beautiful world?
What Is A Carbon Footprint?
Calculate Your Carbon Footprint.
Photo courtesy of didier vidal
According to Carbon Footprint.com, "A Carbon Footprint is a measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of green house gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide."
Of all the green websites out there, I think their definition is the most concise.
Their mantra is "It doesn't cost the earth to save the planet." I love that. It really illustrates the fact that it doesn't have to be an overwhelming task.
Put another way, our ecological footprint is the land that's needed to manage what we consume and waste. For each American, that computes to about 25 acres. That's about 20 acres more than can be sustained globally!
How do we reduce that enormous footprint? Very simply by consuming less.
The simple steps that I'm taking in "My Quest For A Greener Life" are all directly related to reducing my own personal carbon footprint.
The Nature Conservancy has a Carbon Footprint Calculator that's easy to use. You can compute your personal impact or the impact for your household. You'll probably be amazed at the results. Check out Climate Change Calculator.
Buy Less Stuff!
Here's a case where less really is more.
Buy less stuff! Do you really need one more sweater/pair of shoes/coat/whatever? And kids' clothing (if a sibling isn't wearing it) is easy to get rid of. In fact, it's smart to buy kids' clothing at garage/tag sales or resale shops like Once Upon A Child.
Here's a link to a website for finding garage sales in your area. It's a pretty new website and all cities and towns might not be included, yet. But give it a try. It's Garage Sale Tips and Maps
A good idea: When you bring something new into the house, get rid of something old - don't just throw it away - donate it or recycle it.
Another good idea: Shop for books at used bookstores. Better yet, check them out from a library. Same thing for cd's and dvd's. My daughter recently needed to read several books for a graduate school class she was taking. She found them at a library and saved herself a bunch of money! Smart girl!
"It doesn't cost the earth to save the planet."
Reusable Shopping Bags
More important than ever...
Use reusable shopping bags. This is not a new concept anymore. It's getting so it's not cool to ask for plastic bags! If you DO use plastic bags, at least return them to the market when you get a bunch. Most supermarkets have a recycle bin for them right by the front door.
Did you know:
"...The average family brings home 1,000 bags every year. Most of those bags end up in land fills. That really adds up - 100 billion plastic bags are sent to landfill in the US each year.
In landfills, it can take up to 1000 years for a bag to decompose. Plastics don't biodegrade, they photo-degrade, breaking down into tiny toxic pieces that contaminate soil and water or harm wildlife."
These bags are just awesome! Besides being sturdy and attractive, did you know that using one Baggu for one year replaces 300 to 700 disposable bags.
See the product description below for more details.
* One Baggu holds the contents of 2 to 3 plastic grocery bags. Six bags can hold a whole cart full of groceries.
* Baggu Bag handles are the perfect length: you can hold them in your hand, on your forearm, or over your shoulder.
* They are made from super strong rip-stop nylon (holds 25 lbs) so they are light (2 oz) and compactible. They fold into a flat 5 by 5 inch pouch that easily slips in a purse or pocket. That way they are always handy when you need them.
* Baggu bags have a nice big gusset in the bottom so they will sit flat when they are filled (good for eggs & milk.)
Repurpose, Reuse, Recycle
Thinking Outside The Box
I love this shot of cut flowers in empty olive oil tins! I took it at the Farmers' Market on Bainbridge Island, Washington a few years ago. I think it illustrates perfectly the art of repurposing.
Recycling everything possible is important for several reasons. I don't just mean tossing stuff in our recycling bin. I mean sell it at a tag sale or give it away. If I can't use it there's a better-than-even-chance that someone else can.
Not long ago we turned my "art/workroom" into an extra bedroom. I had a bin of broken pottery and china that I was saving for a mosaic project. Yep, I was going to create a work of art just as soon as I had the time (and the inspiration).
Probably had that bin for (I am not exaggerating) six or seven years. I also had thirty or forty empty wine bottles that I was "saving" so I could make flavored oils and vinegars to give as gifts. I love wine. Am sort of a wine snob, in fact. But I digress...that collection of wines bottles wasn't that old but it did take up lots of room.
Well, I got tough with myself. Admitted that I'd probably never get either project off the ground. And if I get inspired some day, I can either buy a bunch of junk china or collect more empty wines bottles.
I joined the local Yahoo Freecycle group and offered my bins of china and wine bottles to anyone who wanted them. All of it gone in a flash.
Did You Know?
Every ton of recycled office paper saves 380 gallons of oil.
The Recycled Home
This is a wonderful reference with a wealth of ideas for incorporating recycling into your home. Read the product description below for details.
Discover the potential of rescued objects with "Recycled Home". In this beautiful book, Mark and Sally Bailey share their passion for the simple and well-made things in life. The look they love is stripped back, focusing on the integrity of the materials and surface quality - perhaps chipped paint showing the layers beneath, combinations of rough textures with clean lines or old materials with stainless steel or concrete. The book begins with the Elements of the Baileys' style. Here they demonstrate key components, including Textures, Storage, Walls & Floors, Lighting and Display. A section on Rooms shows how well the look can work throughout the home, including offices and children's rooms.
Goodwill Stores Online - A very nice website
I recently found a cookbook that I wanted called Vegan Brunch and it was about $20.00. I decided not to buy it because I just didn't want to spend the money. Lo and behold, I found it at a Goodwill store a couple of months later for $2.00!!!! I was so excited...be sure to check out Goodwill Stores and Goodwill Stores Online before you make a "new" purchase. With Goodwill Stores Online, you don't even have to leave home!
Now, how convenient is that?
- Shop Goodwill - Online!
Goodwill's online auction site offering a wide array of antiques, collectibles, books and much more--culled from Goodwill's vast inventory of donated goods. From unique one-of-a-kind items to estate pieces, the depth of resources is enormous.
How far does your food travel?
Shop locally. We live in a small town in Minnesota with lots of farmers who sell their produce and whatever else they grow. If I don't grow it in my own garden I try to buy from our local farmers' market or I go directly to the farm.
Check out the website Local Harvest. You just plug in your zip code and it'll give you a list of all the local food sources within a few miles. You will be amazed, I promise you.
Check out their blog, as well. Local Harvest Blog
Wine Lovers Unite!
Thinking Inside The Box
I love wine. I even consider myself a bit of a wine snob. There was a time, not long ago, when I considered any wine bottle without a "cork" cork to be suspect. And if it had a screw top it had to be, without question, inferior.
There's still the romantic side of me that favors the traditional cutting of the foil and extracting the cork with my very best corkscrew (which is a sweet thing, indeed - quite possibly the subject of another lens).
But I have come to terms with the facts. Boxed wines have come of age. And not a moment too soon.
To top it off, I've just received the latest edition of the "Wine Buzz", a newsletter from WineCountry.Com and there, in black and white, is an article about wines and their impact on the environment. And I quote:
"The use of box, or more technically, a bag-in-box (BIIB), has numerous environmental benefits. Chief among these is the reduction a wine's carbon footprint thanks to less weight of a box than of a bottle. This eases the impact incurred during shipping. Some estimates put the reduction in a bottle of wine's carbon footprint at 50 percent by using this simple packaging switch and the reduction of packaging waste at a whopping 85 percent."
That's pretty heady stuff. Not to be taken lightly. So I'm challenging all you wine lovers out there to give it a chance.
Reducing wine's carbon footprint and reducing packaging waste is worth it in my book. Black Box wines are award-winning wines and if they're doing it, who am I to argue? Check out some of the other wineries who are getting in on this new, environmentally friendly idea.
I'd be really interested in your feedback on this.
Grow A Garden
Big, Small or Container Garden - What's Your Style?
A city garden can be several pots on a patio filled with herbs and garden greens and a cherry tomato plant.
If possible grow a garden. Even just a small "salad garden". Maybe just a tomato plant or two. If you live in an apartment or condo could you plant some veggies in pots on your deck or patio? Plant some herbs, too, if you like to cook. You will love it. You'll get hooked, for sure! You'll be SO proud (as well you should be). Container gardens are IN.
There's more than one benefit of planting a garden. First of all, the stuff just tastes better! Seriously, have you ever tasted the difference between a hothouse tomato and one that has ripened on your very own plant? If you have, you know what I'm talking about. A big, red, sweet, juicy vine-ripened tomato defies description. Ya gotta taste it to believe it.
More important than that, however, is the fact that you know what you're eating - no pesticides, for example.
The photograph shows one way to garden using raised beds. Besides being attractive, raised beds are so much easier to manage because they are accessible from all sides.
If your main garden isn't handy to your kitchen, why not plant containers with herbs, cherry tomatoes, chives, etc. so they're handy if you need a bunch of herbs for a recipe.
A newly planted raised bed garden. Love it.
Got A Garden? Try Composting.
- How to Make a Composter
Here are several ideas for composters that will turn garden and kitchen waste into a valuable soil conditioner.
- Home Composting Made Easy - Organic Gardening - MOTHER EARTH NEWS
These 10 facts about home composting will help you turn food and yard waste into garden gold.
- Home - Kompost Kids Inc.
It's out of Milwaukee, WI but their tips can benefit everyone. Let's take a lesson from them!
The Benefits of Composting
- Suppress plant diseases and pests.
- Reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers.
- Promote higher yields of agricultural crops.
- Facilitate reforestation, wetlands restoration, and habitat revitalization efforts by amending contaminated, compacted, and marginal soils.
- Cost-effectively remediate soils contaminated by hazardous waste.
- Remove solids, oil, grease, and heavy metals from stormwater runoff.
- Capture and destroy 99.6 percent of industrial volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) in contaminated air.
- Provide cost savings of at least 50 percent over conventional soil, water, and air pollution remediation technologies, where applicable.
A Composting Primer
"Lovers of compost. . .will be able to polish their techniques, and beginners will experience a whole new adventure."
A quote from Eddie Albert, Award-winning actor and avid gardener
The average gasoline mower tested by the EPA emits in just one hour the same amount of hydrocarbons that a 1992 Ford Explorer emits over 23,600 miles?
Change Out Your Lightbulbs & Turn Off The Lights
CFL Bulbs Are Energy Savers & Cost Effective
Replace incandescent bulbs with CFL bulbs. It's one of the first changes we made in our quest for a greener life.
This link will help you choose the right bulbs for your particular needs. Find an Energy Saving Bulb
But, do you know why it's important to use CFL lightbulbs? Because incandescent lightbulbs don't just give off light - they also give off heat which generates the greenhouse gases that are contributing to global warming.
At first, I didn't like how those spiraly bulbs looked and I didn't think the light was as good. Then I discovered that they're always dimmer when they're first turned on and they brighten up in a matter of minutes. Also, when they burn out they don't just go dark - they get dimmer and dimmer and dimmer...
The CFL bulbs are more expensive but they last about eight times longer and, in the long run, will use much less energy - about 1/4 of the energy of an incandescent bulb.
Another thing: We used to turn the lights on first thing in the morning when it's still dark and forget to turn them off. That kitchen light was always on! Now I try to turn them off when it becomes light outside. Amazing what you can see with just plain old natural light!
My First Living Green Guide
This was the first book I bought after deciding to take some personal responsibility for my carbon footprint. It's so easy to read. Check it out.
"From buying more efficient lightbulbs to choosing the right curtains, you can really make a difference in energy savings." (Quote from the back of the book)
A lakescape is a beautiful garden that will help stop erosion of our shorelines.
Rain gardens help improve water quality by filtering pollutants from rainwater runoff.
Easy Ways To Cut Home Energy Costs - And A Few Good Reasons Why We Should
Did you know that if every American turned down their heat by six degrees in the winter, 500,000 barrels of oil would be saved EACH DAY?
Did you know that more than a billion tons of greenhouse gases are emitted into the air each year just from heating our homes?
Did you know that for every degree of difference between the outside temperature and the inside temperature of your home your heating and cooling costs can be as much as 10 percent more?
- So, turn down the thermostat a few degrees. Still cool? Put on a sweater or sweatshirt. Wear warm socks or slippers while indoors. Do the opposite in the summer...turn the thermostat up and wear lighter clothing.
- Keep the furnace filters clean. Either replace them or, for permanent filters, clean them once a month.
- Check for possible heating leaks through window and door frames and caulk and weatherstrip the areas that show leakage. Be sure the insulation in your attic is sufficient.
- Keep window shades or curtains closed during the heat of the day in the summertime to keep the heat out. Keep them open on a sunny day in the winter for some "solar" heat. In winter, close all window coverings at night to keep heat from escaping.
- Shade your air conditioning unit. Plant small shrubs nearby to protect it from the hot sun.
- Turn down the temp on the hot water heater and wrap it in an insulating blanket.
Drive Less And/Or Buy A More Fuel Efficient Vehicle
Drive Less. This is a tough one for me. Really, really tough.
In the first place, I like driving. I especially like long car trips. There is so much to see while you're traveling across this great land of ours.
But I'm working on it. Around home I do try to consolidate trips...going for milk? Make sure I don't need anything else from the market. Making appointments for the same day - doctor, dentist, tax guy, whatever.
Purchase a more fuel efficient vehicle. I hate to admit this but we do not have a fuel efficient vehicle at this time. Why? Well, mostly because we own a small smoothie concessions franchise (possibly the subject of a future lens) and we need the big rig to haul our cargo trailer to various venues - art fairs, for example. One thing we did do right (I think) was to not purchase a new vehicle. I guess you could say we "recycled" someone else's SUV when they didn't want it anymore.
We're winding down that little business, though, so as soon as we do that SUV is history!
My Favorite Green Websites
Here are a few websites that I refer to often. Some are serious and some are just plain fun. But they're all dedicated to living well. Click on these links to see what I mean.
- Environmental Defense Fund
Please join the thousands of people who have pledged to switch from regular light bulbs to compact fluorescent this year. Take The Pledge You'll fill in a form stating how many bulbs you pledge to switch and you can see immediately the number of bul
- Local Harvest
The place to go when you want to find local food sources like farmers' markets, food co-ops, family-owned farms. Even if you live in the middle of a city, you'll find great sources, I promise.
- Earth 911
A great place to check for local recycling centers. Especially when you need to find out where to take old batteries, paint, etc. Enter your zip code and voila!
- Planet Green
"Created by the same savvy folk who brought you the award-winning TreeHugger, Planet Green is your user's guide to living mindfully on this big blue marble we all call home."
I'd just love to hear your comments and suggestions! If you see an error or if a link doesn't work, let me know that, too. Thanks!