Thursday, June 21, 2007

eco goals

i have many long term goals in my head that i dont outright say but wouldn't surprise one to hear. they range anywhere from normalizing various things to my children which seem taboo now (natural childbirth, breastfeeding, healthy attitudes towards sex, etc.), getting deeper and deeper in love with God, to increasing social justice, and decreasing my ecological footprint on the world. (just to name a few) those are all umbrella's for smaller goals but that is how things get done. start with a blanket statement then micromanage it until the first step towards that goal seems ridiculously small and obvious, and so on and so forth. i mean do you really think one day i woke up and had a car that ran on grease? noooooo.

the environmental impact i make has always been a subject ive been interested in. i clearly remember a moment in (approximately) 6th grade where my mom asked me what i wanted to be when i grew up. i said an environmental activist! so while i have no formal education on the matter nor hold a paid position i like to think that i grew up to be who i wanted to be in that respect. but there is always more one can do and i need to put pen to paper fingers to keys and just write out some of the things swirling around in my head that i would like to do (or do more of) to make sure im treading as lightly as i can on the earth. (oh and any of the facts im pulling out are from the book im reading called true green: 100 everyday ways you can contribute to a healthier planet)

01. start using totes for shopping
we presently use plastic bags at the grocery store but then we take those bags back to the store to be recycled. this is only at kroger though, if we go to the mall we don't think twice about getting a bag and tossing it away once home. americans go through 380 BILLION plastic sacks each year and let's be honest, their usage life is measured in the few minutes it takes to get your groceries from the store to your house. it's so utterly wasteful. it takes hundreds of years for one of those suckers to biodegrade. tonight we are getting groceries and im almost positive kroger has cloth totes you can buy for (i've heard) $.99/sack. and when we go to the mall, where we can't simply return sacks, don't even accept a bag! i've got a stroller or large bag with me all the time anyways. heaven forbid i pre-think to bring a larger bag to put all of my goodies in. overcoming this is a matter of us being lazy and not working towards starting a new habit.

02. food
we already make our kid's baby food. this not only increases the nutritional value of the food but it reduces waste from all of those annoying little single use jars and tubs. but i really want to take it a step further (for all of our food not just baby food making purposes) and start buying locally grown food items. perhaps even buying a share of a CSA? buying locally ensures that our food (which travels hundreds if not thousands of miles usually!!) doesn't contribute as much to emissions via transportation while simultaneously high-fiving local agriculture. buying locally means freshness which means better for us! oh and we also nix the hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup for real!

03. revamping everything about clothing
im a new-stuff princess. i like new clothes and new cars (but i like my ol' husband and old friends/family/babies etc.) i need to get back into thrifting not just to save money but buying pre-loved items i think are more comfortable right off the rack and whoah cheaper. it makes me feel better about buying say, Gap (banana republic + old navy) items from a thrift store vs from the actual store. Gap is controversial because of their policies in which they refuse to pay their workers a living wage by all accounts. (off soapbox now...) i feel im pretty good about how we wash our clothes in the sense that we only ever use cold water (heating hot water to wash with generates about 5 times more greenhouse gases than the cold cycle), and use very little detergent. what i need to start doing more of is hanging things up to dry instead of using the dryer. dude God made the sun, let's use it shall we? currently i believe it is against our homeowner's association to have a clothes line, which stinks. but i can have one in the basement and also max out our drying rack (which i currently only use for our cloth diapers) outside.

04. conditioning my air
im a big ol' princess when it comes to air conditioning and heating. i turn very sour very fast when im too cold in the winter and i swear i cannot sleep a wink unless it is 70 or below in the summer. i really wish i could stop doing this and live in planet earth not planet AMERICA. today i edged the air conditioning over and over until i felt it was "too hot finally!" and when i looked at the thermometer it was 79. i can totally rock 79 from now on i think - at least until bedtime when i might lower it. heaven forbid i crack a window or draw the shades during the day to conserve some coolness right? or wear socks to bed in the winter? (sorry maggie, i cannot bring myself to wear a hat and scarf though. that is too hardcore for my princess-ness)

5. water conservation
we have a little saying around our house - "if it's brown flush it down. if it's yellow let it mellow" i'd say we let it mellow at least 5-7 toilet uses before flushing. and since we are now using all cloth toilet paper there is even less of a reason to flush it! (don't worry guests can have all of the traditional toilet paper they want in the downstairs bathroom. cloth is just for upstairs) so this saves water, but how can i save more? i won't tell you all the seemingly gross ways i try to save water but let's just say water is reused a lot (i mean i can totally brush my teeth in water that was used just to boil some pasta for example. it's harmless!) a family of 4 each taking 5 minute showers every day uses 700 GALLONS OF WATER A WEEK. another thing is only washing clothes that are truly dirty, not just worn. this was a new one for me since i came from a family who only used a towel once before washing it. oh and we also have talked about getting a rain catch barrel and diverting our downspouts from the roof into it. then using that water for various things. again, choose to live on planet earth not planet america.

stuff we already do:

01. our home:
first ill mention that we try to live within our means or slightly below. that means living a life of comfort and practicality. since we are just a family of four (with two wee ones) we see no reason to own a home larger than a 2 bedroom. having a smaller place means less bills and closer quarters (which makes us happy). i don't want to be rooooooms away from my husband and kids.

ways to improve on the home: be more diligent about cleaning with natural products, seal cracks in windows/doors, close blinds during the sunniest parts of the day to keep it cooler, use more energy saving light bulbs, rechargeable batteries, consistently use microwave to heat up food vs stove (better with energy consumption)

our car runs on waste vegetable oil as ive been blogging about. i must say we are both geekishly excited about this happy turn towards the crunchier. it is probably one of the more labor intensive things that we do but again, it's not something that isn't worth the (little bit of) leg work involved if it helps the environment and saves us money to boot. (ps it also smells delicious!) last year david started getting into the idea of riding his bicycle to work so for christmas he got a fancy schmancy bianchi bike. i crossed my fingers that it wasn't a fad (those suckers are wicked expensive!) and thankfully it has stuck and he now rides about 40 miles a week to and from work each day. in essence i think our transportation modes are the area we are now doing the best in as we use just drops of gas per week (to start the mercedes and run it until the tank can be switched over to use the veggie oil at a certain temperature) i am happy because that means our carbon output is almost entirely neutral! we also are going camping for family vacations. probably the worst thing for the environment is to travel by air so we choose not to do that whenever possible.

ways to improve on transportation: never use our other car (which is an SUV - though in our defense it was given to us and we rarely use it) or sell it perhaps? get a push lawn mower

03. waste:
you'd be hard pressed to find us using paper products in our house. we definitely get some strange looks on occasion when company comes over and they ask for a napkin and we toss them a small dish towel or cloth napkin. it has become second nature to folks to have that disposable mentality towards what they use. this is our philosophy about diapers as well. i mean i wouldn't sit around my house and use paper plates and cups with plastic silverwear would i? no! i wash them and reuse them - ergo cloth diapers are what we use in this house so nothing is ever thrown away. we also compost everything we possibly can. food scraps and lawn clippings make up 1/4 of all waste in landfills. when this organic matter is withheld oxygen while decomposing they emit methane, which is 20 times more toxic than carbon dioxide. each ton of organic matter you divert from a landfill saves 1/3 of a ton of greenhouse gases from being emitted into the environment. we recycle as much as we can. i reuse paper by cutting it into scrap for making grocery lists, etc. i also nurse my kids which is in fact cutting down on all kinds of waste - no bottles/nipples bought, washed, or manufactured. no tubs, packets, or bottles of formula to throw away.

ways to improve on waste: we don't use bottles but olive does use pacifiers

04. water conservation:
i'd love (and loathe) to stop taking baths. right now i take maybe one per week, which is down from one every day. one thing i do a lot of is washing my hands which uses a bit more water than i would like. but with two kids in diapers, cooking, cleaning, gardening, etc. it must be done. i wonder if a better alternative would be purell? i find that im becoming a big stickler about this subject because of all of the water we use washing diapers and clothes. it drives me nuts but cloth trumps disposables hands down on all fronts so it also must be done. i am also finding a lot of gratification in simply washing my hair in the sink.

ways to improve on water conservation: take baths with the kids, continue to skim off time in the shower, go forward with the idea of a rain barrel/diverting our gutters towards said barrel or plants, only water plants with rain water and/or set up simple drip irrigation system, wash dishes by hand, invest in the idea of using "grey water" in more efficient ways,

05. food:
we rarely eat out, i like this for the most part. it cuts down on the waste of those single use boxes, cartons, etc. i mean im not one to pull up and ask them to slap a hamburger in my hand. i also cook a lot from scratch and david packs his lunch everyday in a reusable container. im a big stickler on eating all of our food, especially when we go out to eat. we ALWAYS bring home leftovers and eat them. i cannot stand it when people waste food. 27% of all edible food gets thrown away. that is 48 millon tons which could feed 49 million people who are starving. one of my current goals is to eat up most everything in our house before buying new stuff. this is a big challenge!

ways to improve on food: cook more things by scratch, buy locally grown produce/eggs/meat, eat more earth friendly meats like chicken and turkey vs beef, get a csa share, buy more organic, get a garden going already...

06. misc.
i use cloth nursing pads instead of disposable ones. as much as possible i hang things up to dry but we are not allowed to have a clothes line i believe so im stuck with a simple drying rack which is dinky. it's better all around to unplug things when you aren't using them. things even on an energy saving "sleep" mode can still draw up to 40% of their normally used energy. we also have our water heater turned down to a conservative temperature. sooo much energy is wasted heating water beyond what it should be. if you have to mix your hot water with cold to wash your hands it is up too high! oh and we use cloth toilet paper

ways to improve on misc. things: i drink 99% of my water from the tap and that needs to be bumped up to 100%. dasani is delicious but ill go on record as saying ALL BOTTLED WATER IS STUPID!! put up a clothes line in the basement, turn down the air conditioning and heat, unplug everrrything instead of just the big items, learn to sew and make functional clothing items for the family


Sarah said...

I was just composing a similar list (watched An Inconvenient Truth the other day - that movie ROCKS!)... something you said reminded me of the house Ali and I lived in when we met; it was a cold, drafty house with old single pane windows and a poorly working heating system (radiators) running on an oil broiler. In the winter we were cheap (poor) college students and didn't want to refill the oil tank a bunch, and there were many a night I spent sleeping with my winter cap on in long johns and woolen socks! Oy, it is nice to live in a house that is efficient enough that you don't have to run your heat at night OR sleep in a room that is 45 degrees.

side note - a lava lamp puts off a good amount of heat! :p

Not only is bottled water stupid, but it is majorly wasteful! Just think of all those bottles going into landfills or recycling, and the energy it takes to manufacture them AND recycle them (plus the petrol it takes for the garbage and recycling trucks). Much better to buy a filter for your tap and drink that in a reuseable (and better for you) SIGG bottle!

Anita said...

Wow...that's quite a list!!! Another saver that I've been doing is signing up for electrionic billing on what I can. I'm less likely to missplace the bill that way anyway! ;)

Sarah said...

oh jenny, I was thinking about your water conservation point and I remembered about an article I read on purell and children. apparently, the stuff is highly dangerous - 3 squirts could kill a toddler, but only when it's wet. Don't know if you use it on the kids hands or not (we do use it on Leila's when we're out, since I don't buy disposable wipes). Also, check about ordinances about grey water - we can't use it here because we are on the river.

jenny mae. said...

why oh why havnt i seen an inconvenient truth yet?!

anita - i just signed us up for e-bill pay for our electric. then i forgot the sign in/password and the bill got over $300!! eek. it has since been resolved though.