Monday, October 15, 2007

It's not easy being Green

Today is Blog Action Day, and many of my fellow housebloggers are writing some very interesting posts on the topic of what we can do to save the environment.

I put off writing all day out of guilt, and then it dawned on me that that's what I'll write about: Not letting "oh I'm not doing enough" stop you (ok, not you, ME) from doing the little things that you can do, and improving on them in at least baby steps.

It's just hard to not slink into the corner when you read about folks who have completely eliminated their use of paper products (I even know folks who use rags and bidet-type things instead of toilet paper) , who never eat anything that's not produced/grown within 100 miles of their home, who don't own a car and bike everywhere, who bake all of their own bread in a wood-fired oven in the back yard, and who sell electricity back to the power company because of their solar panels or windmills or whatever.

However, I'm not one of those people. I dream about it, fantasize about it the way that pre-teen girls fantasize about being the next Hannah Montana, but I know it's not going to happen overnight or even over-year.

So here are my baby steps:
  1. We moved closer to work and replaced a 72 miles round trip daily commute (36 x the two of us) to a 3 mile round-trip total for the two of us. Yes, that means that we should be able to walk/bike but for V that's not practical and for me it's happening less than I want it to. But that's 33 miles a day less, more when I bike.
  2. We're finally recycling again. This house is 3x the size of our old house but has no practical place for recycling bins, and since we don't have curbside recycling, storage becomes a problem. I finally figured out that we could squeeze one of the little tarp-type material Trader Joe's bags behind our extra-skinny trash can, then bring it to the bins in the detached garage when it's full. Then when we're seriously out of room in the bins in the garage, I'll load them up and bring them to the recycling center.
  3. FREECYCLE. It totally rocks. I've listed and given away stuff that most folks would consider pure trash. I totally love Freecycle.
  4. Minimize food waste. We are serious about using up leftovers here.
  5. Grow what we can. OK, so right now it's only tomatoes, and I'm about to have to figure out what to do with fifty zillion green tomatoes. But next year I'll do a bit more, then a bit more after that.
  6. Lights out, or low voltage. We're working hard on turning off lights, and replacing bulbs with compact fluorescents. I'd feel a wee bit better if they had a better handle on what to do with the mercury in those bulbs, but hopefully by the time we need to replace them, there will be a disposal program around here.
  7. Rain barrels. OK, so I don't have them all built yet but they wouldn't have done any good in this summer's heavy drought anyway, but it's a great concept and very easy to make.
  8. Being more conscious about buying local and in-season. I'm doing better, but it's also turning out to be a challenge to balance that with minimizing food waste and minimizing my drive to buy those foods.
  9. Body heat instead of heated air. In the winter, we wear sweaters and thick fleece pants around the house, use an almost too-thick down comforter over our flannel PJ's, and keep the temps down low. I'm hoping that this year our near-90's temps in October will mean I finally meet my goal of not turning on the heat until after November 1st. I just reminded Von that the heat goes on when it gets below 60 in the house during the day. But even when we're heating, even though we now have these fairly efficient new systems, it will never be set above 68, and will generally be set much lower than that.
  10. The rag bin is there and we use it for most house cleaning tasks; we just need to find a way to use rags more in the kitchen, instead of always reaching for a paper towel.
So there you have it. It's not much, but it gives us a base to build on. So let me set some goals for me to meet by next year's blog action day:
  1. Get rainbarrels finished and hooked up.
  2. Start a compost bin and compost our food waste as well as the outdoor stuff.
  3. Plant at least 3 more foods that we will eat regularly into next year's garden.
  4. Buy all local meats, eggs and dairy.
  5. Bike to work at least 50% of the time that it's possible (due to weather, what I need to be wearing, if I have to go somewhere during work, etc.).
  6. Make my own yogurt regularly instead of haphazardly (we go through LOTS of yogurt here)
  7. Buy an energy-star mini-chest freezer for the extra produce we grow and foods we could buy local in season and eat year-round.
  8. Get out of the fast food habit (obviously benefits us not just for "green" reasons).
  9. Separate out the bottles on which we paid a deposit from the recycling, and have them picked up by someone who needs the money.
  10. Less computer, more reading.


YardbirdSax said...

Great post! It's nice to see other house bloggers posting for Action Day.

I'll have to keep a watch for future postings about those rain barrels. We'd love to do that as well, but are having a hard time finding some good barrels.

Leslie said...

YBS, I managed to find mine through Craigslist. A lot of time food processing plants will have them - until very recently the vlasic pickle plant near here sold their big plastic barrels for $5 each. I plan to finish them up soon, and definitely plan to document how I did it. It's actually quite easy - embarrassingly so, compared to how long it's taking me to get back there and finish the rest of them. Figuring out the parts I'd need was the hardest bit, which is the reason why I'm going to photo-document and post it all.