I meant to get this post up yesterday, but the day got away from me... you know how that goes, right? We watched An Incovenient Truth shortly after it came out on dvd (because we never see movies in the theater any more!), and it left a huge impression on me. I realized that, although I considered myself to be a pretty "green" thinker, that I wasn't doing nearly as much as I could to make difference. Since then, I've been thinking daily about what things I can do to help the planet and slow down the progression of global warming. It's tough to come up with universals, because every house, every family, and every city is different. But, we've been able to make some simple (and relatively painless) lifestyle changes, and I'm now more thoughtful and aware of other changes that might be possible. In the hopes that there might be some ideas useful to others, here are some things we've done recently:
- eliminate paper napkins and towels - this is so easy! I bought a bunch of decent looking cloth napkins at the thrift store (none were over $0.25 each) to use in lieu of paper napkins, and a bunch of rags have replaced our paper towels (I'm using old cloth diapers - they're super absorbent!).
- walk instead of drive - this isn't so easy, because there is very little within walking distance to our house. But, Brynne's preschool is, so now we get to enjoy our walk to and fro, get a bit of exercise, and have some time with each other without distraction.
- recycle, recycle, recycle! We're lucky in that our waste company is able to accept all recyclable plastics in addition to glass, paper, and aluminum. I know that the true "recyclability" and re-use of many of these materials is questionable at best, but we'll just have to keep the pressure on the manufacturers in order to effect change in packaging materials.
- drive a fuel-efficient vehicle - we're extremely lucky to have 2 gas-thrifty Toyotas to get us around. Even better is that we recently purchased a 1982 VW Westfalia diesel camper. We're doing some work to get it ready, and we hope to convert to biodiesel very soon. Hooray for a recreational vehicle that actually gets great mileage and can be run on biodiesel! (Why did they ever stop making these?!?)
- re-use! This was no challenge for me - I'm addicted to thrifting! So, it's easy and fun for me to thrift when I can to look for items we need or want. Much of our clothing is thrifted, as is much of the fabric I use to sew, kitchen items, toys, books, and almost anything else we can find! I just bought a fantastic sleeping bag for Brynne at the thrift store to use in our Westy. Cost? $3.99!
- recommend that everyone watch An Incovenient Truth - This is also super easy. I know that many were reluctant to see the film because they thought it was political and somehow partisan. Others thought that they already knew the environment was in trouble, so why see it? I urge everyone to see it regardless of party affiliation or current perspective on the environment. It's out on dvd, and many libraries have copies to check out for free.
- switch to compact fluorescent bulbs - The days of the ugly, flickering fluorescent bulb are gone. Modern, efficient CFL bulbs are designed to behave, and provide quality of light, similar to traditional incandescents. See how specific CFL bulbs stacked up in a Popular Mechanics comparison. Domino magazine also featured a great comparison of bulbs for the type of use and fixture in their March 2007 issue. (This issue is no longer on newsstands, so here's a pdf to download.)
- think about temperature control - We're lucky here in Ventura as far as energy costs go because it doesn't get very cold or very hot. But, we do have a good thermostat installed that is auto-programmed to come on only when needed. I also have a good incentive to keep making quilts to have around the house for a little extra warmth now and then!
- use 100% post-consumer recycled paper products (or as close as we can get!) - I've switched for my home office paper, and superbuzzy uses the same. We also switched to Earth First bathroom tissue, which is 80% post-consumer content.
- buy organic! This is getting easier as even the large grocery chains introduce lines of organic products. I'm learning to think with each item I pick up: "Is this the best choice, or could I make a better choice for this particular item?" This mantra is becoming more and more of a habit, although it took some time to get used to thinking this way on every shopping trip.
- go native! After completely tearing out our yard last summer, we're now starting to think about how to plant. Thanks to some fantastic tips from Tracy, we're doing lots of research and planning for a native southern California garden. Not only is this "green" because we'll use less water, but it's also great for providing a habitat for local fauna. I just learned that our native bee is endangered, which could pose a big problem for any plants that depend on it for pollination. We're going on a tour of native gardens this weekend through the Theodore Payne Foundation - full report and pictures to come!
- learn! Although I have very little time to read any more, I'm trying to make every second count. These are my two favorite books to start thinking green: Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century and Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things. I've also become addicted to some online resources, including Treehugger, Stop Global Warming, Ideal Bite, and Sew Green.
There are still lots of things I need to work on, like composting (we're exploring vermiculture!), purchasing more locally grown and produced products, and getting more use out of our clothesline. But, the good thing is that I'm thinking about being green, and that means that Brynne will also be thinking about being green. If she grows up with habits that are gentler on the environment, it will be that much easier for her to keep them up as an adult. I'd love to hear what things are working for you!