Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Going Green

We hear that phrase a lot these days, don’t we? Doesn’t it seem like “going green” involves either mass amounts of money, time, or both? Several magazines that I subscribe to have green living sections that highlight things we can do in our day to day lives that will help conserve energy, water, waste, and center our focus on recycling and eco-friendly options. Most of these “tips” are about how you can convert your home into a Green Machine, from major remodels, to replacing appliances, pipes, and electrical systems. And hey! If funds were unlimited, I would probably be living in a green house, fully powered by McDonald’s french fry grease, enjoying natural lighting, and eating only what was grown on my own property. That’s right. Call me Daryl Hannah.

But since I live in the real world, and remodeling my kitchen into an eco-friendly green zone isn’t really an option for me (or for you, I suspect) what can we do to make better choices for our homes, cars, meals, and lives? I’m going to share some pointers I’ve been gathering that seem like real options for those of us who would like to do more, but don’t have 72 million dollars of expendable income.

Buy Local. Think about it. Gas is expensive. If you’re able to buy meat, vegetables, and fruit from within a 100-200 mile radius of your home, you’d be doing so many good things for yourself and your environment: lower cost to transport goods, fewer emissions off the transporting of goods, less packaging and processing of food, support of your local economy, and boosted allergy blockers. But let’s talk about the really important factor: It tastes better! You’re eating produce that was recently picked, so it’s closer to ripeness than its transported cousin, which is picked under-ripe and usually given some assistance to become shelf ready. You’ll also have the benefit of more nutritional value per serving. Fruits and veggies lose their vitamins and minerals as they age. The sooner you eat them off the plant, the better. And sure, a lot of you will say, “But Sara! I can’t get local veggies where I live.” You can! I swear. Here are a few links to help you out. You can buy local, even in NYC.

Heating and Cooling Changes: Simple ones, I promise. It’s getting warmer in my part of the world and for most of us that means AC. Not so fast, cowboys and girls. Windows and house position can work with your AC to cut down cost and energy use. Open some windows to take advantage of the cooler early morning or evening temperatures. Close shades on sunny windows during the day to give the AC a break. Try using your oven, dishwasher, washer/dryer at night when they aren’t adding to the fight. If you have Central Air, be sure to change your filters regularly to avoid allergens and overheating the system.

In the Kitchen: While I dream of a green kitchen, here are a few things I can do to hold me over. Get rid of the paper towels. Use dishcloths or washable sponges for messes and save a tree. Don’t rinse the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. I know your mom does it, mine too. But we can break the cycle (oh, aren’t I funny!) by showing them how clean our dishes turn out by just letting the dishwasher do the dirty work (okay, I swear I’m done with the puns.) While you’re at it, turn off the heated dry cycle and let the dishes air dry. You know you leave them in there overnight anyway. Seriously. You do. Make sure your faucets aren’t leaking. Try using a toaster oven for smaller meals instead of cranking up the stove every time. And did you know that gas cook tops are WAY less energy efficient than their electric counterparts? It’s crazy, but it’s true. Electric stoves are about 80% efficient, while gas stoves are only 55% efficient(BHG, April 08.) Just saying.

Okay, that’s enough for today. A few interesting links for you:
  • Haagen-Daz wants you to help the honey bees. Mmmm
  • Abundant Forests Alliance. Apparently the paper industry is trying to give back.
  • 10 Green Giants: CNN takes a look at environmentally friendly companies, 5 of which are American based.

Next time we’ll be talking about Green kids and maybe even Green Cosmetics! We’ll see how adventurous I’m feeling.


Jason said...

Wow. Like a good magazine piece. :)

Carlsberg said...

Very nice job! We all have the ability to do some good in our own little way but sometimes don't realize it.

familyonbikes said...

You've got a lot of great tips there! I really wish more people would realize we've only got one planet, but everywhere I go I see people driving all over in their monstrous gas-guzzling cars. It drives me crazy.

I ride my bike to work every day, and take my bike to do most errands. It's totally painless. and yet, I see people jumping in their car to run down to the store 1/2 mile away! I just don't get it.

I figure if our kids can ride their bikes from Alaska to Argentina (and their only ten), most people should be able to ride a mile or two to run their errands. Am I so off base?

familyonbikes said...

Great post! I think there are so many things we could all do - but are too lazy I suppose. We need someone to light a fire under us to get us moving!

Sara Spock said...

If I can light a fire under one person, all these words are worth it! Thanks for reading, everyone.

Laurie Ashton said...

It gets a lot harder to buy local fruits and vegetables in the far north, though. Like Yellowknife and other such places in the Yukon, NWT, and Nunavut. Or, for that matter, the northern half of the provinces in Canada. :) Lived there, and oh, if we'd had to rely on locally grown stuff, we would have starved.

Another tip - cook from scratch, including making your own bread. It's easy, it really is, and it can be done with minimal kneading that even I, intense-joint-pain girl, can do. Or no-knead.

Compost. Keep that waste out of the landfill and put it to good use in your garden. And then grow stuff.

Yes, it definitely has the makings of a great magazine piece. :)

Polenth said...

I live next to a supermarket, which has been trying to improve things. Fruit and veg is now marked if it was picked locally, and they sell locally produced milk. It isn't possible to get everything that way, but it does help.

auria cortes said...

"You know you leave them in there overnight anyway. Seriously. You do."

LOL...I'm busted.

Anonymous said...

Great tips, I liked this post! :)

However - if you don't want to put your dirty dishes straight into the dish washer, you can just scrape off remaining food into a trash can - this will help keep your dish washer clean and functional, plus - you won't waste any water! (I've encountered people who immediately say "I don't want to have to clean my dish washer every week" when I suggest not rinsing the dishes before putting them into the dish washer...)