Tag Archives: green

Clean Air Starts with Me

Years ago, when I began my formal learning on environmental topics, I thought I had all of the answers about pollution.  It was industry, manufacturing, agribusiness, and big corporations who were responsible for pollution.  They were the problem.  They needed to clean up their acts.

It didn’t take long for me to see the flaws in my thinking.  The more I studied, the more I realized that my own actions had a bigger negative impact than I thought.  My car released too many pollutants.  My appliances used more than my fair share of electricity.  I wasted more food and threw away more trash than I should.  For a short while, I felt guilty and sad.  It wasn’t them, it was me!  But here’s the good news: If I’m the problem, I can make a difference through my own actions!

I didn’t have to fight huge corporations; I could start by making changes at home.  Our family started on the path to a more sustainable life by growing and raising most of our own food, which is my heritage.  I quit my bottled water addiction, realizing along the way that stainless steel water bottles full of my own (free) well water were much more fashionable.  We lowered the thermostat in winter and did the opposite in summer.  I started timing my showers to reduce water usage.  We cut our food waste and learned to buy less stuff.  We learned to live simply, more sustainably, and along the way we found our lives to be more fulfilling.

And now, over 7 years later, I’ve come full circle.  I feel that I’ve made as many changes to my lifestyle as I’m able or willing to make.  I don’t feel like a hypocrite when I say that it’s industry’s turn, and I’m going to do my best to see it happen.

I need to be politically active if I want to see positive changes happen on a larger scale.  Though I’d much rather watch the Science Channel than C-SPAN, I’m making efforts to be more aware and involved in environmental legislation.  I need to be an educated citizen; I need to vote; I need to take political action. 

I’m joining the Moms Clean Air Force, who has the mission of joining together to fight for our kids’ right to clean air.  Come join in the fight!

4 Comments

Filed under Living from Scratch, Sustainable Living

Green Decluttering

This post is my contribution to the January Green Moms Carnival: “Green Decluttering” hosted by Amber.

I am not an expert in cleaning, especially since Joshua was born. I honestly see no reason to continue to clean the same thing when you can’t even see the dirt there.  If something’s not visibly dirty, I’m not going to clean it.

However, clutter does bother me.  As a teacher, my biggest clutter problem is paper. Piles and piles of paper.  The only thing I’ve found to really remedy the paper pile problem is to not create the clutter in the first place.  In the past few years, I’ve made a real effort to not bring unnecessary paper into the house.   

Here are the best ways I’ve found to reduce my paper clutter at home:

  • Think before I print! I don’t keep my printer hooked up to my laptop at all times, so I actually have to walk into the other room to print.  This really helps reduce my printing because my laziness prevents it.  I have a pretty notebook that I write recipes in, so when I find one online, I copy it down into the notebook.  I’m sure you could do this electronically as well, but I like the notebook method.  
  • Only do work electronically at home.  I don’t bring lesson plans or assignment papers home.  I have them all saved on my computer, so it’s easy to work on documents on the laptop.  The only papers I bring home are ones I have to grade, and I haven’t yet found a way to reduce them!
  • Reduce and then immediately sort junk mail! When I get the mail, I only bring the important items into the house.  The rest of the mail stays in my car (we have a long driveway!) to wait for recycling day or goes right into the recycling bin.  I’ve tried to reduce our junk mail by removing my name from lists, but we still get junk almost every day.
  • Cancel the newspaper! You can read the news online for free.  Or watch it on TV.
  • Pay bills online or set up automatic payments.  You won’t need stamps or envelopes and you won’t ever have a late payment.
  • Immediately recycle envelopes and used scrap paper.  These papers only contribute to clutter and make your piles bigger.  You can save them to write on, but I’ve found that I’d rather use a contained notebook than disheveled scraps of paper.

Just like so many other aspects of being green, reducing consumption is a necessary first step.  The best way to declutter is to prevent clutter in the first place.  Now if only I could apply what I know about paper to toys…

Any tips on reducing toy clutter? I just throw them in a basket so far!

15 Comments

Filed under Home, Sustainable Living

Our Grass is Greener

This is part of the Healthy Child Blog Carnival  – an effort by Healthy Child Healthy World to help inspire a movement to protect children from harmful chemicals.

Our home was built on land we bought from my grandmother, on what was once her family’s farm.  When I was a child, it was a peach orchard, and then a pumpkin patch.  I learned to drive in the pumpkin field, in the old dodge pick up while my dad watered the pumpkin plants with a tank of water in the back of the truck.  In my teen years, the land was used for hay.  After our house was built, we had to put in the lawn, which we did on a very hot day.  There’s no way that I ever want to do that difficult, tedious job again, so I really want to keep my grass alive and healthy.  We try to be as natural as possible, both for the earth and our family’s sake.  Here are some tips for a more sustainable lawn:

  • Resist the urge to pull or chemically treat weeds in your lawn! Since we have hay fields and woods surrounding us, all kinds of weeds sneak into our lawn, including clover, plantain, sorrel and dandelions.  These plants stay greener longer than grass during the hot, dry summer, reducing the need to water your lawn.  They also provide food for wildlife, and we especially love how clover attracts deer to our yard.  Clover is also a legume, which fixes Nitrogen in the soil, acting as a natural fertilizer and eliminating the need to fertilize.
  • Raise that mower! Longer grass will shade the ground and reduce evaporation, thus reducing the need to water.  Longer grass also means more photosynthesis which will lead to a better root system.
  • Plant trees! Shade from deciduous trees will allow your lawn to have some shade for protection during the hot summer.  During the early spring, the grass will be warmed by the sun, since the trees will have lost their leaves in the fall.
  • If you need to water your lawn, do so in the early morning or at night, before the hot summer sun will evaporate most of it and it’ll have a chance to soak into the soil and be taken up by the roots.
  • Feed the birds! We grow sunflowers and let other native plants grow so that birds will be attracted to our yard.  They eat bugs, reducing the need for chemical pesticides (we don’t use any!).  Don’t be afraid of bats either, they love to eat mosquitoes! If you need to spray a specific plant, try soapy water first!

These practices allow us to have a healthy lawn without using chemicals or wasting water, which is good for my child and good for the earth.  We can lie in the grass without a worry, because our grass is greener (even if it’s a little brown)! Share your tips!

Other posts to check out:

15 Comments

Filed under Home, Outside, parenting, Sustainable Living

Greened Out

in bloom 007

I’m tired of the “green movement.”  I came upon this realization as I looked over my most recent posts, where I’ve steered away from talking about eco-friendliness and toward stories that I enjoy, gardening, family, animals, and simple living.

Recently, I’ve had many conversations with my husband, colleagues, students, and parents about our consumer culture.  How wasteful we, as a culture, are.  I see new, “green” products as just another excuse to consume and waste.  For example- plastic water bottles, plastic bags, aluminum foil; all things that are disposable yet I’ve seen commercials where claims are made that these items are now “green” because they’re made of less material or recycled or their factory uses clean energy.  Don’t get me wrong, I can see how these are steps in the right direction.

But…  Why be so wasteful in the first place? Our energy and environmental problems are not going to be solved by dumping money into alternatives like solar without reevaluating our wasteful consumption.  Don’t forget: building solar panels is a fossil-fuel intensive, polluting process.  They, like all technology, have a life-span (they’re not immortal), it takes many years to make back your investment, and the average family can’t afford the initial investment, especially in this depression.  Why invest time, money, and energy in alternatives simply to hang on to our wasteful ways? How much waste could a family cut without impacting the things they need? How many of the things we buy are because we need them, and how many are because we want them? How many of the things we throw out are perfectly good, functional, but no longer fit our “wants”?

I see all around me a culture that wants more and more things, yet doesn’t value what they have.  Consume, consume, consume.  Then pay someone to store all your stuff for you, since you don’t have room for all the stuff you want at your own place.  Throw things out to make room for other things you want.  And still, people want more stuff.  And with all this stuff, I see an increasingly apathetic, unhealthy generation of children.

That’s not how I want to live my life, and that’s not the life I want for my family.  I want to feel connected to the land.  I want to love the people and animals around me, not the stuff.  I want to value what I have, instead of feeling the consuming drive to get more.  I want to protect the environment, not by using “eco” products, but by inspiring my students to care about the environment and by doing something meaningful, like conserving energy, learning useful skills, growing food.  Most days, I feel successful and genuinely happy.  Other days, I get caught up in the culture and catch myself comparing my lifestyle to those who have more money, more stuff.  Every now and then I need to step back and realize that my life is different, it always has been.  I was the kid that lived on a farm, that had a job before it was legal for my friends to work, that spent weekends baking pies, selling pumpkins, and jumping onto the back of hayrides.  Now, I’m an adult that raises fruits, vegetables and animals, makes gifts by hand, and cares about the rural character of my town.  I can remember growing up and thinking I was born 100 years too late.  I wanted my great-grandmother’s lifestyle.  I realize now that my lifestyle is what I make it, and I can choose to live simply and disconnect from consumer culture.

So, I’m taking “green” out of my vocabulary, and bringing back the term “sustainable.”  Unless, of course, I’m talking about color.  I said “sustainable” years ago, before the “green” movement came about, when you actually had to grasp the meaning of sustinability in order to use the term.  “Green” has come to symbolize being “better” for the earth, but that’s not what I’m looking for.  I’m looking for sustainability.

10 Comments

Filed under Living from Scratch, Sustainable Living

Green and Rain

Walking around the edge of the forest today, I couldn’t help but notice the two sure signs of spring: the color green making its triumphant return, while the rain drizzled all around.

rainy-stroll-004

Raindrops collect on the needles of a white pine.

rainy-stroll-007

Droplets on a newly emerged tulip’s greenery.

rainy-stroll-013

Daffodils slowly reach toward the sun.

rainy-stroll-022

Drips on a recently sprouted, unidentified plants on the forest floor.

To see everyone else’s strolls today, visit the Quiet Country House.

5 Comments

Filed under Home, Outside, Sustainable Living