Friday, October 26, 2012

Driving to the Bus Stop?

I hope this post doesn't spark too much debate but I recently started taking my oldest daughter to the bus stop for school.  And by "taking" her to the bus stop I mean opening the front door and walking down the sidewalk to where the bus stop is.  I don't mean getting in my car and driving her to the bus stop like I have been seeing some other parents do.

I don't mean to criticize...I really don't...but I have to wonder why parents are literally driving a few houses down the street to take their kids to the bus stop?  It's not raining outside.  It's not freezing cold or snowing (yet!).  It's been a pleasant 60-80 degrees the past few weeks.  And I know these very nice people.  They are not handicapped.  They are perfectly healthy and I often see some of them out for walks, jogs and even bicycle riding on a nice fall day.

Sometimes I see them leave the neighborhood in their car so I think "ok, that makes sense, they are on their way somewhere and figured it is just quicker to already be in the car and be on their merry way after the bus comes".  But many times...too many times...they turn around and go back to their homes...literally down the street.

I know not everyone has a "green thinking cap" on and not everyone contemplates the GHG value or carbon impact of everything they do, but there are many reasons other than decreasing the pollution from the unnecessary driving.   Even if they drove their kids to the bus stop in an electric car or hybrid, there is an environmental impact.  They only way to not have an impact is to WALK your kids to the bus stop.  What a concept.  You AND the kids get much needed exercise and you have no negative impact on the environment.  Unless you fart during the walk and contribute some methane gas, though you also typically expel oxygen too, so it's not all bad.

Last time I checked gasoline was over $3 per gallon.  Last time I checked the economy was struggling and people are constantly complaining about the price of gas and how their money just doesn't go as far as it used to or that their income has declined.  Last time I checked we were trying to set good examples for our kids, and get off our butts and stop being couch potatoes. 

So why has taking your kids to the bus stop completely changed meaning to driving your kids to the bus stop?  Some things I just don't understand...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cloth Napkins

"You mean you are using cloth napkins like Avo (grandmother in Portuguese) did in the old days?" Yes, that is the reaction I got from my Mom when she visited our home and asked where the napkins were and I pointed her to these:

Hubby also poked fun when one day over a year ago I decided to "hide" the paper napkins and replace them with cloth napkins we already had lying around the house.  He was ok with it until the first time we had spaghetti for dinner.  One look at our kids with spaghetti sauce all over their face, hair, hands, and shirts and he said "no way are we using cloth napkins".  Obviously I won that argument because it's been over a year later and we are still using those same cloth napkins (with all spaghetti stains washed out).

I will admit, the particular cloth napkins I have are a thin cotton fabric and don't soak up spills very well.  But I refuse to buy new ones because after all, I'm trying to be green here, right?!  So why would I go buy new ones when I have perfectly decent ones already at home?  However, with a young toddler under 2 years old that drinks from regular grown up cups but still spills every once in a while, these thin napkins can be a problem.  That is, unless you have a drawer full of these:

I bought these washcloths in a huge pack for about $3 when Baby Girl A was born.  As you can see, they are in pretty bad shape after 5 years of daily use...wiping two kids faces and hands after every meal, wiping spilled milk off the table, etc.  I'm sure I would have spent much more than $3 in napkins or paper towels over the last 5 years if I didn't have these wonders in my kitchen drawer.  So not only am I avoiding disposable paper products but I'm also avoiding paying for those products that just end up in the trash (or possibly compost) bin.

What I can't figure out is why aren't more people doing this?  Tell me, why are you still using paper napkins or paper towels?  Is it just too hard to change the habit?  I know, habits are REALLY hard to change...I'm still working on some myself!  Is it the increased laundry that is overwhelming?  What is the toughest challenge in implementing cloth napkins in your home?  Perhaps we can help each other find a solution to our obstacles in living green day by day.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

So it's our 12 year wedding anniversary this week!  It feels like only 2 years but somehow we have reached 12 years of marital bliss, with some downs and challenges thrown in there too.  But our marital bliss or the ups and downs of the last 12 years is not what this blog is's about living green day by day, right?  So what does a wedding anniversary have to do with living green?  In my opinion...alot!

You see, part of living green day by day is being aware of what the impact is of even the simplest things in your life.  So for wedding anniversary gifts, which often include a cheesy card that would make your kids barf and perhaps some flowers or even jewelry, I can't help but think of the impact of those anniversary gifts.  The card is made of paper, which usually is made of trees (or sugarcane or other plant material), and unless it is FSC certified or made of 100% recycled paper, it has an impact, right?  What about the dyes used for the ink?  If it's made of soy-based ink, not too bad, right?  Then you get into the whole money thing--now I'm not a cheapskate (ok, yes I am, I admit it!), but paying $3 or $4 or even more for a card that someone looks at for a few minutes, maybe displays on a table for a few days, and then throws away (or recycles hopefully!), I find it a complete waste of money and resources.  I'd rather get a handwritten poem -- written on scrap paper of course :) -- or a funny card made from scratch with something silly on it.  Or bake me something delicious with chocolate or make me a wonderful handmade cappuccino with love poured all over it.  But that's just me...or is it?

As for flowers, sure they are pretty, but please, pick some from my garden and bring them in for me.  Even better, how about you weed the garden for me as my anniversary gift?  Just whatever you do, please don't buy flowers that are obviously dyed to be more "vibrant" or flowers from a store who imports them from across an ocean.  It makes me jittery just thinking about the carbon impact of transporting those flowers all around the globe.  And are they sustainably grown?  There is no FSC equivalent for flowers like there is for paper that I'm aware of...anyone know of any label or "certification" for fair trade or sustainably grown flowers like there is for veggies?  There are still transportation CO2 emissions associated with however "good" they are labeled.

And jewelry...ah yes a very common gift from husbands to their wives for anniversaries and other occasions.  I love rocks, but they usually consist of the kind I find in my backyard or at the beach or on a hike in the Shenandoah Mountains.  Please don't give me a diamond harvested from a country that is poor and exploits its workers.  Why should people have to die to give us diamonds?  I have a engagement ring...but other than that, please no diamonds as I can't bear the thought of someone dying so that I can have something sparkly and shiny.  I'll just clean my handmade glass vase from a local artisan if I want to look at something sparkly and shiny, thank you very much.  

So on my 12th wedding anniversary, why am I feeling like the luckiest woman in the world!  Because I was given a cute card with hearts on it?  Because I was offered flowers shipped from overseas?  Because I was surprised with a little velvet box of some shiny diamonds?  No.  Not at all.

I am the luckiest woman in the world because I have a husband who, while not exactly the most "green" person I know, knows me well enough that he is ok with spending our anniversary hanging out and enjoying our time together as "enough" of an anniversary present.  He gave me time and laughter.  And that is the best gift of all.

And when he does get me an anniversary gift, it is something like this for our 10th wedding anniversary (10 year "traditional gift" is aluminum):

Yes, those are roses that he handmade out of aluminum foil, in my old glass vase, with green fake grass from who knows how many years ago from an Easter basket that I reuse every year.  Foil and  plastic Easter grass is so not "green" in and of itself, but these "flowers" have been sitting on my kitchen windowsill for 2 years now.  Well, they haven't been just sitting there.  They have been serving a very important a drying rack for plastic bags that I wash and reuse.  :)

So what's the best "green" gift you have ever received?  Was it an actual item, or an experience?  A day spent together?  Our best memories aren't the things we receive, but rather the experiences, the laughs, and the time with those special people in our lives.  And for that I am truly grateful for the wonderful memories my husband has shared with me over the last 12 years.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Reality Check

In case you were wondering if I, in fact, had the nerve to walk up to a group of women with chainsaws on Saturday and ask them about their CO2 emissions and if they would consider using sustainable biofuels to power their chainsaws next time...

With 18 month old in arms, I walked towards them, in awe of the art they were creating with simply tree trunks, chainsaws, and their imagination.  I was struck by the fresh scent of fresh wood chips in the air.  So not "green" since there were these piles of dead trees everywhere, but I couldn't help but be drawn to the wonderful scent that was better than any car air freshener I've ever seen (Note: In my 35+ years on this earth, I have NEVER had an air freshener in my car--but that's another post at another time.)

But I never made it to the ladies with the chainsaws.

I had a baby in my arms.

Babies don't like loud noises.

Baby + loud chainsaws = Lots of crying

Mission Aborted

Yet another reality check that in my wonderful vision of making a small difference one person at a time, I forgot about the one person in my arms and their little ears.  Does it mean I have given up?  No.  I wrote a letter: 

"Dear Chainsaw Chix,

I enjoyed viewing your sculptures and artwork at the Fall Festival in Manassas this weekend, Saturday, October 6th.  It is amazing what you can do with a simple tree trunk, some chainsaws and a world of imagination.

I was wondering if you have considered the environmental impact of the gas powered chainsaws you were using.  May I encourage you to look into alternative powered chainsaws such as electric or sustainable biofuels powered chainsaws?  Since you are probably not near an electrical source at these festivals, electric may not be an option at all.  But I wonder if sustainable biodiesel or even a sustainably sourced ethanol mixture could be used in the chainsaws?  I haven’t done any research on this for chainsaws, but if cars, trucks, and even airplanes can now run on biodiesel or ethanol or other biofuels, then I wonder if chainsaws can to?  How wonderful would it be for your marketing and PR efforts if you showed the world that not only are you mega-cool and incredibly talented, but that you are eco-conscious too!  What a great example you could set for everyone!

Again, I enjoyed the art this weekend.  But I would have enjoyed it even more if those chainsaws were powered by a renewable sustainable fuel.


Helena, a fan of Chainsaw Chix"

Friday, October 5, 2012

Can A Fall Festival Be Greener?

So Manassas is having it's annual Fall Festival tomorrow and I'm wondering about the environmental impact that fall festival will have...yes, that's me, that's how I think.  While most are thinking about hot apple cider or bluegrass music or what freebies will be there, I think about the "greenness" of it.

While a fall festival can provide some wonderful benefits, like teaching my kids about the colors of fall...the red apples, the orange pumpkins...and the "harvest" season as a whole, it still can have quite an environmental impact.  The food waste and packaging, the plastic bouncy house (how is this "fall-like"?), the plastic freebies given out in plastic bags, etc.  And let's not forget that the Chainsaw Chix will be cool?!  Women with chainsaws making art...beautiful sculptures out of wood.  Love it, right?  Well, I do love it actually and can't wait to see them create their art, BUT  if you know me, you know I'm thinking about the trees that were killed for the art and wondering what powers their chainsaws.  Are they gasoline powered or electric?  What kind of carbon emissions do those let out over a whole day of cutting and shaping wood into art?

So the big question for me today is should I go to the fall festival tomorrow and ooh and aah over the incredible artwork and stay quiet or should I speak up and ask the Chainsaw Chix if they can consider powering their chainsaws with sustainably certified biofuels?  What do you think?  Should I shut up or speak up?