Saturday, July 5, 2008

Measuring the green in my life

I like to reflect on how my behavior has changed to reflect a more green philosophy on life. While I am far from perfect, the steps I have taken have been green in more than one fashion, better for the environment and my pocketbook. Some of the ways I have chosen are not without their frustration, but seeing where I am and where I would like to be give guidance to my actions. Therefore, where do I stand now?

Green behaviors fully integrated into my lifestyle:
Composting including food and cat waste
Purchasing used items including clothing, gifts, furniture, cookware and more.
Growing my own vegetables and fruit
Harvesting rain water
Collecting water in bathroom and from washer for reuse
Bringing my own bags for store purchases
Reusing and repurposing items (e.g., plastic jugs)
Recycling items I cannot reuse or repurpose
Driving the speed limit and combining errands (saves gasoline and carbon emissions)
Planting native trees and plants around the house
Cooking and baking from scratch (minimizes packaging I throw away)
Mowing my lawn with an electric mower
Eliminating chemical treatments for the lawn and yard (with the rare spritz of Roundup or sprinkle of Sevin--none so far this year)
Drying my laundry outdoors
Buying only renewable energy from my electric utility
Flushing the toilet only when necessary
Installing compact fluorescent bulbs when incandescents die in light fixtures
Using cloth napkins, handkerchiefs and towels rather than paper products

Green behaviors I am working on:
Buying and using locally grown food products--I find these a challenge as I am not as fond of vegetables as others are, and new types of veggies overwhelm my ability to eat them. Plus, farmer's markets are more expensive than grocery stores.
Reducing the amount of plastic I buy--So many items are packaged in plastic, I find it difficult to avoid bringing it home with me. I seek alternatives (e.g., buy the mustard in a glass jar rather than plastic), but many times I grab an item before realizing the extent of the plastic I brought home.
Carpooling--This has been a challenge as finding a carpooling buddy has not been easy. I have a potential driver, who I will pay for each trip. However, we have only carpooled once and it will take some time to establish a relationship for the long term.
Turning off lights and other electronics not in use--Generally, I am good about this, but I do forget. Practice makes for better behavior!
Making and using my own cleaners--I used the last of my toilet bowl cleaner and am looking forward to using vinegar and baking soda in the bathroom.

Green behaviors to pursue:
Reducing the clutter in my home--Frankly, I have too much stuff. Some should be given away, others could be sold. Regardless, simplicity in the home will only encourage me to minimize what I own, maintain and clean, while reducing my ecological footprint.
Learning to make items myself--While I can competently sew, I do not know how to knit, crochet or can food. In an effort to be more self-sufficient, I would like to make more items myself like socks and can foodstuffs I have grown.
Installing a rain garden or two--I keep talking about this, but have not executed plans. This year, I have gotten closer to creating one, but will likely begin smothering grass in late summer/early autumn to set the foundation for placing a rain garden next spring.

I have a good start on some basic green behavior, but looking around my home and at my list above, I have a distance to go. There are so many other areas to explore like sustainability (e.g., do I use peat moss, which is readily available but destroys bogs when harvested, or coir, which is renewable but more expensive?) and very difficult choices like installing solar collectors for heating water and generating electricity. Money plays a factor in my choices and I have to weigh my current economics and future finances against a return on investment I will not see for decades.

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