Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Its not easy being green

I attended a planning conference last month that focused on sustainable development, so its been on my mind lately. I've always felt like I tried to be environmentally conscious (whatever that means), but since then, I've been making a concerted effort to reduce my carbon footprint. So, in honor of Earth Day today (happy earth day everyone - does that mean I get to eat organic cake or something??) I've decided to jot down my thoughts on being "green". Please forgive me if this seems too politically driven, etc. I try to steer clear of political, religious, racial, etc type of topics, so I am sorry if this comes across as "preachy". But I do think that there are lot of practices that everyone could live that would make a significant impact (interestingly, most of them are more healthy for us as well). Anyway, here are my convoluted thoughts:

1. I read about hypermiling on the Doctor Mama's website a few months ago. In a nutshell, its a way you can drive and get better gas mileage (check the link if you're interested). Since I commute long distances in a horrible gas-guzzling SUV (that I feel I need because of winter driving conditions), I decided to give hypermiling a try. My car has a really handy computer that actually keeps track of my gas mileage for me, so its pretty simple. Prior to my experiment I was averaging 19.7 mpg, which isn't bad for an SUV. But not good either. Now I average 22.4 mpg - almost 3 miles per gallon improvement - which doesn't sound like much until you figure my car has a 20 gallon tank. So that is 60 extra miles that I drive per tank. I think that is significant. (on a side note, Ben drove my car all weekend and only averaged 19.0 mpg - lead foot!) I really wish I could commute to work on my bike. I used to quite often before I had kids and lived closer to work, and I'd like to again someday. At least a couple of times per week.

2. Has anyone noticed those handy reusable bags at the grocery store and ever wondered if they really make a difference? I suppose that maybe they make a small dent, but overall I think there are bigger issues at the grocery store. Have you ever noticed how much "stuff" comes with the food you buy? Extra packaging and crap that just gets thrown in the trash? Well I have, and it really bothers me. Often it seems that the weight of the packaging exceeds the weight of the actual product. Its the main reason that I refuse to buy toilet paper at Costco. And have you ever thought about what it took to produce that food and to bring it to the store? I actually do pay attention to the packaging my food comes in, and I will refuse to buy something because of ridiculous packaging. I also try to shop local when I can. I get most of my dairy and produce from a local dairy delivery that is organic and local-owned/locally grown. Besides being way tastier and healthier for my family, I'd like to think I'm helping.

3. While I'm on the topic of food, has anyone else heard that beef is the SUV of meat? Well, its true. I don't remember the exact statistic about how many pounds of grain it takes to produce one pound of beef (I think its 10 to 1) - but regardless, its absurd. I don't even really like meat that much anyway and rarely cook it. So, I've decided that I'm only going to eat it twice a week. My family doesn't miss it much. Other than chicken nuggets and Cafe Rio pork, my kids won't eat meat anyway.

4. I recycle. I'm not sure it really does much in the grand scheme of things, but it makes me feel better about myself.

5. All my bills are paperless (I pay online)

6. I turn off the TV and the lights when no one is in the room. I don't leave my computer on at home all of the time. I turn the water off when I brush my teeth. Just little things.

I don't know that I'm an enviro-nazi or anything, but I love the earth. I love nature. And I like having fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink. Even if what I do doesn't make that big of a difference, at least I feel better about myself.

So, what about everyone else? What are you doing to make less of an impact on the earth? Or do you even care (its ok if you don't, but I'd still love to hear about it)?


Stephanie F. said...

I'm totally going to try hypermiling. I've been driving SO much since I moved to Alpine.

Savage Family said...

I have been unplugging things that I am not using and turning off the lights! Loved this post!!!

Julia said...

I'll have to check out the hypermiling. I'm lucky because I only drive maybe 10 miles total/day. When it is nice, Landon and I just walk to the grocery store for things we need. It's nice that we have a pharmacy, grocery store, pet store and carl's jr. within walking distance.

I'm bad about grocery bags because i like to line my trash cans with them. However when I get a big build up and if I'm only buying a few things, I just tell the cashier no bag and toss everything into the stroller.

I've been trying to be better about recylcing. Luckily my dad was always a nazi about lights, heat and water, so I'm pretty good about turning everything off.

Jeff just bought a bunch of the energy saving light bulbs that supposedly put off as much light as a 100 W but only burn 19 Watts. So far they are working great. I'm thrilled that it stays light now though so we can just keep lights off.

I'm going to look into www.slowfoodutah.com because I'd like to join a co-op and get all produce local and everything that is in season.

Anyway, I'm sure I'm not helping as much as a good. But thanks for the post. Happy Earth Day!

Lynita said...

I am with you on most of these issues. Even though I buy bottled water, the water here tastes absolutely nasty, I recycle. I make sure my children don't litter, and if they see a piece of trash that doesn't represent a major health threat I encourage them to pick it up and throw it away. I grew up in the desert and am very conscious of water conservation. I also walk to many of my little errands, not only to save gas, but to get excersise too. Also we don't eat a lot of red meat, not only is it expensive, it is so heavy on my tummy. That is crazy that it takes so much grain to feed those cows, who knew! We go to local produce markets in summer and by organic milk from Trader Joe's a lot too, it really does taste better!

Kari said...

I'll be honest - I don't believe in global warming. :) That being said, it's still important to recycle and reduce the amount of water/energy we use, and I try to do that in my home. Good for you for making such a huge effort!!

Gareth said...

Glen Beck...
Awwwwww Yeeeeeee


Christie said...

Who said anything about global warming? That is not what my post is about at all!!

Omgirl said...

Christie, I am SO on the same page as you. There are so many little things we all could do to help the earth, but they ask us to make a little effort. It's surprising how many people can't even make a little effort. Like recycling their grocery bags. Or recycling period. On recycling day, my blue can is the only one on the street as far as I can see in any of 4 directions. Sad. And turning off lights and things. My husband says, "It'll only save me pennies." But combined with everyone else, it'll save so much energy! and there's a hundred other little things we all could do to help. Supporting clean energy sources is another one. We have free wind and sun and tidal power, but we use coal and nuclear power. SO DUMB.

On a side note, I think it would actually kill me to drive like they suggest in the hypermilling article. But I will try to do it when I'm not in a hurry.

I love the earth too. And I really think we have to look down the road and not just think of ourselves and what's easiest for us right now. Thanks for your post!