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)?