Today is Earth Day. What are you doing to celebrate? MJ and I have dates with multiple parks in our area to clean up trash and try to get other parents and children to join in.
In honor of this day I’m putting up my last (official) Go Green post. Today I want to talk about simple ways to save energy and important and easy ways to have a Greener baby. Let’s start with energy conservation around the house.
- Do you have a mobile phone? Do you ever need to charge it? Great. But when you’re done charging, unplug the charger. Actually, unplug every appliance you can while not in use. That includes stereos, modems, computers and gaming machines. Although the amount of energy consumed is drastically less than when the items are turned on, electronics continuously draw power when connected.
- Replace light bulbs with Compact Florescent Bulbs (CFB). Changing just one 75-watt bulb to a compact fluorescent light cuts roughly 1,300 pounds of global warming pollution. Each bulb replaced will, over the course of the bulb’s life, likely save around $30. They produce 70% less heat than standard bulbs and will, therefore, reduce the heat in your house during the summer allowing you to reduce the amount of time the a/c is in use.
- Although they do have trace amounts of mercury in them, they are MUCH more energy efficient than standard bulbs. Check with the EPA and Earth911 for local recycling options. Never throw broken bulbs in the trash. Bag them and bring them to local recycling centers or stores that recycle.
- Turn off the lights! If you’re not in a room why do you need to leave it lit? Are there people in your house who have trouble remembering this? (ahem, CableDad) Put a post-it note above the switch.
- At what temperature do you keep your thermostat? Keep it a degree or too warmer in the summer and a degree or two cooler in the winter. Fans use a great deal less energy than the a/c. My house, for example, is kept at a fairly steady 78 degrees (mind you, it’s usually upper 80s outside) but with the ceiling fans on it feels about 5 degrees cooler in the day and 10 degrees cooler at night.
- Keep your shades drawn in the heat of a summer day to keep the house cooler. Open the blinds to let in sunlight in the winter. A well insulated house will act like a greenhouse trapping in heat.
- Clean the air filter on your a/c unit. It will function more efficiently.
- Plant trees around the house to help provide shade and keep the house cooler. This is also a good idea of a way to spend Arbor Day this week.
- Make sure the energy you’re using the regulate the temperature in your house is contained within it. Make sure all windows are closed, doors and windows are weather stripped and fireplace dampers are closed.
- Wash your clothing in warm or cold water. It requires more power to heat the water for a hot cycle than you’d perhaps think.
- Buy local when you go food shopping. Local growers not only need financial support but they use drastically less energy transporting their goods to local markets than do imported goods. Think about it, each item you purchase has to be brought to your store. The further it has to travel, the more energy is wasted in delivering it to you.
- Don’t keep the refrigerator door open. I remember my mother telling me that an Oracle was not going to appear the longer I kept it open. I now say that to CableDad. He hates it as much as I did. But sometimes the truth hurts. Keep a list of the contents of your fridge on the outside of it if this will help reduce the amount of time you spend peering into it.
- Try using a hand held push mower. It doesn’t require gas or electrical power and runs on manual energy alone. The benefit to this is twofold. Not only are you reducing the amount of energy your house consumes but you also reduce pollution.
- In that same vein, rake up leaves. Don’t use those stupid, loud and environmentally unfriendly leaf blowers. Seriously, those things may be the stoopidest invention ever!
- Of course, a great way to reduce your household energy cost is to have double paned windows, good insulation and to run only energy efficient dishwahsers and washing machines. That’s not always financially feasible. In my house we have made a list of home improvements that will help reduce our ecological footprint and are working to make one improvement a year. Our next big expenditure will be to replace the windows.
- Let’s start with the basics. I’m frequently horrified to see people change a baby’s poo filled diaper and just toss the thing in the trash. People, NEVER THROW BABY POOP IN THE GARBAGE! Think this through. For millenia various cultures have used human and animal fecal matter as a form of biological warfare. Do you really want to throw that into our landfills? The sewer system is the place to throw out poop. Knock solid waste into the toilet before you throw out your diapers!
- I don’t want to get into a discussion of breast v. bottle here, but yeah, breastfeeding is much more ecologically friendly. If you do bottle feed, think about the bottles you choose to use. Some have disposable liners. What a waste. While I do use those bottles, I keep the liners and wash them for multiple uses.
- While there are multiple organic baby food distributors out there the best way to feed a baby solids is to make your own food. No, it does not take long. Yes, it is easy to do. Take your favorite veggies and steam them, puree them and freeze them in ice cube trays. They keep for a long time and require no glass or plastic containers. Doing this also reduces the amount of energy wasted in the transportation of food supplies.
- Buy second hand clothing for young children and babies. My favorite store for MJ shopping is called the Kidz Exchange. I can buy clothing for her in near new condition in exchange for the sale of the clothing that no longer fits her. Hand me down clothing worked well for my and my brother, it’s good enough for MJ.
- When you do shop for baby clothing, look for clothes made out of organic cotton, bamboo or wool.
- Contrary to common belief, babies do not require a vast array of soaps and lotions for healthy skin. Newborns do not need to be bathed everyday. The best lotion for baby skin is olive oil. Most commercial lotions have too many perfumes and are likely to be skin irritants as well as a contribution to the garbage or (hopefully) recycle bin.
- Less is best when it comes to cleaning. The current obsession with anti-bacterial soaps etc are probably actually a hindrance rather than a help to a baby’s immune system. Simple soap works wonders. Consider some of the Cleaning Green suggestions I made two weeks ago for ways to clean without chemicals.
- Make sure that the laundry detergent you choose to use is phosphate free.
- I doubt anyone with a child is unaware of the dangers of lead paint in imported Chinese toys. Try to buy American. The smaller the distance the toy must travel to reach your store the less energy wasted in transportation. In addition buying American prevents your spending dollars from being exported to someone else’s economy. Buy wooden toys. Wood is an all natural product and when well cared for are low risk toys for babies. Obviously, you have to watch for splintering on toys a toddler chews. Chewing wood, however, is much better than chewing plastic. When your child is older and not putting everything in his/her mouth, buy second hand toys.
- Purchase bottles, sippy cups, plates, etc that are BPA (Bisphenol-A) free. Check out this website for a list and ranking of common baby gear manufacturers and their safety ratings.
- Finally, consider using cloth diapers instead of disposables. While cloth diapers might initially require a big expenditure ($10-$20 per diaper), in the long run they save money as you only need to buy them once or twice and therefore don’t spend $50+ per month on diapers. Disposable diapers sit in land fills waiting to leech out waste. Aside from that, while using cloth diapers might require a greater strain on water consumption as well as sewage production, the creation of disposable diapers (easily billions used and disposed of each year, considering that most children go through at least 5000 diapers before potty training) consumes an estimated 3.4 billion gallons of oil and over 250,000 trees each year!
Happy Earth Day! Don’t forget to call your representative and demand better environmental laws.