Go Green part IV – Happy Earth Day

•Tuesday, April 22, 2008 • 15 Comments

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.

Conserve Energy

  • 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.

Green Baby

  • 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.

Make a statement

•Monday, April 21, 2008 • 8 Comments

Tomorrow, as I hope all of you know, is Earth Day 2008.  What do you plan to do?

In case you want to do something proactive but can’t think of what, let me offer a suggestion or two (or 4):

  1. Go out and pick up trash.  It’s easy.  It may be dirty, but well, get over it.
  2. Make a promise to yourself, call it a resolution if you prefer, that you will make changes in your lifestyle to help you and your family be more green.  Blog about them.  Let us know what you’re up to.  There’s not a one of us out there that can’t do better.
  3. Call your representatives.  The Earth Day Network is instituting a Call for Climate tomorrow.  The phone number for the Capitol Switchboard is 202-224-3121.  Ask for your representative and let them know that we need more to be done for the environment.  Demand a moratorium on new coal burning plants.  Demand renewable energy proposals.  Demand carbon neutral buildings.
  4. Sign the Sky Petition.

Walk this way

•Monday, April 21, 2008 • 11 Comments

I’ve been a bit lax in participating in Soccer Mom in Denial‘s wonderful weekly meme, Music Mondays.  For that I’m a little ashamed.  You see, I love music.  In fact, there is not a single period of my life nor a single event in it that isn’t accompanied in my head by a sound track.

Yes, there is a sound track to my life.

Saturday night my music memory got a huge jolt, music I hadn’t listened to in nearly 2 decades.

Get this:  I got to have an adult evening.  No, I don’t mean hitting a strip club or watching XXX films (although admittedly that does fall under the heading of “adult entertainment”).  Nope, much much better.  A friend of mine was having a birthday celebration at a another friend’s house.  Her rules were simple: no boys, no babies.  Rock on, sister.

The first part of our evening was fairly mellow, sitting around the pool in the back yard eating a lovely dinner, drinking some wine and listening to an 80s marathon on a local radio station.  At some point someone put on a mix tape  (Yeah, it was a tape.  got a problem with that?) and when this came on:

not a single person was still with ass in seat.  Seriously, I haven’t just let loose and have a crazy smoking girls’ night in…. well, I can’t even think how  long.   And let me tell you, I’m not usually much of a dancer, unless I’m at a rave of course, but did I ever get down Saturday night.  Actually, my legs are still a little sore… and this from a person who works out 4+ times a week.

Who knows.  Maybe it’s cause I had such distinct memories of cranking this song on my Walkman.  Maybe I remember dancing to it locked up in my room with my friends.  Whatever it was, this song made me shed 20 years and feel like a kid tearing it up out on the deck.

for those of you who know… or care…

•Sunday, April 20, 2008 • 6 Comments

Happy 4/20

FlashBack Friday – Outward Bound

•Friday, April 18, 2008 • 22 Comments

Since both Earth Day and Arbor Day are next week I thought that my flashback this week is about a nature adventure I had when I was in high school.  This is story is also a way to demonstrate that although I am rather preoccupied with Living Green and helping others to do the same, I am no tree hugger… not that there’s anything wrong with tree hugging.  I’m just not a nature girl.  My idea of a great camping trip MUST include a shower… and a toilet.  Yeah, I don’t like to pee outdoors.  No way no how.

Freshman year of high school: My school participated in a program called Outward Bound which meant that each freshman had to got to spend 5 days in the Everglades (There is a bit of debate on this issue.  Other class years only had to go for 3 days, lucky bastards.  I have maintained for the past 15 years+ that we had to go for a week, but that statement has met with some resistance.  I’m saying 5 days as a compromise.) The purpose of the trip was to get us to learn how to cooperate and problem solve while completely out of our element.  It was also to help us learn leadership skills.

At least, that was the party line.  To me it was an experience in hell.  It was five days in a swamp, pissing and shitting in a hole in the ground (or worse yet, off the side of a canoe); five days of being chewed alive by mosquitoes; five days of baking in the sun covered in bug repellent, sun block, dried salt water and dirt; five days of not being able to wear contact lenses; five days of not being able to clean my glasses and therefore five days of headaches; five days of paddling around in a canoe under a canopy of mangroves from which spiders continuously dive bombed me.  Have I mentioned I’m arachnophobic?

But I will skip over the gory details of that variety of hell and talk about one particular day/night.

One morning we were informed that we were to spend a day and a night alone on our own private island to reflect and write in our journals.  We would not see another human being until the following morning.  Ok, kinda cool. I hate people and love writing. I figured I could get into that.

I had my water supply.  I had my sleeping bag.  I had my mosquito netting.  I had a pen and paper, what more could I want?

All went well until nightfall.  When I could  no longer see by the fading light and I got sick of swatting at mosquitoes (have I ever mentioned that I am a mosquito magnet?  I can be in a room with 20 people and 1 mosquito for 5 minutes and I won’t get out of there with less than a dozen bites), I crawled into my sleeping bag under the mosquito netting and settled in for the night listening to the sounds of relative quiet: crickets chirping, waves slapping up on shore, mosquitoes dive bombing my ears and some animal screaming in the trees behind me.

What?  Oh shit, I thought.  What the fuck was that?

A minute or two later a cute little raccoon appeared out of the darkness and stood a few feet away from me rubbing his little hands together.  I smiled to myself and thought, Hey, this isn’t so bad, as the little guy ran away into the brush behind me.

A few minutes later, lying in the darkness with my hands above my face to keep the mosquitoes from biting me through the netting, I turned my head back to where I had seen the little guy earlier and was surprised to see two of them standing there on their hind legs rubbing their cute little hands together.

Hey dudes, I said.  Bet this ain’t something you see everyday.  I snickered to myself as they turned to each other and started chattering in what I thought was a rather conversational way before they scampered off into the brush behind me.

No more than 10 minutes later (of course, I’m completely guessing since I had no watch.  It could have been 3 hours for all I know) they were back… with friends.  A lot of friends.  I turned my head to find at least a half a dozen raccoons watching me no more than a few feet away and for the first time they weren’t so cute.  I started to remember stories about how raccoons were common carriers of rabies.  Then I wondered how long it would take me to unzip my mosquito netting and get away from a pack of rabid raccoons.  Then I listened to the roar of buzzing swarming in the blackness around me and thought I’d prefer to get rabies than be eaten to death by bugs.

Before I could come to a final conclusion the raccoon pack (herd? gaggle? swarm?) reached its own conclusions and trotted off.  I waited, poised to unzip and run if necessary (yes, I was being a pussy.  I freely admit that) but they didn’t return.

Instead, moments later the orgy began.  At least, I can only assume it was a raccoon orgy.  I mean, they had come to survey the likelihood of the outsider trapped in the large bag breaking up the party, realized I was no threat and started to get down.

I honestly have never heard so much noise in my life.  Seriously, not even from a house full of people doing the same.  And these little buggers went on forEVER!  Seriously, the sun was coming up and I could still hear them screaming and squawking away.  Needless to say, although I laughed a lot, I slept not at all that night.

I do not, however, exaggerate that the raccoon orgy was the only part of the trip I didn’t despise.  I still hold a grudge against my brother for not taking me home immediately after the bus pulled back onto campus grounds.  He was more interested in ogling the girl he liked at the time, that bastard. 😉

Want to play along? FlashBack Friday posts can be any medium you choose, photographic, video, music, or just a story. Share your flashback on Fridays and link back to me. Visit other participants and get some dirt on your fellow bloggers.

Pity party, table for one

•Wednesday, April 16, 2008 • 16 Comments

I feel like ass.  And not a cute,  little well shaped one either.  No, I feel like a 400 pound, hairy, zit covered, sweaty, smelly ass.

Yup.  I got the plague.  Fuck airplanes.  Seriously.  Canned air never does anything good for me.

It’s hard to tell if MJ’s slight fever, runny nose and general crankiness is because she shares the 400 pounder with me or simply because she’s got canines and molars coming in.  Whatever the cause, we’ve been quite the pair this morning.

And of course, on the day that I feel like such ass and I do manage to get her down for a nap (a feat in and of itself, let me tell you) the fucking blue jays that moved into the tree outside my window are battling it out with the cardinals who originally lived there.  NO nap for CableGirl.

ugh!

Go Green part 3, water conservation

•Tuesday, April 15, 2008 • 9 Comments

Two weeks ago when I posted tips on how to reduce the amount of waste your house produces, April asked a very important question. She wanted to know about washing cloth towels versus using paper towels during a drought. I promised her at the time that I would write up a post about how to conserve water. That is the point of today’s post.

Many people find it strange that a place like Miami, on the water, built on a swamp where it rains everyday in the summer, could have problems with drought conditions, but that we do. And it is a concept that many people have trouble accepting. Water is a limited resource on our planet and we, as inhabitants of this earth, must behave responsibly to make sure that there are adequate amounts available for future human and environmental use.

Let’s start with the basics. For every drop of water that is wasted down our drains water treatment plants have to expend energy to process the water and make it potable again. The more energy used (and wasted) by the water and sewer department, the higher your water bill. So if care for the environment doesn’t get you excited, think about your wallet. Be self absorbed if you must, but be green to save for yourself both money and resources.

  • Don’t leave the water running when you brush your teeth, shave or wash your face. Only turn it on when you need to rinse your face, toothbrush or razor.
  • Compost or scrape food scraps into the trash instead of running the disposal. Garbage disposals require the use of a lot of water.
  • Don’t do half full loads of either laundry or dishes. Wait until the load is the maximum capacity for your machine and run it with the least amount of water you can.
  • Don’t buy bottled water! Check out Frankly Green for the disturbing statistics about waste and energy expended from American use of bottled water. Use a filter if you feel strongly against drinking from the tap. Keep water in the fridge instead of letting it run to cool down.
  • Check your water fixtures. It is extremely common for water to leak from the rubber seal in the back of a toilet. A leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons of water a day. Leaky faucets can waste 15 or more gallons a day with a minor leak. Sometimes the solution is as simple as getting a new rubber O ring.
  • Put a zip lock bag (see, you can reuse them) with a weight in it in the back of your toilet. That will allow your toilet to flush with less water.
  • Take shorter showers. Start by trying to cut a minute off of your shower time. Make it a household game: who can shower in the shortest amount of time and still get clean.
  • Use a bucket of water to wash your car instead of the hose.
  • Don’t leave the water running when you’re washing your dishes. Only turn it on when you rinse.
  • Sweep your front porch and from walk instead of hosing them down.
  • Know your lawn and outdoor plants. Different types of plants require different amounts of water, some dramatically less than others. Don’t water all in the same way.
  • If you have sprinklers to water your lawn, make sure they are properly aimed. Water your lawn, not the pavement.
  • Put mulch around the base of trees, shrubs and bushes in your yard. Mulch will keep the ground cooler and prevent water from evaporating as quickly meaning you will have to water less often.
  • Keep a bucket or pail in your sink when you wash vegetables. Save the water and use that to water your plants. Do the same with water that runs while you are waiting for it to heat up.
  • Allow your grass to grow a little higher before mowing and/or set your mower blades a notch higher. Longer grass means less evaporation and therefore more time in between required waterings.
  • Put this one in the file marked DUH! but don’t water your lawn on days when it rains.
  • If you bring your car to a car wash, do some research first. Make sure the one you patronize recycles it’s water.
  • Use less detergent when you wash dishes. More detergent means more water necessary to rinse. Or better yet, see my post last week about ways to clean using baking soda and lemon juice. They leave no residue.

My next Go Green post will be how to be greener with your baby and tips on saving energy.

Consider this a reminder: April 22nd is Earth Day. This link will bring you to a map of World Wide Earth Day events. Find one near you and participate in any way you can. April 25th is Arbor Day. This link will bring you to a list of suggestions of ways to celebrate in your community.