Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Turning Green-ish: 15 Green Habits and How We Sort of Do Them

I enjoy the mother earth. I know she’s on hard times. The warming, the extincting, the carbon footprints, the whole deal. I super get it. I am willing to help a gal out. I’ve been reading lots of green lists lately and there is an overwhelming amount of information on the subject out there. The intimidating number of tips for greening it up at treehugger.com is enough to make me give up the whole thing and buy a Hummer. Finding a green starting place for two grown-ups, a toddler, and 2 animals is taking some time. The following habits are the ones I see around most frequently. There are definitely some adjustments to be made here at the Rosen-b pad and we’re trying to turn it around with varying degrees of success and enthusiasm.

Turn down the hot water heater to 120°F. Easy one. Showers at our house are always rushed and tepid. The days of the long, hot, relaxing shower went away when we turned down the hot water heater for baby safety reasons and cut showers short for not-enough-hours-in-the-day-too-exhausted-for-the–luxury-of-cleanliness-please-God-just-one-hour-of-uninterrupted-sleep reasons. Plus, when you are extremely sleep deprived, water hitting your skin sort of hurts.

Grow a vegetable garden. We tried planting radishes because I heard they were easy, quick growers. Turns out, this is true. Oversight: none of us really like radishes. We have a cherry tomato plant and some herbs. We’ve got some zucchini in the side yard that should be enveloping the entire house by August. This may not qualify as gardening. Right now, it just seems like watering.

When it's yellow, let it mellow. The big people here have this one down but when you’re a 3 year-old guy and you are potty training, flushing is the pay-off. The whole family will “let it mellow” once our son Bob is burning through less than 4 pairs of Elmo big boy underpants per day. Until then, flushing is the fun part.

Use cloth napkins instead of paper. We do this many nights of the week but could step it up. One recent evening, we were eating outside on the patio with cloth napkins, yet using paper plates. I will file that little gem in the category of needing to think it through more.

Keep the cell charger unplugged when not cell charging. My new cell phone inexplicably came with Usher’s “Love In This Club” as a ring tone. I change it, it changes back. It also holds a full charge for a total of 8 minutes. I can vow to keep it unplugged from the charger only during the time that I am beating it against the kitchen counter for cutting off another call. Love not in this club ya’ll.

Buy local and/or organic. The organic thing can be spendy but the stuff that’s in season is usually a little easier on the wallet. We go to a sweet little farmer’s market by our house on Thursday evenings. I buy a couple of vegetables and some berries out of peer pressure but I am really there for the kettle korn. I’ve heard that our kettle korn guy has questionable politics, and I still can’t quit him. Damn him and his cauldron.

Use reusable shopping bags. We have a bunch of these that we bought at Trader Joe’s. It feels awkward to use the Trader Joe’s bags at other markets but to get another set of bags just to use at Von’s is ridiculous. That the issue of reusable bag branding loyalty is taking up any real estate in my brain is even more ridiculous. Pray for me.

Before buying anything new first check Craig’s List and Freecycle. We do this because we are cheap, not because we are green, but let’s pretend.

Turn off your computer completely at night. I am doing this now, although it makes me the teensiest bit queasy. Part of me knows I don’t back up my files enough. (Unless “never” is suddenly enough.) Another part of me knows that sometime in the near future, I will go to turn on this little Powerbook relic, and it’s just going to flip me the bird.

Line dry your laundry. Call me a baby, but I don’t like the sandpaper feel of air-dried towels. My showers suck enough (short, tepid, see above) without the loofah as towel treatment. I have been trying another thing I read about which is a nice laundry hack. Use a dryer sheet once. Use another dryer sheet once for another load. Then use those two old sheets together instead of a new one for the third load. These two aging sheets work as well as one new one. Delightful. Is my clever dryer sheet math saving the planet? Probably not. Again, this is something I do because I am cheap, not because I am green. However, because I am now keeping score, I will call it green. So very, very green am I.

Eat less meat. We aren’t that meat-y anyway so designating Meatless Monday into the calendar was pretty easy. We don’t get into the details with our son since he still doesn’t quite understand where meat comes from and believes that beef comes from a “beef tree”. (His idea.) We do not yet have the heart to tell him otherwise. Little Bob is an extreme animal lover and we are pretty sure that once he puts the meat = creatures thing together he will hate us and we will all be forced into vegetarianism. Yes, omitting the truth is lying, but we are desperately clinging to our bacon while we still can.

Switch to Shade Grown coffee with a Fair Trade label. We have been getting the Shade Grown coffee from Trader’s for awhile now because if you grind it on the espresso setting it tastes almost as good as the expensive French Roast stuff that we really like. Again – did it to save a few bucks and unknowingly added to the greenness.

Use the Diva Cup for your monthly cycles. Que es la Diva Cup? Googled it. Read about it. Gagged a little. If you are not familiar with this device, accept the brief explanation that it is a little re-usable deal that takes the place of other products during your lady time. Yeah… no. If you are a Diva Cup lover, God love you. You are a better woman than I.

Buy reusable water bottles. We did this. Didn’t take long before all of ours tasted like coffee, even after repeated washing. Need to get some bottles designated for water only. Difficult since every vessel in our home is used as a vehicle for getting more coffee into the grown-ups.

Pay bills online with paperless billing. I’m usually low on stamps. I like activities that can be accomplished in my pajamas. Paying bills online was made for a go getter like me. For even more help, I love mint.com. Mint is an easy online accounts and budgeting manager. After the initial 20 minute time investment to enter accounts information (my husband’s initial 20 minute time investment), this thing will chart expenses and remind you when to pay your bills. A gentle Mint reminder is so much nicer than the angry pink past due notice and the interrupted-phone-service-due-to-unpaid-bill type of reminder lacks subtlety and is best left behind in our twenties.

My husband Jeff drives a hybrid. I drive an aging station wagon. We have a front loading high efficiency washing machine. We have a low efficiency refrigerator from the Nixon era. We are switching over to those spiral-y light bulbs. We are switching over to those spiral-y light bulbs except when they don’t really fit in certain lamps and look weird. With greening, as like most things, there is oh so much room for improvement over here.


  1. This made me smile this morning. It reminded me of a conversation with my mom yesterday. She was feeling sick and I suggested taking Pepto Bismal. She doesn't use that kind of stuff, reminding me again it's all poison. I said I don't either... except when I need it. Greening my life works the same. I know I should, I do, I really, really do... and I do, except when I don't or it's not convenient.

  2. I am schooled and entertained in a fell swoop, as usual from you!

    To the line drying...have you tried fabric softener for the wash?

  3. Thanks guys. I will consider some laundry line mojo.

  4. Meatless Monday got scrapped this week. Will have to move it to Fiber Friday!

  5. after working in the solar industry for several months, where you had to be green, this is refreshing...i'll only be green on my time dmnit

  6. A little garden hack...
    last spring, Orchard had a sale on seed (10/$1) so I got a few packages of lettuce. (Different kinds in one pkg) I planted the seed in a small area (maybe 2x3feet). When the lettuce started coming up and was about 3" high I would cut off (not pulled up) what I wanted for my salad Those 2 packages lasted me all summer. It was really nice having fresh greens whenever I wanted... Really easy and not by any means a formal "garden"!

  7. Delightful! Your take is refreshing and I identify with your approach. But I will get really excited about the gardening part when they develop a seed for cheesecake. Hmmmm - now I must have some. The trip to the store for a frozen cheesecake ends with more trash for the environment and some exhaust from the car, but just this once, I feel the medical need for cheesecake to get through the day! Keep that keyboard hot, girl!

  8. I love this! Perfect mix of good ideas, and self effasive humor!

  9. Thanks everyone. We are merely light green...