6.27.2009

A Deeper Shade of Green

I'll be honest: a few years ago, my eyes sort of glazed over when people started talkin' eco. It wasn't that I didn't care; I just cared theoretically. I recycled, and that was more or less the extent of my green activities. In the last couple of years, my commitment to being green has grown quite a bit. I've been asking myself why lately, as it now seems to me that there are few things more crucial than motivating people to go greener. The "why" for me is easy, though: other people sharing their green practices and nonjudgmentally encouraging others to do the same. We are by no means as green as we could be, but here are some of the things we do now, and some of the people who inspired us.

1. Cloth Napkins - Lisa & Rebecca
I've actually been using cloth napkins since I lived with Lisa, before Ben and I married. At first I thought she was sort of quaint when she unpacked her squares of cotton, but I was quickly hooked. I inherited some from her, and then Rebecca made us some more so that we have enough to keep our faces clean without ever missing paper. We use them a few times and then just throw the napkins in the wash with whatever other laundry we're doing. This saves us money, saves paper, and is just a really nice cheap luxury.

2. Cloth diapers - Erin & Julie
I never ever in a million years would have guessed that we would use cloth diapers for Juliette. In fact, when Julie, my mentor and pastor from seminary, offered to give us six weeks of cloth diaper service, I was reluctant to accept it. I now know that cloth diaper services are the best of the best options for diapers - all the benefits of cloth without any of the work, plus Di-dee Diaper, the So-Cal service, uses a crazy small amount of water to clean them and delivers them in natural gas vehicles. They are, however, expensive. We were ready to go back to disposables when Erin posted a carnival of how-to's for cloth diapering. I read that post, and her friends' posts, oh... twenty times? before I finally decided we really could do it. And in all seriousness: CLOTH DIAPERS ARE NO BIG THING. You get your system down, and you're good to go. The extra laundry is negligible but the savings are profound. Now that Juliette nurses less, we are in the golden era of cloth diapers - we rarely even have to rinse them out anymore. (e.t.a. - we do use disposables at night, all-day trips, and vacations. they do have their place!!)

3. No more paper towels - indirectly Erin and Julie, plus Rebecca
When we ran out of paper towels in May, I asked Ben if it would be okay for us to just not buy anymore. All of a sudden it dawned on me that it was kind of ridiculous to still use paper towels if we were willing to do cloth diapers. While Rebecca was here, I asked her if she used paper towels, and she said "no" in the most perfect tone of voice. It conveyed her feelings about them without making me feel guilty that we'd been using them all along. It was an inspirational "no," an "of course we can give up paper towels" no. We're still working out our post-paper towels system, but I don't see us going back.

4. More local food & gardening - Barbara Kingsolver and all the gardeners we know, especially Anna and Rebecca,
So our banana consumption is bananas lately, thanks to Juliette's newfound passion for the equatorial fruit. But we do eat a lot more local food and visit the farmers market with much greater regularity thanks to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. And I can't get enough of gardening! I invariably ask people about their gardens when I call them, and am already plotting a larger plot in the parsonage backyard for next year.

5. Walking for (some) errands under 2 miles - Hmm... maybe Tsh at Simple Mom?
Around about the time I started walking more for exercise this spring, I realized that our vicinity is way more walkable than I'd previously considered it to be. I remember I did some zip code walkability check on the internet a couple years ago, and scoffed that Torrance was supposedly super-walkable. It's true that we end up walking alongside the fourth-longest mall in America and crossing suburban megastreets. But we can and do easily walk to Target, the grocery store, the farmers market, the library, the movie theater, and the park.

6. Diva Cup - Tsh from Simple Mom
I've been hemming and hawing as to whether or not I really want to blog about men-stroo-a-shun. It's not really on my list of topics for public discussion. But I'm downright evangelical about the Diva Cup, and cannot imagine ever going back to pads or tampons. The green factor is only part of it: it's simply a better method, period. Pun intended, of course.

7. Composting - Tsh from Simple Mom
I should point out that just before Earth Day, Tsh posted 40 Tips to Go Greener at Home, and I was just primed to take it seriously and try some of the tips; that's why so many of these are Tsh-related. This happened to be the weekend we were planting our garden, and we were both intrigued by the idea of adding a compost bin to the project. It was something I had wanted to do but for whatever reason thought it sounded hard or expensive (some of those frou frou compost bins are hundreds of dollars). Tsh posted a link to instructions how to turn an 18-gallon Rubbermaid container into a compost bin with a power drill. Ben did all the work, and now we're already starting to see our kitchen and garden scraps turning into rich compost. I never thought I would be so excited about decomposing eggshells.

* * *
We've made most of these changes since Juliette was born. And while we've learned and been inspired by these ecologically-minded friends, wanting my daughter to experience a healthy earth is at the heart of these changes. I'm glad that she will grow up taking green for granted.

A big thank you to all the people who have helped us go greener - this is just the tip of the iceberg.

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