It Takes More than a Frog to be Green
By Peggy Markham
A famous frog once said, “It isn’t easy being green.” I am trying my best to be “green” these days and it requires a whole new vocabulary. I now think of words such as: conserve, recycle, reuse, reduce, organic, natural, sustainable, footprint, ecofriendly, biodegradable, toxic and compostable in ways that translate to personal responsibility. “Green” is not restricted to the color of a friendly frog but instead means choosing to live your life with tender regard toward our planet Earth. Living green touches on every aspect of our lives: the car we drive, the fuel we use for that car, heating our homes, feeding our pets, buying toys for children, clothing, cleaning products, the food we eat, the air we breathe… the list is endless. The green movement is the bandwagon to be on these days and it takes a bit of willingness to embrace these ideas and adjust your lifestyle. All of us have limited resources and time, but we can select areas that work within our limitations and these efforts will help sustain our planet for future generations.
Where to start? Consider these ecofriendly ideas:
*Green your home:
- Install compact flourescent lightbulbs. These bulbs use one-fourth the energy of incandescent bulbs and will save you money on your electric bills. Turn off lights when you are not in the room.
- Replace old appliances with new energy-efficient models. The Energy Star appliances use from 10 percent to 50 percent less energy and water. For further information on efficiency ratings go online at www.energystar.gov
- Control your thermostat. Set it at 68 degrees or better yet, look for programmable thermostats that can be set to adjust to more efficient temperatures when you are away on vacation, at work or asleep.
- Seek help from your local public service electric, gas or fuel company to learn how to weather-proof your home. Try easy adjustments such as insulating your water heater and regulating the temperature, plugging up drafty windows and doorways, caulking leaky air spots, installing window coverings that help keep the house cool in summer and warm in the winter.
- If you are building a new home, seek advice from contractors who are knowledgeable about the latest “green” products. Some states have rebate programs and incentives if you install solar panels and other energy efficient materials. For products and solar information investigate Web sites such as: www.greenerbuilding.org or www.ases.org or www.millionsolarroofs.com and www.sunhomedesign.wordpress.com
- Use bed and bath (sheets, towels, blankets, comforters), upholstery/slipcover fabrics, rugs and carpets made from natural fibers such as cotton, hemp, wool and bamboo instead of synthetic fabrics and fibers that are derived from nonrenewable petrochemicals. Be aware of carpet pads that are made from toxic materials. Even the shower curtain in your bathroom is a culprit if it is made of vinyl, a petroleum-derived synthetic material that some think may cause illnesses and allergies. Replace the curtain with one made from a natural fiber, like cotton. Think of your fabric and fiber choices in terms of: is it washable, is it breathable, is it free of chemicals, was it derived from sustainable resources?
- Conventional paint emits offensive compounds (volatile organic compounds or VOC) that are noxious, especially to people who suffer from allergies. Most manufacturers of quality paint offer an excellent low-VOC or no-VOC products. These paints have little or no odor, are fast drying and the color selection is vast. A perfect choice for a baby’s nursery.
- There are so many simple ways to conserve water. Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth, use less water by taking a shower instead of a bath, install a rain barrel to trap rain water for your plants and garden. If your toilet was manufactured before 1993 you are wasting gallons of water each year. Consider replacing the old model with a newer ultra-low-flush toilet available in modern home decor colors; some designs are offered with a higher seat configuration that senior citizens favor.
- Call your local sanitation department to learn how and where to dispose of household toxins (pesticides and chemical waste). This includes those old paint cans stacked in your garage or basement as well as used batteries.
1. In the kitchen: Choose renewable, reusable glass dishes for food storage and heating food in the microwave. Plastic products are made from nonrenewable resources. All of us are carrying around a water bottle because hydration is a good thing, but switch to a water bottle made of glass or metal (nonleaching types) and fill with filtered tap water. Toss away in the proper recycle bin those ubiquitous plastic bottles.
2. Collect and use an assortment of reusable cloth bags. Good choices are durable canvas bags, string bags or recycled paper bags. When buying fruits and vegetables at the grocery store, purchase a net bag designed to hold all the items together instead of placing each different food product into a separate plastic bag.
3. Natural Cleansers like vinegar, baking soda, borax, peroxide, etc., are healthy alternatives to the harsh chemical compounds found in many standard cleaning products. Conventional soaps and detergents for washing dishes and clothes contain phosphates and chlorine that pollute the water supply and are not biodegradable. Look for cleansers that are chlorine and phosphate-free, nontoxic and will biodegrade. Have you ever noticed that when you use some of the standard cleaning products that you often feel like you need to put a mask over your face because the cleaner seems so caustic and irritating to your eyes, nose and lungs? Natural products are far less offensive and safer.
4. Natural soaps made from vegetable oils, herbs, milk, minerals and aromatic bouquets are as effective as those potions touting their “antibacterial” agents. Some experts say that antibacterial soaps may interfere with our antibodies, reducing resistance to diseases and these products pollute the water supply. To reduce spread of colds and flu, follow your grandmother’s rule of thumb: Wash your hands frequently with a silky, natural soap. Hand sanitizers like the product from Burt’s Bees are also a good choice.
5. Opt for chemical-free pest control in the home and in your garden. Seek advice from your local garden nursery for nontoxic products that will do the job but will not put harmful compounds into the soil and water table. Throw that dishpan of used soapy water on flowers and aphids will be washed away. Plant native species that flourish on natural rainfall and are already adapted to your environment. Give up the idea of a perfectly manicured, emerald-green lawn. Instead, plant drought-tolerant grasses and consider xeriscaping (landscaping that reduces the need for supplemental water).
6. Shop for healthy products for your pet at a store that offers safe alternatives such as; organic foods, treats, chew toys, herbal shampoos and flea controls; hemp collars; and allergy-free bedding. When you walk your dog in the neighborhood carry compostable doggie waste bags and dispose of them in your trash or leaf clippings.
7. When your grandbabies come to visit have a supply of environmentally friendly diapers on hand. You can choose disposable diapers that are biodegradable (like Seventh Generation) and won’t clog up the landfills or cloth diapers that can be washed. And if you feel really energetic, cook and puree baby food and offer meals that contain no additives or ingredients that read like something from your high school chemistry class.
8. Consider buying organic food when you shop, but be practical if you are on a limited income. The ideal goal is to buy from local farmers, select foods that are seasonal, support local vendors and encourage organic agriculture.
Being “Green” is perhaps easier than the famous frog might lead us to believe. The ecofriendly lifestyle can be as inexpensive or expensive as you choose. Participating in the green movement will have lasting impact, a legacy worth leaving.
*For excellent “green lifestyle” ideas, view Web sites: www.deliciouslivingmag.com/greenliving and the Green Guide at National Geographic, www.thegreenguide.com