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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Green... for all the wrong reasons?

Today is Earth Day. I’m sure you already knew that. I really didn’t; I don’t pay much attention when people start talking about “green” living. Both my hubby and I were raised by depression-era parents so the idea of “recycle”, “reuse” and “don’t waste” is something we’ve had drilled into our heads from infancy. (You don’t know gross until you’ve seen my father-in-law rinse the slime off of old cold cuts or hot dogs and eat them—even if he isn’t hungry—rather than throw them away.)

I learned it was Earth Day at 8:30 this morning when my son, who just rolled out of bed (spring break, lucky me) came downstairs and promptly turned off my kitchen radio and the light above my kitchen sink. I howled a protest; long ago someone added a room off of my kitchen (which I now use as an office) and because of that, there is very little natural light in the kitchen—it’s gloomy and depressing even on the sunniest days, and since I spend so much time in front of that sink—rinsing things, putting dishes away, preparing meals—I usually just leave the light on most of the day. So--as I said to my son--sue me!

The radio, tuned to the local talk radio station, has long been the only link to the sane world I’ve had. I can walk in there most any time of day and hear real, live grown ups talking about intelligent subjects. No talking sponges or star fish; no tween queens living double lives as singing stars and no mop-haired, cherub faced twin boys raising havoc in a hotel—or on a cruise ship. No, that kitchen radio is my link to the grown up world. Back during the days of dancing purple dinosaurs and little blue dogs playing guessing games, it was my life line. If I'm home and awake, that radio is on.

But I can’t leave it on today because it’s Earth Day and we all have to do our part. Or so I’ve been told by my kids. Over and over. Apparently they think I’m not green enough.

This is very un-PC to admit, and I’ll probably even get hate mail, but I don’t do the “green” thing for the right reasons. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to see the polar bears go extinct any more than anyone else, but… I have been known to throw away the odd condiment bottle without rinsing it and placing it in the recycle bin. I know, I know. I’m a criminal. Or just lazy. Your call.

I remember my mother serving nearly every meal on paper plates—we even had little holders for them so your plate didn’t drip or sag. Same with the Styrofoam coffee cups; no one walked around carrying a Starbucks cup made from recycled materials with one of those nice little cardboard snuggies on them to keep their hands from getting burned. If you were drinking coffee in public and weren’t seated at a restaurant, you were probably drinking out of Styrofoam. I even remember those little “bottomless” plastic coffee cups my mom kept in the car to put the Styrofoam cups in at picnics or outdoor events. (I only remember them because she still has them. In lovely shades of 70s-era brown, orange and avocado.)

Well I don’t think my kids even know that disposable plates exist. I have a dishwasher so there’s no reason to use plates I’d have to throw away—what an expensive waste. But here are some things my kids have double checked with me on today, to make sure we’re doing our part to be earth friendly:

Changing light bulbs. I use those little swirly ones in most of the lights in my house—even that necessary one over my kitchen sink. But for the lamps that matter most to me, (i.e., my bedside lamp, or the one on the desk in my office, or the little one in my front foyer) I still prefer the old style. Those fluorescent bulbs give off a cold blue light that does nothing for me on those grey, overcast days we see so much of here in the Northeast. The old style bulbs cast a nice warm glow that feels inviting on a chilly winter evening. But again… I don’t use those “environmentally friendly” bulbs because it’s good for the earth or the right thing to do. I use them because in the long run it saves money. They last longer. Plain and simple.

Use your dryer less. I use it about once a week, if that. And for drying towels only. I would line dry my towels if it were up to me but my family doesn’t appreciate “stiff” wash cloths and face towels—plus I don’t have that much room for clothes line, and they take too long to dry. Again, this isn’t a conscious “green” choice... I grew up on laundry dried outdoors in the sunshine. There’s simply nothing that smells better. Best of all... that sunshine and fresh air? Absolutely free.

Use the cold water setting on your washer. Please. I’m a 42-year-old woman. Do I look dumb enough to wash my jeans in hot water? They’d never fit again!

Only run the dishwasher when it’s full. Well… duh. Why would I run it if it’s not full? That’s a waste of money and water.

Walking more places. Now that the weather is warmer I’m back to walking my kids to and from school. Again… it’s not a green choice, but because it’s a waste of gas to drive them the short distance to school. Not so long ago, gas was up near $5/gallon around here, so it makes sense not to waste it.

Use a tank-free hot water heater. Ahhh, my dream. Our hot water heater is old and due to bite the dust any day now. I want to replace it with a tankless one. Not because it’s the green thing to do but because I’m usually the last one to get the shower at night. Need I say more?

Reduce your use of paper towels and paper products. For a long time now I've used my husband’s old worn out under shirts and the ones my boys have outgrown as wipe rags. They’re white; they’re nice absorbent cotton and best of all, I can toss them in the washer with some bleach and they come out clean and germ free. When the undershirts become too stained or small for use as tee shirts, I cut them into wash-cloth sized rags that I keep under both bathroom sinks and the kitchen sink for easy access. I clean up a lot of “yucky” messes throughout the day (if you have boys you know what I’m talking about when I tell you I wipe down the toilet bowl and the floor beside it daily—sometimes twice daily.) And—you guessed it—I don’t do that to be “green”, I do it because it makes economic sense to me.

Plant a tree. Another no-brainer for me, LOL. I bought a house in an older, established neighborhood because I love all the old trees around here. We looked at the little suburban tracts with their cookie-cutter style houses and spindly baby trees lining the walk but… I didn't want to wait 30 years to have a nice, mature tree in front of the house. So we now have 20 nice mature trees around our house, LOL. It goes without saying that those big trees do a beautiful job of shading the house, which means we run the AC a lot less in summer...

Hmm… I guess I’m greener than my kids thought I was. Who knew?

How will you celebrate Earth Day?


Isabel Roman said...

I'll forgive you, Nic. Well, maybe I'll scowl, glare, and tap my foot, but I can be forgiving. And yes, maybe I AM known as the environmental Nazi at work, but I LIKE it. :) People think twice about not recycling or buying paper products because they're too lazy to wash a dish.

But I forgive you, because you do try. And that's all I ask. Really!

Nicole McCaffrey said...

LOL Oh, I can hear that foot tapping from here...

I do try, and maybe my reasons are more frugal than green, but I do make the effort. And with my kids being so aware of making earth friendly choices, I'm sure we'll only get greener!

Thanks for stopping by!

Paty Jager said...

You're more green than me. LOL but we plan to make the next house we build more energy efficient and green. Even though this one is pretty good.

B.G. Sanford said...

Great blog, Entertaining article and the comments are right on.
Now if I may, I'd like to take a moment and shamelessly promothe my new book, "Beth:Love Along The B.G.Sanford," and just released by Eloquent Books. It's a wonderful romance, a love affair that presents itself to Beth during some of the darkest times of her life. She struggles with what to do, yet knowing what would be morally right. Because of the very substance of this book, it certainly can't be considered "lightweight' by any stretch of the imagination I hope you have the opportunity to read it as it's an entertaining story that you won't soon forget.
All my best,

Nicole McCaffrey said...

Sure, go ahead. Why not? LOL. Best of luck with the new release, BG, and thanks for stopping by.

Sarah Simas said...

I'm right there with you, Nicole. I try, but alas, sometimes I too stray. LOL I'm a forget to rinse the recycle gal, too.

I do hand wash dishes (yes, I shut off the water in between) and save the dish washer for plastics. I only wash HOT on my towels.

This year we are growing a garden. And I'd love to get solar panels, but hubby is cheap. What can I do? lol My inlaws raise beef cows, so when the garden is done most of our meals will be "homegrown."

I've taught my kids to pick up cans. (hubby laughed until he cashed in $40 worth of cans from our walks.*heehee*)

But thanks, Nicole, for making me feel good about the small changes I've made. :o)

Nicole McCaffrey said...

LOL yeah, it kind of helps that green and frugal have gone hand in hand, otherwise I might not be doing it.

My hubby swears though that the day I replace all the tp in the bathrooms with catalogs...he's putting his foot down. LOL. Guess he's heard one too many of my dad's stories about the old outhouses!

But now that I think about it... we do get an awful lot of catalogs in the mail. Hmmm...

Helen Hardt said...

I think we women raised by depression-era mothers are green without trying. I know I am. And really, does the reason matter? As long as we do our part ;).

Sarita Leone said...

We are pretty "green" here, both for environmental and financial reasons. So many things just make good sense to do, and are simple.

Great post!

Lauri said...

OMG...are you sure you wrote this? I think I did. From the swirly lightblubs to the plastic cup holders in their lovely shades of green and gold. The t-shirt rags to the mature trees. Been there and am there!

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