Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Being Green

To borrow a line from my old friend, Kermit, “it’s not easy being green.” And it’s not easy going green. But dang it if we’re not giving it the good old college try in my house. I’ve been reading a lot about what it takes to have a greener household and I’m doing my best—as well as encouraging the rest of my family members—to join me in this pursuit. Here are a few of the things I’ve been doing that supposedly, if done en masse, will have an effect on the environment. And here are some of my musings about these suggestions.

1. Driving a more gas-efficient car. As you know, if you’ve been keeping up on our humble blog, I traded in my gas-guzzling station wagon for a hipper, more stylish, and way more gas-efficient Mini Cooper. I’m getting thirty miles to the gallon and loving it. And frankly, the kids and dog aren’t all that squeezed into the back seat. They’ve each got their own cup holders—the kids, not the dog—and that seems to mitigate any discomfort they feel in having their legs wedged up against the back of the seat when my husband, he of the long legs, is driving.

2. Using those new-fangled light bulbs. Can’t remember what they’re called because it’s so dark in here I can’t read the package. But I installed a few of them. I’ve noticed that they don’t turn on quite as quickly as regular old light bulbs and they definitely don’t throw as much light (which, if you are of a certain age like me, works beautifully—I look ten years younger in our living room). So, could I install lower-wattage light bulbs and get the same effect? Not sure. But my daughter informed me that although these new light bulbs last longer, there is now some evidence that there is not good way to dispose of them. Once again, you can’t win.

3. Walking instead of driving. This one sounds great in theory. But we’ve entered “cute sandal season” and that impacts the suggestion to walk instead of drive. You can’t walk any measurable distance in a three-inch wedge heel. Trust me. Instead, I’ve decided not to leave the house which is in its own way a reasonable sacrifice to make, don’t you think? And truth be told, I’m not a big fan of the outdoors in general.

4. Eating one non-meat meal a week. Try getting your kids to eat quinoa. Enough said.

5. Taking three minutes showers. Works for me because if you’ve read #3 and #4, I don’t really work up a sweat. Doesn’t really work for child #2 who plays lacrosse on muddy fields. But he’s a gamer. He’s given it a try. Suffice it say he’s just not that clean.

6. Turning off your computer. I’m going to use this excuse come December 31st when my next manuscript is due. (It’s late?! I was trying to save the planet!)

7. Growing your own food. See #3.

8. Buy a composting toiler. I discussed this several posts ago. It’s an idea that really hasn’t taken hold here at Chez Barbieri.

So, what are you doing to go green? We here at the Stiletto Gang offices would love to hear your suggestions for anything you’re doing to help the planet. Or walk in three-inch wedge heels.

We have our priorities, after all.


  1. I'm with you on the composting, Maggie. I'm a gardener- I know I should do it, but it never works out for me. The raccoons get into the pile, it's either too far from the kitchen, or too close...
    I've said yes to the screwy light bulbs, I always cluster errands (so I don't take a lot of little drives), try to remember to bring plastic shopping bags when I go food shopping, and I feel as if I'm always schlepping stuff to GoodWill to recycle. Biggest issue for me is all the paper I go through when I'm writing. I feel a little guilty about that!
    Three inch wedges? Piece of cake!

  2. Rosemary: I forgot the all-important reusable grocery bags! I've got 10. I haven't used a plastic or paper grocery bag in months and it has really cut down on the amount of refuse in the house. And yes, the donation center at GoodWill is amazing...the ladies who work at my local center are angels and will accept almost anything I bring by.

    One day we'll meet and I'll show you the wedges... :-) Maggie

  3. Love all your suggestions.

    I confess to failing to recycle all those plastic bags you get from the food store. I always intend to take them back, but keep forgetting. Don't tell, but at some point, I have about a million of them and I just throw them out. I think they are like bunnies and reproduce at night??


  4. We recycle everything it seems, but our city has made it easy by offering single stream recycling. That means we have a rollout cart that's a bit smaller than our trash cart and into this blue wonder, we can toss glass, paper, bardboard, aluminum cans (but oddly, not foil), steel cans, plastics numbers 1-6 and I think that's it.
    Those screwy lightbulbs...we have some but now I'm reading that they are actually worse for the environment because of whatever gas is insie. They are supposed to be desposed of in a special way-which of course I don't remember.
    I still get plastic grocery bags though...we have dogs to walk and they make perfect poop bags.

  5. Here in Chicagoland we're on the case (a little):

    We’ve had a Prius, which replaced a Subaru wagon, for a year and a half. I read Maggie’s blog about getting her new car and I must say in defense of the Prius that it is very roomy (classifies as a mid-size and I’ve lugged lots of stuff, including an extra thickly insulated 12-yr/50 gallon water heater from Sears), and we get about 45 miles to the gallon on the highway and about 55 or more when around town. I know the debate is on about the battery technology and its safe disposal, etc., but I think we’ll solve that one day and for now the cheaper and less polluting drive seems worth that risk. And, it met my requirement of not buying a car the price of which began with a digit larger than “2”. I used to make the rule it couldn’t begin with more than the number “1”, but . . . you know.

    We got a better insulated water heater when the old one broke, as alluded above.

    We don’t waste water on the stupid idea of a green lawn. We just rehabbed our yard and took out as much sod as possible in favor of native perennials that need less water and we don’t use chemicals on the landscape at all.

    I also daisy-chain errands and go through them in a “right-hand-turns-only” sequence. And I’ve got it down to only having to leave the house one to two days per work week. This also helps keep me at my desk, which has been a boon to my creativity as I have to think up other excuses not to be writing enough. No more of that “boy, I’ve gotta get over to IKEA” nonsense around here. Almost.

    Those newer light-bulbs are better now since they are sort of encasing them in a prettier “shell” and you don’t have to always see that freaky cork-screw of glass tubing! Another hitch though is that they don’t work with dimmer switches, and I’ve loaded the house with those. I am also of a certain age.

    We have one of those programmable thermostats and while we’re a sleep let the temp go to a level we’d hate during waking hours.

    And, there are a few other little things we try. I have my reusable grocery sacks from Trader Joe’s and I get paper only once in a while to then use up as my recycling bags for mail and newspapers. I also call and cancel unwanted paper catalogs as soon as I can, too. I try to regularly put unwanted things carefully aside and then give them to AMVETS when they make rounds.

    But, I also have stupid wasteful habits I can’t seem to shake:

    I often leave a light or radio on for the cats (!!??) because I think they give a damn.

    I spoil our oldest cat, Pooky, by leaving the tap of any sink she can get to running a little for a few minutes to let her drink water the way she likes. Pooky is 19 and has advanced kidney disease and she gets what she wants when she wants it, Earth Day be damned!

    I open the fridge all the time and stare into it like I think it’s my magic portal to Paris and all I need to do is gracefully navigate a surprising number of partially full pickle jars and the stacks of plastic tubs of leftover pasta and stew and I’m THERE, Baby.

    If it’s a really wild day here and people are over or coming over, I sometimes bail on my recycling and just toss everything into a Glad Bag.

    Oh, and the groovy and more natural yard we put in? It includes a little pond for my husband. Not to keep him in, mind, but for him to fulfill his wish to keep water plants and some fish. And, that little pond has a honking big pump in it that pulls electricity 24/7. Maggie is right, you can’t win. At least not every time. Still, we all seem to agree we want to keep trying to find the times we do win because this is important to us all.

  6. Vicky: Great suggestions. The 1993 Volvo--affectionately referred to as "Big Red"--is on its last legs and we again will be in the hunt for a car. I'm thinking Prius and have told Jim that he can use the Mini for his station car. That's enticement enough. 55 mpg! That's amazing.

    Can't wait until you blog, Vicks! Maggie

  7. My re-usable tote grocery bags do come in handy. And they're pretty trendy too, so I love them! Now as far as walking instead of driving, I don't think I've gotten to that point. I'm new to this whole green thing, so I'm still at the stage of recycling and what not. But I have switched to bioheat, which is a little out of my element, but I love it. It's awesome! Have you heard of it? It's pretty popular in the green community. It's biodegradable and non-toxic, so you won't have to breathe in all of those nasty fumes. The best part is that it's made of heating oils blended with every-day products like avocado and corn. Cool right?

    I found out about it through my job here at NORA. I did more research on it and found out some great info and more tips from:

    Check it out and see what other suggestions are offered.

  8. Oh, I forgot one other suggestion that we're trying: rain barrels to reclaim and better water and keep it out of the public drainage system.

  9. Okay, folks, we've done a lot of what you've all related, the new light bulbs, recycling, etc. Our biggest contribution has been putting solar panels on our roof. We didn't do it to go green, though, we did it to lower our electric bill which was $700 a month during the summer and we only have one portable air conditioner! And we accomplished our goal, the bill has been $1.37 a month so far.

    We use all those totes that I got at mystery cons for our groceries, though I like to get the plastic bags once in awhile because I use them to line my waste baskets.

    Our car is a Ford Edge and it gets 30 plus miles to the gallon and is really comfortable. My eldest daughter has a Scion and loves it. And the backseats are actually comfortable.



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