My Green City Life

Home again, home again
July 14, 2008, 5:12 pm
Filed under: your green lifestyle

I’ve been out of town this past week. Matt and I went to visit his family in rural central Florida. It’s always good to see the family, and it’s certainly always relaxing to be on vacation, but it’s nice to be home too. Coming home and getting back into my daily routine, if you can call it that… just being in the familiar settings I’ve set up for myself in this apartment is comforting.

This trip took us to three different people’s homes for short or long visits, and each one really drove home how different my day-to-day life is from “normal” people’s, simply because I have implemented some green changes in my life that those “normal” folks haven’t. Here are some of the big ones:

Cars. I don’t own a car anymore. I use public transit. But that isn’t an option out in the country where we were staying. A bike doesn’t seem that practical either when you have to ride 20 miles to get to town.

Paper plates. I was taken aback a little bit by the number of times I was given a paper plate to use at a meal or for a snack.

Prepackaged food. I always forget that The Average American buys waaaaaay more prepacked/ready-to-eat/convenience food than I do. I don’t even really like buying canned cooked beans; I’d rather buy dried beans in bulk and cook them myself.

Toilet habits. It’s good to be home with my toilet cloth where my yellow can mellow. This is one that I’ve only changed within the last year or so, but it’s certainly become a hard and fast habit!

Soap. I’ve been making my own body soap and laundry soap for years now. Using body wash is so foreign to me now. It’s so unnecessarily bubbly, has so many strange chemical ingredients, and never seems to fully wash off. In terms of laundry soap, mine has no added fragrance, so “fresh” or “clean” smelling commercial laundry detergents smell terribly perfume-y to me. I hate to think of all the pollutants they add to the water.


Riot for Austerity future goals
June 2, 2008, 12:42 pm
Filed under: your green lifestyle

The Riot for Austerity started a year ago, which means I should do a wrap-up post, but in the spirit of putting the cart before the horse, I’d like to first do a looking ahead post. One of the areas of reduction I could have done a better job of tracking is water. We don’t pay for our water usage, and as such, we don’t know exactly how much water we use. However, I could have done some estimations; I just didn’t. I also didn’t work very diligently to decrease our household’s water usage. The water-saving measures we took were passive (old, water guzzling toilet broke so we got a new one) or for other reasons (got a portable washing machine that uses less water than the ancient communal coin-operated machines downstairs).

One water-saving measure I’d like to adopt is taking shorter showers. I don’t think I take really long showers, but they could be quicker. I’d like to at least time a shower and calculate how much water it used. I think it will be an eye-opening experiment that I should have performed a long time ago.

This one has to do more with consumer goods than water, but I’d also like to experiment with going no ‘poo — as in using baking soda and/or apple cider vinegar instead of shampoo. Will this affect my shower water usage? I don’t know. We’ll find out. But at least I’ll be purchasing less, trashing/recycling less, and putting fewer chemicals down the drain.

Green vs. frugal
May 31, 2008, 4:16 pm
Filed under: on the town, your green lifestyle

Much of the time, living environmentally friendly and living frugal go hand in hand. One of the reasons to go green that those easy-to-swallow articles and top ten lists often reference is the money you save when you switch to CFLs or take public transportation or whatever. But sometimes being green and being frugal go head to head. One of the obvious times when this happens is at the grocery store, and you are deciding being conventionally grown food and local/organic/sustainable food. If being environmentally friendly is your top goal, you’ll choose the latter; if being frugal is your top goal, you’ll choose the former.

A few months ago, we got a chest freezer. The reason for its purchase was to store veggies purchased at the market at the height of the season. I completely filled our normal freezer last year and didn’t feel as though I had done enough. (I must admit there is still a bit of eggplant and cauliflower in there.) I realized recently that I could finally start doing that frugal thing where you more than you need of stuff when it’s on sale and then stash it in your freezer. It all seems rather suburban mom to me if taken to a certain extreme, but if you do it wisely, it’s a smart move, I think.

Anyway, in a google search to find out if you can freeze milk (you can) I stumbled across The Grocery Game which is a site for those ultra-frugal, coupon-crazy suburban moms (or, to be fair, non-suburban non-moms) who know and utilize every trick in the frugal grocery book. On the site, there is a link to a morning show interview the Grocery Game founder did, and in the video, one of the things she mentions is that sometimes with sales or coupons or whatever, buying two small packages is a better deal than buying a big package when you get down to the ounce-to-ounce value.

This is the part that got me. I am definitely a shopper with an eye for the per-ounce (well, per 100 grams around these parts) price on the price tags at the store. But this can’t always be the only determining factor! Sure, you may save twenty cents by buying two small boxes of Cheerios instead of one big one, but you end up with more packaging being thrown away or recycled. It took more resources to make those two little boxes, and they probably took up more space on a truck being shipped across the country than that one big box.

It’s a delicate balance, and it makes me a little sad. For a lot of people, that twenty cents is an important twenty cents and not something that can be wasted, not even in the name of less packaging. I wish that being green and being frugal went together all the time.

A tip from Mom
December 27, 2007, 12:27 pm
Filed under: your green lifestyle

Here’s a green/thrifty tip from my mom that’s especially handy as we clean up after our holiday celebrations. Iron the tissue paper you receive and use it again. You probably already reuse gift bags and bows, but tissue paper works just as well after a quick run under an iron on very low heat. It loses a bit of crispness, but other than that, it’s good as new. Thanks, mom!

Live like you’re in a drought
December 19, 2007, 1:49 pm
Filed under: your green lifestyle

Conserving water is one of the “green” things that I struggle with. I really like long, hot showers (which use up not just water but energy for heating the water) especially when it’s cold out. And with all the snow on the ground recently, it’s hard to imagine being in a situation where you don’t have a lot of water available.

Georgia is one of the places in the US that is currently facing drought conditions. Athens-Clarke County has compiled a list of 75 ways to conserve water — a must if you’re in the middle of a drought and a very important thing to put into action even if you’re not. Take a look and see what water-saving techniques you can incorporate into your daily routine.

Thanks to David from The Good Human for the link.

Word of the Year: Must be important
November 14, 2007, 9:47 am
Filed under: your green lifestyle

Yesterday a friend let me in on the news that locavore is The New American Oxford Dictionary’s 2007 Word of the Year. Their description states

The “locavore” movement encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to grow or pick their own food, arguing that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better. Locavores also shun supermarket offerings as an environmentally friendly measure, since shipping food over long distances often requires more fuel for transportation.

About an hour after receiving this email, I was reading Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz and came across this passage:

We consumers of the affluent West have come to take for granted a constant flow of pleasure-gratifying products from faraway lands, at great cost of precious resources such as fossil fuels (for shipping), land (which could be used to grow real food to feed people), labor (which would be better directed toward local needs), and global biodiversity. Globalized markets amount to cultural decadence. Decadence (from the word “decay”) is unsustainability: behavior likely to contribute to biological or social decline or collapse.

He is talking about more decadent items such as chocolate and coffee, which come from countries where all land is devoted to producing these “cash crops” for export, and people end up starving because they have no food. However, I think the same general argument can be made for monocultures on our own continent, such as the acres upon acres of corn and soybeans in the midwestern US. Eating locally encourages a variety of locally grown food.

On the Amazon listing for the aforementioned _Wild Fermentation_ the author has this to say:

“Sustainability is Participation” is my current motto. Our food system, in which barely one percent of the people produce food for the other 99% to eat, is producing diseased people, diseased land, diseased animals, and diseased economies. We must break out of the restrictive and infantalizing role of consumer. We are all inherently capable of producing food. More of us must make that a focus in order to create better food choices.

Be a locavore!

November 7, 2007, 12:07 am
Filed under: your green lifestyle

We all have pet peeves, but being the eco-geek that I am, some of my biggest pet peeves have to do with people being environmentally irresponsible. Leaving the water running while brushing one’s teeth comes to mind. Littering always gets me worked up, especially if the offending piece of garbage is a still burning cigarette. Ugh! There’s a way to pollute both land and air at once!

Another one that I find just mind-boggling is driving really short distances when you could just walk. And I mean *really* short distances. For example, one time I was doing some last minute Christmas shopping with some people I didn’t know all that well. We were at one of those very large strip mall places that is made up of a few big box stores in a row — Best Buy, Old Navy, Bed Bath & Beyond… those sorts of places. We had just left one store, empty-handed and piled back in the SUV (not mine!). The driver turned the car on and as it idled, climate control on full blast and stereo pumping, he and the other passengers decided we should hit up another big box store. So we backed out, drove about 200 feet… and pulled into another parking spot. We were just going into the next store over! What?! Why drive??? I couldn’t believe it! I still can’t believe it. Some people, I tell ya… Whew!

So what gets you all worked up?