Sunday, May 3, 2009

Being Green . . . .

My DH is a greenie . . . as in eco-friendly, obsessively recycling, biking instead of driving, pro-conservation environmentalist. You know, in the Living with Ed sense of the term (and if you have seen the tv show, then you can understand some of my life!). I noticed very early on in our relationship that DH did strange things in the name of conservation. For example, when at a party, if he HAS to use a paper or a plastic plate, he will either use mine when I'm done, or he will take a plate and use it for both his meal . . . and the dessert. If people try and take it from him, he will not relinquish it. He doesn't care that he is putting chocolate ice cream on top of leftover tomato sauce. While sometimes I find his habits annoying, underneath it all, I respect that he has an intense desire to improve the world and improve our living environment.

I have always been pro-environment, and even before I met DH, I took steps to recycle as much as was convenient for me to do so. I tried to make environmentally responsible choices, but know that I did not always do so. As a result of living with DH (especially as his green-ness increases with each passing day), I have increased my efforts to be green as well (and I would guess my family members are more aware of their actions and make some greener choices now, too).

About 15 months ago, we embarked on a home renovation project. In fact, we completely gutted DH's house to make it more livable. Part of our efforts were focused on "greening" up his house. We improved the insulation, we replaced all the windows with low-e windows, we reused existing trim/floors to the maximum extent possible, we used recycled glass tile for our kitchen backsplash, we used a recycled glass and composite concrete material for a bathroom countertop, we used no-VOC paints (to avoid fumes that could be harmful for us and the baby), we donated and recycled everything we removed rather than dumping it in a landfill, we bought energy star appliances, we installed low-flow toilets and water fixtures, and we installed carpet made from recycled plastic bottles.

The "greening" of our lives applies to more than just our housing materials. As we started down this path, we began to think about different chemicals we use in our daily lives, and how exposure to them would affect us and the baby. While I was ttc, I must say, it was appalling the amount of plastic (in the form of HPTs and OPKs) that I trashed each month. Since my pregnancy, we have taken "greenness" to a whole new level. We have made so many changes in the chemicals we use since I became pregnant - we look for low-VOC paints/finishes, we use non-toxic bug sprays, and we try to use healthir products whenever we can. We look to reduce our waste, and we look to buy safe/green/organic products for cleaning and for Micah. We look into using local and organic produce whenever possible. We have acquired several toys from others (reutilization) and we do not throw anything out when we have outgrown they're usefulness - we give them to others whenever possible, or donate to charity. We recycle all the waste we can from all the baby toys (they come wrapped in SO MUCH plastic and cardboard!).

Our biggest challenge we faced in this process was diapers . . . one of the most controversial subjects on babies and being green. It may surprise you to hear that we use disposable diapers. When we had Micah, we considered the whole concept of cloth diapers, and those special "G Diapers" that are supposed to be "greener." We were also concerned about how other people would deal with changing Micah (family members, babysitters, daycare) if we had cloth diapers. Without starting a whole debate here, ultimately, we determined that cloth diapers were not necessarily greener than disposable diapers. The materials and energy spent in creating the cloth diapers and the covers, the tax on the sewage system for dumping and washing the diapers, the harsh chemicals used by most of the diaper services were factors we considered. In our county, most waste is burned for energy rather than dumped in a landfill, so the diapers we "throw away" are used for energy. G Diapers also tax the sewage system, and we have determined that there are few benefits to the new "green" diapers like 7th Generation (and the new Green Huggies diapers). While those diapers are made from recycled unbleached materials . . . the energy wasted in creating the diapers is the same, and we had a terrible experience with leakage on the 7th Generation diapers. So we have come to peace with our decision to use disposable diapers.

A bit belatedly in honor of Earth Day, I urge you to take a look at your lives, and the health of your children (or future children), and see if there are ways you can "green" your lives, too, and improve this world for all of us! For those of you painting your house (or nurseries), I suggest no-VOC paints. If you are buying new carpet, the carpet padding is often the stuff that is the most toxic - I urge you to consider "green" carpet padding (felt or wool), and look into recycled plastic carpets (anything made from 100% PET). Consider reutilizing toys and other products . . . Craig's List is a great place to start. Donate clothing, furniture, electronics, and anything else you are getting rid of (or sell it on Craig's List) rather than throwing it in the garbage. When you go to the grocery store, try bringing your own bags - either re-use the plastic grocery bags from prior visits (and when they develop holes, recycle them) or purchase those canvas reusable grocery bags (or bring your own). Many grocery stores will even give you a $.05 or $.10 credit for each bag you bring, so save some plastic! When you make new purchases, try and recycle as much of the packaging as you can. If you have a new baby on the way, consider the most environmentally friendly way to deal with diapers, however you see fit. When we are out and about and need plastic bags for dirty diapers, I have a bunch of biodegradable bags that I keep in my diaper bag. Look at chlorine-free products, and consider using cloth diapers or other washable/reusable covers on your changing table rather than those throw-away paper covers. Whenever you are considering buying anything disposable (spoons, bowls, etc.) consider whether you can buy something that can be re-used and kept in your diaper bag long-term (this applies even if you don't have a baby - consider not buying single-serving size drinks, and instead keep a refillable drinking mug around). Maybe if we all think about it and make a few changes, we can improve this world just a bit for all of us.

1 comment:

Krissy said...

We're renovating our home and adding on as well. We've been trying to make concious efforts to make it as green as possible. We chose bamboo flooring, geo-thermal heating and low-e windows to name a few things. Not only is it better for our world, it saves a lot of money in the long run for the homeowner. A win/win!! :-)