Thursday, May 8, 2008

It Ain't Easy Being Green

I just submitted the following for my newspaper column this week. I thought it would be a cool snap shot of the world to have for our digital family archives, so I'm posting it here as well.

The green movement is ruining my shower.

I love long, hot showers. There’s no quicker way to relaxation for me than to hop in and crank up the heat – just before scalding is best – and stand there awhile. I can literally feel the stress melt away as the water falls down over me and I have to force myself to leave and begin my day. But lately, I’ve sabotaged my personal respite with my growing desire to ‘green’ our lifestyle and lessen the mark our family is leaving on the planet. As soon as that almost meditative state envelopes me in the shower, a loud speaker in my head says, “You’re wasting water and using too much energy to heat it up!”

Don’t worry; I’m not going to preach to you about brushing your teeth in shower or cranking out a worm colony in the basement. How and if we get green is a personal decision that definitely comes with challenges. For years, I’ve made alterations here and there, slowly morphing the course of my thoughts when it comes to the environment. Recently, I’ve done some regular writing in the ‘green space’ which has opened my eyes to many things and left me focused on reusing, recycling and conservation more than ever before. I’ve got a way to go; I don’t fully understand what a “carbon footprint” is, but know that big changes stick better for me in small doses, so I’m working on them one day at a time.

Last week, I bought all reusable grocery bags. For six dollars, I was able to feel good and rid myself of the dreaded chores of watching the plastic mountain in my laundry room grow and recycling the bags with my toddler in tow. Those new bags hold a ton and now, I use my six bags in lieu of at least twenty plastic ones. That’s only two trips to the car to bring them inside!

The thing that hits home for me is pondering where all our garbage goes. So, I recycle like crazy and have started limiting my use of plastic wherever possible, such as choosing reusable containers over plastic bags. As parents, our decisions are often ruled by convenience and I am guilty of single-handedly keeping Ziploc afloat. For now, I’m just cutting down; I’ve got to be realistic.

As far as other changes we’ve made, we keep lights and electronics off when not in use, altered our thermostat settings and switched to doing most laundry in cold water. We’re slowly replacing all the old light bulbs.

The payoffs of our modifications are starting to become obvious. I’m noticing a reduction in our utility bills. More importantly, little comments to our kids about green choices they can make seem to be sticking. I feel like I’m helping them develop a love and respect for Earth and become part of something bigger, all at the same time.

I guess the bottom line is that I want to see our planet be here and beautiful for years and generations to come. Implementing these changes at a snail’s pace allows us to accept them more easily and even determine which simple pleasures may be too good to give up.

For you, maybe it’s the convenience of a handy water bottle or the all important paper towel. For me, it’s my hot shower. I just can’t do it, not yet.

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