By Jeanann Pannasch
As a couple, my husband and I were naturals to become part of the green movement: We already used mass transportation, spent considerable time camping in national parks and recycled obsessively (rinsing foil and all). But it was the birth of our daughter that deepened our commitment to making easy household changes -- the idea of leaving the world better for her and her generation.
Here’s how we created a greener home:
1. To Market, to Market
Our vast collection of reusable market bags started with two cute canvas totes I’d purchased at a thrift store. Now we have about 14 totes, which we grab as readily as we grab our keys on our way out the door for groceries. We’re keeping plastic bags out of landfills, and as a bonus, the totes’ sturdy shoulder straps make schlepping goods up the stairs to our front door less back-breaking.
2. What Good Things Grow
Through my husband’s involvement with the local community garden, we learned about a massive composting initiative, which takes neighborhood compostable waste and transforms it into dark, nutrient-rich dirt. Now, after dinner, we take a bowl of our unwanted onionskins, carrot peels and eggshells and leave them in the bin at the garden gate. Less waste in our kitchen means that our garbage bags go further too.
3. Seeing the Light
When compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL) first became available (and the U.S. government announced that if every home replaced one regular bulb with a CFL bulb, we could prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year), it was a no-brainer. We made the switch, socket by socket. But we were concerned when we learned that the mercury in these bulbs made proper disposal an imperative. Fortunately, Home Depot has signed on as a nationwide recycler, so all we have to do is to bring our used bulbs there and look for the big orange bin just for CFLs.
4. Second Lives
Living on a tight budget through college is probably what ratcheted up my resourcefulness. As a result, I’m always looking for the next use of an item before throwing it away. The pink sheets that are now too scratchy for sleeping? With a little time and effort, they became a doll, with eyes made from old buttons and hair from my abandoned knitting-project yarn. The old album covers collecting dust on the shelves? A couple of ready-made frames transformed them into instant wall art.
5. Off With It!
Hot out? Line dry your clothes instead of using the dryer. Not actively on the computer? Power down and unplug it. Bored? Reach for that huge pile of been-meaning-to-read books instead of grabbing the remote. There are hundreds of alternatives to the old electronic habits. And once you’re committed to changing your habits, it’s easy not to look back.
Jeanann Pannasch is a former editor of Ms., Spin, Random House and The Feminist Press. She's written for Ms., Self, The Women's Sports Foundation, MSNBC.com and LifetimeTV.com. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, four-year-old daughter and two long-clawed cats.
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