Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Going Green
Today Oprah's "Going Green 101" episode aired here.

I've been sort of a hippie at heart for years. I think I first really became conscious of that when I was a freshman in high school back in 1991-92. For speech contest, I was part of a Reader's Theater, and our whole performance was about recycling and saving the planet.

Watching the program today, I realized that our household is relatively friendly to the environment. And as I was telling Tash (love you too, my dear!) last week, part of my mental well-being here involves me finding joy, happiness, and satisfaction in where I am right now, whether I ever return to the States or not.

So I'm making this list as a sort of pat-on-the-back to myself and reminder to my future self... and also as a challenge, particularly to my American friends... only because I could have made some of these changes earlier but couldn't have been bothered. (And to the Queen of the Plastic Cups, love you though I do, I feel the need to publicly call you out on that issue and beg you to use a glass glass at least once a week... baby steps.) :)

[Items in green have been implemented since my move to Australia.]

▲ Recycle
I did this in Nashville, but let me tell you, they didn't make it easy. My roommates and I filled the bins we bought ourselves and then had to fit them in the car and drive to a grocery store up the street. Once there we had to separate the clear glass from the colored glass from the aluminum from the paper from the cardboard and put it all in the appropriate dumpster.

I also rallied to become a paperless office, but when your boss is a meticulous record-keeping attorney, those cries are in vain.

However, here our recycle bin (thanks Alyda) is three times as large as the garbage can we keep in the kitchen. And all items with the recycle triangle on it can go in. (We used to only be able to recycle plastic with certain numbers in the triangle.)

▲ Compost
My roommate from 10 years ago and I talked about composting for four years and never lived in a place where we could really start doing it. Mostly because we didn't really know how to start.

However, the day we moved into this house, Hans's dad brought over a black, plastic garbage can with a large hole cut in the bottom and smaller holes drilled around the sides. He set it upside-down near the bush at the bottom of the stairs and told us to put all our scraps in there. We've been composting ever since.

You don't need to know how or why it works, but it just compacts itself, and there is always room for more. It never stinks, and my only complaint is the mosquitoes that seem to hang around it -- but it's Australia, so mozzies are everywhere.

With no garbage disposal, this definitely keeps our little garbage can under the sink from filling up with skanky stinkness.

▲ Use a Clothesline
Now I've always had certain garments that I wouldn't let go in the dryer for fear of shrinkage. Tall, long-torsoed people need all the length they can get. But here... people just don't HAVE dryers.

I can honestly say that for the last year and nine months (bar the two months in America) that I have not used a dryer for ANYTHING. And while part of me longs to have fluffy lint-free towels and sheets, the other part of me knows that I'm saving energy.

▲ Don't Own a Car
▲ Use Public Transportation
▲ Carpool
I put these together, because for me they all go hand-in-hand. We don't have a car, and thus use public transport. And when we are in a car, it's because we're going to the same place as the people who own the car.

From the day I turned sixteen until the day I moved to Australia, I only went a couple months at a time at the MOST without easy access to a vehicle of my own or a family member. I argue that it's difficult to live without a vehicle in America unless you are in a metro area with a decent public transport system. However, carpooling is definitely an option.

(And while there is considerable disdain for the Franklin Trolley system over at the koolaid stand, I'd like to think that if I were to move back there now that I would make more use of it knowing life as I know it now. I guess it was never destined to work in a community where your social status is dependent upon being seen everywhere in your H2.)

▲ Bring Your Own Grocery Bags
Every grocery store here sells reusable polypropylene shopping bags. They cost a dollar most places, and it's a norm here. I have about 7 green ones and 3 purple ones. :) It's so easy to take them along, and it's great to know we aren't using all those plastic bags.

▲ Reduce Water Use
"White people bathe too much."

That's the only thing I remember Professor Williams saying in my African-American History course, though he's probably right.

Southeast Queensland (see map) is in the middle of a drought, and we've all been forced to take measures to conserve water here. But you don't have to wait for a shortage to become water conscious. Take shorter showers. (Even better, share the shower.) :) Only run the dishwasher and washing machine when you can do a full load. We also keep a bucket in the bathroom to catch the water that runs while we're waiting for the shower to heat up. We then use this perfectly clean water on the plants outside.

▲ Buy Meat from the Butcher
▲ Buy Vegetables from the Market
I don't know that these are exactly a "going green" effort, but we do waste less by getting our meats from the butcher. There's absolutely no styrofoam packaging, and I know I'm getting the freshest meat possible.

Same goes for the markets. We buy as much as we are going to use and don't have extra packaging. (We bring our green and purple bags along, of course.) And we save lots of money in the process.

▲ Use Non-Toxic Cleaning Supplies
I miss Method more than I can express. I still remember coming across it at Target and eventually buying everything they non-toxically make. Even turned my mom on to it, as cleaning products usually turn her hands into dry, cracked wastelands of their former selves.

I am happy to say that we've started using Cinderella products here, and for the most part they are a happy substitute until Method graces our shores. Most people won't mind, but the multi-purpose spray is spearmint-smelling. I just hate spearmint, but I'm learning to get over it.

▲ Adjust the Thermostat
Depending on the season, turn the thermostat up or down to save energy. I did this in Nashville, because my room was always the coldest in the summer and warmest in the winter. But our house here doesn't even have a thermostat; I can't say that I'm doing this one by choice. So I sit here in 17 layers of clothing under a blanket and am considering putting on gloves, and in the summer we open the windows and sweat. While we live in the extremes, perhaps adjusting your thermostat a degree or two wouldn't be such a struggle.

ANYWAY, there you have it. While I'm impressed with myself, I know there is more to be done. We're slowly replacing our bulbs with energy-efficient ones. We're trying to get in to the habit of turning things off at the outlet. (Yes, outlets have switches here.) And we've been know to leave a computer or two on all night. But let me know what you guys are doing to go green lately!


Jun 19 2007, 02:04 am

I think I can beat you (only just) because we use solar power (as of two months ago on the roof of the big house) AND tank water. I only have a tiny itsy bitsy hot water tank, no dishwasher .. and I always make sure that I have a sinkful of dishes before I run a sinkful of water.

9:42 PM  

Jun 19 2007, 08:07 am

Okay... you win. :P

9:42 PM  

Jun 19 2007, 06:45 pm

we're using less plastic cups due to the fact I'm drinking only bottled water. (and, yes, I'm recycling the bottles)
BUT, in my defense, with a 3 year old, plastic cups are much less likely to break when dropped.

9:43 PM  

Jun 19 2007, 09:04 pm

Still lobbying for curbside recycling here in Franklin, but it's not taking root.

We might could use central recycling centers though. At the last BOMA meeting (*boring I know*) they mentioned landfill space was diminishing and getting more expensive.


9:43 PM  

Jul 02 2007, 11:47 am

Very inspirational post!

Of course you could do more. We could all do more. But every little bit helps. :)

9:43 PM  

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