Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Our Earth Day Report Card

Happy Earth Day! Like a lot of people these days, we are trying to be more environmentally conscious. I was thinking about

Good things we do:
  • Compost. We recently bought an actual bin for about $40 at Sams's Club, as our previous home-made containment device didn't contain the yard waste well and pretty much looked like a large pile of leaves, dirt, and rose bush clippings. The new one is kind of ugly black plastic, but it's contained and the black will trap heat, which ought to help. As I was transferring the old stuff into the new bin on Sunday, I realized that our inept first attempt was actually somewhat successful--the bottom layer was a rich, dark, soft earthy material. Now, however, the good stuff has been layered throughout the new bin to help get some of the upper levels moving. Maybe by next spring our garden will actually benefit from the trouble!
  • Reusable Grocry Bags. We now own a large enough collection to carry a full, large load of groceries home. We have 1-2 from each of several stores--Schnucks, Target, Walmart, Trader Joe's, etc. They were cheap, like $1 each, purchases 1 or 2 at a time over several weeks. I wish stores would offer some sort of incentive (free bag with $100 purchase, or 25c off your grocery bill for reusing bags)--I think more folks would take them up on it. The nice side benefit is that all the plastic grocery bags don't pile up and then multiply under the sink anymore (I swear they were breeding down there...) I could never remember to take them back to the stoers to recycle, and we just don't go through that much bathroom trash to reuse them all.
  • Recycling. Hooray for Maryland Heights for providing free recycling starting this year and HUGE free recycling bins to all homeowners. We were paying to recycle before, and constantly overflowing the little bin. These days, our recyclling bin is about half of our weekly trash output.
  • Programmable Thermostat. It saves us money too.
  • Bottled water: Rather, a lack of it. We own a fair number of travel cups/water jugs and rarely use bottles. If we do, we recycle them.

Not so good things:
  • Disposable diapers. This is purely a time thing. Without using cloth diapers, our laundry is never done. Maybe if I could afford to hire help. Or to pay a diaper service, which, last I checked, costs more than our disposables (and involves buring gas for the service to drive them around town).
  • Unplugging appliances that arent' in use: I frequently wander around unplugging things like my razor charger (I use an electric..don't laugh, it works), and teh power cord to the bounce house, which has a LED in it. But I have yet to convince my hubby to actually shut off the computers during the day, and there are lots of plugs that are just a pain to reach, so they stay in.

Where we would improve, if we could:

  • Light Bulbs: We have replaced some bulbs with compact fluorescents, but we ahve a lot of lights on dimmer switches. Like, every celing fan in the house (6 fans x 4/5 bulbs each). I have yet to find a compact fluorescent in the stores that is safe for dimmers. Also, last time we tried those with our light-sensing timers for the outside lights, we got a bad flashing effect.
  • Cars. We have talked about replacing one of our cars with a hybrid. Possibly both--but one would have to be a hybrid minivan (if such a thing exists yet) or an SUV (something with some hauling capacity, you know). In the mean time, we are living car-payment free, and that is a lot more important to us.
  • Solar Electricity. My husband has been drooling for years over solar shingle setups that would let us collect our own electricitiy. Theoretically, we could even sell any overflow back to the power company, effectively getting paid during the sunny summer months. The initial cost is kind of high, and right now, we're probably halfway through the life of our roof, so it's not a good time.
  • Buying more locally grown produce. I don't know why the grocery stores import their bell peppers from Chile when there are local farms that sell them. I don't have time to head downtown or to Kirkwood weekly to buy fruit and veggies. I finally last year discovered a farmers market that is within reasonable driving distance, so hopefully we will make some use of that this summer. We usually try to grow a few things of our own, but our garden space is limited, and the local rabbit population plentiful (probably thanks to our meager efforts). This year, if we're lucky, we're hoping for a bumper crop of pumpkins. Or at least one or two.
  • Ride my bike to work. I suppose it's theoretically possible--I've biked this distance before. If I lived a little closer, I really might in good weather. But, really, it's not going to happen. Working from home is completely out of the question, due to the nature of my job. So, I burn gasoline.
How about you? What do you do that is good for the environment? Anything that you don't do? Won't do?


Amanda said...

I wasn't very eco friendly before going to England, but they are very sensitive to landfill space (being an island) and to the environment.

I bought grocery bags over in England and brought them home with me. Even though I had to buy bottled water over there (the water was hard and tasted funny) I recycled all the empty bottles. Our grocery store had recycling bins outside for everything. I need to be better about getting paper waste into the recycling bin, but I'm happy we have free recycling too. I'd be more than happy to pick up fresh fruit and veg for you guys at the farmers' market if you tell me where it is. I was adament when we returned that I wanted a non-gasguzzling vehicle which made car shopping more difficult. Hybrids were too expensive, so I went for a subcompact which has great storage if you don't have anyone in the back seat. But I get 33 miles/gallon on the interstate. Also since I'm not working I'm not driving to work. I've made all the kids' lessons within a five mile radius so I shouldn't use that much gas. Hopefully I can fill the tank once a month like in England.

Kristi said...

The farmers' market is at Thies Farm--you know, the pumpkin patch that does the Pumpkinland every year. They're off Creve Coeur Mill Road. I think there's another location near 170 & Hanley too. I just heard about the place for the first time last fall when daycare took the kids there (and we went back 2 days later and hit the farmer's market). I haven't had a chance to go back since they opened this spring--if I get a chance one of these days I'll give you a call, but I'd have to go myself one or twice before I could even try to make a list for someone else.

Small efficient cars are great. I still miss my old '98 Civic--it got nearly 40 miles to the gallon on the highway (32 city). My Accord is more like 27/22, which was pretty darned good for a V6 :) Still, yesterday I nearly broke the $50 barrier for filling up my tank ($49.48)--that's still my most expensive tank of gas ever.

flatflo said...

My family has recycled, composted, reused, etc. for a very long time, plus my sister studied environmental science at WU, so I am pretty gung-ho. Dave & I have reduced enough that we usually only have 1 small bag of trash to take out each week. I have a paper waste recycle container set out right where I sort the mail, including a shredder and a small trash can for those annoying plastic faux credit cards. Richmond Heights has a pretty great recycling program (including yard waste); just waiting for them to roll out the big roll-out bins, too.

I've been using cloth grocery bags, and baggers at schnucks, etc are finally not looking at me funny when I hand them over. My younger sister was in town for the winter holidays and we were shopping for Christmas dinner with the bags sitting in the cart. A woman in a full length fur coat comes over to me and says how much she admires me for bringing my own bags, and that she can never remember to. A little surreal.