Monday, March 28, 2011

Ready for another eco-mami challenge?

Earth day will be upon us soon and I will begin my 30 days of eco-tips on the eco-mami Facebook page again.  So I decided to start this upcoming month of posts with a more elaborate description of eco-tip #1:
Go energy-free for a whole day.  Saturday was Earth Hour, an event started by the WWF in 2007, that encouraged people to turn off their lights and electronics for 1 hour starting at 8:30 pm.  This is an expansion of that.  I know this seems like an impossible challenge in these technological times but it can be done.  Of course, keep your fridge on, but there are more ways to do this without putting a complete cramp on your day.

1.  Go TV-free for 24 hrs:  This includes video games & DVD players.  Find other things to do with the kids and with your loved ones, such as board games, cards, or going outside.  Keep your DVR on record to catch your favorite shows but catch up on them another day.

2.  Turn off the AC/Heat:  With the mild spring weather, you won't even notice it's off.  Just open some windows to bring in some fresh air (after it's stopped snowing, of course).

3.  Give your kitchen a break:  Eat cold foods (like sandwiches or salads), eat out, or grill out.  That way you don't have to use the stove, oven or microwave to make your meals.

4.  Leave the dishwasher/washer/dryer off for a day.  Handwash or just leave it til the next day.

5.  Go gadget-free for 24 hrs:  If you need a laptop for work, wait for the weekend for this 24 hr electricity-free day.  Use your cell phone only to make phone calls.  And go off Facebook for 24 hrs.  I particularly know how hard this will be, but the less we use our gadgets, the less we have to charge them and the more energy we save.

6.  Turn off the lights:  Have a candlelight dinner.  The kids will love this (if they're still awake at that hour) and couples will enjoy it even more.  

If you are successful, why not try it once a week?  What will you get out of it?

  • It'll be fun for kids, once they've stopped whining
  • Great bonding time for families and friends
  • Maybe it'll spark more romance with your special someone (candles set the mood, after all)
  • It'll save you some money on your bills
  • You'll save energy, which reduces the need for oil, which reduces the pollution, which reduces the wars, which reduces... you get the picture
So, pick a beautiful day to go energy-free.  What do you have to lose?

Monday, March 21, 2011

To nuclear, or not to nuclear?

After the recent natural disaster in Japan that triggered one of the biggest nuclear disasters in history, everyone is questioning whether or not nuclear power is safe.  Germany closed it's nuclear power plants just in case.  France said it was ridiculous to shut down anything just because of this one disaster.  And people here in the United States are just confused.

I've always been hesitant to support this growing trend, even though Europe seems to be pretty dependent on this type of power and is very proud of not having to rely on foreign oil.  But I can't help but think back to Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.  Although I was too young at the time to really understand what happened, it stuck in my mind as being a very bad thing that no one ever wanted to repeat again.

From what I understand, Three Mile Island was caused by human error.  The incidents in Japan were triggered by the tsunami.  I'm still not clear on what exactly is happening except that there are meltdowns occurring with lots of radiation being released.  They've evacuated up to 20 miles surrounding these power plants and lots of people are just leaving the country.  Radiation levels are high even in Tokyo, which is 180 miles away.

It doesn't help that the Japanese government is saying this is a lethal and toxic situation, while the nuclear power company is saying it's just fine.  What are the citizens supposed to do and who are they supposed to trust?

The other lingering question is if the radiation cloud will be carried over to the US atmosphere.  Scientists keep saying "no", but who really knows.  The most important question, however, is
"Is nuclear power really safe?"

Sure, we want to be off of foreign oil and find new ways to feed the energy addiction this country has, but I don't think that's the answer.  Also, disposing of the nuclear waste has always been an environmental concern. With these disasters happening around the world, however many years in between each incident, these are major things to consider.  In my honest opinion, it's too risky, and there are far better, less environmentally-damaging ways to bring us electricity.

We DO need to get off foreign oil, but why not try CONSERVING.  We don't need every TV on in the house all day long.  We don't need to have the AC/Heat on if it's 70 degrees outside.   We DON'T need to IDLE our cars (because of the pollution, the noise, the waste, and the cost).  There are ways to not have to use so much fuel/energy in one day.  RENEWABLE ENERGY is another solution, nuclear is NOT.

I'm no expert, but that's my 2 cents.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tech detox

The first step in AA is admitting you have an addiction.  So here it is: I'm addicted to the internet, particularly my smart phone.  My iPhone has the capability of checking Facebook, my email, USA Today, NPR, Huffington Post (Green section, of course), the weather, the movies, making lists, and most importantly, my calendar.

The fact that I can do all of this makes it extremely difficult to get out of bed in the morning as I check all of these things before I start my day.  Unfortunately, however, it doesn't end there.  No, I actually had to make an effort this week to only check my phone once an hour.  Isn't that sad?

This doesn't exactly fit the mold of a tree-hugging environmentalist, does it.  We're supposed to be completely disconnected from the technological world.  But, as I mentioned before, I'm not your normal hippie.  I own a TV and even have cable.  The internet is my friend but perhaps being too connected isn't so eco-friendly (because of all the power it takes to charge all of these devices).  I think it's time for a change.

I've seen so many news articles about how our kids are being neglected by parents being on their smart phone or laptops that I started taking a look at myself, and it ain't pretty.
Here's the steps I've taken so far:

  • Only get on my laptop while the kids are at school or are in bed.  
  • Only watch TV if the kids are watching or after they've gone to bed.  
  • I even try to not listen to news radio when my daughter's in the car so I can give her my undivided attention.  
  • And my phone, well, I'm trying to keep it out of reach in order not to be tempted to look at it.

So far the strategy is working.  I keep the phone ringer on super-high so I can hear it ring anywhere in the house.  I don't keep the laptop within reach when my daughter is at home.  The problem is when I'm out and about.  I have the phone in my hand usually if I'm grocery shopping and old habits die hard.  Even my daughter is addicted to the phone as I use it to keep her occupied at doctor's appointments or soccer games (that she's watching, not playing in.  Now THAT would be addicted!).

So this is my goal:

  • To be less dependent on that darn 3x5 device that sucks up my mind once I pick it up.  
  • Treat every silent moment to build my patience, not as an opportunity to see which basketball team won the NCAA game that day nor to email a friend.  
Let's see if I can start living in the moment, giving my kids all of my attention, and not having to fill all of my time with technology.  Who knows, maybe I won't even notice the difference after a week or so.  :)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Take-out waste

My husband has been traveling on business trips...a lot, which leads me to take on the parental duties alone for 2 kids.  I have not had any desire to cook, which is rare for me, so I've relied on take-out maybe a little too much lately.  But as with most things that are convenient, there are environmental implications.

Remember when it was a big deal when McDonald's finally crossed over to the green world (somewhat) by changing their styrofoam boxes to paper/cardboard?  Why, then, have other eateries not done the same? It seems so wrong to have this stuff still in existence, yet so many places offer no alternatives if you order take-out.  I just read an article about Congress starting to scrap their green options in their cafeterias and it just seems like such antiquated thinking.

At least this is an option that can be recycled, but still very wasteful.

Plastic bags
There is that debate on Paper vs. Plastic but I'd rather take paper than see another plastic bag floating in our streams and oceans.  Or take your own bag to put the stuff in.

Aluminum foil
This can also be recycled, but still very wasteful and not very energy efficient to produce.

There are at least a few places out there that offer green take-out packaging that is made from biodegradable, plant-based materials.  This is the least guilt-inducing of all the take-out waste and I wish more restaurants would use them.  It's more costly, I'm sure, but it's a great thing to label yourself a "green" restaurant which can entice more customers into your business, no?

The super-hippy way
I guess the best way to get take-out without adding to landfill waste is to bring your own containers to these establishments (and risk getting looked at like you have 3 heads when you ask them to put your food in it).  I haven't quite reached this level of bold eco-friendliness, although I have been tempted at times.

So there you have it, more ways to feel guilty about convenient living.  I felt terrible by the end of the week for not making my own food.  I usually only eat out once a week and very rarely get take out because of the implications.  Maybe I'll go meat-free just to make up for it.  Maybe.