Sunday, 17 March 2013

St. Patrick's Day, Spring, and Going Green

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Actually, my blog today has nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day, but everything to do with going green.
This post is a reflection on my part as to what I can do better in terms of being environmentally responsible, although I hope it will motivate my readers as well.

Our family has taken to heart many of the ‘green’ suggestions that abound and there has been ‘green-growth’ in our family in the past decade.

Mostly I have to thank my European ancestors who were very frugal and actually very environmentally responsible. My own parents brought us up in a ‘waste-not-want-not’ environment. Growing up, my siblings and I never ate pre-packaged food. Not even cookies or bread! I never even tasted any  Kraft dinner until I was in my twenties (never learned to like it). Our mother baked bread, Zweiback, pastries, cookies, etc. She had a juicer and instead of buying juice, she made it from scratch. We drank a lot of fruit and vegetable juice which always included carrots and apples. It was delicious! Another benefit is the health we all enjoy because of the clean eating we ‘endured/enjoyed’ as children.

My mother sewed and repaired our clothing, shoes, etc. Our dad was a fixer. Everyone knew him as the Fix-it Magician. If someone had given up on an appliance, vehicle or machinery, they would pass it on to ‘Rudy’ knowing he could fix it and either re-use it or give it away. To this day I struggle with throwing something away, preferring to pass it on to someone who can make use of it. I figure almost everything must have a second (or third, fourth. . . .) life. As children we sometimes felt embarrassed by the frugal and responsible environmental approach of our parents, but as adults we greatly appreciate this upbringing.
Having my own family meant that I continued many of the values I had been taught. But it also meant joining the mass of convenient methods and items for purchase that appear to make life easier. It's just too easy to buy cheap, buy packaged, buy convenience - much to the harm of our health and the health of our earth.

As I pondered this topic, I figured I would make a list of seven virtues and seven sins of the Gerhard household environmental efforts.
Seven Environmental Virtues:

·         In my home we use a geothermal heating and cooling, well-to-well system.

·         We survive on home-made meals and snacks for the most part, therefore purchasing less pre-made meals and snacks. My mother (as do I and my husbnad) still makes us food from scratch.

·         We have our own water filtration system – no need for plastic water bottles. We also use well-water.

·         Food is rarely wasted in our home. We are very efficient with left-over food. The chickens next door get our scraps and peels (and no, we never give them left-over chicken). We have a dog, but she rarely gets left-overs.

·         Our home and appliances are highly-efficient; We built with tri-pane, gas-filled windows and doors to keep heating costs down. My dad still repairs anything that requires repairs.

·         I used cloth diapers and did early toilet-training. (In all honesty, I did end up using disposable as well.)

·         Much of our laundry is hung up, rather than put in the dryer.

Seven Environmental Sins:

·         Living on an acreage means that we drive a lot, using a lot of gas for our vehicles.

·         With a household of six people, multiple long showers are taken on a daily basis.

·         We buy WAY too many clothes and way too many shoes (amongst other things).

·         We are electricity hogs – lights, multiple media items, large appliances, etc.

·         We wash loads and loads of laundry per week.

·         We mow our much-too-large lawn with a gas-dependent garden tractor.

·         We like to use our wood-stove and gas fireplace for atmosphere during winter, on top of our geothermal heating.

Obviously our household still has a lot of room for improvements. First on my list is cutting back on electricity use, shorter showers and definitely trying to purchase less 'stuff.'

Let’s Go Greener! as we get ready for Spring in just a few days.

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