Friday, April 26, 2013

Getting Green- One of my Personal Passions

Just a little post on how we could all be a little greener...It doesn't have to be a radical thing. Small steps all add up to a lot...

Living in Northern California, the importance of this is emphasized everywhere and I do appreciate it. I don't consider myself or my family to be eco-warriors, but we try to do our part. What that part is, is just a few things that we can all do and that are easy.

An Anthropologie Earth Day display.

I don't know if you are as old as I am, but do you remember that commercial in the 1970's with the Native American chief crying and walking among the trash? It may be corny, but that ad really affected me as a kid. As a little girl, I would be shocked if I saw someone throw trash out! I think it's stuck with me all these years. Being green seems like the right thing to do.

Several years back, when my youngest was in kindergarten, a friend was the home and school club president and asked me to help start a Green Team at our school. I had no idea what I was doing, but I liked the chance to educate my kids about being more green- and why it mattered. The team has grown the years and has a lot of wonderful leaders and is still going strong. I highly recommend doing this at your child's school if you can!

 We've done Earth Day fairs, costume swaps, planted gardens and even art contests using recycled items. The biggest impact though was getting recycling and this year composting of lunch waste. Lot's of red tape to get this going, but after years of persistence, it's working and the students are so good about doing this. I'm proud of all the caring elementary kids! The events were terrific community builders and brought out so many super parents, local businesses and got kids excited about being, 'green.'

One of Earth Day fairs and parents who participated.

Of course parents help shape the attitude of their kids towards being green. Some families are just not on board. It's not important to them. How though, I ask you, can you raise a caring individual in this world and not talk about caring for our planet too? 

 I just have a few pet peeves... One is families who are less than a block away from our school who daily pile their kids into an SUV to  drive to school each morning instead of walking. Then there are the moms in the car pick-up line in their huge cars with the motor running for 20+ minutes while they wait for their child to get out of school. I'm guessing these are the same folks with a 48 pack of water bottles in the back of the car and nary a reusable shopping bag.. And some families do not even make use of their recycle bins at all. Okay, I'm done ranting.

 Here's a few things we try to do in our house. I say try! We aren't perfect, but it's a start. If we all did a little more, it adds up.

- Reusable shopping bags! I love having cute ones. My favorites are from travels like The Jane Austen Center in Bath and Harrods. My friend Kim brought me one back from a grocer in France. Assert your style while shopping and it's one less tree or plastic item used on the planet! (I'm sorry I don't buy the argument that they are unclean. You can always use your washer or wipe them out.)

 (While we are on this, you do know that plastic bags are bad because plastic is a nonrenewable and petroleum derived product that takes very long to break down? When it does the tiny particles contaminate the soil and water system and ultimately end up in our food chain. Always choose paper if you are without a bag. It's can be reused at least and recycled.)

Apartment Therapy

- I never take a store shopping bag in the mall if I can help it. A fancy bag for my mascara ? Really? You can throw it in your purse. Another reason to always have a tote bag like Europeans carry. It's your purse as well as your shopping bag.

Feed bags are one of my favorite totes.
-Bike and walk whenever you can. Weekdays can be crazy at out house, but on weekends we try to make at least one bike trip to the grocery store. My husband has a backpack and I have a wicker bike basket to carry things. The kids go too and can lug things. It's fun and you feel so good doing this!

A grocery run.

-Kids bike, scooter or walk to school when they can.

Getting ready to walk to school with his rain coat. :)

- If you make lunches for yourself or your kids, invest in reusable containers. You'll save money and prevent plastic baggies from ending up in the water system. If you have to have baggies on hand choose paper waxed ones like we grew up with. Much less toxic to the Earth.

- Buy reuseable water bottles! Buy them for the family. We have loads. I try never to resort to individual plastic bottles, only when we are desperate. A plastic water bottle emits toxic chemicals being made and once produced is here to stay. The average bottle does not biodegrade and can be here 400+ years. They can be recycled, but 90% end up in landfills. What is shocking is the fact that each year the oil used to produce these bottles could fuel one million cars! We need to phase these out, but when you see folks leaving Costco with flats of these bottles the message is still not getting through or people don't care.

-Another thing that we can all try is consuming less and using things already on this planet. Did you know that the clothing industry is one of the most polluting in world, second only to oil in terms of toxic chemicals and pollution of water? Yet how often do we think of that when we buy a new shirt? Almost never I bet. By buying recycled goods we are lessening the impact of these industries on the planet. 

-First and foremost, buy less. Growing up in the 1970s, we bought clothes when school started and when Summer came. Oh how things have changed. What happened to us? We Americans are use shopping as a pastime and hobby. We go to the mall to entertain ourselves and buy new clothes almost all the time. It helps to take stock of your closets and purge what you don't wear, keep the best and have less. If you know what is exactly in your closet, you won't be tempted to shop all the time. When you add something it should be something you need or really love. It's worth buying quality too as it's more likely the items are made ethically. That five buck T-shirt may be so cheap because of child labor or poor working conditions and practices. It's not a bargain if it's bad for the planet.

-Another alternative, if you have to shop, is to check out vintage, resale or thrift stores. We have great one locally called Crossroads Trading Company. You can sell back your clothing and you can buy clothes here barely worn for very little. I love how this place merchandises by color and designers. I love how you can get an Anthropologie sweater here with the tags still on for $7. If you can find the right vintage or trading store you will become a convert. 

-Start a garden. Even if it's a small patch of lettuce or herbs in a container. You will love growing your own food. Organic food is good for the Earth and for your body. Did you know recent studies have proven that a year on an organic vegetable and fruits can actually eliminate heavy toxins and chemicals that have been stored in the body? Another great reason to eat organic. Also, the more we buy organic, the less it will cost to us all. 

I never have thought of myself as a green kind of person. However, I later realized that I had been living green in many ways just from how I was brought up. We always had a garden thanks to my father. I had green beans strung over my windows in the Summers, (My window looked over the garden and I still love the smell of wet dirt.) Our dad had a greenhouse complete with a compost bin filled with worms. As a kid, it was kind of fun. We grew up eating vegetables and anything that my dad grew. We even had chickens and got fresh eggs. Having a grandmother who grew up in the depression we learned not to throw things out and that most anything could be repurposed in another way.

What started as one generations way to be smart with money became another generations way of doing the right thing for the earth I guess. So if you look at the past, I think you could say our grandparents' and parents were a lot more greener.

If you have children, these are values like any other that need to be taught. You can't have caring and thoughtful kids who don't give a whit about the planet.

No one should stress about these things, but we make decisions each day that together can change the world. I truly believe that.

Let's do it! I'd love to hear more green ideas from you all.

Thanks for reading and I hope you don't mind me sharing something I'm passionate about.

Have a good weekend!



  1. Kim what an excellent post! All of your tips are completely doable. I think we are on the same page, right down to memories of that commercial!
    I walk everywhere and my husband walks to his office, we get by with one car and don't use it unless we have to. This makes a big difference to our budget too. Idling cars are actually illegal where we live, you'll be slapped with a ticket if you sit in front of a school with the engine running.
    You are spot on about the clothing industry, many people don't realize how polluting it is, and the amount of water used to process fabrics! It's really frightening. I try to buy made in the UK, USA or France. Sadly not much is made in Canada anymore so it's not really an option. Of course the best thing to do is just be happy with what we already have. :)
    Thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful post for us!

    1. Dani, Thanks so much for your wonderful note. I love that you can use one car. You must have transit which is sorely lacking in California. Also, the idling law seems like a super idea. You are good to buy things made in the U.K., U.S. or France where there are more factory regulations and environmental laws, so clothing has be be more ethically made and with less pollution. Of course the best thing is be happy with what we already possess! Love that.

  2. Wonderful post. I completely admit that Hubs and I need to be better about not using as much plastic bags, we usually forget to take the bags to the market to re-use again and we end up with a trunkful of bags. Ugh. But when I remember to re-use them, I use the plastic bags for other things - bags for garbage pails in the bathrooms, I take them to pack clothes in my suitcase on holidays - helps to separate dresses and keeps scarves, shoes, shampoos etc separate.

    I'm getting Hubs on board with trying to eat mostly organic. Ever since our winter Lenten experiment with eating a mostly paleo diet and focusing more on eating 'clean', we both noticed a huge difference in the way we feel and we both lost a few pounds and became accustomed to that way of eating. When we went on holidays, of course we ate some junk food, restaurant the end of the week, Hubs couldn't take eating restaurant food anymore (neither could I!) and luckily we found Mariano's Market so we could buy fresh food and deli items. We missed our morning smoothies too.

    I grew up with gardening parents too, actually they still do the big garden every summer but not as huge as it used to be. So we get produce from them - we're lucky. I would like to attempt some gardening too, nothing beats fresh herbs, veggies, fruit in the summer. And I'd really like to find organic farmers in our area - will keep looking! Hubs and I try to bring lunches whenever we can.

    Like Dani, Hubs and I only have one car too (which we just paid off! YAH!) I just discovered that one of my co-workers lives pretty close to me so maybe we can start carpooling to work.

    Our society are such consumers and we throw away so many things. I've really tried to adapt the save/splurge mentality the last few years when buying things - I look to buy things of quality and what will last me a long time....i.e. buying a good leather purse or leather boots - yes, it costs a bit when I buy it (a couple of hundred dollars or more), but I look at it as a 5-10 year investment, so it better last that long! :)

    1. LR, Do you have farmer's markets up there? That's where a lot of the organic produce here is found and of course at the natural markets as well as regular. You too with the one car? Canadians are lucky to be able to have more transportation options. It's cars mainly here and carpooling. I agree with you and have enjoyed reading your posts about buying quality things vs. cheap. Better for us all! Loved your note!


  3. This is a great post listing all the ways we can do our little bit and illustrating why certain things are important. I think most of us know we can do better. But I am so glad that you are doing your part in it.

    In London we have recycling pickps from our council and I was horrified to know that a lot of places don't do this in America. When I hear this and find out that the US don't do a lot of what is second hand nature to Australians and Europeans, it can be disheartening and I must admit I think, oh what the heck, what difference can I make and that feeds off unto others. So I hope the government also help people with good intentions. Thank you for posting this and reminding people how I portent it is! Have a great weekend x

    1. You know most places in the U.S. have recycling and in Oregon and San Francisco, they even have composting pick up. However, I was visiting in Kentucky a few years ago and they didn't have any recycle pick-up which shocked me. Hopefully, it's changed now, but so far it seems to be a municipal thing and not nation-wide. I can see how you would feel doing your part and here's this giant nation of people throwing it all in the trash..Hope that's not the perception we give..

      Have a good weekend too! xo

  4. This is such a thought provoking post Kim.
    I can see your passion and intelligence in supporting the 'greening' of your home, family and community. I like your ideas here and you are right, it only takes a few simple steps. Your shopping bag collection is super fun by the way. I actually save my boutique shopping bags from my travels (like Paris) and use them for chic little gift bags. My girls love them!
    xx, Heather

    1. Heather, That is the cutest idea and I may have to steal that. A friend gave me a bag from London that way about 10 years ago. I still use it and love it. Thanks for your nice words!


  5. Very informative post Kim. I try my best to be Green as much as possible. We use our recycling bin at home all the time. We also do composting for our garden. We also grow some of our vegetables at home which taste better. I'm also lucky that at work, we are paperless. It's important that we become concious of our environment.

  6. Hello, Kim, what an extraordinary post! The French are terrible at recycling and not very good at disposing of their refuse outside though when I see people throwing their empty cans under their seats in the Métro, they are usually visitors ! I became aware of the fragility of the Planet very late in life but I now try to do my bit too; I don't own a car as there's not much use for it in Paris and the public transport system is quite good in France. I keep all those gorgeous reusable totes and it amuses my students that I use the nicest ones as school-bag cum handbag. I never have the light on in 2 rooms at once (I remember my father complaining when he would come home from work and the house would be fully lit-up ; he would invariably say : What's that ? We don't live in Versailles, you know !). I also use water-bottles to keep me warm in bed because I find that much healthier than having the heating on at night. I don't travel as much as before and not as further and take a plane maybe only once a year. But the biggest improvement is one you've written so eloquently about : I have simply stopped seeing shopping as a recreational activity and I use my clothes until they are really finished. It makes me feel so good, I find it's much more morale-improving than actually spending money !!xoxo

  7. Such a great post, Kim. And I don't shop a lot, but I will say that the dress from Anthropolgie is really cute, and something I would consider buying.

  8. Great Post Kim! We do all need to do our part even if it is just a little. I do try to go to farmers markets so that I can buy local food and have a garden in our community garden here in town (my tiny yard doesn't have much room). My parents also had garden every year while we were growing up but took a few years off. They planted one this year though...yay! One of my big things is to try to buy USA or Canada made goods and to purchase as little as possible that is China made which as everyone knows is hard to do especially with regard to clothing. I think that folks buy so much more clothing since it is so cheap coming from China. Unfortunately the cheap clothing also falls apart right away leading to more purchases. I do try to use re-usable bags when I can and also re-use the plastics which come in handy when it is kitty litter changing time. Thanks again for this informative Post. Kelley