where green living, parenthood, and interiors intersect

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day One - Earth Day 2010

I woke up feeling a little more energized than usual this morning knowing that today marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and at least for one day, a powerful mass consciousness will be focused on honoring the environmental movement.  Also, having ambiguously declared that I would launch this blog sometime in April, an internal voice told me that today should be the day.  That seemed an appropriate call to follow so here it goes.....

I typed the words "every day is earth day to me" on my facebook status a few hours ago. For those that know me well, you know that the environment is at the forefront of my thoughts when making consumer decisions, when parenting, and when socializing.  Basically I consider how everything I do will affect the planet.  It is not a particular environmental concern or campaign that shapes my lifestyle rather a touch of guilt for how we have ravaged this planet until now and a heart full of hope that I can be a part of making the difference that will improve the planet my son will one day inherit.  It's no more complex than that. I often wonder how any parent out there doesn't feel this same call, maybe not in the reckless days before having children, but certainly afterward when little eyes begin to look up to you for guidance, safety, and care.  Really it boils down to the fact that I do most everything I do for my son, and that includes (or maybe begins with) taking care of our planet and instilling these same values in him.  
Through my work in interior design over the past nine years, I've had a chance to take a practical "as green as possible" approach to the design of dozens of clients' homes.  And despite my zeal and parental passion, this is actually the same laidback approach I take in my own life and home.  The eco-friendly options for the home are more abundant than ever, I'm thrilled to say, but sometimes you have to buy a conventional product.  To me, it is most important to simply make as many daily choices as consciously as possible.  Here's my personal list which I know many of you can also claim in your daily lives, and that's how the gradual, sustainable change will manifest:
  1. No more shopping bags.  I still get funny looks in a lot of retailers when I decline their bags, but I am unwavering on this one: no purchases unless I bring my bags!
  2. Recycle responsibly.  I recall the time in my youth when recycling gained the momentum it now has today.  It was mostly soda cans back then but now you can recycle most of your household waste, especially if you consciously shop for products packaged in recyclable containers.  Recycling responsibly means simply taking a few moments to find out your local recycling regulations to determine whether rinsing, sorting, and removing labels and caps is required.  For someone who has been known to lug an empty drink container all the way home, here is a small piece of positive news on the recycling front from PepsiCola:  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703404004575198390481890492.html?mod=WSJ_business_whatsNews                                                                                                     
  3. CFL's.  This is just a no-brainer at this point, now that energy efficient bulbs come in most every shape and size and even mimic the warm, low light of incandescent bulbs if desired.  The money savings is great too.  Why are people still buying conventional bulbs?!?
  4. Detox your cleaning arsenal.  I stumbled upon Seventh Generation's cleaning products several years before having a child and haven't had a single cleaning chemical in the house ever since and now make half of them myself.  A few years ago my superintendent in my Manhattan rental apartment brought in an industrial strength bottle of drain cleaner for the kitchen sink and the stench didn't clear for almost a day.  I never want to know what was in that bottle!  When you wash your clothes, floors, dishes, and even yourself with nontoxic cleaners, you are taking care of your indoor environment and the equally precious one outside.   If you haven't done this yet, please read the ingredient labels (if they even have them) on your conventional products and take a moment to consider if you really know what you are putting on everything you touch, taste, use and wear.  If you need help purging the bad and making a committed change,  I will come and help you.  Seriously.
  5. Reusable water bottles.  These have reached high popularity recently and I love it.  In my pilates class yesterday, only the teacher had a plastic store-bought bottle of water.  Every student had a reusable stainless vessel for their mid-class hydration.  Awesome!!   If you don't already know about the BPA and waste preventing, health-promoting effects of using such beverage containers, check out these stats:     http://www.filterforgood.com/facts/
All of this is great, of course but on this 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the only internationally recognized non-denominational and non-political holiday, I am called to step it up!! I have integrated the above into my life seamlessly for years now but what else can I do?  Here are a few ideas I have for new changes that are small enough to commit to, but big enough to initiate real change:
  1. Power down and/or unplug.  I admit it, I am guilty of leaving my phone charger, juicer, and toaster oven plugged in when I'm not using them.  I mean, who can remember to pull the plug out after every use? However painful, I vow to make this one of my new green daily practices from now on.  I also bought a well-intentioned solar charger for my phone and will break out the instructions today (let's just say that sometimes implementing a new product or habit in my home of rut and routine takes a little while).
  2. Low flow toilet.  When I think about the water I could save with every flush, I know I have to make a change in my bathroom routine.  I can't afford to buy and install a new low-flow toilet right now, but I will retrofit my existing one to cut down on 13% of the water consumption in my house with a homemade displacement device (I'll fill a plastic container up with water and add some pebbles to ensure it's heavy enough to stay put and then place it in the back of the toilet - the only trick is to replace the entire device about once a year).  
  3. Sustainable fashion.  This is a hot topic for me.  It's nowhere near a daily habit, but I love to shop for clothes and I, like most of you, wear them every day. :)  However I can't seem to replicate the convenience of my Gap basics, the fit of designer jeans, or the thrill of the Barneys Co-Op sales racks with truly green wardrobe options (although there are a sprinkling of options out there, I just haven't fallen in love with very much yet).  Vintage purchases certainly help.  And I buy only organic cotton tanks, Tshirts, PJ's, and undies for my son (mostly from www.hannaanderson.com).  When will Bloomingdale's Green open?!?  How can my simple, classy, and admittedly minimal wardrobe reflect my values more directly without costing more?  I guess this is just something I have to keep researching and hoping for.