Gettin’ Greener

by Elizabeth Barker
My son called me a hippie.

Now, being a child of the 70’s I had a completely different view of what a hippie was. I’m thinking Woodstock and love beads. He’s thinking eco-friendly freak. Personally, I think I’m neither a hippie OR an eco-friendly freak, but if that defines the new “hippie” I’m okay with that.
Yes, I recycle (and I’m starting to be a little obsessive about it). I take out far more recycling to the curb than I do trash. I think this is good. Yes, I use canvas bags at the grocery store (much to the dismay of the checker…WHY are the checkers always so grumpy about this?). And, yes, I drive a hybrid (and I’m even trading it in for the ultimate hybrid– the Prius). And, yes, maybe I even coast from time to time to get better gas mileage. That’s my dad’s fault, “coast, Lizzie, coast.” (Yes, my parents drive a hybrid, too). Okay, maybe I qualify as
eco-friendly but not an extremist. I can do more. Easily. I decided to do a little checking to see what I would have to do to do more. To
make more of a difference. To reduce my carbon footprint. To reduce the carbon footprint of my family. Before I even started, I had to define “Carbon Footprint.” Conveniently, there is a website explaining it all: Go figure. According to the website, Carbon Footprint is defined as, “a measure of the impact our activities have on the environment, and in particular climate change. It relates to the amount of greenhouse gases produced in our day-to-day lives through burning fossil fuels for
electricity, heating and transportation etc. The carbon footprint is a measurement of all greenhouse gases we individually produce and has units of tons (or kg) of carbon dioxide equivalent.” Make your head spin? Mine did. They even have a calculator so you can, yes,
you guessed it, calculate your carbon footprint. I did pretty well on that one and it was easier to understand. But, I could have done better. It made me wonder: How? How could my kids do better?
With that in mind I searched the internet for EASY ways to “go green.” MSN, Good Housekeeping, various eco- friendly websites. They all had great ideas. Things we, as adults, can do everyday without a major sacrifice (and with just a little bit of thought). And,
most things, my kids (and yours by default) can do, too. Here are just a few of the ideas that popped up:
Get off Junk Mail lists: Register with the direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service ( and you’ll see a big reduction in mail after three months.
Print on both sides of the paper: Yes, you can set your home printer, in many cases, to print of both sides. If not, print it, read it, and put it back in the printer to be used again.
Buy organic for your baby (and for you): Clothing made of 100% organic cotton is chemical and pesticide free and safe next to baby’s skin. Check out – a business based right here in Kansas! Adult clothing can be found in 100% organic cotton in just about any store.
Buy Cloth diapers: Have to admit, this idea made me go “YUCK!” Then, again, my “baby” is almost 13 and cloth diapers were entirely different when she needed them. Today, they don’t leak and even have flushable liners so you aren’t washing poo. You can even find
bamboo (a highly eco-friendly product) inserts! And they’re so soft I asked if they made blankets out of the stuff. The average family can save $2,000-$3,000 PER CHILD by going this way. $2,000-$3,000! That’s HUGE! I’m sending you to Healthy Baby Boutique again for this…they have the largest selection of cloth diapers in Kansas.
Push mow your lawn: Yes, you heard me correctly. Exercise, no pollution. What else do you need to know? Don’t like the idea? Hopefully you have a child who is old enough to mow.
Go Native in your landscaping: Sounds simple but plants native to our area require less fertilizing and less pesticides.
Insulate your water heater if it’s old: If it’s built before 2004, wrap it in an insulating blanket and save about 10% on your water-heating bill.
Service the furnace: Get it checked out every two years. They say this will result in a savings of about 1,250 pounds of carbon dioxide and 10% on your heating bills.
Turn down your heater: Remember this: every degree you turn down your heater equals about a 5% savings on your heating bill. Grab a sweatshirt.
Use cold water in the wash: You will save 50% – 50%! – of the energy you would use for hot water.
Instead of driving, catch the bus or ride a bike: Okay, it may sound dorky to ask your teen to do this or to even do it yourself, but you will cut down on emissions and save fuel. And, if you opt for the bike, you’ll get some exercise along the way.
Refill your bottled water: Less than 20% of the single use water bottles (or any plastic bottle) make it to the recycling bin. Less than 20%!
Go organic as often as you can: Organic means no chemicals or
pesticides in your food. Organic is good. Maybe switch ONE product a week to organic?
Go for gold: Coffee filters. They are reusable. Save the trees. Save the paper filters. Save money in the long run. Most coffee makers have the gold filter option available now.
Certified coffee: (Caffeine must be important to me today) Buy organic. It’s grown in a way that preserves the
Buy a laptop: My kids love this one. Laptops use less energy than desktop computers. I had no idea.
Park it: Avoid the long line at the drive through. You’re wasting fuel and sending all those fumes into the atmosphere. Park it if there is a line. No line, cruise on through!
Buy local: Local produce doesn’t travel far to get to you; therefore, you aren’t paying shipping costs – including fuel. Support your local, organic farmers where and when you can. Better for you. Better for your family. Better for the local economy.
Recycle rechargeables: Many states are outlawing throwing away rechargeable batteries now. No, Kansas hasn’t yet. BUT, you can recycle the batteries for your cell phone, cameras, and camcorders.
Go to and type in your zip code for a location close to you.
Canvas bags: Use them. Take them to the grocery store. Take them to every store. Keep them in your car. No need to use the plastic bags when you can buy the canvas tote everywhere for
about $1.
Pay attention to packaging: Every American produces about four and a half pounds of garbage a day. So take a look at the packaging before you buy and recycle as much of it as you can.
The bathroom: Shorter showers. Low-flow toilets. Water saving shower heads. Turn off the water while you shave and brush your teeth. You’ll save thousands of gallons of water a year.
Turn it off!: Lights, TV, computer and anything else that might have one of those little glowing lights. Shut if off or unplug it when you leave the room. I promise it’ll be there to turn back on when you walk back in. Really. It will. And, in the mean time, you’ve saved a ton of electricity.
Join the Virtual March to stop global warming ( Join the 1,309,572 supporters and become part of the movement to demand our leaders freeze and reduce carbon monoxide emissions now.
Buy a more fuel efficient vehicle: Better yet, buy a hybrid. They get great gas mileage (in most cases) and have fewer emissions.
That’s good for all of us.
Note: I didn’t mention anything about every day recycling. I hope you do it. It’s VERY easy. Just check with your local recycling provider to find out exactly they recycle. Where I live, it’s glass, plastic and aluminum in one bin and paper in the other. The hippie in me came out when I ordered bio-degradable clear trash bags to put it all in.

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