It’s not easy being Green(ish)

Monday was Blog Action Day. If you aren’t familiar with this it was when bloggers all across the globe blogged about a single cause, this year it was the environment. So what do our intrepid bloggers have to say on this topic as it relates to home renovation?

232 Green Street writes 10 Ways to be Green (Cheaply)

I’d like to think we’re fairly “green” as new homeowners go… but truthfully we’d like to do so much more. I would love to put solar panels on our roof, replace our aging hot-water heater with a nice tankless unit, put down renewable bamboo floors, and insulate our house to the point where not a single watt of energy is wasted. But practically speaking, that will never happen. Just as with most new homeowners, we find out budgets and our wits stretched to their end just trying to keep up; an unfortunate reality is that to be green means you have to spend money. Or does it?

They offer 10 ways that you can reduce your footprint without spending money and expending little effort.

Over at Beach House, they write about their environmental impact:

We’re still trying to do our part to save the planet but I have to say that since we moved from Europe I feel that we’ve become a lot less environmentally conscious.
For example, in Belgium we sorted all our garbage. We had to as the law changed to mandate it. We were forced to buy separate garbage sacks for household rubbish, bottles, cans and cartons, paper and vegetable matter. Everyone grumbled because the sacks weren’t cheap and the price varied from commune to commune but there were fines for non-compliance and eventually people got with the programme….

They write about the things they are doing, but overall how they feel they are failing on the environmental front. And after reading so many other people I have to wonder if this is because each individual thing we do seems so small and we wonder how we, as one small person, can make a difference by carrying our groceries in canvas bags or sweating without air conditioning.

There is a feeling of hopelessness. Especially when you are toting your canvas bags and carrying the extra groceries in your hands and look over at the person asking for her plastic bags to be double bagged and please only one item per bag. It’s enough to make you throw your hands up and and cry, “I give up!”

Georgetown House echoed this sentiment, in the post It’s Not Easy Being Green:

I put off writing all day out of guilt, and then it dawned on me that that’s what I’ll write about: Not letting “oh I’m not doing enough” stop you (ok, not you, ME) from doing the little things that you can do, and improving on them in at least baby steps.

It’s just hard to not slink into the corner when you read about folks who have completely eliminated their use of paper products (I even know folks who use rags and bidet-type things instead of toilet paper) , who never eat anything that’s not produced/grown within 100 miles of their home, who don’t own a car and bike everywhere, who bake all of their own bread in a wood-fired oven in the back yard, and who sell electricity back to the power company because of their solar panels or windmills or whatever.

However, I’m not one of those people.

I am not one of those people either.

My philosophy on recycling is not to bring it into my house to begin with. That means I buy things that have little to no packaging whenever I can. I drink water from the tap, like everyone before our water bottle obsessed generation did. I am still alive and perfectly well hydrated. Seriously, why are you people all so thirsty all the time that you can not venture out of the house without a bottle of water in your hand? Oh, but that would be a separate topic.

I do get the plastic bags from the grocery store, but I use them as garbage bags. And no they aren’t too small. There are nine of us living in this house with one still in diapers, yes disposable, and we do not fill a standard sized garbage can weekly.

Old Stone House writes about how they have saved 70% of their heating bill by following a practice called localized heating.

As such, we’ve changed our focus from conservation (how we could waste less heat) to consumption (how we could require less heat) and decided to follow the practices of generations of families before us and now depend on localized heating.

Localized heating is exactly what the names states – heating that is meant to serve only a small/isolated area – a local area. If you only need to heat 10% of your homes volume because that’s all the space you use, there are obvious savings to be made.

We do this at our house. After our first winter here when we saw dollars flying out the windows, doors, and floors in heating bills, we decided to purchase and install a wood pellet stove in our family room. It heats the back part of the house where we spend the majority of our time, to a toasty warm level. We keep our oil furnace set to 62 degrees. Yes, it is cold in our bedrooms and other parts of the house. But that is why god invented down comforters and slippers.

That’s A Cute Little Farmhouse
links to an article from their local electric company’s newsletter, How to save energy with incense, a light stick and a dollar bill. Intrigued? I was.

Our Tiny Oak Park Bungalow offers tips for living greener, from live smaller…why buy a large house when a small one will do, to install a rain barrel for watering your gardens.

Renovation of 1906 Brooklyn Row House writes an excellent post, Saving the World: Black Pixels and Termite Farts, which provided some much needed levity and perspective on the topic. Because, man, I was getting depressed.

Summing up, it would be nice to dump that fat-arsed SUV you don’t really need. You should invest in higher-efficiency appliances and tighten up your home. But hybrid cars, CFL light bulbs and black pixels are just a sideshow. We need to realize that no matter what political stripes we might wear, we’re all fighting the same survival clock, if not for ourselves then for future generations which are counting on us to fix what they didn’t break. This isn’t a liberal/conservative issue or a democrat/republican issue. It’s a smart/stupid issue.

Moving the world to newer, safer forms of energy and putting ourselves on an energy diet in the interim is one of the toughest challenges we’ve ever faced. It will require visionary leadership committed to its success, not more sock puppets telling us what we want to hear and only what they want us to know.

This message was written using recycled, old-growth ASCII characters.

After reading all the blogs I decided to stop beating myself up for not being perfect and focus on the things that we are doing right. And there are many more things that we are doing right than we are doing wrong. Right now almost all of our lightbulbs are the energy efficient kind, the exception to this is our dining room with it’s fake candle lightbulbs. But we rarely use that room anyway. Last year at this time, we still were using regular bulbs everywhere.

It might not be easy being green, but it is getting easier.

15 Responses to “It’s not easy being Green(ish)”

  1. Hatchet Says:

    Hi Chris! Great article!

    I’d like to second the notion that being green isn’t about beating yourself up with green guilt into immobility. Just like voting, where every single vote counts, every little thing you do that is green adds up. Is there something more you (the general you) could be doing? Certainly! But that’s no reason to not take baby steps down the path to sustainability.

    I think we often do more harm by being overwhelmed by all of the suggested things we could do “better” that we have a hard time focusing on doing anything at all. There will always be someone greener (hybrid cars, a house completely off the grid, growing their own food, living in a bio-dome), but our focus should remain on how our individual families can be a bit more green, year over year.

  2. jody Says:

    Every little bit counts.

    I am glad you wrote this today, as I was feeling VERY frustrated after picking my daughter up at Moms day out…..there were more than 5 white Cadillac Escalades parked in front of the building, blocking the drive….all with the engines running so the car would stay nice and air conditioned while the owners slipped in to pick up their little tykes.

    I wanted to beat my head against the wall. I mean, why? Why leave it running in the shade. Why drive something like that at the coast? Why drive it when you only have one kid?

    I am not against SUV’s….I have owned one. But it was in the hill country of Texas, not the flat texas coastline. Sheesh.

  3. Kathy from NJ Says:

    If you did not watch 20-20 tonight, please go to:

    You are an excellent writer, I would love to read a blog post summarizing Stossel’s report.

  4. Brigitte Says:

    The super-greenie people always have me beating myself up too, I guess I can start feeling better about actually doing our town’s recycling program, and using those twisty fluorescent bulbs wherever they fit. Our house is small, we don’t have an SUV, and we (usually) keep the house at a mere 60 degrees in the winter . . well, that last one is because we really can’t afford more oil, but still!

  5. Daisy Says:

    Compost helps. I have less kitchen garbage during the composting season. Rain barrel? I’d like to set one up. Meanwhile, I’ll keep using my energy efficient light bulbs and taking my little steps.

  6. Sarah Says:

    Occasionally I get the feeling that I’m being silently criticized for carrying out my groceries in the store’s plastic bags. But I use them for trash bags too, and we recycle all the ones leftover (by taking them back to the store & dumping them in the special bins provided for that).

    I grew up in a household that practiced “localized heating”; we had a woodstove as our primary heat source, with the electric heater thermostat set at 50 degrees. Occasionally it would actually kick on! And once or twice we had ice on the inside of our windows. There were plenty of times when I wished our kitchen/bedrooms weren’t so cold, but I seem to have grown up healthy and strong regardless.

  7. Yardbird Says:

    Thanks for the post mention!

    I agree that people all too often get the attitude of “well I can’t possibly do anything that matters.” Nonsense! Every little bit counts, no matter how small. I read a story once (the source escapes me unfortunately) about how many millions of watts of energy we would save if every house in New York City turned their air conditioner thermostats up a measly 2 degrees. Come on, like you’re really going to notice that change?

    Good for you for taking baby steps! If only the rest of the population would follow suit, we’d be on such a better path.

  8. Michael Says:

    Thanks for the mention - we feel your pain! We moved from a new house to our old house and now clearly spend and waste more then our previous residence. We are not enviro-zelots, however we aggressively try to be greener when we can. In truth, green perfection is an unfair benchmark as our planet could likely sustain itself if we were ALL 20% greener. Those who care seem to be undone by the ignorant, so we desperately try to offset the lack of action of others by aiming for ‘green-oneness’. In truth, our efforts may have little effect but they at least they help foster the proper mindset and instill values for the future.

    Case and point: 15 years ago the road in front of my parent house was re-graded/updated. The crew cut down every tree along the roadside for 4 km with assurances that they would be replaced. Towards the end of the project the city announced that they were under budget, and would not be replacing the trees. The residences accepted it. They city tried to pull the same stunt this past year on another stretch of road and the public outcry was deafening, and city went to great lengths to restore the ‘delicate-roadside-ecosystem’. People may not have understood why replacing the trees was important – just that cutting down trees was a form of environmental graffiti. They were conditioned to be green. I think that out actions today resonate tomorrow.

    All the best.

  9. KittermansKhaos Says:

    Well you just gave me an education. Guess I missed the boat on this one. I am a new blogger so that is my excuse. I have to be honest and admit the greenness of my blogging is far more than the greenness of my lifestyle.
    We could do more. We do however try to use environmentally friendly cleaners. We also buy all dairy organic. I suppose this helps. We recycle, and I have taught my oldest the importance of conserving water and energy. We only drive one car for this 4 person family (but I have to say, it is not by choice. My broken car is a ford exploder.)
    Like I said, we could do more.
    Thank you for your post on this topic.
    much respect~d

  10. Belinda Says:

    OK, WOW. Just your comment about how much garbage your family produces has me slinking into the corner to hide my face. I’m going to have to think about how we can do better in that regard, because the three of us are, quite often, making more garbage than the NINE of you. Ouch.

  11. cristen Says:

    Since we started recycling (late–only this past summer), I was amazed to see that we went from filling the largest sized garbage can every week (and often needing another can as well) to only having one or two kitchen garbage bags in the big can. It’s not even half full now! I’m trying to get used to the funny fluorescent/green light bulbs…

  12. Allison Says:

    This made me laugh:
    There is a feeling of hopelessness. Especially when you are toting your canvas bags and carrying the extra groceries in your hands and look over at the person asking for her plastic bags to be double bagged and please only one item per bag. It’s enough to make you throw your hands up and and cry, “I give up!”

    It was just like the time I used just one paper towel in a public restroom and while I was air drying the rest of the water off my hands saw another woman use 6 (SIX!) paper towels. Not like using just one is making a huge difference, but really, do you need SIX???

    Anyway, I wanted to share this quote because i like it:

    “I believe that when (not if, but when) we internalize this intent fully and manifest it broadly we’ll see that our small and individual changes have combined with others. Like drops of water, they’ll merge into a flowing river — and become a torrent of change that will be a powerful force for modeling new paradigms of behavior.”
    (from here:

  13. Erin Says:

    I grew up not recycling and rarly did after I was married. Then we had our first child and used cloth diapers only out of a need to save money. It wasn’t until recently that I realized I was helping even if it was small. I still use a disposbale on occasion and when we traveled. Then I found a disposable biodegradable/flushable green diaper. We are switching to those for those times we need a disposable. Baby steps, Right?

    We recently started to recycle and I am amazed at how little I have to take the garbage out. I also use the plastic bags for garbage bags but recently started to get paper instead.

    I do drive an SUV but at least I can feel better good about the fact I am helping in small ways. I would love to go all green. However financially we aren’t able to do it. So I will continue to do what I can and feel good about that.

  14. Beverly Says:

    I find it difficult to live with heating only certain rooms of the house. It makes me not want to go into a room because the cold is oppressive and depressing. It seems to me, too, that if some rooms are colder, the house is more drafty. Maybe the layout of my house makes it harder.

  15. Donald Says:

    We can go green by using our own coffee cups instead of using paper coffee cups that are related to mealmine poisoning.

    For more information, visit

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