I had the chance to share a talk with the moms at my MOPS groups today. Thought I’d repost it here in case any of you are interested in making some small, simple changes or thinking more about how to “green” you home and life. Keep in mind, I AM NO EXPERT. Far far far from it. Just on the road….
“Going Green”. Two simple words that scream simplicity and a calm, easy life. And yet, in my experience, “going green” isn’t something that just happens. It’s never a task that can be conquered or attained. Like our faith, it is a process. It is all about being purposeful. Being thoughtful and making some hard decisions.
Something changed for me when we had our first son, Alex, almost five years ago. We lived ½ a mile from the Chevron Refinery in Point Richmond,CA. On Martin Luther King Day in January of 2007, around 5:18am, we witnessed a huge fire spewing out of the stacks after being woken by sirens. I was 5 months pregnant. We lived in a 100 year old Victorian house, and we were being asked to “shelter in place”. We were supposed to be safest if we remained at home, with our drafty windows and doors, hoping the fumes would not reach us. As flames shot over 100 feet in the air, we looked at each other, packed up a few things, grabbed our dog and drove over to my in law’s house. Finally, our concerns about air quality, fumes and pollution led us to put our “boy in utero” as the priority over everything we were being told to do.
Around that time, we were told about a website that talked about air quality. You could type in your place of residence and the website would inform you about what percentage of the state had BETTER air quality than you did. And Point Richmond….how did it fair? Well, 95% of Californians lived in areas with better air quality than us. NINETY-FIVE percent. It was funny just a year after that, we moved to the North Bay, to Occidental, where only FIVE percent had better air quality.
After Alex was born, certain things started clicking with me….we’d have our house cleaned and I would get asthmatic upon entering the home again…..smelled good, but what was going on? And worse yet, my new infant was CRAWLING on the floor, licking the tables, etc. INGESTING all of these perfume-hidden chemicals.
So, sad to say, a lot of what has motivated to start “going green” was having a child. Maybe fear for his health, for mine. It was more of a ME issue. I kind of approached this in a backward way.
As a Christian, I began to see another piece to this puzzle of the environment and our connection to it. Something shifted in me…when I looked at the reality of God pouring himself into creation, seeing the beginning of creation as an act of love. God’s way of expressing who he is. This change for me involved seeing that we are called into a loving relationship with creation because creation is a revelation of who God is. This shift has given me a more lasting motivation to “go green”, based on LOVE not just fear.
Practically speaking, something else began to creep up. I was determined, pre-children, to own nothing that was plastic and made annoying, constant, off-key musical noise. As a teacher, and a pastor’s wife, we were literally showered with stuff when our first was born. Our 1800 square foot house began to feel small. I began thinking about STUFF. We lived in a 1903 Victorian (yes, the one that was ½ a mile from the refinery!) and I started to get these weird thoughts….who USED to live there? What was life like 100 years earlier?? Were they bogged down by plastic, screaming toys? Concerned over getting the perfect gift for every family member and friend for each holiday? Worried about getting the kids to bed and the house cleaned so they could collapse on the couch and catch their favorite line-up of reality TV shows??
Let’s take a minute to think about this all, looking at the 1800s vs. today. Compare 1812 vs. 2012. Transportation was dependent on horses vs. gas guzzling cars.
Cooking, if left to Caroline Ingalls, was over a wood burning stove vs. today’s quickly pushed microwave buttons and food on demand.
Communication was accomplished by painstakingly handwritten letters vs. cell phones and text messages. Entertainment consisted of cards, games, evening fiddle playing vs. distracted television viewing with a lap top prominently added to the mix.
What was the end result of these changes? What does this “stuff”, the developments of the 20th Century GIVE to us? And conversely, what has it taken from us?
With this in mind, we decided that one thing we could do is rein what we allowed into our home. We tried a 75% rule. We decided to put away/give away/”hide”, 75% of Alex’s things. We read a book, Simplicity Parenting, in which the authors share a theory that by taking away 75% of your children’s things, you free kids up for more creativity AND start to open up the family to more of what was true in the 1800s—-more time together, less reliance on toys that had one function. We started to see the advantage of having less and what it afforded our family, benefits to us AND the environment.
In one of the books I was reading recently, Go Green, Save Green, the author, Nancy Sleeth shared, it’s “not about making do with less, it’s about doing MORE with less. It’s about spending more time with family, friends, and God and less time taking care of things. Acknowledging that it all belongs to God and learning to be better stewards of his blessings.”
If we are attempting to love our neighbor as ourselves, then it HAS to tie into the world and the earth too. The more we use resources up, the less available they are for our neighbor. And for so many of our neighbors, especially those who live in the 2/3’s world, life just doesn’t offer the astronomical amount of choices and opportunities that we are presented with. If we truly thought about, better yet, acted out loving our neighbor AS OURSELVES, we might make some big changes.
I know these aspects—-neighbor, stuff and God’s love for creation may seem disconnected, but for me, they were the pieces that started fitting together, motivating me to make change in my own life.
The obstacles can seem steep.
Making these changes can COST MORE.
Making these changes means a CHANGE IN ROUTINE & CHANGE IN BUYING HABITS.
Making these changes means RE-EDUCATION.
However, there are places to start. Gathered from lots of blog reading, book skimming and friend gleaning, here are some of the places we can think about making some small, first step, changes.
- Buying whole foods (on a budget) & Eat Locally (farmer’s market!)
- Add soy in place of meat (GMO free soy)
- Making your kitchen paperless (paper towels are way over rated once you have given them up!)
- CFC light bulbs are simple, but make a big impact
- Switch to non-toxic cleaners
- Downsize and rotate your children’s toys
- Switch to gentle eco-friendly hair & skin care
- Start a Garden
- Make a compost bin (great place for food & lawn clippings)
- Turn down the temperature on the water heater
- Turn thermostat up 3 degrees in summer and down 3 degrees in winter
- Turn off lights when leaving a room
- Do laundry in cold water
- Activate “sleep” mode on your home office equipment
- Close curtains during the night in the winter and during the day in the summer
- Only do full loads of laundry and dishes (plus, do them at “off” times)
- Laundry on the line is extra time, but kind of nice…a little tricky in winter, but worth a try!
- Get a stainless steel water bottle and never buy a plastic one again: water is heavy to ship, the plastic is made with oil and frankly, the kids have FUN picking out a fun bottle!
- Backyard chickens are awesome and not nearly the amount of work they seem to be (That tip came from my dear friend, Chad Rodgers….wish I could claim that I had chickens or had ambitions to make it happen. At this point, I’m enjoying eggs from the farmer’s market or neighbors. You seriously can’t beat that gorgeous orange yolk! And yes, we are currently egg-eating vegans!)
- Organic fair trade coffee and tea (Trader Joes or Equal Exchange!)
- Give your kids the full recycling bin to play with instead of buying them toys—they have more fun and they’ll be more creative. Better yet, have them help you create the recycling bins in the first place….buy fun, bright-colored bins, paint sections on the side with chalkboard paint and let the kids label them
- Buy cds online and rent dvds (no more amassing gargantuan collections!)
- Read a book about how people live in the 2/3s world and you’ll be encouraged to make some changes!
- Plastic/canvas reusable grocery bags
- Go paperless on credit card and bank statements
Each of us, each of our families, has its own journey in this process. The key is to start. For our family, this process has become a chance to ask ourselves some questions prior to making purchases or decisions. To slow down and think about how our decision will affect our neighbors and also how it will bring us closer to God, an opportunity to embrace and love his creation instead of being paralyzed by fear.
I shared some books, websites, blogs and recipes with the moms at my MOPS group as well. You can find all of these listed in PDF form here.
Additionally, we made cleaner for our bathrooms or kitchens for our “craft” today. I’m posting the PDF for the labels here in case you want to make your own or share with friends.