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Earth Week Day 2: Reduce

Maddie and Cora’s adorable antics
will be back next week, but it’s Earth Week all week here at
1M2A! And as a reminder, send me an email
(Jennifer@1mother2another.com) if you’re interested in
entering to win a free copy of the new Healthy Child, Healthy
World: Creating A Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home
. And to win a
cool t-shirt from target="_blank">Mamaisms, send or post your best tip for
living a more eco-friendly lifestyle (see yesterday’s blog
for more details!)

Today I’m covering several ways we can reduce our impact on
the created earth. Look, everyone knows cloth diapers are better
than disposable; there’s no argument, and you’re either
going to use them or you’re not. I’m not going to wade
into that dispute or tell you to start composting your
toddler’s poops. But there are some easy lifestyle changes
you can make to begin shrinking the size of your carbon footprint
– how much of the earth’s resources you personally use
up - without sacrificing much money or time. So let’s dive
in! As a caveat – I’ve spent a good month researching
these tips and digging up statistics, but I’m way too tired
at 2 a.m. as I page-surf to write all my footnotes and sources
down. So trust me that I’m getting my info from reputable
sites. You know I do all the digging so you don’t have

First, if you haven’t done so,
deal with all your junk mail; nearly a hundred million trees
a year go to junk mail. Check out the Federal Trade
Commission’s href="http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt063.shtm"
target="_blank">helpful article
on how to get off all those
credit card solicitation lists.

Let’s talk about your mail for a second. Listen,
Maddie’s thrilled every time a “magazine” comes
in the mail with her name on it, but do we really need all those
catalogs? If you need something, can’t you just check the
website? My very own beloved Baker’s Catalog has reduced the
number of catalogs they send out each year, and asked people to
voluntarily take themselves off the mailing list. I know that
Pottery Barn catalog is exciting, but just think about it. Cut
back on the catalogs
, girl. Not cold turkey, maybe, but a
little bit.

When you shred, you should know that most places won’t
recycle shredded paper. So while I’m all for shredding for
safety reasons, I’ll open a credit card solicitation and
just shred the sensitive stuff, saving all the envelopes and
stuffers for my recycling stack.

And since we’re going for all the paper-saving, cancel
your newspaper subscription
. Save some cash, save some trees,
and read the paper online instead. (I love you, honey.)

Cut back on those paper plates. I know, they're so darn
handy. And hey, they're paper, so they'll break down eventually,
right? Well, two issues - first, the trees and fuel required to
make those plates. Second, those paper plates (coated with a Teflon
derivative, so they're not recyclable) are enclosed in a
non-biodegradable bag, so no, they won't break down eventually.
Sorry. Yes, I keep a stack for "emergency" meals on the run. But I
try not to use them in my back yard.

Let’s talk about saving energy for a sec –

Find out how your house can be more energy efficient. Nearly
all utility companies will do a free energy audit of your home,
then give you tips on ways to save money (and the planet!) Just
give ‘em a call and set it up. You’d be surprised how
much difference things like putting a sweater (not a Chanel
sweater, a specially-made one!) on your water heater will make (and
they’re maybe $30). You can also go to href="http://www.lowimpactliving.com" target="_blank">Low Impact
and try out their href="http://www.lowimpactliving.com/pages/impact-calculator/impact-calculator"
target="_blank">Environmental Impact Calculator
; just
answer a few questions and they’ll calculate your impact on
the environment based on location, size of house, regional
statistics, and more. They’ll suggest easy changes and
projects to give your home a smaller carbon footprint.

Put all your chargers on a power strip, and turn it off during
the day
. “Idle” electronics are a huge power drain,
and some sources estimate they account for almost 40% of your
electric bill over the year. Plug your iPod, cell phone, camera,
video camera, etc., into one strip and turn it off when not in use.

Turn off your computer speakers. Let’s be honest; do
you really need to hear the “cha-ching” sound Quicken
makes as you balance your books? I need my speakers maybe twice a
week, and that’s to hear some YouTube thing Brian’s
sent me. Leave them off unless you really need them.

Everyone knows you should turn off a light when you leave. But when
I did laundry in the basement I found myself leaving all the lights
on so I wouldn’t fall down the stairs with a full basket.
Once I installed some motion detectors, I saw my bill
actually go down; the lights would go on when I stepped in the
stairwell, and kick off 60 seconds after I left. Now I’m
going to install them in our garage, where I keep forgetting to
turn off the inside light after getting the kids in the car. Think
of the spaces that are dark where you don’t have an extra arm
because yours are full of kiddos – that’s where you
want the sensors. Buy them at Home Depot for very little money
– they can screw into an existing light bulb socket.

Explore alternative lightbulbs. Our government says that if
every home in America replaced just one light bulb with a compact
fluorescent bulb, we’d save the energy equivalent of the
emissions from 800,000 cars. We’ve looked at compact
fluorescent light bulbs, and use them in many places in our house.
They use significantly less energy, but are a pain to get rid of
because of the mercury inside them. During my research I came
across the Pharox bulb, which for sixty bucks costs significantly
more but is supposed to last five times as long as a fluorescent
bulb even, uses less energy, and is recyclable. You can bet
I’ll be checking it out, but until I do I’ll continue
to use the CFs.

Tighten up your laundry room. First, do most of your laundry
in cold water – 90% of your washer energy goes to heating
water, not powering the motor! Very few things really need hot
water. Second, clean that lint trap every time you do laundry
– it could add up to forty bucks a year in energy savings.
Just from the lint trap, can you believe it?

Make your dishwasher do some work. Stop pre-scrubbing your
plates! The average energy-efficient dishwasher uses less than 9
gallons of water; if you hand-wash everything under running water
you use up to 30. If you need to do a lot of pre-rinsing, get a new
energy-efficient dishwasher instead; you’ll see savings on
your energy bill, and many states give tax breaks for buying
energy-efficient appliances.

Turn off the faucet in general. Do you need to leave the
water running while you brush your teeth, or shave? Fill a pot with
some water, turn the water off, and scrub away. Even better, fill
the SINK with water, scrub everything, then rinse. And when they
tell you to rinse your veggies before eating, they don’t mean
that you need to leave those tomatoes under running water for
fifteen minutes while you put the rest of your groceries away.

Ease up on your Amazon Prime subscription. Hey, I love that
I spend 80 bucks a year and get free two-day delivery from Amazon.
It saves me a ton of time and energy I don’t have, that
I’d be spending running all over town getting shopping and
errands done while dealing with screaming kids. That being said,
try to be conscientious about all those deliveries. Think about how
much gas and packaging it took to get you those razor blades you
could’ve bought at the corner store instead. And when you
check out, they give you the option of waiting and having
everything shipped at once, or shipping different items separately
as they become available. Guess which one you should pick? Of
course you recycle all that cardboard packaging, but let’s
use a few less trees and a few less barrels of petroleum in the
first place.

Now I’ve got to get into the whole food thing –
it’s a tough area, since we’re trying to feed our kids
healthily but also don’t have a lot of time to do it. Add to
that the fact that eating healthy always seems to cost more, and
this is an area we all struggle with. But let’s start with an
easy one:

Be realistic about how much your kid will really eat
. It took
me several weeks of finishing off Maddie’s sandwich for her
before it occurred to me to make less sandwich. I know how hard it
is to gauge how much your kid’s going to eat at any given
meal; some days she’s the bottomless pit and totally in love
with peaches, and others she thinks they’re disgusting. And
I’d personally rather prepare too much and throw it away than
have to get up again after I’ve sat down for lunch. But
you’ll save a significant amount of money and throw a lot
less food down the drain if you start cutting back to what your
child really eats, not what you wish he’d eat. For dinners,
of course feel free to make more and have leftovers; just
don’t make too much of something you’ll probably end up

Step away from the plastic water bottles. I’m not
telling you to give up your sippy cups and straw cups, so
don’t panic. But everyone knows those single-serve plastic
water bottles aren’t doing anyone any favors, both in the
amount of petroleum required to produce them and in the amount of
landfill space they take up. OF COURSE you recycle all those
bottles you buy when you’re out and about, but try to take it
one step further and bring your own. I bought a href="http://www.mysigg.com" target="_blank">Sigg water
bottle, and keep filling it up; it’s dishwasher safe and
lightweight enough I don’t mind adding it to the diaper bag
when necessary. And at home, there’s just no reason –
go for a faucet filter and watch your wallet fill up, not the

Rethink how you make your snacks. I know those individual
snack bags of goldfish are handy – and aren’t those
mini applesauces the best? But the truth is, you can pack your own
snack-size of everything. Buy those big industrial-sized boxes of
Goldfish and drastically cut down on the packaging you throw away
(and how much you spend, as well!) Fill your own (reusable, of
course) snack-size Tupperware with crackers or booty or whatever,
and you’ll have a lot more snack options. And yes, I’ve
got a pack of those mini applesauces in my own pantry: I keep one
in the diaper bag as an “emergency” snack, since they
don’t leak or go bad. But if I know I’m taking
applesauce or mandarin oranges or whatever as a snack, I’ll
fill a small container from the big jar. And bring it back home

Streamline what you pick up at a fast-food restaurant. How
many ketchup packets do you throw away, unused, every time you hit
McDonald’s? Do you use all the dipping sauces they give you?
Who can use that much pepper in one meal? Now picture all those
unopened ketchup packets in the landfill. I try to give back if I
think the server’s given me more than I need, and if
I’ve got unopened leftovers at the end of the meal I’ll
stack them on the table to be restocked. Extra napkins? I throw
those in the diaper bag for emergency spills, or bring them home
and use them on our table (which explains why one person’s
napkin says “McDonalds” and the person across the table
has a “Krispy Kreme” in their hand. Hey, it’s
free.) I’m not telling you to give up McD’s, ladies
– just ease up on the fist full of condiments.

Whenever possible, buy local and organic. I know, I know,
you’ve heard it everywhere. Sorry. Buying local’s an
obvious way to reduce our impact on the earth – strawberries
from Mexico burn way more fuel to get to your table than
strawberries from a farm 50 miles away. So ask around at your
grocery store, or find a local farmer’s market. Check out the
Department of Agriculture’s href="http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=TemplateC&navID=FarmersMarkets&rightNav1=FarmersMarkets&topNav=&leftNav=WholesaleandFarmersMarkets&page=WFMFarmersMarketsHome&description=Farmers%20Markets&acct=frmrdirmkt"
target="_blank">helpful website
, or search href="http://www.localharvest.org/" target="_blank">Local
to find your friendly neighborhood farmers. As for
the organic part, whether or not you believe that organic is better
for you (after all, you rinse your produce before you eat it,
right?), you have to acknowledge that organic farming is better on
our resources than conventional – less pesticides in the
rainwater, less fuel burned crop-dusting, and so forth. I know
it’s more expensive – this is just one of the places I
try to put my money where my mouth is.

And my final suggestion for ways to reduce our stress on the
environment, go easy on the dollar stores. I know they seem
like a great place to get cheap toys (we’ll talk about fair
working conditions and trade practices another time) that will buy
you some time while you run errands, but you usually get what you
pay for and the truth is that for a buck, you consider those toys
disposable. Walk past the dollar store ten times, then buy a
better-made toy that won’t end up in the landfill so fast.

I could keep going here, but you get the gist. Tomorrow we'll talk
about ways to "Reuse". I’d love to see your suggestions to
“Reduce” below, and remember, any change you make is
better than no change at all!


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