Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day

Water level at Lake Rogers ParkToday is Earth Day. Back in January, there was some buzz about this being the year that people go "green." Maybe. We've made some progress but haven't taken huge steps.

Gas prices are obviously driving some people to more environmentally friendly choices. When I bought my Honda CR-V three years ago I was already concerned enough about gas prices that I seriously considered a Civic or Accord or even a hybrid. But with big adults, two growing kids and our hobbies, I couldn't make it work. The Ford Escape hybrid was a possible alternative but I couldn't justify the additional cost at the time. I get just over 24 mpg most of the time, with a combination of driving when there's less traffic and things like not accelerating slower than I want to and staying at or below 60 mph on the Veteran's. The leap from 60 to 70 mph takes quite a bit more fuel, especially with a taller vehicle.

I also now telecommute regularly. About a third of our group works from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays and some even more than that. It isn't as big an impact for me as for others since work is only about a 34 mile round trip, but saves about 3 gallons of gas a week. Plus I get more done with less stress. Even on a day that I go into the office, I usually work from home for an hour or two in the morning first, which lets me skip most of the morning traffic jams. I'm not so good at avoiding the evening ones.

I've almost completely stopped buying bottled water, except for trips or parties. I still drink it at work because it's free and the tap water tastes like an old swimming pool. I've considered bringing in a filter pitcher like we use at home, but haven't. I stopped drinking caffeine for lent and have barely had anything to drink except water ever since. At home we've gone from overfilling a recycling bin every week with empty bottles (mostly my 2L Diet Mountain Dews) to filling one about every 3 weeks (mostly the kids' milk).

I'm trying to make some progress on cutting our electricity consumption. With two young kids that have to sleep with a light on, me working from home, homeschooled kids, always-on computers, and all our gadgets, it's hard. I'm trying to replace some bulbs with compact fluorescents but I'd really rather hold out until LED bulbs come down in price.

Our yard is about as environmentally "green" as I can get away with. With no sprinkler system, much of the St. Augustine grass died off a couple years ago when it was really dry. Now there's a mix of Bahia, some really sturdy St. Augustine, dirt, and random weeds. I haven't watered the yard in years and only put down chemicals about three times a year. Part of it is just being cheap, but I honestly feel incredibly guilty about spraying thousands of gallons a year of purified drinking water pumped from deep aquifers on my yard just to make it greener.

Finally, last week Creative Loafing came out with their list of 100 ways to go green right now. We're doing pretty good on some of those, but there are some ideas I want to try.

#4 is to stop reading print newspapers and magazines. We struggle with that one. I read almost everything online, but we still get a newspaper and several magazines which carry almost all of their content online.

#24 is to shade your air conditioner. I hadn't thought of that but I might have to try it if I can figure out how to do it without the homeowners bugging me.

#46 is the free rainwater barrel program that the state/county offers. I'd consider doing it, especially with my guilt over lawn-watering, but you have to go to a class first and they're all booked through summer. Too much work. If I could go pick up one and a video, I'd do it.

#60 is to use catalogchoice.org to eliminate all the catalogs you get but don't want. We really need to do that. We must get 2-3 a day at this point.

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