Archive for the ‘green-leanings’ Category

First off, everything is fine with the baby’s heart.   I am so relieved.  The kid was a trooper, holding still and letting the tech get all of the pictures needed in minimal time.  And!  I got to see the spine and rib, which was pretty cool.  It’s funny, though.  I’ve seen about a half a million echos in the past 5 years and I can still only barely make out the 4 chambers of the heart.  It made me appreciate the speed of the tech all the more.

And then…coming home.  St. Francis Hospital is close to several LIRR stations so I decided to ask for directions at the front desk.  They said Port Washington, so to Port Washington I went.  After peeking out to see if I could spot the bus stop one of the people at the desk told me about, I decided to take a cab the 2.5 miles since walking didn’t look like the safest choice.  Half hour wait at the train station, and then I was off.  Things were looking pretty good until I got to Woodside and decided to transfer to the 7 instead of taking another LIRR train to Jamaica.  An hour later, I had made it the 20 minutes home.  7 train, I hate you.  By the time I got here, all of the happy cloud relief floaty crap of having a clean echo had been replaced with heat and smell and up and down stairs and the clench of knowing you’re close to the right stop but can’t get there easily.  I did find a bodega that sells food plants, however, so I’ll be back on the 7 next week, husband in tow, to pick up some tomatoes and whatever else we can find.  So, in one way, hurrah lost!  But not really.

90% reduction not off to the most stellar start, nor Low-Impact Week.   C forgot his reusable bags last night so we brought in 7 new plastic ones.  I was out of the house so Lucy finagled an extra hour of television (during lunch) and the computer was on for all but the couple of hours that C and Lucy were at the park.  And we ordered pizza when I got home because I hadn’t eaten in 6 hours, and C went to the grocery so everything was non-local and non-bulk and and and….waaaaaah.  Today will be better.

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So after much hemming and hawing and soul-searching and, well, mathing, I’ve decided to give this 90% Reduction thing a shot.  Fret not; this blog will not turn entirely into a logbook of my various projects, although of course I will be writing about them (remember my brain can only wrap itself around a few things at a time.)  I’m not sure how it will turn out.  I have some real concerns about our ability to reduce much more, as well as about my ability to take on this project mostly alone without freaking out at some point about doing it alone.  Anyway, here is an estimation of our current numbers along with additional concerns and comments (first link provides an explanation of the categories and how the math is done):

1.  Gasoline:  we use approximately 99.2 gallons for our entire household.  Thank you, no car.  Since this is well under the 50 gallons per person per year figure, no reduction is necessary.  I will be tracking our actual usage, however, so while I think I estimated high, I might just be surprised.

2.  Electricity:  we used 5601 kwh last year, 100% wind and water.  A 90% reduction, assuming a 4x allowance for wind and water, means that our target usage this year is 4400 kwh/yr.  This does not cover laundry, however, as our facilities are shared with the rest of the building.

3.  Gas and Heating Oil:  these are included in our maintenance and I have no way of tracking what we use.  Figuring that we use the oven maybe twice a month and the range 3x a week, I’m figuring our cooking expenses are pretty low.  This will likely go up once our farm share kicks in and we’re cooking more.  We do not control our heating aside from being able to adjust the valve inside the radiators and the building is kept very, very warm.  I don’t know how much our adjustments affect the actual amount of heating oil used, however.

4.  Garbage:  19.9 lbs for the household this past week (a pretty average trash week) which comes out to .85 lbs per person, per day.  Our goal for the household will be 9.45 lbs/wk but I have no idea how we’ll do it.  Lucy is back in Pull-ups at night (I’m not washing sheets every day) and the cat litter just weighs a freaking ton.  This is one of the big worry categories, especially once the new baby comes and we’re doing diapers (we’re not doing cloth–I’d have to have a diaper service to keep up and that’s both money, chemicals, and energy to transport/heat water/dry and I subscribe to the Union of Concerned Scientists view on the diaper debate.  We’ll use Seventh Generation again, dumping bowel movements in the toilet.)

5.  Water:  Also unknown.  I was going to test out our usage with a bucket, but honestly that’s going too far for me.  I take showers with Lucy, we have low-flow faucets and shower heads, and I water our plants exclusively with greywater and unfinished drinking water/coffee.  Not to mention, I can’t find a bucket in my neighborhood, but that’s neither here nor there.  The fact is, water-related reduction would mostly affect C, and I’m not going to have a big fight over it.  At least not yet.

6.  Consumer Goods:  I’m not saint when it comes to shopping, and so while I didn’t dig through receipts or anything, I’ll estimate our spending at about $7500/year.  Yeah.  I’m really not proud of that.  However, as far as goals go…I’m setting one for myself, and it isn’t at 90% Reduction.  My personal goal is $1875 for next year.  That is a 50% reduction, which I’m comfortable with for a start.  This should take into account that with a new baby coming, we’re going to need to buy some stuff.  We have a ton left over from Lucy, but babies just need things.  I am also figuring that, being pregnant, I will probably need more clothes (bras and panties at the very least, trust me) and while I’m planning on thrifting for anything not intimate apparel, I can’t guarantee I’ll find maternity.  I figure, at the very least tracking my spending will cause me to really think about what I am buying.  Does this sound like a total cop-out?  I’m not going to ask C to limit his spending since he really doesn’t spend like I do and also he has textbooks to pay for each semester.  Another reason why 1000k per year for the household is a no-go–C’s texts alone are over that figure.

7.  Food:

1.  local and organic–31%

2.  bulk dry–less than 1%

3.  wet goods–69%
Ain’t pretty, is it?  I’m not surprised; this is why the CSA this year.   I have no idea how much we can reduce here.  I’m hoping we can get to 90%, but I really have no idea.  The CSA will certainly help.  As far as bulk goods goes, we can’t exactly find a lot of those in the neighborhood, and our teeny kitchen means we’re severely limited on storage space.  Add to that one very picky four year old.  It’s not impossible, but it does mean that we’ll have to get Lucy eating more vegetables and less frozen meats/meat substitutes.

Anyway, I’ll be posting progress every month.  We’re still doing the Low-Impact Week as well, so bear with me while I bury myself under a ton of numbers.  Hey, I have to do something while I’m waiting for the baby to come 😛

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I have to write today and I’m putting it off. I managed to wake myself up at 5:59 to get a head start, but can’t bring myself to open the doc and begin editing. I should be a raging ball of nerves by noon and apoplectic by two if I don’t get working, so please send some motivation my way. I’d rather be doing almost anything else, and may end up doing just that.

Last week was my attempt at a control for Low Impact Week. Our results were…ok, I know I’m Negativity Girl this morning, but our results sucked. I keep trying to remind myself that that’s why I chose these categories to work on, that I already knew I would be unhappy with the numbers, but I’m just somewhere between pissed off and disheartened. This is what it looks like, to be followed by a mini-rant wherein I blame my husband for the whole damn thing*:

1. Number of plastic bags–shopping and produce: 17

2. Number of prepackaged foods: 20

3. Servings of local foods: 2

4. Servings of organic food: 30
5. Number of servings of meat: 13

6. Number of servings of dairy: 22.5

7. Number of takeout containers thrown out: 2.5

8. Number of garbage bags thrown out–grocery bag size: 3

9. Number of oz fed to worms: 9

10. Hours tv is on: 65

11. Hours computer is on: 98.25

12. Number of Low-dry loads of laundry: 1

13. Number of High-dry loads of laundry: 1

*it’s important to note that some of these numbers are household and some only refer to Lucy and me. Anything regarding diet is just for the two of us. Laundry, tv/comp, trash are all household. This is another problem: I can’t track things neatly right now. It may be easier once the CSA starts up and we’re eating more meals together.*

See what I mean? 65 hours of television? 98 hours of computer? Holy crap. And 17 plastic bags came into the house? That one really got to me. I mean, I use a reusable bag. That means that all 17 plastic bags came in with C. As for the tv and computer, well, I can cut how much Lucy and I use, but I’m not sure how much that’s going to be in the grand scheme of things. That’s not to say that C deserves the blame for our overuse, but it does mean that I’m going to have to figure out how I can make serious reductions when we’re talking about an entire household’s use. It’s really tough, and I may never find the balance. For now, I’m trying to just sort of shut up and deal, which usually leads to a huge explosion down the road. I try to tell myself that one 4-pack of Charmin instead of Marcal isn’t the end of the world, or that I can’t expect him to remember to take bags to the grocery store. After all, he doesn’t roll his eyes when I do things like, say, stick worms in the living room or log when I turn the tv on and off. At least not so I can see it. But, likewise, he doesn’t seem to care the same way. I mean, it’s not that he doesn’t care-care, just that he doesn’t feel the need to obsess about doing absolutely everything we can. And I am not the sort of person who can help myself once I get going. How do you change a household without alienating members therein? Or, equally importantly, without turning yourself into an eco-martyr?

Am I just over-thinking all of this or is the greening of the house like the housework fight for a new generation? Does anyone have any suggestions? WordPress registers 20+ of y’all reading this on a feed plus 20 or so daily hits–help a mommy out. Seriously, I’m perfectly nice as long as you don’t run up my electric bill or leave plastic bags in my kitchen.

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Really, what a glorious time of pregnancy. No swollen feet, the ability to walk more than a block without having to pee, no need to collapse on the couch after making the bed. I freaking love it. It’s not that I’m lazy ordinarily, but for some reason, the last few weeks have been all about doing more, wanting to do more. I love having ambition minus the nagging voice that tells me I’m taking on too much. It’s such a strange sort of power that I’m not used to. Not like the last in so many ways, this pregnancy, but in this respect, one and the same.

I have been meaning to recount the differences since they are great enough to half-convince me I’m carrying a boy. My hair, last time full and shiny, seems brittle this time and tangles within moments of being brushed. I glowed last time, this time I look tired and my skin dull. My belly pokes out far lower this time. Where spinach and tomato sauce gagged me early on this time, it was 2nd trimester last time when red meat would make me gag. This time around, more back aches and I don’t even want to talk about digestion. Last time? It was 3rd trimester before I had much trouble with any of that. Of course, I’m also sitting around this time making mental note of minutiae whereas last time I just lived.

But the energy, the drive…the rest I wish could be more similar but I’d be devastated if I didn’t have this mama-power to get me going on project after project. Things are just sort of…more when I’m pregnant, and I guess I like the more. I’ve missed the feeling of being able to do anything.

In more newsy news:

The CSA orientation was last night and I’m so beyond excited that I am damn near beside myself.

I did some edits for one of the nonprofits I’ve volunteered with, and not only did I manage to not freak out at working on congressional testimony, but I also got two glowing emails from directors thanking me for the work I did and informing me that my edits were in the final document (!!!)

For once, I actually have ideas of things to write about (even though I haven’t done anything with them.)

I have terrible superstitions about saying that things are going well so I’ll just say, I’m pretty damn happy with myself and my life right now.

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Woke up yesterday with scratchy throat, which expanded into ear pressure, and culminated with me falling asleep on the couch at the MIL’s after lunch. In bed by 7:30. I can swallow and my ears are fine, but the congestion is going to drive me crazy. Today I have to figure out how to write an introduction for myself to prospective users of my mad proofreading skillz. So far I have drooling and guttural sounds. Go Away Snot!

I am happy to report that the worms are alive and well! When we checked on them yesterday morning they were gathered in the corner where we last buried food for them, so I am well pleased. I can’t believe how much food waste we can go through. We buried a half pound (our bin takes 2-3 a week) and have another pound and a quarter still in the fridge. Not counting coffee grounds. I’m glad we have the bin to take what it can, but how are we ditching so much organic food matter? Holy hell, it makes one think.

Speaking of making one think, yesterday marked the beginning of Chart Madness. We made up a spreadsheet to use as a sort of control for Low Impact Week so that we can see how well we do. We have decided to track the following:

1. Number of plastic bags–shopping and produce

2. Number of prepackaged foods

3. Servings of local foods

4. Servings of organic foods

5. Number of servings of meat

6. Number of servings of dairy

7. Number of takeout containers thrown out

8. Number of garbage bags thrown out–grocery bag size

9. Number of oz fed to worms

10. Hours tv is on

11. Hours computer is on

12. Number of Low-dry loads of laundry

13. Number of High-dry loads of laundry

We’re tracking by day, and for 1-6 we have one column per day for Lucy and one for me. The part we’re going to do really bad on, I’m afraid, is tv and computer usage. Yesterday the computer was on for 10 hours, and we weren’t even home from 11:30-6. I’m not pointing any fingers *cough* video games *cough* but it ain’t me, babe. At least the computer is being turned off overnight now.

I will eventually write about other stuff, but right now this is what is taking up most of my thoughts and time. The apartment is severely in need of a clean-up, I haven’t unpacked yet (sacrilege!) and the ideas I have buzzing around in my head for essays are probably going to end up going to workshop rather than here (saves me time later.) It looks like I may be pretty inundated with proofreading here pretty soon,too, so I’m trying to prepare myself.

And finally, for the biggest news, yesterday at the in-laws Auntie M. sat down with Lucy to see how she’s doing on her beginning sounds. She proceeded to write ‘cat’ and asked Lucy to sound it out. Lucy not only read it, but also ‘bat’, ‘pat’, ‘hat’ and ‘mat’. How the hell that happened so quickly, I’ll never know. But apparently Lucy is well on her way to reading. Or can read and is just faking us all out. Or something. I’d tell you how well she adds, too, but that would just be bragging 🙂

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While catching up on my blog reading, I found a link to the Low-Impact Week challenge that Crunchy Chicken is sponsoring. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. While in Baltimore, Lucy decided that we need to protect the coral reef from destruction, and we spent a decent amount of time discussing the things our family does to help the environment, as well as the things we need to start doing more of. The first thing we decided to tackle was reducing the amount of packaging we throw out. And, to backtrack, before we left we determined that we can reduce the number of plastic bags we bring into the house by getting C something he can always have with him. We’ll be charting our progress here (we’ve chosen to change our food habits, a slight cheat since we’ll have the CSA by that point We’ll also be looking at our garbage output, another slight cheat because of the worm bin.)

I know most, if not all of y’all are already doing most of this stuff but there’s always more we can do. I encourage you to check out the lists and choose your own area of impact to reduce.

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It was fun, I am exhausted.  Came home to find our worm bin waiting for us.  Decided to wait until tomorrow to set up as I had neither newspaper nor soil.  Answered some email, set up some proofreading stuff, made a phone call, and was outside watering the basil and parsley when my husband knocked on the door and motioned me in.  There, in the middle of the living room floor were Bean and Lucy, staring very intently at a little reddish-brown…worm.  Who had apparently grown weary of being trapped in a box o’ dirt and was ready to see the big, wide world.  And then he was joined by one of his little worm brothers.

Thankfully our neighbors had dropped off a large stack of newspaper in the trash room, and thankfully I had a little bit of soil.  The worm bin is set up in a most haphazard way, but should hold until I can run and get more soil tomorrow.  And, let me tell you, it was a pain in the ass to set up.  This, I’m sure, is mostly because we’d been traveling all day and I’m a ball of cranky pregnant lady.  I’d swear to you that I’d never been this tired before, but it’s suspiciously exactly how tired I was last night.  And the night before.  And now, I have some vermicompost reading to do.

Man, I hope there aren’t any worm disasters between now and tomorrow morning.

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I heard back this morning that there is in fact space left in our neighborhood CSA!  I’m filling out the app and sending it in this morning, and in two weeks we should be getting our first box of veg.  Between the CSA for fruit and veggies, local milk, and a grocery within reasonable walking distance that carries free-range meats and eggs, there’s a good chance we’ll be able to do most of our eating sustainably this summer.  Which rules.  I’m salivating over the thought of fresh peaches and berries already!  I do want to get Lucy to a Greenmarket or two this summer, but it’s so damn hard to lug back groceries, pregnant, on the subway with a small child.  I am a little nervous about having to carry the CSA share from the pick-up point once I start getting bigger and it starts getting hotter, but it’s worth it.  Now how to pass the time between now and then…

I’m definitely starting to feel the urgency of getting ready for baby, early as it may be.  If only I could get stuff done now and have it last until October, I’d be one happy mama.  In addition to approaching near-obsession with the CSA, I somehow managed to buckle down and get ALL of my laundry done on Thursday.  6 loads worth, all done.  Laundry baskets empty for a glorious few hours before the days’ outfits were chucked.  I swear, if we didn’t have to use a shared laundry room I’d make everyone strip before I did laundry, just to have it all done at one time for once. I also managed to get all of it put away save what was air-drying (which is still spread throughout the apartment but it doesn’t count, right?)  I know nobody cares about my laundry, but this is such a major feat for me.  I never have all of my laundry done, and in fact have moved apartments with dirty laundry in bins.  That’s how huge this is.

What else…aw, the hell with it.  I’m going to drag Lucy out to window shop for baby clothes and maybe pick up another geranium, and then maybe we can have a picnic on the balcony.

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