Is it Easy Being Green?

My daily adventures in attempting an environmentally-friendly lifestyle

Swap Shop January 30, 2009

Filed under: Reuse — isgreeneasy @ 5:53 pm
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halloween1Ah, I remember the good times when my trick-or-treating gang would dump out our loot and trade the candy we didn’t want. “I’ll trade you one Milky Way for two Blow Pops” was the kind of wheeling and dealing going on. Everyone won, and it was a thing of beauty. No one ever wanted those little boxes of raisins though.

Trick-or-treating days are long gone, but that old rush has a chance to come back even stronger–just with with the more grownup goodies of books in place of candy. Thanks to my book-loving eco-maven friend Bridget, I found out about PaperBackSwap. PaperBackSwap is an ingenious idea: You register, send in some books, earn “credits” for those books, and then use the credits to have the books of your choice sent to you. It’s the kind of reuse synchronicity that only the web can bring. Check out this video where Bridget explains how it works really well.

But oh no, it doesn’t stop at just books. There’s also SwapaCD and SwapaDVD, which work in the same way as PaperBackSwap. All of these services not only can save you a ton of money, but they promote not accumlating more stuff, and consequently conserving natural resources and energy.

I’ve been hearing about other swapping opportunities too, like clothing or household goods swap parties. I once had a spa party and everyone brought unwanted make-up, lotions, etc. that were perfectly good but just weren’t getting used. It was so fun to get some new products and see friends excited about things that I wanted to give away!

Although I’ve given away and even sold books online in the past, I still have a lot of them piling up on our sagging bookshelves. So now, I just have to let go of my unidentifiable need to hold onto them. Some of course are worth keeping, but do I really need to keep so many old books that I’ll most likely never look at again? No. Definitely not.

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Save that shower water January 21, 2009

Filed under: water — isgreeneasy @ 4:07 pm
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roadrunner_product1 Getting shower water to the desirable temperature is like a delicate art. It has to be just so, or the shower is ruined, right? Getting the ideal temp usually involves running the shower for any number of minutes, depending on your shower situation. In my old apartment (on the 3rd floor of an old house) it took what seemed like forever to warm up, and sometimes never really did. In my place now, it heats up pretty quickly, which then presents another issue–am I ready to get in the shower when the shower is ready for me? Sometimes yes, but sometimes I’m still removing make-up or brushing my teeth or whatever. And some people, who will go unnamed, seem to run the water while they go and make a sandwich, or at least do something that would take the same amount of time. All of that lovely clean water is literally going down the drain while we putter around!

I’ve definitely been working on being as quick as I can to get in the shower (and get out) to save those precious drops. But, I just found out about a smart new development in shower head technology that I think is pretty awesome. It’s called the Roadrunner shower head, here’s what it does: You turn on the shower and it runs until it’s at a nicely warm temperature; then it automatically reduces the water stream to a mere trickle until you pull a cord to resume the full flow. It’s a low-flow showerhead, saving even more water, but the water pressure looks pretty impressive (as opposed to the flat hair-causing piddly droplets that Seinfeld suffered).

The company that developed the Roadrunner says that it saves about 8 gallons of water for every five minutes in the shower. That’s equal to almost 3,000 gallons of water per person each year. At $40 the price isn’t bad and they claim that it will pay for itself in two months in savings on utility bills.  It looks like they’re out of stock and backordered right now at a number of sites; I guess they’re getting popular! 

I hope the next shower head they come out with will be one with the same technology, but that does the trickle thing from the moment you turn it on, even when the water’s cold. Now that would save even more water, and cut down on the pre-shower stress!

 

Attack of the clinging laundry January 12, 2009

Filed under: cleaning — isgreeneasy @ 9:39 pm
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laundryWhen it comes to cleaning, I think I’m in pretty decent eco-shape. The general rule is minimal toxics and waste. For laundry, I use unscented, concentrated detergent (always an environmentally-friendly brand), wash mostly in cold, only wash full loads and run shorter cycles.

But, somehow my lifelong attachment to the dryer sheet slipped by me. I just felt that a little dryer sheet didn’t create that much waste and offered the important benefits of soft and cling-free clothes. I actually thought it seemed like a better thing to do than use fabric softener. Recently my husband for some reason brought up the fact that dryer sheets (and fabric softener) contain chemicals, and that hit me like a ton of recycled bricks. How did I not think about this before? How have I been carelessly poisoning us for all this time?
Once I got over the drama, I reminded myself that sometimes we have to be forgiving and go easy on ourselves; there are a lot of things to balance and prioritize in life and the fact that I had put my attention to other things did not make me The Anti-Environmentalist. So, on to figuring out how to replace the dryer sheets!

Great balls of dryer
I first thought of those plastic dryer balls I had seen promoted here and there. They claim to be eco-friendly because they replace fabric softener and dryer sheets. They’re even sold on the Gaiam website, which is supposed to be a leader in eco-conscious products. Sounded good at first, but I noticed that these are made out of plastic–possibly the same kind of plastic that we’re not supposed to put in the microwave because it releases nasty chemicals when heated. Hmmm. After a little investigating, I found out that they’re made from PVC, a highly toxic plastic. That is not something I want more of in my life. Here’s why. This is a common situation we’re faced with when trying to make environmentally-conscious choices: what is the trade-off on benefits vs. impacts? In this case, I didn’t feel that dryer balls at all offer a better solution than good ol’ dryer sheets.

It’s not just for baking
After reading up more, I found out that what seem to be the solutions to every cleaning problem you’ll ever have, baking soda and vinegar, can be used in the wash to soften clothes and prevent static cling. Adding 1/4 cup of baking soda or white vinegar to the wash cycle is supposed to do the trick. Adding the vinegar or baking soda to the rinse cycle is also recommended, but I don’t know if I can count on myself to remember to do that. I’ll try the wash cycle first and see how it works. The cool thing about this option is that baking soda and vinegar are super cheap!

One sheet is worth 500 loads
When I came upon the reusable non-toxic dryer sheet, I thought I might have my answer. These are made from cloth, have no chemicals and are supposed to soften clothes and remove static cling. One cloth lasts up to 500 loads, which if they work, is awesome. They don’t provide a scent, but I used unscented dryer sheets and don’t care about fragrance anyway. (If you do want fragrance, a good tip I found is to make a little sachet of lavender and throw it in the dryer.) I read the positive reviews on Amazon and found recommendations on environmental websites, so I figured I’d give it a try. I orderered a pair and they should be on the way. I’ll report the results!

Another option to try is using eco-friendly fabric softener (brands like Seventh Generation and Ecover make this) but if I can get away with using one less product in a bottle, the better, so I’ll hold off on this one.

I could of course also try air-drying everything, but in my little apartment, that just sounds overwhelming, time-consuming and annoying; plus it gives clothes that crunchy feeling. I know this would be the best choice environmentally though, so maybe I’ll look into air-drying some things that crunchiness doesn’t matter as much with.