14 May 2010

As Green as it Gets...For Us

I've been thinking a lot lately about what I'm calling the Yuppie Greenification of MA Movement. It seems that every time I turn around, another law or regulation has been passed to make the state a greener place. On the one hand, I see nothing wrong with making the world a better place. On the other, I have to wonder why, now that it's such a popular thing to do, the cost of going green has gone so...well...high.

I also wonder how, if environmental education is the latest trend in elemetary cirriculums, I will explain to my sweet little cherub (snerk) exactly why Mommy and Daddy are limited in their ability to jump on board this bandwagon.

In terms of Green Points, I present the following:
  • We only have one car. It's a 2003 Impala, but it's one car. For the family. Now, with M back to work, we all commute together. He drives to his workplace (about 10 minutes from mine), and then I take the helm and drive to A's play-skool and my office. We reverse the trend going home. We don't drive when we can take the T though.
  • We recycle. Two bins a week.
  • I use one green cleaning product for light cleaning only. The others I've tried were ridiculously expensive and performed worse than soap and hot water, so there's still plenty of chemicals in the house - which means I don't think I can claim a full point here.
  • I use a re-usable water bottle for tap water and coffee mug instead of buying them individually.
  • When we buy seasonal fruits and vegetables from our commissary, we automatically get the local deal. Same with milk and eggs. They're not, however, certified organic or free-range. That might equal out to zero points.
OK. So, we're off to a, well, a start. But here's where I get annoyed and wish that the fashionistas would find something else to ruin so that prices come back down.

I recently did a cost analysis on the value of getting rid of the Impala in favor
of a Prius (not that I would drive a Prius, but I wanted to see nevertheless). Here's how it broke down:
The Prius would get 288 miles per tank during the cooler months and, after it warms up, according to owners, then possibly 571 using manufacture specs. And yes, I realize that supposedly the fuel bladder in the 2010 model has been re-designed to reduce shrinkage in cold weather. Nevertheless, I currently get 350 miles per tank no matter what the weather.

At 2.79 a gallon where we fill up, figuring the bladder fix would give me the EPA rated (individual results will vary), 11.9 gallons per tank, it would cost 33.20 per fill - and I'd have to fill, based on a 48 mpg rating, about every week and 3 days. At 33.20 for 8 days vs. 30.00 for 5, that's 6 dollars a day in fuel vs. 4. Hm. Not a wicked sizable sum.

The Impala is also almost paid off and only costs 90 a month to insure. The Prius would be an almost 300.00 monthly payment at the starting price I saw of 31K. And over a hundred dollars to insure.

Not getting a hybrid. Sorry.

Next, I looked at artisan meats, free-range meat and eggs, and real, honest-to-God fresh, homemade bread from a bakery. Oh. And organically grown fruits and vegetables. All of these combined would quadruple my grocery bill. I wish I could afford free-range because it IS better for you, and tastes better too. But right now, even though conceptually, the cost of production should be lower and that should be passed along, it's still a niche market and those occupying the niche have either way more disposable income than I do or don't care and will go without, say, a car, to purchase.

Organic vegetables? Forget it. At 3 times the price with zero additional nutritional value to their mass farmed counterparts, I will settle for a good washing of the item in question.

Finally, sustainable or environmentally friendly home products. I have three bamboo cutting boards. They were a splurge and as I was going home with them, I thought, waitaminnit. Bamboo is a pest plant. It's like Kudzu. It'll just grow out of control if you don't manage it very, very carefully. It's also a "green" product, unlike hardwood, for that very reason. So why the HELL is it so much more expensive than wood or plastic? Same for hemp fibers, natural ticking, yarns, dyes and all the rest.

No, the state is free to educate my child on the benefits of environmental sustainment and being green, but when it comes time for her to ask me why our home isn't "more green", I'm going to assign her a research project to answer that question. It will be, "Find Out Why are Green and Environmentally Conscious Materials and Products So Much More Expensive and Cost Prohibitive to the Average Family".

We don't own our home, we don't have a yard as such. Many of the homemade options are not available to us for those reasons and, even if they were, converting our 90 year old place into something a little more green would be low on the list for Reasons to Take Out a Second Mortgage.

How about you? How are you green and in what areas are you not and why?


Anonymous said...

Hi, mind if I come in and visit? I "know" you from WorkitMom. I'm SKL. I just thought I'd comment since you often end your posts with a question for readers.

When it comes to "being green," I agree that it's really important to do research on all the reasonable alternatives rather than jump on a "bandwagon." Every time we reuse or recycle something, we are using additional water, maybe soap, maybe electricity, gas, oil, etc. The Prius turns out to be not such an environmental car when you consider that the battery is a huge non-recyclable hunk of waste. There is always some environmental downside to a product, service, or process substitution.

This has been well highlighted with respect to the marketing-oriented debate over whether cloth or disposable diapers are more environment-friendly. The disposable side has done a great job of illustrating how many hidden environmental costs are associated with what seem to be simple pieces of cloth (though I don't agree with their numbers). To me, the obvious answer is to put kids on the pot early and often, yet folks on both sides of the diaper debate advise against that. I wonder why.

I am reasonably green because I try to minimize everything I use, from paper to gasoline to electricity. I could make quite a list of "green" stuff I do but mostly it boils down to my sense that any intentional waste is sinful. I teach my kids that as well. I do make mistakes, but I don't take them lightly.

I do buy organic food for the most part; if not organic, than at least the more "natural" offerings (i.e., the ingredient list is short and simple). I find that most organic foods are priced competitively with non-organic ones, at least where I live. Bread is one exception, so I don't buy organic bread (especially since it gets stale quickly). Most organic foods taste better so I find I am satisfied more easily, eat less, and waste less. I have also read that organic fruits have significantly more nutrients. With milk, my main concern is hormones; something I don't need more of, and neither do my kids. I don't cook meat, so I can't comment on the relative cost/value of organic meat. I spend less at the grocery store than many people I know.

I don't do all the "green" stuff because some of it wouldn't make sense for me. Take composting. I don't have time, I think it's gross, my family produces very little food waste, and sending it down the in-sink disposer is a good way to send it back to nature. Another example - once I tried an organic shampoo/conditioner product, and it bothered my skin a lot more than the cheap stuff I buy at Wal-Mart (and it didn't work as well). I only wash my hair 2x per week so I am not going to lose sleep over this. At least I won't be needing additional products to treat my irritated skin.

I think when "responsible living" is repackaged as a contest or otherwise sensationalized, it's time to be suspicious, just as with any consumer product.

I also strongly believe that there are several agendas in the environmental movement, which have little or nothing to do with promoting a pristine environment.

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