Taking the Green Road

July 25, 2008 | By | Comments (12)


This month my husband and I began riding our bikes to work. To celebrate our shift (and our anniversary) he sold his racing bikes and bought us a couple of cruisers. They’re the kind you might have ridden as a kid, with cushy seats, gigantic handlebars, and a kickstand. (His even has backpedal brakes!) This was a quantum leap for an avid cyclist who once teased me for not removing the reflectors from my mountain bike. (Extra weight! And SO not cool.) But it was part of his shift to thinking of a bike as a means for transportation, not just sport.

Now my 15-minute ride to and from work is the most carefree part of my day. Remember how it felt to ride a bike as a kid? That’s how this feels. I can’t help but smile. I actually look forward to my commute. And I made a tank of gas last THREE WHOLE WEEKS!

The point of this story is that going green doesn’t always have to be about sacrifice. In fact, many of the choices you can make to reduce your eco-footprint are actually enjoyable, economical, and downright easy. Here are a few we’re exploring:

A waste-free lunch: You might have read my post about the benefits of a bento lunch kit. In addition to eliminating disposable utensils and packaging, it makes portion control a no-brainer. Check out other attractive grown-up lunch boxes, and learn more about how to start a waste-free lunch campaign at your kid’s school.

Reusable shopping bags: This seems so obvious, but ditching plastic grocery bags is one small act that makes a huge impact over time. Plus, with all the stylish and practical options on the market, why not? I love the story about the recent nationwide bag swap that our readers spontaneously organized on the Cooking Light bulletin boards.

Homemade baby food: It’s really not that hard. I swear! With a steamer and a blender or food processor (or the Beaba BabyCook,
a smart new appliance that does both), it takes me about 15 minutes to
prepare a batch of homemade applesauce. I then freeze in covered ice
cube trays for instant meals during the week. Ingredients: apple.

Leasing a hybrid: My husband found that leasing 2 hybrid SUVs for his small business would cost no more (at current gas prices) than their current gas-guzzling utility trucks. If gas prices continue to rise, he’ll actually save money.

Eco-friendlier diapers: I did a lot of research on cloth diapers, but couldn’t find the time in my working-mom schedule to commit to them without a diaper service (our town lacks one). However, I did find some better alternatives to traditional disposables. Nature Babycare diapers are chlorine-free and biodegradable. gDiapers are a hybrid of cloth and disposable. Plastic-free flushable (or compostable!) inserts fit in a cloth outer shell. They cost a little more (between 7 cents and 20 cents more per diaper compared to a leading brand), but I think they’re worth it. Both are available on Diapers.com.

CONTEST — Win an eco-bag!
Share your best go-green tip by adding a comment on this post. Add your comment by midnight on Sunday, August 2 (be sure to include your email address). We’ll pick our favorite five tips and send the winners a reusable Chico Bag. (They stuff down into a little stuff-sack that fits in your purse or car cup holder.)


  1. Kim

    Thanks to everyone who shared their favorite green tip(s). We’ve judged the winners (who should be getting an email today) and will announce them tomorrow.

    August 7, 2008 at 12:57 pm
  2. Joyce

    I purchased a set of Glass containers to store our leftovers in the fridge. This cut down on the amount of plastic we were buying and disposing. I also reuse any glass jars that I may purchase containing jelly or pasta sauce. These fit comfortably on the inside of my fridge door. They also make great vases for cut flowers.
    I participated in the bag swap on the ck lt BB and am happy to say I am a cloth convert! I even shopped for my partners bag while on vacation in Vienna. This swap made me very aware that most Europeans shop with cloth bags.

    August 1, 2008 at 8:28 pm
  3. susan

    I keep a clean gallon milk jug under the sink. When I run hot water to wash dishes, I collect the cold water in the jug until it becomes hot enough to wash. I save the collected water to use on my plants.

    July 31, 2008 at 3:35 pm
  4. Lisa Imerman

    Going green is a big topic of discussion around our house. We are always trying to find inexpensive ways to better our “eco-friendly” efforts. Many of the things others have said are true in our household. We have HUGELY reduced our trash output in the last year we went from 2.5-3 cans a week to 1/2-1 can a week for a family of 5. We compost, save many veggie scraps and meat bones for making stock, recycle glass, plastic, aluminum, paper and cardboard. Our local school recycles paper so we often put our collected junk mail, paper, etc. in their collection bin. Our community has a once a month cardboard and paperboard recycling, so we save all cardboard and paperboard for the month and drop it off the first Saturday of the month (it is near the farmer’s market so not our of our way either). We also do not use disposable plates, etc anymore. We bought each member of the family a stainless mess kit and we use those when we picnic, camp or otherwise eat out of the home. We do waste free lunches for the kids (and ourselves frequently) with the Laptop lunchboxes mentioned in the article above. We also do not buy bottled water, but use refillable water bottles from Laptop Lunches and our own water. We buy almost all our food locally. We have belonged to a CSA for 6 years now and also buy our chickens, beef, honey, maple syrup, apples, berries, potatoes,lunchmeat, cheese, hot dogs, etc. all locally. We buy organic and sustainably grown and cook in season. Our food is healthier and much more “green” and the taste is so fantastic.
    I also volunteer with a local non-profit that educates on food and nutrition and also helps consumers and farmers find a beneficial relationship in the community!!
    We grow some of our own garden items and do not spray our lawn. We use a tool called the weed hound to get rid of weeds that tend to be a problem (the tool and a little elbow grease is great fun and our kids even like to help).
    We walk the kids to school as often as weather allows which is great fun (we walk with a bunch of parents/kids in the neighborhood so it is great fun).
    I of course use reusable bags where ever I shop (which is usually at the farmer’s market or my co-op).
    We use CFL lightbulbs (although I am rethinking this to some degree as the mercury in them bothers me and I don’t find them to be much of a savings in energy or costs).
    We have put nitrogen in our tires and we also make sure we get regular oil changes and maintenance as well as keep tires properly inflated.
    I do think the thing that gives us the most bang for our buck and pleasure is the eating local and sustainable. It has also lowered our medical costs significantly!!

    July 30, 2008 at 5:12 pm
  5. Kim

    When our gas lawn mower died this year we researched and bought one of those reel motor-less push mowers! I love it! No gas smell, no noise, and I don’t have to get my husband to pull start it for me!
    My other outside “green” project is my compost pile. We have really reduced our landfill contributions.
    And finally, for Mother’s Day, I asked for and received Nitrogen in my tires. At $5 per tire, it keeps my tire pressure steady and thus increases my gas mileage.
    Green’s my favorite color!

    July 30, 2008 at 3:29 am
  6. Cate O’Malley

    Over the past year or so, I’ve been doing more and more things to “go green,” and that includes cutting down on waste. I have a large pitcher on my kitchen counter where I collect water. When you stop and think about it, we waste a lot of water on a regular basis. Boiling eggs? Don’t toss the water down the drain, pour it into the pitcher. Rinsing out a cup? Do it over the pitcher so you catch the water. Once full (and it fills up at least once a day), I use it to water our indoor plants and outdoor flower and herb garden. Little things like this do add up … even to a savings on our water bill.

    July 29, 2008 at 3:58 pm
  7. Laura Harrison

    The obvious tips of reusable grocery bags and walking or biking when possible, we are also avid recyclers. Our town has the recycling trucks collecting different items each week, i.e. paper items one week, the next week is plastic, cans and glass. In Maine we also pay a 5 cent deposit for soda bottles, 15 cents for wine and alcohol, this is an incentive to return all of these bottles when emptied to collect the money back. It also cuts down on roadside trash because whatever has been thrown out will be collected by someone wanting to get the money for it. I throw my coffee grinds into the garden and corn cobs into the broth pot to add more flavor. I keep a ziplock bag in the freezer with cobs and other vegetable parts not used ready for a broth pot when needed, nothing is wasted(well, very little) I find it is just changing a mind set of trying to be more frugal, not wasteful. I saw this exemplefied by friends in Canada, it is really interesting to see how things are carried out in other areas.

    July 29, 2008 at 2:19 pm
  8. Nancy

    When I print something that is more than one page, I use the duplex feature on my printer, found on the properties tab. My printer prints on both sides of the paper instead of using one sheet for every page.

    July 29, 2008 at 9:13 am
  9. Heavy Hedonist

    I’ve been keeping green, and cool, this summer by using my slowcooker pretty much daily. People think of it as a winter appliance, I know, but it uses a truly minimal amount of energy, makes the most of my produce, and makes enough food for several meals at a time, all while keeping the kitchen and house cool with no extreme measures. Most days, it’s the only thing using energy in the kitchen other than the fridge; I just open windows and let the breeze do the work normally assigned to AC and fans.
    Usually there’s a one-pot meal, too, so less clean-up is involved, and all messy parts can be done in the dishwasher, using less water. Having something nourishing made from all or mostly fresh foods has led us to use fewer pre-packaged foods as well, creating less trash. We’re getting breakfasts, dinners and lunches out of it. And to really make it the greenest, you can cook in it overnight, putting less stress on the energy grid. It’s almost too simple, but it has a big impact.

    July 28, 2008 at 8:08 pm
  10. Kelly

    I joined a CSA for the first time this year. Every week, I get a box of fresh produce from a local farm, and I know that it didn’t take a ton of gas to get it to my dinner table. It’s a sustainable farm, so they don’t use a lot of pesticides.
    Besides being green, joining a CSA has been great for my waistline. I’ve actually lost a couple pounds this summer.
    And I’ve gotten very creative with vegetables I wouldn’t normally have experimented with at the grocery store, like chard, kale, and beets.

    July 28, 2008 at 2:53 pm
  11. Karyl

    Actually, go ahead and keep the contest bag — or give it to someone else!
    When I shop I don’t use any bags at all. I put a cardboard “banker’s box” (the ones used for filing with the cut-out handles) in my cart and have the bagger reload it. I was amazed at how many groceries fit into it (usually all of them) and I only have to make one trip into the house to unload.

    July 27, 2008 at 9:20 pm
  12. T. Dunn

    When looking for easy ways to move towards a greener life, don’t forget composting.
    One of the main benefits of composting is that much of your unwanted leftover food scraps, fruit and vegetable peelings, etc. can be easily transformed into excellent fertilizer for your garden (or a friend’s garden).
    Without composting, these surprisingly bulky table scraps would likely end up rotting in landfills instead of nourishing your plants.
    Another side benefit of regular composting is that it can help you cut down on the garbage bags you use, and (depending on where you live) perhaps even your garbage collection fees.
    Getting started in composting can be as easy as contacting your local Cooperative Extension Office or better health food store and taking a free one hour class.
    Just some food for thought!

    July 27, 2008 at 2:07 pm

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