Thursday, April 29, 2010

This Year's Earth Day Thoughts

Every year at this time, I feel compelled to post, yet, given the season, I am often torn between posting some great green tips and getting out in the great green world and doing things. For the past two years, the dilemma has been made more difficult by the need to keep up with our three acres of paradise; The weeds need to be cut, the earth tilled, the compost spread, the seeds planted. And now, with the days getting longer, the evening writing hours are fewer.

Even with all that, however, I wanted to share some simple realizations I've had as to how to run a greener home since this is the area in which most of my conversations with my green-aspiring friends end up focusing. Specifically, I get questions like, "What's the more green way to wash dishes--machine or hand?" or, "Where do you store your compost before you take it out to the compost bin?" So for this post, I'm going to do my best to answer a few of these questions.

Question 1: Where do you store your compost before taking it out to the bin? This is one of the easier questions I get. The key to good inside compost storage is keeping container size small. The reason is that the larger the container, the heavier it will be when you have to take it out to the bin and the more likely it will stink up your kitchen. I recommend a small indoor trash can with a tight lid.

Question 2: Paper or Plastic? Well, really, neither. Both paper and plastic have their environmental drawbacks. The best choice? A reusable canvas or recycled plastic bag.

Question 3: Aluminum or Glass? This one's a little simpler than the question above. Glass is a clear winner (I couldn't help myself there--sorry!) due to the serious environmental costs associated with mining bauxite, the key ingredient in aluminum.

Question 4: The biggie--Dishwasher or Hand Wash? This is a more complex question with a complex and somewhat surprising answer. Surprisingly, a good, modern, energy-star rated dishwasher is actually more green than good old elbow grease. A typical good, new automatic dishwasher uses less water, less energy, and less detergent than hand washing--especially if you don't use features like "heated dry" (dishes will dry on their own just fine.) There are, however, a couple of key caveats here. First, the use of a mild, eco-friendly dish washing detergent is key--many of the standard automatic dish washing detergents are harsher and more earth damaging than their hand-wash counterparts. Second, run it completely full, not half empty.

So that's it for this Earth Day. I hope these tips will help you live a happier, greener life!

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