Green Living – Authenticity

clothes pinDoes your neighbor who just bought a “hybrid” car, complain when you hang clothes out to dry?

One of the things I like most about Seattle and The Pacific Northwest generally, is the sincere desire to improve.  Improve the environment, improve the quality of life, not only for themselves but for those around them.

…and they can smell BS from a mile away!

Seems to me that every time the subject of Green Homes comes up, there’s some new and more costly “green” improvement. Or some “green” label that is supposed to make “the product” sell at a higher price as a result. A marketing “gimmick”.

I write this post in an effort to share “real” green living tips. I am so NOT a “green” expert, and I’m very hopeful that others will join in here. I am however a strong proponent of “Waste not; Want not” and rewarding people with “the right why”.

I grew up in the days when everyone hung their heaviest clothes out to dry. We had clothes dryers, but we were also conscious of how much energy it took to dry a pair of jeans. We also knew our jeans kept their color and lasted longer if we hung them to dry vs. putting them in the clothes dryer.

When my children were small, we had a huge vegetable garden. Way too many vegetables for us to eat ourselves. I remember having the girls fill up the little red wagon with cucumbers and tomatos and green peppers. We went door to door and gave each of our neighbors a few days worth of our produce. I also remember the surprise when the neighbors realized it wasn’t a “business” for the children, and the vegetables were gifts and free.

Given the state of the economy, I’d like to add a proponent of Cost Factor. My idea of “recovery” is to find a happy medium, not to get back to where we once were.  I actually WANT the economy to stay down, and for people to adjust their lifestyle accordingly. The Age of Greed and Excess is over. Even for those with plenty of money, it is no longer fashionable to flaunt that fact. Even celebrities suddenly realize that every dollar they waste on more bling, would have been better spent feeding a hungry child.

Yes, businesses will fail. But maybe it’s time a business that sold a baked potato for $8 SHOULD fail. What did it cost them? A dime?

The #1 thing you can do is to be authentic in your approach. Don’t spend more for something just because you can finance it. (Yes, that includes real estate commissions.) Treat every dollar you make and spend as a “public trust” to improve the world around you. It’s a lofty goal and change doesn’t happen overnight. Instead of looking down your nose at a neighbor who hangs a pair of jeans on the line outside, look down your nose at a neighbor who has a beautiful lawn that they water twice a day.

1) Remove all clothesline bans

It always amazes me that the same people who don’t want the government putting restrictions on their lives, will be the first to complain if they see a neighbor hanging a sheet or blanket on a clothesline. I’m not sure why you never see people hanging clothes out on a nice day, but if it’s because they are “not allowed” to do that…change that.

2) Grow something from the seeds of that which you have already grown.

What a wonderful lesson for children. When my children were small, we always visited their great grandparents and great aunts and uncles who lived in another State in the Fall. I am reminded of this everytime I pass by the many marigolds on display today. We used to “bring the relatives home with us” by collecting the dead flower heads…the portion that contained the new seeds. We would put them in a paper bag when we collected them, and we would plant them the next spring at our home. While we only saw those relatives once a year, we added them to our daily lives and thoughts via “seed collecting”. Here’s a good “how to” on collecting seeds and having new plants from something you have already grown.  I learned this from my mother. A wonderful tradition to hand down from generation to generation. My grandmother used to collect and cook dandelion greens (with sausage and pasta sauce), but I’m not sure we’re quite ready for that lesson 🙂

Another fabulous idea for a housewarming gift is to split your bulbs and bring a free and lasting gift to a new neighbor, or even plant them in your local traffic circle.  You want to be careful to time this appropriately, as the “green” of the plant feeds the bulbs, so you don’t want to simply “dead head” and dig up when the blossom fades. But what a wonderful gift! Nature gives you abundance by mulitplying itself! Yet how often do we dig up the bulbs and plant this new gift of nature, vs. going to the local garden store to buy bulbs? Something to think about.

3) Get some exercise while helping someone in need

There is recently a huge public outcry regarding the unkempt appearance of homes in foreclosure.  Sometimes the home is vacant. Sometimes the distressed homeowner is having difficulty paying their utility and trash bills. Even if the owner can go out and pile up the yard waste, they may not have the means of disposing that yard waste due to unpaid trash bills. (Recent example I have witnessed first hand.)

Every “help” organization: Senior Centers, Hopelink, any and all organizations that help the disabled, should have a list of people who can use a lending hand with their yardwork.  If every person traded just one day at the gym, for some honest “helping hand” physical labor, the world would be a better place. 

In many, many ways we are talking about replacing bad thoughts with good ones. Instead of complaining about the neighbor’s yard, assume there is a very good reason why they can’t do what they are not doing.

Don’t ever offer to “fix” someone’s something, as that is a negative “judgement”. Instead, ask if the neighbor might help YOU by allowing you to do some of their needed yardwork. Explain how you need more exercise, or how much you love to garden and you have no gardening left at your place that needs doing.

Remember that when you help someone, you do so by asking them to help you..because the real joy is in the giving.