Going green in the red
One mom tries to raise an eco-friendly family despite the recession.
Mon, Apr 06, 2009 at 05:45 AM
I stand in the shower, under what will soon be a low-flow shower head, squirting into my hand a tiny amount of clear, fragrant shampoo. Less than a dime, more like a pea. The organic brand, which my husband and I agree is the best shampoo ever, costs $8 and has been excised from the family budget. When this bottle runs out, it won't get replaced.
Our daughter, Celia, will still get her organic baby shampoo. She's only 2, and her thick, glorious hair is worth the $12 price tag.
Since my daughter's birth motivated me to go green, I have pondered endless lifestyle changes. Now I'm a green mom in a recession, weighing each green decision against the reality of my declining income as a freelance writer.
Will making this change cost anything? If so, will making this change make Celia healthier? Will it make her parents healthier? And how about Mother Earth? We still care about her.
Luckily, there are countless ways to be eco-friendly without impacting our bank account: bringing tote bags to the grocery store, recycling, composting, growing tomatoes in the yard.
My favorite green habits save money: hitting the consignment sales for used clothes and toys, using cloth diapers, buying less processed food, switching to CFL light bulbs, cutting out meat, driving less, shopping less.
But my plan for the next stage of my green transformation requires cash. This year, I was going to replace my toilets and shower heads with low-flow versions, replace my linoleum kitchen floor with bamboo and pull up the repulsive carpet in the bedrooms in favor of something cool like carpet made from recycled bottles.
On a smaller scale, I was going to turn our raggedy towels into dust rags and invest in organic cotton towels and bedding. Instead, I'm trimming the fray off our old towels and washing them less frequently so they'll last.
Most ridiculous in the present context is my recycled folder containing information collected in anticipation of the addition we were going to build, using an EarthCraft-certified contractor and the green products featured on my favorite TV show, Living with Ed. Ha! We've since made the most Earth-friendly choice — conveniently our only choice — of living with our house as-is. Indefinitely.
The hard choices are those that impact Celia. I was planning to get her an organic mattress for her first big-girl bed. I still want to do that, even though they cost a mint. The kid sleeps a lot, and I don't want her inhaling unhealthy stuff.
In some ways, the downward trend in my income has pulled me back from excesses that are in conflict with green living. I've always been uncomfortable with the marketing of pricey products claiming Earth-friendliness.
Still, I get seduced. I love organic bath products and fantasize about a day at an organic spa. I love my cozy sweater made of soybeans and my earrings made of recycled stained glass.
Some things are harder to part with than others. Goodbye fair-trade organic coffee. I hope to write you back into the budget soon. Organic produce and dairy products are still in, but organic cereal is on hold. It hurt not to renew my community-supported agriculture membership. My farmer is struggling.
I'm referring a lot to a book I bought when Celia was born called, Better Basics for the Home, by Annie Berthold-Bond. I made some of her homemade cleaning products, but over time I reached for commercial green products. No more. As for shampoo, according to Annie, I can combine castile soap, glycerin and essential oil. I'll give it a whirl. We can't afford to replace our toilets, but I will switch out our shower heads.
Most importantly, we'll keep teaching our daughter how to wander this Earth without leaving a trail of garbage behind. A parking pass at our favorite state park is just three bucks.