Happy Being Green: Just How Sustainable is Sustainability?

Saving the environment takes time and energy that we don’t always have.  The more I write this blog and raise my kids, the more I’m convinced that sustainability has to include more than just the environment.  To be great parents and environmentalists, we have to sustain ourselves.

How?  By enjoying our thrifty green adventures.  By letting go of green guilt.  By embracing progress instead of perfection.

And by being happy!

Think about it, how many truly effective green moms are exhausted and bummed out all the time?  How many guilt-ridden women are motivated to keep tinkering with their lifestyles to make eco-friendly shifts?

So maybe, every once in a while, we need to take a hot bubble bath (regardless of the gallons of water it requires) or go for the nap instead of whipping up a batch of home baked bread from flour we milled ourselves.
(more…)

Embracing the Challenges of Green Parenting

What are the green parenting obstacles for your family?  Is it the time to launder and use cloth diapers?  Is it the support of other like-minded families?  Is it trying to breastfeed while working full time?

For us, it’s a limited budget.  There are so many areas where going green saves us heaps of cash, as we point out in The Eco-nomical  Baby Guide.  I revel in the fact that shopping at thrift stores, riding our bikes, and using public transport have economic, environmental, and health benefits.  But it’s tricky for me to expand our grocery budget (which is already our highest monthly bill) on organic food. We eat less meat, less packaged foods, and more bulk foods, but it would be lovely to dine on fully organic foods at all times.
(more…)

Book Review: The Tightwad Gazette

For those of us who love creativity, hate waste, and enjoy watching our savings accounts grow, The Tightwad Gazette is a thrill a minute.  The author, Amy Dacyczyn, was termed the “frugal zealot” for her efforts to “promote thrift as a viable lifestyle.” The Tightwad Gazette was published back in the late ‘90s, but it’s still just as applicable today.  Her grocery costs of just $38.00 a week for a family of eight are still astounding, even if you take inflation into account.

Although The Tightwad Gazette emphasizes frugality rather than environmentalism, Dacyczyn, points out that most of her cost-savings efforts are eco-friendly. Her family rarely buys anything new, grows most of their produce, and limits their meat intake. 

(more…)

Is Staying At Home Greener than Working?

If both parents have demanding careers and multiple children, how do they manage things like washing cloth diapers, composting, making healthy dinners and spending time with baby? There are also some single parents out there who are handling full-time schedules and parenting while keeping the planet in mind. How do they do it?  I am utterly in awe of people who can juggle so much without feeling overwhelmed. 

My husband and I both work thirty-some hours per week and yet we find the balance of a two career family rather precarious at times. Over the last few weeks illness and injury has made the daily challenge of laundry and homemade dinners seem ever greater.   I often long for take-out, or look lustfully at the frozen entrees in the grocery store,  knowing that those convenience items are designed for the hectic, dual income family.  Even though I’m often overwhelmed,  I don’t want to give into the urge to buy disposable, convenience items, saving time while potentially harming the planet.  At this point it seems we should be able to handle some extra time for green choices since we have just one child, we both work equally hard on domestic tasks, and neither of us are working full time.

(more…)

The Freedom of Frugality

Growing up, frugality was more of a lifestyle than a choice. Even though my parents didn’t necessarily practice penny pinching with the environment in mind, many of their cost-saving practices were eco-friendly as well.  My sister and I thought that showering consisted of getting wet, turning off the water to “soap up” and then following with a quick rinse.  We flattened aluminum cans for the recycling bin and took the compost out without any realization that we were helping the environment.  However, through the practice of penny pinching we did learn that our resources are precious.

baby-beach-walk.jpgAlthough it may sound like I lived a horribly deprived childhood, the truth is that many of our thrifty practices were quite adventurous. Instead of going to Maui, my family spent our vacations camping in Oregon rainforests or visiting relatives, where we often set up sleeping bags on the living room floor.  On car trips we had picnics at rest areas rather than swinging through fast food restaurants.  No one in my family ever belonged to a gym, but we enjoyed nightly moonlit family beach walks near my home to stay healthy and enjoy the outdoors. 

Roscoe Goes Beachwalking 

Now that I’m in my mid thirties, I’ve learned to appreciate my quirky saving skills and all the benefits they’ve brought to me over the years. Having the ability to prioritize my values and then differentiate between wants and needs has been an extremely helpful skill.  I was able to pay off huge graduate school loans in four years on a starting teacher’s salary because of extreme (and sometimes neurotic) tightwaddery. Most of the time, all that penny pinching had huge advantages for the environment as well.  I biked for transportation whenever possible and bought most of my clothing at thrift shops.  To cut grocery costs, I ate very little meat and rarely purchased convenience foods.

As a parent, I find that all that self-restraint ends up providing personal freedom in more ways than one. Financially, it has allowed us the freedom to take more time with our son and relax about the costs of having a child.  We want to model thriftiness and living simply right from the start with Roscoe.

With that in mind, we outfitted most of Roscoe’s nursery with used furniture, dress him in quality hand-me-downs and use cloth diapers.  Roscoe doesn’t eye his crib with disdain and will never care that another soul has worn his clothes before him, but the cost savings are phenomenal.

baby-sliding.jpg

Even though as a teenager I swore I would live a more luxurious life someday, I now have a great appreciation for my frugal roots.  When Roscoe grows up a bit and resents the simple life, I’ll remind myself that in the long run, we’re giving him the gift of self-reliance, self-restraint, and an environment that’s just a little bit cleaner.

Roscoe Enjoys Cost-Free Fun on The Playground Slide