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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, April 20

Gapers Block

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Andrew / April 10, 2008 12:33 AM

Do you bring your own bags to the grocery store? Do you have low-energy lighting? Do you conserve water? And so on and so forth?

Dutch101 / April 10, 2008 8:09 AM

I think I do OK, for the most part. I don't drive much, bike most of the time, I do use my own bags at the store, have some efficient lighting (replacing 'em as they go), turn out lights and "vampire power" consumers, recycle what I can.

I think I do enough to keep my conscience clear, but I'm not going to freak out about being super "green" when it's a little like pissing in the ocean. I try to look on the bright side of life, but I think that if a thinking person today doesn't have a generally dim view on humanity's long term viability, well, they aren't thinking too hard. Too many horribly selfish people out there whose behavior you absolutely will not change.

jmartin / April 10, 2008 8:55 AM

GB readers are of an age to fully reap what we have so insanely sowed. Can we not admit that light bulbs and grocery bags are but appeasements from persons much closer to life's exit? Here is the start of the real list:

1. Did/will you forego having children?

2. Have you eliminated red meat?

3. What is your transportation?

4. Do you live near, and use the smallest amounts of, potable water?

I've achieved Nos. 1 and 2, but still have progress to make on Nos. 3 and 4.

Carrie / April 10, 2008 9:47 AM

I'd like to think I'm pretty green--

I recycle
Bring my own bag to the store
Try to bring my own salad container to the salad bar (I've been bringing lunch more and more, so I'm using reusable containers often)
Have been a vegetarian for 12 years (though that's mostly b/c I joined the animal rights club at 16 and now it's just part of my life)
Don't own a car
Buy organic when I can
Turn out my lights when they're not needed
Am slowly replacing regular bulbs with energy efficiant ones
Use cold water to do my laundry
Keep my heat low and use a space heater to keep the living room warm
I'm trying not to get too neurotic about it and while I think it's important to do even small things, I'm trying to lead by example instead of lecturing. Though who wouldn't like grocery bags you can put on your shoulder instead of the crappy plastic ones that dig into your hand?

jennifer / April 10, 2008 9:51 AM

I have yet to complete one of those carbon consumption surveys, but in general, I think I'm pretty green. not super green, by any means, as I have flown cross country in the last year and I occasionally forget my grocery bags.

I either bike, walk, or take public transit. I use my nalgene instead of buying water. I recycle all of my wares that can be recycled. (living outside of chi means that it is actually recycled.) don't eat red meat. unplug my lamps and phone chargers. turn my surge protectors off. don't run water when I brush my teeth. try to shower for no more than eight minutes. reuse my plastic sandwich bags and plastic containers from cottage cheese and the like. reuse coffee jackets. bring my own takeaway cup to the coffee shop. launder my clothes in cold water and hang them on a drying rack. try to gently remind others to be more aware about little things like these.

jennifer / April 10, 2008 9:54 AM

another in madison, wi, I have the option to opt for solar and wind energy for my electricity. really cool and not much more expensive.

jen / April 10, 2008 10:01 AM

jmartin, if you want to get into the debate about #2, are you going to include not eating processed fake-meat products to that? or any processed foods in general? only eating locally? etc. etc. etc.

anyway, i have CFLs in every socket but the closets -- and only have a light on in the room i'm in when at home;
take reusable bags to the store when i remember and if not re-use the plastic and paper ones;
bike in the summer but also have a fuel-efficient compact car;
buy local produce when the season permits;
wash everything in cold water but sheets/towels (sorry, gotta kill those mites);
no water running when brushing teeth;
and public transit to work every day, of course.

i wish recycling actually worked in this city, or that i lived in a ward with the blue bins. in my new apartment, i'm going to try to bag up a lot of recyclables and drop them off or maybe just put them in someone's blue bin down in wicker park!

kate / April 10, 2008 10:16 AM

I think I'm celedon.

I don't own a car and rarely take public transportation - it's all bike, all the time for me.

I turn off the lights my roommates leave on.

I take short showers but drink a ton of water.

My "reusable" bag is my bike bag.

d / April 10, 2008 10:31 AM

I have made some efforts to be green, but I suppose my green score would still fall in medium to poor.

I have run all over the house with a kill-a-watt meter monitoring various things to find out their usage. This lead to a significant reduction in the power bill after some things were shut off or retired due to their excessive usage. These meters are only 20 - 25 bucks, highly recommended.

I walk or take the bus/train to work 50-70% of the time. Depends on season and weather.

I have switched to CFL bulbs in locations where color spectrum and the time to full brightness don't matter. I do worry about this whole mercury in CFL bulbs problem.

Perhaps one of you can explain to me how not eating red meat makes for green living.

Hookah / April 10, 2008 10:44 AM

Not very. I mean I take public transportation, but mostly because of gas prices. I keep electricty use to a minimum in my place but mostly to keep the electric bill down. I occasionally ride a bike to work, but just because I like riding my bike. I don't have any kids, but that's a whole 'nother story and nothing to do with saving the earth. I don't eat a LOT of red meat, but that's because it doesn't sit to well in my stomach. I download all my music, thereby reducing the amount of CDs the enter into the mainstream (OK, I'm grabbing at straws there, but...). I give my old clothes away rather than just throw them out.

So it's sorta being "green" by default.

Oh, and jmartin:
"... light bulbs and grocery bags are but appeasements from persons much closer to life's exit?"

So those things are only for old folks? Where'd you come up with that... ahem... fact?

Pop / April 10, 2008 10:46 AM

I live in the forest preserve, wear no clothes most of the time and only eat what falls naturally from the trees.


YAJ / April 10, 2008 10:51 AM

We're pretty green at our house. We
- drive a Prius, take public transport or ride our bikes
- collect rain water for the garden where we grow a lot of our food
- compost
- recycle as much as possible in Chicago's lame system
- we're steadily switching to CFL lights, tho the husband does worry about the mercury too

Mikey / April 10, 2008 12:05 PM

I'm ok, not great...

Switching over to CFL bulbs as the incandescent bulbs burn out...

Use two Chico reusable bags on trips to the grocery and drug store...

Don't own a car, so rely heavily on public transportation, my bike and my own two legs...

Live in a building without recycling, but collect most of my recyclables anyway and dump them in one of my neighbor's blue bins...

Try to make organic and fair trade purchases to the extent that convenience and my budget will allow...

And otherwise just try to keep myself generally informed and spread the word to others...

jj / April 10, 2008 12:20 PM

I think I'd get a C. But considering most people would get an F, that's pretty good. Most of my green-ness comes from common sense things my parents yelled about - don't buy crap you don't need, recycle or reuse or donate what you don't need anymore, turn off lights or water you aren't using, etc. We were also big campers so I think appreciating nature from that perspective maade it "click" early on, so I'm always signing petitions or writing letters about environmental protection issues.

For me I think the issue is when the financial cost of the "green lifestyle" becomes affordable to everyone, the tipping point will be reached. I'm sure lots of people would love to be hybrid owners, buy organic locally grown food, put solar panels on their houses, etc - but just can't afford it. The reason the lightbulb thing worked so well is that Wal-mart, of all people, made it simple and affordable to middle America via their bulk buying cost cutting model.

Unfortunately, I think it is too late for market based solutions, especially since we are only talking about Americans. We need severe changes in international law at this point to truly turn global warming around. I definitely will keep doing my little things to be "green" but let's not kid ourselves and think we can turn back the wave now.

jen / April 10, 2008 12:23 PM

d - from what i gather, the jab against red meat is due to the amount of energy it takes to feed one cow. i.e. the corn grown to max capacity on the land, the fertilizer used on it polluting the water, then onto feed being made with antibiotics and other crap; fed to the cow who is not naturally a corn-eater, the cows in the factory farm system and all of the waste it produces (one of which is methane gas), the transportation of said meat cross-country, etc.

in other words, pick up a copy of "the omnivore's dilemma". a great read (though i'm still not done) whether you're veg or not, it has good info about where our food comes from, including organic salad mix (hint: triple washed uses a lot of water, and it's transported here from california).

Spook / April 10, 2008 12:31 PM

Hey JMartin!
Thank you!

I was about to say, that I'm not very green, but because of you, I'm probably more geen than 80% percent of the folks here!

I'm not going to have kids, but I do plan on adopting one

I also only ride a scooter ( not to work) in the summer and the rest of the time its all about the public transportation

Hey its nice being Green!

Brandy / April 10, 2008 12:51 PM

If I were graded, I'd probably get an A-. I 'm pretty darn diligent about my impact on the environment. My biggest thing is business flights. But I do offset with donations to eco orgs. I can only control my own domain, if I think too much of what others are and aren't doing, I'd make myself CRAZY.

Dutch101 / April 10, 2008 1:04 PM

Oh yeah, I don't intend to have kids, pretty much because a lot (not all, but a lot) of the people that I see having them are the type of idiots that make me worried for the future.

And the whole meat thing is kind of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, I think so vegetarians can feel even more morally smug. Yeah, you're absolutely correct about the fact that the western world's commercial meat production system is a HUGE petroleum and energy suck, but contrast that with the village my sister lives in in Germany, where she goes to a butcher who can basically tell you the name of the local cow that they are carving up that week.

It's more about choices, and making them, and being willing to PAY for them, rather than blaming the nebulous and sinister "red meat".

tortor / April 10, 2008 2:02 PM

I do what I can...
-bring my own grocery bags
-bring own takeaway coffee mug
-have a prius, but usually take public transit
-eat minimally processed food
-am gradually changing my lightbulbs
-try to conserve water as much as possible

Granted, I love to travel so there's that, but I think that the whole point of the 'green' movement is to make people aware of their responsibility to lessen their impact on the world. It is not a black-and-white thing, but a gradual progression toward a mindful way of living.

Rich / April 10, 2008 2:58 PM

We do well. Bring our own grocery bags, takeaway coffee mugs, take the train, ride bikes.

I thought it was always odd of the people that are "green" who hop on a plane and take a vacation or travel. I mean, doesn't a plane use hundreds (if not thousands) of gallons of fuel for 20-50 people? To me that is not very green. And "bringing bags for groceries" doesn't really balance that out in my mind.

Also, I heard the Vegetarian take is that we feed cows food that has all of these chemicals in it. There was a story I heard on NPR about how the gas the cows emit is bad for the atmosphere. It is worse now than in the past b/c cow feed did not have these chemicals in it in the past that it has now. So to be vegetarian is being "green" by living a lifestyle that promotes eliminating those gasses.

Yes, the story was about cows farts. :-)

Brian / April 10, 2008 4:04 PM

I bring my own bags to the grocery store (I'm not paying Aldi's extorsion prices of $0.10 ea!). I sit in the dark in the evening, only the glow of the computer monitor lighting my way. I do have a few LED bulbs in the apartment though. I don't own a car so I take the train and bus.

But I've been told that's not enough. That one shouldn't buy groceries in unsustainable packaging (Aldi's being an offender), one shouldn't take mass transit at all - that if you can't walk where you're going then you shouldn't go in the first place, and that even LED bulbs harm our environment (See, I thought it was the CF bulbs that were bad, because they contain so much mercury - but apparently the CF bulb manufacturers are keeping that quiet).

All this 'being green' can be exhausting.

Hookah / April 10, 2008 4:17 PM


but what about "organic beef", or whatever that meat from cows that have only been fed natural grains, etc. is called? Do they still fart poison gas? And haven't cows been farting through history? or is it just the chemicals that make them fart toxic farts? or are they just too many cows now? Cause I can help with that if someone's buying...

Also, I've always wanted to get a bunch of those little solar lights they sell at Home Depot and such for lining and lighting your driveway and use them in my apartment. Mostly because, like I said, I'm cheap. Just gather them all by the window while I'm out at work during the day and then use them when I get home. Anyone ever tried this or am I a moron?

Rich / April 10, 2008 4:26 PM


good point.

I don't know about the organic beef. I caught the tail end of the farting story (there is a joke there, right?).

Yes, they mentioned cows have been farting for a long time. It is the chemicals we are currently using that are harmful via the fart.

What's the deal with solar powered lights? I mean, if you have sunlight to power the light, do you really need the light?

What's the deal?

vise77 / April 10, 2008 7:29 PM

"I thought it was always odd of the people that are "green" who hop on a plane and take a vacation or travel. I mean, doesn't a plane use hundreds (if not thousands) of gallons of fuel for 20-50 people? To me that is not very green."

It is odd, especially for someone like myself who lives a relatively green life: no car, etc.

Yet, what's the alternative? No travel to Asia and Europe? Sorry, I don't have time to row, or drive to Alaska and take a ferry across the strait, or float along in a balloon. As well, I think the advantages of learning about other cultures and other people, and trying to become a better global citizen, are as signficant as living a green lifestyle, which I do for the most part.

I am not trying to be a smart ass, just trying to ask: What, really, is the alternative for flying for people who enjoy travel or for people whose jobs require such travel (I fit in both categories)? Does being green mean one should not take long trips?

Rich / April 10, 2008 10:11 PM

vise777...great point.

There is sort of an "inner conflict" I have with this.

Buying a Hummer with the poor gas mileage is in poor taste and not "green", because there is a "choice" of a more fuel efficient car.

While flying in a plane has that asterisk of there is "no choice". So the gas consumption per person is irrelevant to the "green" conversation?

Does your "carbon footprint" distinguish between the two?

Brian / April 10, 2008 11:51 PM

One shouldn't travel further than ones own feet can take them.

Kevin / April 11, 2008 9:59 AM

I think it's fine to travel, but definitely look for ways to minimize your impact. Europe is great in that you can basically take a train pretty close to anywhere you'd want to go. Then you can hike the rest of the way.

Personally, I think I'm good, but I'm trying to get better. I started a recycling program at work (which involves me hauling it home), which has basically cut our non recycled trash down to almost nothing. My wife and I are putting in a rain barrel system at home, which will be good when I brew beer (almost every drop of waste water will be re-used). We also compost.

Side note, we don't have recycling at our house, but we're lucky enough that we're only 2 blocks from a neighborhood that does. We basically save it all up, and then haul it in the car when we happen to be going somewhere anyway.

kermit / April 11, 2008 2:14 PM

Well, I'm a, I guess that makes me pretty green

Lauri / April 12, 2008 9:31 PM

* There's that trashion Website of mine (keeps consumption to a minimum)
* Trashion furniture and home accessories (ditto)
* No TV
* No radio
* No car
* CTA * No meat
* Own bags to grocery store
* Don't buy books -- libraries
* Don't buy CDs -- mp3 blogs
* Don't go to movies -- no silicon boobs
* try to avoid processed food
* Turn off the lights when I'm not using them
* no littering (!)
* no sodas > no cans
* no bottled water unlesss it's all that's around; I don't buy it
* recycle when possible

Matt / April 13, 2008 11:27 AM

Well, I haven't showered for about a week...I guess that's more ripe than green.
All kidding aside, do your part. Every bit helps!

kt / April 13, 2008 10:57 PM

I highly recommend Barbara Kingsolver's latest book for anyone who is interested in the environment. The issue of eating locally hasn't gotten as much attention as some other factes of the ecological situation, but she shines a much-needed light on this aspect of our food choices. Really -- you can't see it in the store, but how much gas was used to fly in those New Zealand apples? Lots of establishments seem to be popping up to cater to people who are conscious of the gas mileage associated with their food.

There are plenty of reasons to strive to eat more locally-grown / raised food-- including deliciousness content.

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