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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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Tuesday, April 23

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Andrew / April 23, 2007 2:15 AM

Do you...
- Recycle?
- Take public transportation?
- Conserve energy?

What else do you do to live green?

kermie / April 23, 2007 6:37 AM


Taylor / April 23, 2007 8:09 AM

I drive my car less and less these days. One tank of gas can last me a month or two if really push it. Most of this is due to commuting the 6.5 miles to work each day on a bike, or by CTA on cold days. Simple things like replacing your light bulbs with CFLs can help too.

I would like to recycle more, but Chicago's system is such a pain in the ass, especially when I question their sorting practices anyway. I really hope the new pilot recycling program goes city-wide.

Shasta MacNasty / April 23, 2007 8:21 AM

I take public transportation. Sadly, I have to take the car to get to the public transportation...however it's a short ride. I try to buy organic foods when financially possible. I do recycle, both through the City of Evanston program, as well as reusing items around the house to get the maximum use from it. Aaaaaand I turn off the faucet while brushing my teeth.

Mikey / April 23, 2007 8:45 AM

I'm only slightly green right now, but am in the process of becoming greener:

I already use reusable shopping bags and take public transportation to and from work everyday, as well as at many other times. I don't currently have a car, but do need one because the gf lives on the far Southside, so I recently plopped down $99 to reserve a smart car (40 mpg) when they become available in the U.S. early next year...

We also went to the Green Festival yesterday, which especially inspired us. The city was handing out free CFL bulbs, which I used to replace the burnt out bulb in my closet, and plan on replacing the rest over the next 6 months. And I also bought a drinking water filter with a corn-based bottle for only $5 that can be reused up to 90 times--those plastic disposable water bottles are becoming a big problem as the vast majority end up in landfills...

Beyond that, I'm going to make an effort to purchase more locally-grown foods...

freepy shwirtel / April 23, 2007 9:16 AM

I ride five miles to work every day, haven't even been on the train in two months, yeehaw. I bring my brown bags back to Trader Joes, get glared at by everybody else when I ask not to get two bags for one little thing. I use those bags they force on me as trash bags. I drive my car meekly, rolling in neutral as much as possible. I buy old vinyl, old fotos, old wool shirts, etc. instead of new stuff. But that is because I like them, not really to be green, but I think I get half points on that anyway. I keep the heat low, with aid from wool shirts.
I have tricked and trained my wife into riding her bike all over also. We eat less meat, more chick peas. We try to fill our Name Brand water bottles from the tap.
But Oh, no, we leave the computer on most of the time.

Justin / April 23, 2007 9:17 AM

In this order: walk, bike, CTA, car. I drive maybe five hours a month.

I ship recyclables to my parents, reuse bags, compost, and buy more produce than packaged foods. You might see me commuting with a paper coffee cup in the morning. I'm vegan and usually clean my plate.

jen / April 23, 2007 9:18 AM

Public transportation to most always, CFL bulbs where I can (though I kind of hate the color light they give off), recycling (though I am wary of how much actually makes it and gets recycled), faucet off when I'm brushing my teeth, rarely drive my small car with great mileage (though it's not a hybrid)... as green as I can be with my low wages and rental apartment, I suppose.

freepy shwirtel / April 23, 2007 9:21 AM

Regarding recycling, it is a giant hassle in here. It was easy in NYC, in Milwaukee, in my folks' rinky dink hometown, everywhere else. Still, I fill my car with newspapers and metal and plastic. I'll pick a soda can off the street now and then, crush it like a spazz, and toss it into our recyclables. If it doesn't stink too bad. Plus we sometimes pull fun stuff out of the alley and into our household.

the pet / April 23, 2007 9:39 AM

freepy - I hear you on recycling being a hassle here. Though in my neighborhood, there's a couple of guys who roam about collecting cans. I collect them in a plastic bag, hang it off the dumpster, and they take care of them.

I've tried CFLs - they last about a month before burning out. Though I have a feeling that's due to living in an old-ass building. Then again, I have regular bulbs that have lasted longer than I have lived here.

I'm still trying to figure out why the baggers at the grocery store look at me funny when I tell them not to bag the milk, and then they bag it anyway. I mean, the bottles are built with handle... is there something I'm not getting?

tk / April 23, 2007 10:14 AM

Recycling, check; CFL bulbs, check; CSA shareholder, check (can't wait for June!), BUT... drive too much and surely use more electricity than we really need.

A couple of years back, we looked at putting solar panels on the roof, but it was prohibitively expensive and looked like it wouldn't ultimately save that much anyway.

Anyone else have any experience with panels or other alternative sources that may be good for smaller houses?

Shylo / April 23, 2007 10:37 AM

I think all of these things are great. It seems that so many of our green efforts are on curbing/controlling out-and-out waste. It would be interesting to see our generation return to the thinking of our great-grandparents who tended to view waste as immoral or just plain dumb.

skafiend / April 23, 2007 10:54 AM

Not very, to be honest. I always get plastic bags at the store and just jam them under the cabinet beneath the kitchen sink. I thought about getting some of those energy efficient lightbulbs yesterday at Target but figured it was too much and that maybe I'd get them later. Although I take the bus almost every day of the week to work (mostly because gas is to freaking high. If gas was $1.20 a gallon I'd probably drive every day), but I have been known to drive to the grocery store three blocks away (I don't want to carry all those bags all the way back). I don't recycle and separate my garbage (I used to at my old building, but that was only cause they made us do it. I supposed I could suggest it to my current landlords...). I buy too many things in plastic containers, sometimes wash whites in very hot water, just toss newspapers in the garbage at work, buy organic food that has been trucked all the way across the country, throw out old batteries and sometimes fall asleep with the TV on.

I know, I know, I'm part of the problem. But I'm working on it...

Cheryl / April 23, 2007 12:06 PM

I haven't owned a car since '90. I am in the process of replacing old light bulbs with the CFLs. I turn lights off when I leave a room. I carry a tote bag with me everywhere I go to cut down on the plastic bags. I grow what veggies I can in the summer and try to eat locally as much as that's possible.

I don't recycle beyond seperating the cans out so the dumpster divers can find them. OTOH, I don't buy a lot of stuff that is recyclable or comes in containers that are.

Pedro / April 23, 2007 12:39 PM

I only listen to indie bands whose tour buses run on vegetable oil.

Bill V / April 23, 2007 12:45 PM

I think I'm pretty good, but still have a ways to go. I need my car for work, but pretty much leave it in the garage all weekend. Lots of recycling and also conserving energy at home. Hey I'm even buying most of my music digitally, no CD cases!

Austen / April 23, 2007 12:52 PM

Even though the blue bag program may or may not work, I still separate my paper my plastic and use them. Hopefully they will not be filling up in a landmine. I try to buy organic, but I vow that once I have my own household, a hubby and kids, I will subscribe to a delivery of locally farmed produce. Right now I can't afford it and I wouldn't be able to use up the produce.

I try to reuse my bags when I go to TJ's and Whole Foods (10 cents off when you do at WF).

My dream house some day is going to be superinsulated and leeds qualified. right now, I live in a poorly insulated house and I keep my heat low.

Oh yeah, I like thrift store finds too. vintage and otherwise. I am also a packrat, so I try to find alternate uses for things as well.

peta / April 23, 2007 1:18 PM

My spouse and I are recycled from previous marriages.

Terry B / April 23, 2007 1:47 PM

I agree with freepy shwirtel about recycling here. I believe the city is switching from blue bags to blue bins, but until they finish the process, it galls me to throw out stuff I easily recycled elsewhere.

One thing we do, though, is rather than throw out usable stuff that we don't want, we stick it by the dumpsters with a FREE sign taped to it. Works like a charm.

Brandy / April 23, 2007 1:52 PM

Greener now that I live in a building that recycles. :^)

All public transport, canvas bags to go shopping*, CFL bulbs, use things until they wear out, mend clothing, make things out of other things.

I've tried CSA's but the food always goes bad before I can eat it! Bah.

*I love that folks are finally jumping on the green bandwagon, but I'll love it even more when using canvas bags to shop will be greeted with smiles instead of quizzical looks.

Brandy / April 23, 2007 1:54 PM

p.s. The Chicago chapter of Freecycle totally rocks. (

skafiend / April 23, 2007 2:05 PM

Wait a minute... if mending clothes to keep using them, shopping at resale shops and picking up usable things in the alley is being green, then I've been green all my life! Wow, I thought I was just doing it because I was cheap...

Oh, and there may have a solution to the plastic bag thing. In the most recent issue of Time Out Chicago magazine, there is a blurb about an organization that recycles plastic grocery bags into things that can be used again, like banners and wallets. They're called Temporary Services (P.O. Box 121012, Chicago, 60612) and you can mail them your plastic bags. Their website is

There is hope for me yet....

Steve / April 23, 2007 2:24 PM

By city standards our household sucks, but as DuPage-ies we're pretty much crazy crunchy granolaheads. We recycle everything, which has me slicing up cardboard boxes almost every week. We use a bit more electricity than the "average household" cited in that anti-Gore hatchet press release of a few months ago, but with a retiree living under our roof and me working full-time out of the house I think we're doing okay.

The wife and I drive our compact car very little, and we're very likely to go with a Toyota hybrid when we replace our '96 hooptie next month. CFLs are in just about every fixture that will take them; previous owners put dimmers in several locations that make incandescents a must for now. Just last week I replaced the bathroom and kitchen bulbs with ornamental (covered) CFLs; very different experience waiting for them to fully fluoresce (actually kinda nice in the middle of the night).

We chose our house in large part due to its location just a few blocks from the Metra stop -- not feasible for all, but we didn't want the waste of driving to the train to get downtown. We replaced all the windows before moving in and went with a 14 SEER AC unit. Barrels for rainwater collection will be coming in after we get our gutters replaced in a year or two, and composting starts this summer as well.

I'm also getting into renewable-powered gadgets -- bought a pair of hand-crank radio/flashlights last month, and I'm eying a solar battery charger for the iPod, PDA and mobile phone. When we get a new garage built in a few years I'm going to look into going solar/battery out there for the lighting and garage-door opener. (In the summer, we may even be able to keep a mini-fridge going out there.)

What's depressing to me is the many people I know who say things like "you'll never make the price differential back from a hybrid's gas savings" as if it's not important to use less.

Brandy / April 23, 2007 2:31 PM

skafiend: Reduce, reuse, recycle. I think we tend to get fixated on recycle, but reusing (like mending, thrifting, scavenging) and reducing (like not buying new crap all the time) are great and green.

Jill / April 23, 2007 2:32 PM

Besides what's been said above (totes for groceries, public transport, "recycling" on the Blue Bag program), I also do car sharing, which helps cut down the number of cars on the road (hopefully). I also probably drive less because I really think about when I need to use a car.

I also recycle my rants a fair deal, but at least my friends kindly put up with that.

J / April 23, 2007 2:57 PM


Mikey / April 23, 2007 2:59 PM

I'll second a couple of "green" practices that I omitted the first time around... is a great alternative to throwing away otherwise useful goods. I've used it often over the last few years, and most recently freecycled a perfectly good futon when I moved (the added bonus is that the recipients come and pick it up, saving you the hassle)...

I also no longer use the hot water setting for whites on my washer, since reading that with the quality of detergents these days, it isn't necessary...

mcm / April 23, 2007 3:18 PM

Recycle everything, public transportation, canvas bags, turn out lights when not in a room, all that good stuff.

Lately, though, I've been really taken with the idea of trying to consume as much locally produced food as possible, but I'm having trouble finding a good source. (So if anyone can suggest a good produce co-op program, I'd be eternally grateful!)

skafiend / April 23, 2007 4:37 PM

as far as buying locally grown produce, the Reader had a special issue a few weeks about all about buying local produce, organically or otherwise, and I believe they had a special section on local farmers, co-op, markets, etc. You might want to try to hunt down a back issue or maybe contact the Reader folks to see if they can let you know where to get a copy. Or check their website.

And Brandy, yeah on the reuse stuff. Friend are always giving me stuff to use: Lamps, a bicycle, a television. And vice versa (just gave an old Mac laptop to a friend to see if he can make it so his kid can use it). Besides, there's something about finding a cool shirt in a thrift store that I like.

Carrie / April 23, 2007 4:52 PM

Well Iím more green than most of my friends, but not as much as Iíd like to be.

I recycle at home and at work. There have been times at work when someone will throw paper in my garbage and Iíll look at them, smile and dig it out and say ďitís ok, Iíll recycle itĒ. Everyone knows Iím the nerd recycler, so they just smile back and tease me. One girl and I are trying to figure out who we should send our ďgreen requestsĒ to at workÖ paper cups vs Styrofoam for those who donít bring their own, all recycled paper supplies, etc. Iím in charge of ordering supplies for my team, so little do they know that everything I get is recycled. *insert villainous laugh*

I take public transit everyday to and from work and in general, around the city. I canít really afford a car, so I donít have much choice. I also donít want to become so dependant on one that I take it one block to the store.

I have a few of the environmentally friendly light bulbs at home, Iím waiting for the rest to go and then Iíll replace them with the longer lasting ones.

Like others, I buy organic when I can afford to.

I also cut up those 6 pack-pop rings and if I see one on the ground, I pick it up, break it apart and toss it in the nearest garbage. I also read that if you donít recycle your plastic bags, at least tie them so if they blow away from the landfill an animal wonít get itís neck caught in oneÖ something like that.

Things that I need to get better aboutóeating out and using their containers. Unfortunately my work only recycles paper, so I end up wasting plastic containers everyday. I either need to a) bring my own or b) get on people at work to make food containers recyclable, too. Second on my list is to do all my bills electronically. I'm still used to checks and it's a hard habit for me to break.

A great site/daily email to get is

Steve / April 23, 2007 5:29 PM

Oh organic, *sigh.* In doing some research for a client white paper I'm writing right now I came across info on how much organic stuff (i.e., yogurt ingredients) comes to the U.S. from as nearby as Canada and as far away as Turkey and China. The concept of powdered organic milk also threw me for a loop.

kate / April 23, 2007 6:08 PM

I have green eyes and a green coat.

I turn a little green after too many libations.

I walk/train to work... maybe this year I'll start riding zee bike to work. I don't recycle (I would if we had some blue bin action) but I don't litter. I'm good about turning lights off and washing stuff in cold water, but that has nothing to do with the environment - that's just the way my momma raised me.

I also smoke as much as humanly possible, so all that nasty yuck-air I'm not sending out there by not owning a car - well, I hope I'm wreaking havoc one Turkish Gold at a time.

freepy shwirtel / April 23, 2007 11:19 PM

My favorite situation where they make you take a superfluous bag is when you shop for a mop or a broom. They take the plastic bag and tie it around the end of the mop and send you out the door, looking like an embarrassed hobo.

Just wondering... / April 23, 2007 11:33 PM

Is Allan dead?

mike-ts / April 24, 2007 12:05 AM

For all youse on the CFL craze, remember that these bulbs require special disposal due to the mercury content. And if you happen to drop and break one, don't vacuum. I don't want to be a wet blanket here, but be aware that these things require some t.l.c. I wonder if they're a good tradeoff or not yet. Do a web search for "cfl bulb disposal mercury" for tips. That being said, I'm replacing incandescents with cfl's as the old bulbs burn out. What a waste to throw out good bulbs.

I was raised that it's "a sin" to throw working things in the garbage, so it's always been the Salvation Army, and more recently Freecycle, for anything that I don't need anymore.

Since I use those "t-shirt" bags from the store for garbage instead of actual garbage bags, I guess you can call that more green by substitution. Paper gets shredded for the paper retriever (my favorite toy - the diamond-cut shredder!), appropriate stuff gets separated from garbage, leaving mostly just stuff that rots/stinks/breeds bacteria for the actual trash. And I've long ago turned in the mercury thermometers at a hospital thermometer collection event for digital ones.

paul / April 24, 2007 8:55 AM

More than most, since I haven't started my car in months.

I'm in Evanston so it's not a big deal to recycle beer bottles. I don't use a whole lot of products that come in plastic bottles, or cans. Although I could do more to recycle paper although I seem to put out an entire *#%@ paper garbage bag full of those super saver mailers a week.

Whatever kitchen garbage I can goes in the compost (veggie trimmings) as well as most lawn clippings. I even have a push mower.

Oh god, I'm more of a liberal feel-good greenie than I thought. (In reality, I'm just too broke to be an average consumer.)

jj / April 24, 2007 10:35 AM

Most importantly, I don't buy crap I don't need. I don't smoke. I am replacing the lightbulbs. I drive very little, and drive a pretty fuel efficient car. I belong to all those tree-hugging political groups and donate money and write letters and call Congress. I donate or sell things that I want to get rid of. Most of my apartment is furnished by my late grandparents' furniture, pots and pans, etc. I was raised a camper and appreciate campers values. Basically I try to have a reasonable balance of living sustainably and living within my budget.

RE: Solar panels - Saw a presentation at Green Festival last weekend, they are actually much more affordable if you do heat and hot water only, not full electric. The guy's website is and he is located in Niles.

getupmom / April 24, 2007 11:34 AM

I bought some "These were made from trees" stickers last week and am going to put them up in near any stack of papertowels in my office.
I use a cloth towel for my self at the office, I keep it at my desk.

Leelah / April 24, 2007 11:52 AM

I should be green, what with my long-time (20 years) vegetarianism and recycling compulsion, but my God, I love to drive. I drive everywhere. This may change next month when I move back to the north side... but not much!

Martha / April 24, 2007 12:22 PM

skafiend/mcm -- the Reader guide to CSAs is online here:

And, actually, we just put up a whole free archive of our coverage of green issues (food, ttechnology, the environment). it's here

skafiend / April 24, 2007 12:49 PM


thanks a lot! The CSA guide was actually perfect. I had completely forgotten about New Leaf near the Loyola el station. And they sell half boxes of produce for $15, which is perfect. I was always worried about buying too much for my single guy household and having to throw some of it out because I let it spoil because I didn't eat it in time (OK, I still have a Pringles jones...). Again, thanks for the link info. I'm all up in there!

Eamon / April 24, 2007 1:01 PM

Not green enough.

fluffy / April 24, 2007 5:11 PM

I've never been the jealous type

C-Note / April 24, 2007 8:22 PM

I go green every fuckin' night. Keeps me away from my manifesto.

Y A J / April 24, 2007 9:27 PM

We drive a Prius and gave up our other car for a car-share program.
We compost and catch rainwater for our large veggie garden.

We recycle to the extent possible in Chicago (not much). And we're moving toward using exclusively those fancy CFL bulbs, thanks for the tip re: disposal.

lori / April 24, 2007 9:33 PM

Pretty green I guess. except for my mini van addiction. I do often drive around with a full van though. As everyone gets bigger over here I hope to be doing more bike commuting. I have a nice granny cart that I theoretically use for groceries, but let's be honest. I don't use it all that much.

I spend a lot of time spreading the word of nature to as many kids as possible, and hope the ripple effect will take place.

I killed my lawn and turned it into a mini prairie, with only a small patch of grass for a playing area. we use a push mower, hand tools and compost.

My husband bikes 11 miles to work every day, and takes the train when he can't bear the weather.

I would like to get more efficient appliances. I am freaked out by the mercury in the cf bulbs. I know there have been some broken ones in my house. and lord knows I vaccuumed them up.

we eat a lot of veggie food, and when we do eat meat I try to make a little go a long way, like stir fry w/ some chicken. try to buy local, but can't afford organic so much... it's easier in the summer with farmers markets, and I grow some stuff.

that all being said, I like my a/c in the summer, and my heat in the winter. I also enjoy the washer, dryer, dishwasher and all of us would shivel up and die if we had no computer or music players..

so, maybe we're even steven.

unmake / April 25, 2007 3:52 AM

1.) keep clothes until I my crotch feels drafty.

2.) shower once a week.

3.) only smoke locally grown, organic weed.

4.) oh yeah, I use CFLs. too.

Ramsin / April 25, 2007 5:27 AM

On a scale of green to brown, I'm mauve.

hulk / April 25, 2007 7:54 AM

Hulk very green, unless Hulk is gray, or Hulk is puny human Banner.

Puny human Banner doesn't recycle.

Kermit / April 25, 2007 8:33 AM

It's not easy being green...

KJ / April 25, 2007 8:37 AM

On the up side, we do recycle, compost, use cloth grocery bags, water the garden via rain barrels, and take public transit or walk as much as possible.

On the down side, we have lots of computers and electrical appliances that probably use too much power. And our building isn't all that energy efficient in terms of heating and cooling.

I've found CFL light bulbs work best in outside lights and lamps with shades, but their light seems inadequate and ugly to me in overhead fixtures. Also, there seems to be no good way to dispose of them. I got a bad batch that I'm afraid to throw away, so now I have an unwanted collection of useless light bulbs.

Jay / April 25, 2007 8:47 AM

I walk, run, bike, bus or train everywhere. I buy local produce. I use flourescent light bulbs. I turn lights off when I'm not in the room. I got rid of my a/c. I turn the water off while I brush my teeth. I recycle paper and plastic. I reuse shopping bags. I try to subtly influence my friends and everyone I meet to walk or take public transportation whenever possible, because it's good for you. I go camping hiking and trail running to form a bond with nature. I eat muesli and... Granola. Lots of raw foods. Sometimes I walk up to trees and give them hugs. Stop laughing.

peanut / April 25, 2007 9:37 AM

Much of the aforementioned. I have no car, bring home recyclables from work/lunch, bike, turn the water off when lathering the hands, eat vegan, rip tissues & paper towels in half. I greatly exceed the Sheryl Crow-endorsed one-square-per-toilet-usage quota for toilet paper, however. Like, times twenty.

And what about that Revlon you're hawking, Sheryl? With the bleached paper carton, plastic bottle, chock full of toxins?

tk / April 25, 2007 10:33 AM

thanks for the link, jj!

and for anyone interested in CSAs, I have nothing but praise for angelic organics

jack / June 30, 2007 11:42 AM

I started GOing green last week. The doctor said I should stop eating so much spinach.

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