Resolving to Make a Difference: Fighting Climate Change

January 22nd, 2012

At the time, it seemed like a long-shot. A carefully staged group of protests in front of the White House, designed to pressure President Obama into fighting the Keystone Pipeline and to build public awareness of the dangers of the pipeline. But as stood in front of the White House and watched my “green mom” friend Harriet Shugarman aka @ClimateMama, join the protest line, I was in awe.

Green Moms at Tar Sands Protest

I didn’t know much about the specifics of the Tar Sands pipeline until Harriet told me and the other Green Moms Carnival members about it.  At first, I wasn’t even sure I objected. Bringing in oil from Canada, as opposed to from the Persian Gulf, didn’t seem like such a bad idea at first.

Then I learned that renowned NASA climate scientist James Hansen had said it would be “game over” on climate change if the pipeline was built.

And slowly but surely, as the news spread, public opinion shifted, until finally, a few days, ago, the President announced his opposition to the pipeline.

But contrary to some reports, it’s still not a dead project. The final reckoning has only been delayed – and who knows who will sit in the Oval Office at that point?

Nearly four years ago, most of us thought we’d see far greater uptake of cleaner, green sources of energy after became president. To be sure, not all of the blame falls on policy makers. The marketing of renewable energy – especially wind and solar thermal – is lackluster. Consumer awareness is still low, and it’s not easy for even the most enthusiastic “green mom” to buy the full range of clean energy products.

We have so far yet to go.

James Hansen can make a credible scientific argument against the pipeline. And he has. But to me, these words of his are most powerful: Einstein said to think and not act is a crime. If we understand the situation, we must try to make it clear. I decided six or seven years ago that I did not want my grandchildren to look back in the future and say “Opa understood what was happening, but he didn’t make it clear.”

I agree with James Hansen. It’s why I stood in front of the White House, shouted “Go, Green Moms! Go Harriet!,” and watched as the protestors were led into a white tent for processing before being taken to jail in the police vans lined up across the square. (It was all very orderly – the arrests having been coordinated ahead of time down to every last detail).

Together, we can accomplish so much. And we have to — for there is so much more to accomplish. Check out the Green Moms’ Carnival on Resolutions to Fight Climate Change, hosted by Amber Strocel of Strocel.com. There you’ll find posts from some of the most engaged green women bloggers — about what we can do, what you can do – so that someday, you can tell your grandkids that you did something to fight climate change.

– Lynn

 

 

My Subaru’s Totaled, So I’m Going Car-less….For Now

October 10th, 2011

Two totaled Subarus in five years: what are the odds? Thank God, we’re all fine, and no, neither accident was our fault!

Two weeks ago, a Jeep slammed into our 2001 Subaru Legacy. Our four-year-old was in the backseat. Ironically, that’s where his big brother was sitting on Mother’s Day, 2006, when a huge deer ran into the front of our 1999 Subaru wagon. (I was sitting in the front seat, very pregnant at the time. Thank God — and Subaru — we were all fine!)

The insurance company totaled the car because it would cost more than “the car is worth” to fix it. Says who? Talk about a waste, from a sustainability perspective!

So while we will get $9,000 or so to replace our Subaru, it’s hard – no unthinkable – to replace the car we bought new with someone else’s old car.

At first, I took it as a great green challenge to go carless. After all, we live near metro, I walk to my office, and the school bus comes to the corner. It was just the other week that I turned down a corporate Zip Car membership. Maybe time to reconsider?  Or what about BlaBlaCar, a ride-sharing service that cuts carbon – and costs?

But the thought of trekking several blocks with a sick kid in tow to grab a Zipcar to get to the doctors made me realize I didn’t want to give up the convenience of a car in my driveway, ready to roll.  And BlaBlaCar, regrettably, is not yet available in the US.

So now I’m back to square one, thinking about what to do next.

What about you, dear readers? Does your family get by with just one car? How do you do it, when you live outside a city center?  Am I crazy to think about trying to survive with just one family car?  (DH  uses the wagon for his commute).

Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

– Lynn

Green Mom Activism: Does It Matter Anymore?

July 22nd, 2011

They  say bad things come in threes. So here are three to ponder.

  1. A non profit leader and fellow “green mom” activist posts on her FaceBook page, “over the past few days I’ve been called a Nazi, told my work is futile, and more…”
  2. Another “green mom” tells me that her grown kids think the battle against climate change is lost. You guessed it: her work focuses on climate change. Is she fighting a losing battle?
  3. My own son sighs in exasperation, “You embarrass me sometimes, Mom. I mean, not everything can be eco-green. You can’t change everything, you know, Mom?”

Let’s start with my newly minted tween’s skeptical words.  I looked at him with a big smile, rushed over to hug him, and said, “Oh, honey, you’re growing up!”

“What do you mean, Mom?”

“It’s the first time you’ve told me that I embarrass you! Honey, get used to it, because I’m going to embarrass you for many, many more years to come.”

:)

While I can poke fun at the “embarrassing Mom” comment, the “green is futile” messages that my friends and I are getting are unnerving.

All around us are signs that people are waking up to the importance of environmental action. Businesses are built around green. Corporations publish sustainability plans, and actively court green consumers.  Kids, the future, are at the vanguard of the movement. And yet….if everyone is so green, why are we still in so much trouble?

When I started the Green Moms Carnival, few people recognized the important role that mothers play in the environmental movement. What a difference three years makes.  Market studies have been written about the phenomenon.  PR firms have cashed in. Environmental NGOs court them.  Everyone wants a piece of  “mom influence.”

And yet, if we’re not influencing our own kids and our own circles, what does it really matter? And where do we go from here?

Give up, or carry on? Pass the baton to a new generation?

– Lynn

 

 

Kids and Earth Hour: Finally, We’ve Got It Down!

March 27th, 2010

Ever since Earth Hour debuted in 2008, I’ve struggled with how to incorporate the late evening holiday into my childrens’ bedtime routines. The first year, we celebrated what I called an “Earth Minute.”

earth-hour

Last year, I had it all figured out: I shared all the details on   Five Tips for Observing Earth Hour with Kids:

1. Stick to Your Routines

2. Pick a Substitute Time that Works for You

3. Use this as a Teachable Moment

4. Give Yourself a Break

5. Celebrate with Your Significant Other

But this year?  Well, Big Boy’s in second grade now. So when they celebrated Earth Hour at school, he actually understood the concept.

I spent the day today at a Green Jobs Internship Fair, talking to scores of amazing young people bent on using their talents to help save the Earth. Exhausted, I returned home. Earth Hour? They celebrated at school this year. My son understood. He was falling asleep as the last flickers of light left the sky.

– Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania


Coal: Can’t We Do Better?

February 8th, 2010

Lisa was right when she said this month’s Green Moms Carnival topic would challenge us.  Coal. It’s one of those things most of us take for granted. We don’t really think about coal – where it comes from, what it does, why we depend on it.  Oh sure, we think about climate change. We blog about climate change. But climate change is a topic that’s front and center in the media and the blogosphere. We think about the ramifications of climate change: rising sea levels, economic destabilization, melting polar ice caps and so on…

When I stopped and thought about it, I realized I knew very little about coal besides the fact that it accounted for most of our energy use in this country, was a main contributor to global warming, and made up a very dangerous life style for the coal miners in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and elsewhere.  Oh, and when I was exposed to it for the first time via our family trip to see Thomas the Tank Engine, I coughed and coughed and coughed…

thomas

So I went straight to the US Department of Energy website, where I learned:

Coal is one of the true measures of the energy strength of the United States.  One quarter of the world’s coal reserves are found within the United States, and the energy content of the nation’s coal resources exceeds that of all the world’s known recoverable oil.

The text pretty quickly jumped into an explanation of all that the DoE is doing to try to counter-balance the negative impacts of coal.   “Innovative, low-cost environmental compliance technologies and efficiency-boosting innovations are being developed by the Energy Department’s Fossil Energy research program.

To tap the full potential of the nation’s enormous coal supplies, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy is working with the private sector to develop innovative technologies for an emission-free coal plant of the future.

This research and development program is pioneering more effective pollution controls for existing coal-fired power plants and an array of new technologies that would eliminate air and water pollutants from the next generation of power plants.  Research is also underway to capture the greenhouse gases emitted by coal plants and prevent them from entering the atmosphere.”

Let’s face it. Coal is dirty. “Clean coal” is a dream, not yet proven and with unforeseen consequences for our groundwater supplies.

More people have probably died from coal – from the  toxic pollution it spews into our air and our water – than from both world wars and the 1918 influenza combined.

Coal is destroying our landscape too. Mountain top removal means exactly what it sounds like. It’s horrible. And it’s irreversible.

mountiantopremoval

Can’t we do better than coal?

An entirely new, clean green economy is looking for investment, looking for opportunities to prove what it can do to make our nation more energy-independent and cleaner and greener. Solar. Wind. Hydrothermal. Even, dare I say, nuclear and natural gas – these are the way of the future.

Check out the other posts at the Green Moms Carnival on Coal, hosted today by Retro Housewife Goes Green.

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

Another Green Moms Carnival Is Up: World Environment Day and World Oceans Day

June 5th, 2009

greenmoms1

Head on over to The Smart Mama to see a small but mighty round up of posts on World Environment Day and World Oceans Day.

Interested in what we’re doing next? Check out the calendar, complete with submission instructions, right here. Hope you’ll join us again on  June 24th for Eco-Confessions with The Green Parent.

– Lynn

World Environment Day

June 4th, 2009

It seems like Earth Day was just yesterday, but here we are at World Environment Day, which falls on every June 5th.  The focus of this year’s United Nations – sponsored event is climate change.

What can you do?

How about planting a tree?

The UN is kicking off a campaign which aims to plant 7 billion trees, one for every person on the planet, by 2010.

Too tired to plant? Too wet outside? (It’s been raining for days here in DC!)

You’re not off the hook that easily!

You can plant your trees virtually.     The campaign’s Twitter account is trying to reach 10,000 followers by Friday midnight. The UNEP will plant one tree for every follower at http://twitter.com/UNEPandYou. (As of this writing, they were short by several thousand, so try to give them a hand!)

And then there’s Mokugift, which has a beautiful interface you can access either from its IPhone app or from its website.  Through Mokugift and a simple $1 donation, you can plant trees in 12 African, Asian or Central American countries. And they’ve just  launched a new partnership with artists and athletes, which you can check out here.

So take a few minutes and plant a tree for World Environment Day – all from your iPhone or computer!

This post is part of a special “mini” Green Moms Carnival hosted by The Smart Mama. Head on over and take a look at a round-up of  great posts about World Environment Day and World Oceans Day!

Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

How I Learned to Cruise at 99 MPG: 10 Eco-Driving, Hypermiling Tips from Ford’s Hybrid Team

April 26th, 2009

Ford’s hybrid experts and world record hypermiler champion Wayne Gerdes have set up headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia for the “Ford Fusion 1000 Mile Challenge.” They’re pushing the new 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid to go 1,000 miles on a single tank of gas. When I received an invite to check out the action and learn a few tips for improving fuel economy, I couldn’t resist going, despite having to drag my whole family there on a beautiful early Saturday morning.

This video shows some highlights from my “eco-driving” lesson. Using just a few hypermiling techniques, I was able to improve my gas mileage by nearly 10 MPG! I clocked 38.4 MPG prior to my “eco-driving” lesson, and 48 MPG afterwards! What’s more, I actually hit 99.9 MPG on the downgrade of a hill. Now that was exciting!

10 Tips for Maximizing Your Fuel Economy

#1. Reduce Your Speed
The trick to hypermiling? Drive very s-l-o-w-l-y. Speed increases aerodynamic drag (wind resistance) and mechanical friction which reduces fuel economy.

#2 Coast & Glide
Coast to the Highest Point of the Hill and then Glide Down Hills . (You’ll see Tom Rolewiszc, Ford Fusion Hybrid Main Calibration Expert, explain this in the video).

#3 Avoid Using the A/C and other electrical and mechanical accessories
If you crack the driver and back window, you’ll create a cross-breeze. Use of air conditioning can reduce your fuel economy by up to 25% at low speeds.

#4 Don’t Accelerate Quickly or Brake Heavily
This reduces fuel economy by as much as 33% at highway speeds.

#5 Lighten Your Load
Excess weight decreases fuel economy. That’s one reason I was amazed that I still managed to shave 10 MPG off a typical drive , despite the fact that 5 people and 2 carseats were in the car. (I stayed near the posted speed limit as opposed to crawling along, as most hypermilers do).

#6 Take Flat, Smooth Roads

Hilly, mountainous, or unpaved roads reduce fuel economy.

#7 Tune Your Engine
A poorly tuned engine burns more fuel.

#8 Watch the Weather

Did you know you get better mileage on beautiful sunny days than on rainy or snowy days? It makes sense: less resistance against the car, and better traction.


#9 Drive to your furthest destination first.

Then, as you are heading home, stop at the closer destinations in order from furtherst to closest so the car is warmed up for the longer portions of the ride.

#10 Avoid Idling.
Consider shutting down your engine if stopped for more than 7 seconds as that is all the fuel it takes to restart today’s fuel-inject engine

Want to learn more? Check out CleanMPG, a site run by hypermiler champion Wayne Gerdes.

Was it a fun day? Look at this Flickr stream for pix of OrganicMania_DH and the Eco-Kids at the Ford event.

Have you tried hypermiling? Do you have other fuel economy tips? Leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

5 Tips for Observing Earth Hour with Kids: Get More than an Earth Minute!

March 28th, 2009

Last year, my grand plans for Earth Hour were derailed by the reality of life with little kids: as I blogged here, I ended up with an “Earth Minute.”

This year, I’m determined to learn from the past and enjoy a less rushed and stressed experience. Here are five tips that I’m hoping will make for a more enjoyable family experience. Let me know what you think. How’d your Earth Hour go last year? And what are you planning tonight? (Yes, it’s tonight!)

1. Stick to Your Routines
Clearly, whoever dreamed up Earth Hour did not have little munchkins to put to bed. 8:30 p.m. is simply too late for most kids. If your tykes hit the hay well before 8:30, DON’T, repeat DON’T try to do something special. Odds are, you’ll regret it…

2. Pick a Substitute Time that Works for You
This year, we’re going to have our Earth Hour during dinner (candlelight dining with my three boys should be fun!). If that doesn’t seem to go well, I may try for a few minutes after dinner. But bedtime – it’s still 8 p.m., Earth Hour or not!

3. Use this as a Teachable Moment
My first grader’s school observed Earth Hour on Friday. When I asked him why they did it, he said, “To help the Earth and stuff.” Yet when I tried to make a correlation between Earth Hour and turning off the lights in his room before he rushes off for school, he didn’t quite seem to get it. That’s another reason to do Earth Hour at the dinner hour – it will give us time and context for a discussion about why we are observing Earth Hour.

4. Give Yourself a Break

If despite all your plans, things still go awry, give yourself a break. When I look back at this photo of my little Boo Bear a year ago, I can’t believe how small he was and how much I tried to accomplish despite that. So many of us parents – especially the Moms – are guilty of this. We simply try to do too much.

5. Celebrate with Your Significant Other
Another benefit to Tips #1 and #2 is that if you stick to your kids’ bedtime routine, odds are you’ll have some energy to celebrate the darkness of Earth Hour with your significant other and perhaps a bottle of sustainable wine, organic beer, and fair trade chocolate.

Sounds a lot better than last year! I can’t wait…

Tell me about your Earth Hour! Leave a comment and share!

Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

From Vision to Reality: Family Fights over Global Warming

August 11th, 2008

Last Monday, we celebrated a fantastic gathering of green voices here at OrganicMania. The Green Moms Carnival on Global Warming brought bloggers together to talk about steps we can take to slow, reduce or eliminate global warming.

I don’t know about you, but I was fired up to see so much passion and commitment. So not being one for a lot of blather, I set out to implement some of the ideas proposed by my fellow Green Moms, “Mothers of the Earth,” and “sons of Mothers.

Then reality intervened.

Changing patterns is hard. Doing things differently from other people is difficult. Living sustainably is a challenge.

Fighting with your kids over global warming? It’s the secret reality. I learned long ago I’m not all that unique – so if I experienced some recalcitrant behavior from my six-year-old, I could not have been the only “Green Mom” going through this.

It all started with a change in behavior – my DH normally drops our son off at camp on his way to work. This particular day, he was walking to metro, about 15 minutes away. Big Boy was running late, but he told me “not to worry,” that he could just be driven over to camp after Dad left and still make it on time.

No.

“What? Why not? I don’t need to walk. I get plenty of exercise at camp.”

“No,” I responded. “It’s not good for the environment. Driving cars too much is what’s causing global warming. You either walk now with Dad or you walk later, but no one’s driving you over there.”

Well, just imagine six-year-old rebellion.

“But all the other kids’ parents drive them there!”

“Maybe those parents are dropping their kids off on their way to work. But your Dad’s not driving today. So we’re not driving you today. We have to take care of the Earth. And sometimes that means not driving.”

It’s amazing how “mean” I’ve become since he turned six. Why do mothers change so when their sons hit six? Suddenly, I’m a real “meanie.”

Well, he did end up walking with Dad, but the ensuing drama caused DH to be late to metro. So all of a sudden, I wasn’t just arguing with my son, but now my DH was annoyed too. Even though DH agreed with me (but of course).

You need to be organized to be green.

You need to change your patterns. You need to plan. You need to think ahead.

It’s not easy. And if at first you don’t succeed, don’t beat up on yourself either. After all, I’m not one for beating ourselves up with “eco-sins.” I much prefer the term Eco-Mistakes.

So how’s the battle against global warming going on your end? What changes have you made to your daily routines? Enquiring minds want to know.

– Lynn