Keep your home green while you vacation!

lampSometimes it’s easy to get so consumed with planning and preparing for a vacation that we forget about the home we’re leaving behind.

Before you leave, your house needs some special attention so it doesn’t continue to over-consume in your absence.  When you think about everything that’s drawing energy on a daily basis (and the things that an empty house doesn’t need), it’s time for a checklist.

Here are a few simple (and possibly overlooked) ideas to keep your home green while you vacation:

  • Turn off your air conditioning or, in the winter months, turn the heat to 55 degrees.
  • Make sure ceiling fans are turned off.fridge
  • Unplug nearly everything… computers, TVs, appliances, microwaves, lamps, coffee makers, all of it!  Look at every outlet in your house and most things can be unplugged in your absence.  They WILL still consume “phantom power” even when not in use!
  • Install timers on a few lights so your home still appears lived-in but they won’t glow 24-hours-a-day.
  • Dial down the temperature or switch off the breaker on your water heater.
  • If you clear out an overload of perishables in your refrigerator make sure it’s not too empty… you actually need some content to make it efficient.  If it’s looking a bit empty, just fill and cover a few large pitchers of water.

That’s all it takes.  A checklist and a little extra time and you can keep it green while you play away!

How does YOUR sunscreen rate for safety (and chemicals!)?

sunshnNow that the countdown to the final days of school has reached “10 days and counting” all my kids can talk about is all the fun we’ll have this summer and our annual beach vacation!

But any parent knows that fun in the sun also means extra caution to make sure our precious little ones (ourselves included!) don’t get fried during “sun fun”, so if you haven’t bought it already, sunscreen is sure to be a purchase in the very near future.

The concern with sunscreen is the presence of some nasty chemicals that we really don’t want to apply to our bodies daily, or even “frequently” for that matter, since they absorb into our skin and accumulate. Many are believed to cause hormone disruption, cell damage and allergies, amongst other things. They include vitamin A (retinyl palmitate), Oxybenzone, Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Mexoryl, Avobenzone… augh!… just a bunch of things that we could really do without!sunscrn

So instead of laboring over labels and trying (sometimes in vane) to decipher the ingredients… (drumroll, please….)  Environmental Working Group has released its 2010 list and ratings of over 500 sunscreen products.  Believe me, it is much easier to find one on the “best” list and just know you have a good product to keep you safe from the sun AND the nasty chemicals.

You can also look-up the products you have been using to see how they rate.  Sadly, all of ours were in the “caution” category so Mom Goes Green will be doing her research too.  Fortunately, EWG has done most of the work for us, so the answers are just a few clicks away.

Now check it out, slather on the good stuff and GO PLAY… summer is almost here!

Vacation, nature, and a bit of irony…

Yes, summer is dwindling… and as I spend small portions of days preparing to send our kids back to school I keep running across reminders of the vacation that was nodunes-kidst so long ago, but seems so long ago.

The drive took us through breathtaking views of West Virginia mountains where we were awed by trees as far as the eye could see.  It was amazing to see so many undisturbed miles without areas cleared away for development.  My views on chopping down trees are no mystery.   Can you just imagine how invigorating the air in the middle of those mountains must be?

I think about our kids running wild over the Jockey’s Ridge sand dunes, the largest active dune system in the Eastern US.  What a difference to those treed mountains… conditions on the dunes are so harsh, vegetation can only grow on the outskirts.  But the sunset… ah, the sunset.   The silhouettes in this photo are actually our precious kids, standing where the top of the dunes (that are believed to have been formed millions of years ago) seem to meet the sky.

And what beach vacation doesn’t include lots of ocean time.  Just the sound relaxes me.  I could watch the waves for hours on end and I get seaglasswrapped up in how vast and amazing the ocean is.  The irony is that one of our favorite adventures was trying to find sea glass washed up on the shore.  This sea glass is actually glass that has found its way into the ocean and gets tumbled and smoothed by the water, sand and salt.  Every time we found one it was like finding a real gem and then I start to wonder what it came from, where it originated, who touched it before us and even how it wound up in the ocean.  Yes, ironic that Mom Goes Green and family found treasures in something that started as ocean litter!

The point of all of this is simply that experiencing the mountains, the sprawling dunes and the incredible ocean reminds me of another quote by Divamish Indian Chief Seattle:

“Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints.”

… tread lightly in our daily lives, because this planet is truly amazing!

Mom Goes Green takes a bite out of the Big (Green?) Apple!

I just returned from some grown-up fun in NYC… the Big Apple!  This time it was me and my husband only!  Amazing how simple life can be without kids in tow.nycity While neither of us like to leave our kids behind, it’s great to reconnect with your beloved!

We had a fantastic time and were conscious to keep the towels hung in the hotel (so they didn’t get a daily laundering), turn off lights and all that other good stuff, but it’s hard to feel like trekking around the city isn’t making a huge environmental impact.

We walked A LOT but I’m sure we took far too many cabs because (despite our many, many trips) we have never mastered their subway system.  So this led me to wonder, just how green in NYC?

I was surprised to learn that some recent research actually lists the Big Apple as #2 for the least wasteful cities in the US.  Problem is, this nyc-recyclesresearch was based on residents which total about 8.5 million.  But how many tourists visit the city each year?… 47 million.  Mind boggling!  That’s a lot of extra people creating trash.

While I did see some recycling receptacles around the city (one for cans & bottles and one for newspapers & magazines), they were still somewhat few and far between.  Even staying at the Hilton in Midtown didn’t provide much help (but I give them credit for all the CFLs!).  This time I didn’t cart a million things home because we ate in restaurants and didn’t make our own food, nor did we buy from street vendors and have a lot of disposable items, so aside from our addiction to cabs, we kept it fairly green.

Where did the othei-luv-nyr big cities rank?  As usual San Francisco stands proudly at #1.  But I still feel like most tourist cities aren’t doing all they can to see that their visitors have the proper resources to continue their green ways while contributing to local economies.

Aside from using public transportation or walking, keeping it green in your hotel room, and foregoing lots of disposables, what’s a traveler to do? Don’t get me wrong… I (still) love NY, but unless I get elected Mayor in each of these cities, I have absolutely no idea!

Prep your home for “away” before vacation “play”!

lampSometimes it’s easy to get so consumed with planning and preparing for a vacation that we forget about the home we’re leaving behind.

Before you leave, your house needs some special attention so it doesn’t continue to over-consume in your absence.  When you think about everything that’s drawing energy on a daily basis (and the things that an empty house doesn’t need), it’s time for a checklist.

Here are a few simple (and possibly overlooked) ideas to keep your home green while you vacation:

  • Turn off your air conditioning or, in the winter months, turn the heat to 55 degrees.
  • Make sure ceiling fans are turned off.fridge
  • Unplug nearly everything… computers, TVs, appliances, microwaves, lamps, coffee makers, all of it!  Look at every outlet in your house and most things can be unplugged in your absence.
  • Install timers on a few lights so your home still appears lived-in but they won’t glow 24 hours a day.
  • Dial down the temperature or switch off the breaker on your water heater.
  • Clear out as much food as possible in your refrigerator and freezer.  Less content means less to cool.

That’s all it takes.  A checklist and a little extra time and you can keep it green while you play away!