Welcome guest poster, Susan, of Practically Green. I absolutely adore her and her new quiz on her site. Read on.
Almost four years ago, I tossed my first bottle of conventional baby lotion and banned plastic from our microwave.
My toddler son had just been diagnosed with a whole range of food and environmental allergies. This got us reading labels — and we quickly learned a lot about the impact that chemicals, hormones, antibiotics in foods, and other nasty stuff have on us and our kids.
The process was confusing, time-consuming, and complex–and it was filled with a lot of contradictory information. And that was just the cleaning, food, and personal-care stuff! When we decided to embark on a major home renovation focused on other ‘green’ things — like saving energy, saving water, reducing waste, and selecting products and services that were better for us and the planet — it got REALLY hard. So hard, I decided to do a graduate program in sustainable design to understand it better!
I learned a lot about LEED® in my courses. LEED is a system for developers, builders, and architects to earn points for incorporating green features into buildings. If they do a really good job, their projects become LEED Silver, Gold, or even Platinum. LEED® has sparked a boom in green building.
What I especially loved about LEED® was its framework, which made it easier to understand what to DO to live healthier and greener. There was only one problem with LEED®. It wasn’t helpful for the majority of decisions I was making on a daily basis as a mom. How many points for bringing bags to the grocery store? How many for ditching my petroleum-based lipstick or switching to cloth napkins? When I do these things, am I still just barely green or have I improved a lot?
I wanted LEED® for moms like me, my neighbors and friends. And that’s the vision for Practically Green: a new online service that figures out where you are today and provides a personalized list of what you could be doing to “move up”.
We try to make it comprehensive, we try to collect the best expertise and real life experience, and we try to make it fun. Here’s how it works:
Step One: Are you Level 1: Barely green? Or are you Level 10: Superbly Green? The diagnostic quiz provides a “best estimate,” but you can easily add things it missed from over 350 actions in our database.
Step Two: Make a plan to reach your personal goal based on personalized, recommended actions. Each action has points based on impact, along with why it’s green, how to do it, and recommended products and services. (My goal is to get to a 10. But I’m one of those who always wants to get a top score. Very Type-A!)
Step Three: Celebrate your accomplishments! Whether it’s getting your gold badge in health or making it to the next level–it’s a big deal and we make it a big deal! You can share your achievement with your friends too!
Our four years of big efforts (a micro co-generation system) and little efforts (all-natural dish soap), adds up to 127 actions worth 4,380 points, which is “Wicked Green” or a Level 9. If I want to get to a 10, I need slightly more than 100 more points, mostly in energy.
This is where “superbly” and “practically” collide.
Two big things I could do to get there would include:
1. Reduce Air Travel Significantly: 150 energy points
This isn’t happening. My parents live in Washington State. My husband’s parents live in Florida. We are in Massachusetts. We are going to see them–and we aren’t spending 4 days with 2 kids on a train to do it.
- Reduce red meat to 1x/month: 100 energy points
I’ve taken the “Meat-Free Monday” pledge and have very consciously shifted all our ground beef to ground dark turkey. But I really enjoy a good steak and pork chops. We’ve accepted the fact we’re carnivores, but we choose to Buy sustainably raised meat and settled on our 50 points for that.
(Anna, here, honestly, Susan, my boys are cavemen. They would hunt meat if they could.)
Fortunately, Practically Green encourages me to try and achieve my goals using a number of smaller, less dramatic changes too. If I go this route to the Level 10, my journey probably looks like:
Install smart power strips: 10 energy points (Anna here. See GT’s Smart Strip article.)
Line-dry laundry in summer: 25 energy points
Plant a vegetable garden: 20 energy points (caveat: I’ve done this, but before I claim the points, I want to see if I actually can grow anything!)
(Anna here. See Susan’s video on how to select the proper location for a garden. As for me, gosh, where do I begin on my drama, drama, and more drama gardening adventures? Slugs, Rabbits, crows, oh my. As well as my overambitious garden self? Won’t trade the drama for the world.)
Insulate your pipes: 20 energy points
(Anna, here again. See GT’s article about insulating your ducts and pipes. Two great minds think alike. I told you I adore Susan.)
Install insulated window treatments: 20 points
What about the 5 points left to go? I turned my attention to the health, water and stuff categories and found lots and lots to do. Here’s a fun and easy one:
Get something, instead of buying it, from Freecycle: 5 points
(Anna, here again. You KNOW I love a Freecycle, Garage Sale, or Craig’s list bargain. Used is the way to go! Where else can you buy quality for a third of the price?)
I have no illusions these actions will happen overnight, but the whole point is to just put one foot in front of the other and to keep going. When I look back at how our life has changed over time, I’m truly amazed at what we’ve accomplished. We’d dropped our electricity usage almost 70% in the winter. We have significantly reduced our toxin exposure from food and products. My son no longer snores so loud you can hear him two floors down from dust mites. We truly live more consciously and I do feel like I’m contributing to a healthier life for my kids and perhaps doing my part for the greater good.
What about you? Where are you in your green journey and what actions get you to your own goal? We’d love to hear from you and hope to see you as part of Practically Green.
Editor’s note: I took the quiz and only got an 8. Gosh, I was surprised. I thought I would do better. Just goes to show you that like everything in life, you can always up the bar.
Susan told me to sign up and find out how I could become amazingly green! I know I need to switch to cloth napkins instead of recycled content one, but I would have to buy black ones. Sometimes, I think I should give my boys a trough instead of a plate. My kitchen would be alot cleaner!
Take the quiz and let us know your score and how you can approve.
Condo Blues says
This is a great idea! I think one of the most frustrating things about greening your life is trying to find things that fit your family and work for the region of the country in which you live.
I got an 8. I’m a little dissppointed because I couldn’t opt out of things on the quiz that don’t apply to me. I got dinged 50 points for not insulating my basement. I can’t. I don’t have a basement!
Green Talk says
Condo Blues, great points. Susan is reading this and I bet as the quiz gets used more and more, she will make it better. I hope others comment on what they did and did not like about the quiz. It only takes a few minute to take the quiz.
Oh, Condo Blues, aren’t you trying to become a spokesperson for a tea company? Can you share with our readers about this contest and how they can vote for you. Link to your post, etc. Readers, Condo Blues is my DIYer friend. She is amazingly creative. I use old screens to cover my vegetable garden, CB uses newspaper (is that right?) to wallpaper her powder room and a picture of her bathroom lands in a magazine or something like that. CB explain, please. Anna
Condo Blues says
I emailed Susan and asked her if it would be possible to opt out of items on the quiz that don’t apply. She said that they are tweaking things and welcome the feedback since the site is in Beta.
Yes, Anna. I’m a finalist in the Salada Tea Spokesperson contest and I sure could use the votes at http://www.saladaspokesperson.com/ for Lisa Nelsen-Woods until August 1, 2010. Your daily vote helps Salada Tea determine the winner! If I win I would be promoting green living and healthy eating in a cost conscious manner. Something I embody every day of my life!
Green Talk says
Readers, vote for Lisa! She is amazing. Anna
Outdoor Shower Enclosures says
Excellent post Susan. Thank you for recommending the website practically green it sure is a fantastic website for evaluating how “green” of a life your are living by taking every factor into consideration. I definitely be recommending it to a few friends of mine!
I’m with Condo Blues. There were a lot of questions that I felt were difficult to answer. When asked which products I choose environmentally-friendly versions of, I only checked off “dish soap” because I don’t use dishwasher detergent, or window cleaner or bleach. But does that mean that I get scored the same as someone who uses NON-environmentally-friendly versions of those items? Or do those items not count toward the score at all?
I live in an apartment where water is included, so I have not “monitored my water bill for unexpected leaks” because I don’t get a water bill. And I have not had a “home-energy audit” because there isn’t much I can/will do in a rental unit that I’m not already doing anyway.
I feel like this quiz was more geared to suburbanites who live in detached houses.
Green Talk says
TheGreenerCat, good feedback. I sure this will help Susan. Anna
Joe Huang says
I thank you, Susan for sharing this important message. There are too much toxin food around us, we take them everyday. I doubt if we can really avoid these things? Anyway, we’d better have faith. I just hope, people will not produce these things. By the way, I recommend using how to make an artistic quiz if you wish to make a quiz.
Editor’s Note: Edits to the comment were made. Anna