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.)
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:
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.