Earth Month: Ride a Bike

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…or at least consider alternate transportation. While public transit can be great (and here in Chicago there are buses and trains galore, and population density is high enough that my grocery store is less than 3 blocks–totally walkable) , its not always an option.

I carpool to work almost every day (with my other half–MC. Two Mary’s both with C last names). It’s awesome. We’ve been carpooling over a year and it’s routine now. I’m not sure what I would do if I had to drive alone with any kind of regularity.

Here’s how we work it:

  • We’re flexible. Roughly speaking, we switch off weeks, but today should have been my day and she wanted to drive (street cleaning)
  • We always check in the night before. We had to kick someone out of carpool for one too many last-second “hey are you driving”, as well as some other issues.
  • Stick to a schedule. We leave at 6:30. Neither of us is ever more than 5 min late and we are basically always on time. We text when we get in the car to pick up the other one, and each know when to head outside. If one of us wants to get to school even earlier, we work that out the night before.
  • We like driving together more than almost anything else (I’m writing this still at work at 6:30 because MC coaches), but drive alone sometimes if you need to. Don’t be resentful because you keep having to stay 3 hours late because of the other person.
  • This one’s optional but…come up with carpool insides jokes and dance moves. Oh, and if you’re stuck in the car for two hours driving home in a snowstorm, its a great idea to call your boss on the bluetooth so you can sing to her voicemail. We think.

Our commute is 14 city miles, which means with literally no traffic (leaving for work at 5:30 am), the best case is a little over 25 minutes. Heading home on a Friday? Over an hour. Which leads to my favorite option…

Ride a bike.

Healthy, scenic, green….and totally fun.

I’m crazy. We should probably start there. I don’t like gyms. I can’t handle the waste of time I feel like working out is. But I’ll walk anywhere. 4 miles? No biggie. Crazier still? I bike to work. For you locals, I live about a mile from Wrigley Field and work about a mile from Midway Airport. The same 14 miles mentioned above.

It’s not close. My old commute was a very doable 3 miles, until I moved and it became four. But when I started this new job, I was sure I couldn’t ride. Too far. And I was heartbroken. Until I realized the only thing stopping me was…me. I started out small, biking one way and getting a ride the other but now I just ride both ways, and I love it. I have a checklist to make sure I don’t forget anything (although I still screw up, most recently leaving my house keys at work on Friday).

Do you ride a bike? Walk? Carpool?

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Earth Month: Save Energy

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One of the most fun perks from running the Green Team at school is the fun toys. I’ve been to lots of meetings and heard about new and innovative programs to help people save power. Boyfriend actually consults with power companies about keeping information secure in some of the new active power management programs. In our area, ComEd will install a smart meter, which gives you real time electrical pricing and will decrease usage during peak hours.

Smart Meters aren’t for apartments, but a device anyone can use to see their power output is the Kill-a-watt. You just plug it into the wall and then plug your appliance in to the device. It measures how much power you’ve used and tracks how long its been plugged in.

Killawatt

I’ve used it to measure vampire power usage (stuff thats off and plugged in but still draws some power) and how much energy appliances draw while in use, like my space heater. Just that awareness reminds me to unplug–knowledge is power and all that. My other fun toy is a smart strip–one overall outlet, two always-hot outlets and then three more that are controlled by the overall outlet. Pretty cool: If you have the TV in the overall outlet, then speakers and stuff in the others, they’ll turn on once the tv turns on. I’m still deciding where it should go (I  don’t actually watch tv), but it’s a great idea that I’m excited to try out.

Other good ideas to save energy:

  • Don’t leave chargers plugged in
  • Use CFLs (duh)
  • Turn down the temperature on your hot water heater

What’s your best tip to save energy?

Earth Month: Recycle That!

 

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Do you recycle at home? I grew up doing it, so the habit has stuck and it would never even occur to me to toss paper in the trash. Recycling can be a tough habit to develop though, especially if you aren’t used to it.

If you’re just getting started:

  • Grab a bin and put it near where you look through mail or read the paper. Throw paper recycling in there when you are done.
  • Put a small extra garbage can (with bag) under the sink. You can drop cans and bottles in there easily.
  • I like having them separate because it gets sloppy and messy looking if you mix flat and round things.

Recycling old news?

Expand your recycling horizons. Do you recycle…

  • Batteries? In Chicago, all Walgreens accept batteries for recycling.
  • In the bathrrom? Shampoo bottles and toilet paper rolls are just as recyclable as their kitchen/office counterparts.
  • Printer/copier toner cartridges? Staples pays $2 per cartridge…and carries the super cute Martha Stewart Organizing line.
  • Gift wrap/paper towels/toilet paper/tissues? I hope not…none of these are recyclable, even if they are unused and totally clean. The paper isn’t good enough quality to use for anything else.

What’s your best recycling tip? Do you recycle at home? Learn anything you didn’t know here?

Earth Month: Bring your own Bags

earthmonthIn my real life, I’m a teacher. I also sponsor the school Green Team and try to make my school greener. (I annoy the heck out of plenty of people but that means) I’m pretty good at it, too. My old school was the second-LEAST environmentally friendly in the district (thats what happens when you’re built in the ’60s) but my new school is LEED gold (what happens when you’re built in 2010) (other things that happen if you are built in 2010 is there are no VCRs or TVs in the whole building).

ANYHOW.

I spend plenty of time thinking about what people can do to be greener, and I’ll be sharing one quick thing every Monday this month.

Up first:

Reusable bags.

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I always bring bags to the grocery store–they’re stored in my front hall closet, and I keep several in my car for impromptu trips. I’m a small-purse girl, but I have several bags that go into tiny little pouches–they fit in a pocket or a tiny purse, and I’m ready for whatever I need to tote around. Many stores in my area also give you 5-10 cents off for every bag you bring too. They also carry a lot more and are far more comfortable to carry.

Try thinking outside the bag, too. I wrapped my sister’s birthday gift in a reusable bag as part of her gift. If the gift is fairly square, it isn’t too tough to pull taut and use some tape to secure it. Wrap it up with a ribbon, and you’ve just added a great little bonus on to your gift!

Do you bring bags with you on errands? Any tips to help remember them? Does your grocery store give you an incentive for using them?