Monday, October 15, 2007

Jumping on the bandwagon late as usual (pretty much par for the course for me)

I suppose you've all heard this already, but today is was Blog Action Day. As far as I can tell, this means that we're all supposed to post about the environment in some way or another with the express intent of getting Al Gore's attention so that he will either (A. run for President again or (B. marry one of us. Much as I'm a fan of the man, he actually seems pretty happy with Tipper, so if I'm rooting for either one of those, I'll go with A.

I like to think I'm fairly environmentally minded... I am probably the only one at my office who actually turns off her monitor when she leaves, and I routinely fish aluminum cans out of the garbage can in the kitchen and transfer them to the recycling bin a mere two inches away. At home, I wash my clothes in cold water and hang almost everything to dry. I've replaced most of my light bulbs with compact fluorescents (and I have perfectly logical excuses reasons for not replacing the few regular bulbs that remain). I recycle everything I can, even when it means cleaning out a quite nasty neglected jar of something or other that's grown moldy in the fridge. I use rags instead of napkins or paper towels at least 98% of the time. I reuse Ziploc bags and wash or recycle aluminum foil. I don't bag and toss my grass clippings; I leave them messily on the lawn. I pay extra on my Xcel Energy bill to support Windsource wind energy. I have a programmable thermostat. I turn the water off while I brush my teeth. Hell, today, I didn't even take a shower! That's my contribution to Blog Action Day! OK, actually, that's my contribution to the cause of "Damn, I was tired this morning, and another twenty minutes of sleep sounded way more important than a shower, particularly when I showered yesterday afternoon." Potato, po-tah-toe. Pish posh.

Anyway. My point is, I thought I was doing enough small things as to be considered a fairly greenish sort of girl. It's the small things that add up and matter, after all, is it not? Then I took the Earth Day Footprint Quiz (which Sognatrice linked to in her Blog Action Day post today). And OH MY WORD. Suddenly I'm looking at people in Hummers drinking out of Styrofoam cups and saying, "Oh hello, Kettle. I'm Pot. You sure do look black."

People, I don't even want to tell you how I scored on that quiz. I am far, far, far too ashamed. I did so poorly that, if our results were cataloged in some national database for our nation's leaders to peruse, I would probably be invited to the next $1,000 per plate dinner put on by George W. and his crew. If those results are right, then if everyone lived like me, we'd need 72 planets to sustain us. OK, so I am exaggerating. It wasn't anywhere near 72. But it was a far cry from the 1.2 Sognatrice scored, so it jarred me anyway.

I'd actually like to take issue with the Footprint Quiz, as I think there are plenty of things it doesn't measure that could marginally balance out the things it does. The things that hurt my results most severely are significant, sure, but they'd also involve major lifestyle changes to remedy: (1. I drive too damn far to work, and there is no feasible public transport to take instead, and (2. I'm a lazy, convenience foods sort of girl who doesn't pay near enough attention to how far her food traveled or how many resources were used in packaging it. The latter I can work on (baby steps, baby steps). The former is tougher to remedy.

In truth, though, there are a whole lot more things I could be doing. I could renew my recently expired TerraPass, for starters. That would assuage at least a bit of my driving guilt. I could remember to bring my Chico Bags every time I go shopping, instead of just one in three. I could turn off my kitchen light when I'm not in there. (And how often am I in there, really? You all know how infrequently I cook!) I could refuse to buy any more Lean Cuisines or Healthy Choice lunches until they package them in burnable paper (like Amy's Organic and Cedarlane) instead of non-recyclable plastic. (Yes, burning is a problem as well, but in Minneapolis, burned garbage is converted into energy, so supposedly none of it goes in a landfill, making it at least a partially justified trade-off, anyway.) I could do some of the things mentioned in the posts and comments at Bleeding Espresso and Marmite Breath today.

Or, I could do some of the things all of YOU suggest. Tell me, what are YOU doing to make sure we're not living in a horrific wasteland by 2016? We'll get back to my normally scheduled frivolity soon enough, really, but for now, I'm curious about everyone's thoughts on this.


lizgwiz said...

Well, that quiz WAS depressing. I did come out a few points better than "average," but is it my fault there's no efficient public transportation in this town? And yeah, the Lean Cuisines hurt me, too...but I'm SINGLE and trying to lose weight. It's hard to cook for one! I dry my clothes on the clothesline, too! Actually, I do pretty much all of the same things you do, and it's so much more than any of my friends/co-workers do. I demand a better score.

I'm going to go pout now. In the dark. In my home where the thermostat stays about 65 in the winter and 78 in the summer. I'm trying, damn it--don't look at me like that, Al!

-R- said...

I got 6.6 planets, which is actually a lot better than I thought it would be. I wonder if I could pay Nat to make some canvas bags for me. But would that just increase my footprint since she would have to mail them to me? =)

L Sass said...

I live in a tiny apartment, don't drive and commute only 2 miles to work... and I still got 2.2 earths!

My biggest impact problem, I think, is that my office does not recycle. Seriously. Can you imagine the amount of paper that I'm sending to the landfills each year?

Also, I know that my love for Trader Joe's is not exactly eating locally. But, it's so hard to resist their delicious cheapness.

Whiskeymarie said...

I got a 3.2, for what it's worth.
So, if anyone wants to give me a shiny new eco-friendly "green" house out in the country where I can use my horse and buggy to get to work, I would greatly appreciate it.
I figure it doesn't hurt to ask.
Thanks in advance!

nancypearlwannabe said...

I got a 3.7, which is better than I thought it would be. Especially since I STILL haven't picked up the stupid recycling bins from the city. Also, I feel as though I should mention that if I were rich I would totally have a hybrid car and I would generate all my own electricity with solar panels and such. I'm sure glad C and I started commuting together before I took this quiz!

Maliavale said...

I can't answer that yet because I'm wrestling with whether killing mice is eco-friendly or very, very not.

Noelle said...

I also did not take a shower today. I may not tomorrow. My co-workers LOVE me! (Especially because I turn off their monitors when I leave after them.)

Metalia said...

I KNOW. I also thought I was The Queen of the Enironment, and then I took a similar quiz, and was chastened. Right now, I'm on an eating organically and locally (where it's feasible) kick, and trying to support companies that are environmentally friendly.

Of course, I cold just get rid of my GIGANTOR S.U.V. and probably accomplish more with that than any of the above things.

stefanie said...

Liz--Hee. I demand a better score, too! Agreed--avert your eyes, Al; we're trying!!

R--You take the bus regularly and you still got 6.6? Damn. Now I don't feel quite as bad. Seriously, that quiz is absurd.

L Sass--My office is SUPPOSED to recycle, but people are ridiculously lazy. Also, it drives me INSANE throwing away the huge plastic toner cartridge every time we use one, but I cannot find any place that will recycle it!! Two web sites I contacted for info never got back to me, and the company that makes the printer was no help at all. Seriously, people, it is the year 2007. Do we really not care about this stuff yet?

WM--If you find a good deal on a horse and buggy, you be sure to let me know.

NPW--I'm really hoping my next car will be a hybrid. I'm also hoping I get a raise by then. :-(

Malia--Mice? Are you having some issues in your apartment? If so, eek (and please don't tell me about them).

Noelle--Today I took TWO showers (I went to the gym over lunch). I hate when my good work is canceled out like that.

Metalia--That's funny; I thought you were the Queen of Spelling (Ms. Enironment, you)! ;-) I am just teasing; we all fall to typos on occasion. I'll forgive you for that, but the SUV? Yeah, that's gotta go. (OK, no, seriously--good job on the eating locally thing. I really, really need to work harder on that.)

Anonymous said...

You win! If the Earth could, it would kick my ass. I pretty much suck in this category- but I do work at home, so that is something. But I am additced to disposable everything, so well- you get the picture. I can almost feels the Earth's swift boot of justice on my tush now.

Anonymous said...

I'm vegetarian. Doing so makes a bigger difference than switching to a hybrid, and is widely regarded as the single greenest choice an individual can make. Also, it's just stupid-easy, and saves cash, which you can then use on organic veggies and such.

--Shana in Missouri

sognatrice said...

FWIW, I think that quiz is really quite selective in its questions. I mean, recycling isn't even mentioned, so I'm not sure that anyone should be depressed by her score.

I scored OK mostly because of the lifestyle here in small town Italy, which I've recently realized, is actually quite Earth-friendly except for the lack of organized recycling and general trash issues.

Helps that most people are poor and have little disposable income to ruin the Earth with ;)

You're already doing *a lot* and this post is just another to add to the list. By the way, are your eyes green?

stefanie said...

Monkey--Maybe your working at home puts you at the same level as some of the rest of us who are doing small things but still driving a lot. I feel like we can't win!

Shana--That is an excellent point. I actually eat very little meat (and almost no beef), but I'm still concerned about the carbon cost of the meat I do eat, as it's usually in some convenience food form and shipped from lord knows where.

Sognatrice--Are my eyes green? Um, no... (Was that a real question or an environmental one? Sorry; I didn't get that!)

Jamie said...

So here are some nit-picks with the quiz:

I scored an 8.6 under "GOODS/SERVICES" but there is only one question listed under "GOODS" and I chose, "Compared to people in your neighborhood, I generate much less waste." So, is there no way to get a better score in this category?! Are they generalizing based on the fact that I live in the most wasteful country in the world? (I didn't try taking it as a citizen of another country.)

And under question 7, what is "electricity with conservation and efficiency" mean exactly? Do compact fluorescents count? Or do I have to be using fewer than 100 kilowatt hours per month??

Finally, under the question about flying, I'm forced to choose between 25 hours and 100 hours per year. I flew about 50 hours last year (mostly on my vacation to Thailand and back), and I don't appreciate having to be in the same category as Al, who un-environmentally-friendily (sp?) flies all over the country giving his spiel!

Actually, that last question about flying is really what got me. I drive a hybrid (it's a used one -- you don't need to be rich to drive one, and I'm spending about half as much on gas as I did before I bought it), and walk to the co-op, where I buy locally grown food, yet my mobility score is a whopping 9.5. Please don't make me give up world travel!

Anyway, thanks for sharing, Stef!

kermitjohnson said...


I am not even going to tell you how I scored on the quiz....

Thank you for participating in Blog Action Day.

I did not participate. However, I wrote a belated post of my own about an environmental issue that might strike a cord with some of your readers:

Brazilian Teak Floors, Slave Labor, and the Destruction of the Rain Forest.

You can find it at:

Anything that you can do to help promote awareness of this issue will be greatly appreciated. Normally, I don't ask for this kind of help, but the issue is that important to me.

Thank you!