Top Ten "Living Green" Bloopers -- The Good, Bad and the Ugly

by Dana B. Bryant

Top Ten Green BloopersBloopers are those embarrassingly funny moments when we want to go hide under a rock. No matter how hard we try, sometimes things just go wrong.

As you're discovering green architecture and engineering, households and child rearing, take advantage of the mistakes and bloopers we've done. We've listed our top ten personal best in hopes you'll avoid them.

So what are the most common "green" bloopers families tend to make? Let's take a look!

Most Common "Green" Bloopers

1. Trusting the Label

Just because a product is labeled as "natural" or even "organic" doesn't mean it's a healthy choice. Take a good look at the list of ingredients. If the ingredients listed are not all natural ingredients and plant-based oils then the product is not actually "green." Do your research so you don't get duped!

2. Renovating During Pregnancy

You want to build a cozy nest for the little one. Sometimes that involves ripping down walls, tearing up carpets, and slapping on new coats of paint. Try to avoid renovation, particularly during the first few months while baby's organs are developing. Toxins like lead, formaldehyde and VOC's could be unearthed and inhaled, especially in older homes.

3. Toxic Toys -- Hidden Dangers

Dangerous levels of lead and hazardous chemicals continue to pop up in some popular kids' products. Conventional clothing can also retain toxic chemicals that can cause rashes. Check out websites that offer a variety of clothes and toys that are safe, educational, high-quality and eco-friendly.

4. Drive the Family Car Until It Dies

Just like seeing your doctor for regular check-ups, your vehicle needs to have regular servicing done to ensure years of trouble-free service, good gas mileage, and low emissions. You can lessen your footprint by practicing "green" transportation whenever possible.

4. Old vs. New Appliances

Sometimes we've gotten a better, newer, more efficient appliance without sweating the small stuff. Deal with leaks -- water, air, whatever -- first. Even if you do replace an old and inefficient furnace, your energy bills could still be higher than necessary. Start with cheaper, smaller upgrades to improve the energy efficiency of your home, such as caulking around windows and doors and adding insulation. Then, if necessary, purchase new appliances. Most come with "energy star" ratings and refunds these days.

6. Use What You Have and Buy Recycled Products

Did you just buy two recycled glass jars for storage...and toss a couple glass jars into the recycling bin? Even though purchasing stuff made from recycled materials helps the environment, re-purposing items at hand keeps it greener. Think twice before you toss and before you buy. You'll save money and help your footprint be smaller.

6. Gadgets and Widgets

Do you really need the newest gadget? Could you make it yourself? Is that product going to really make a difference? Ask those questions before you buy into advertising hype. Instead of a gadget to turn the light off when you leave the room, turn it off by hand and teach the kids to do the same.

7. Laundry Bloopers

You've heard about using cold water, hanging up clothes, using detergents that have smaller impact. But have you dug deeper into the laundry dilemma? How many t-shirts does your preschooler really need? Are clean clothes landing on the floor where they're recycled directy to the wash in an endless cycle? Do clothes need to hit the laundry bin after 23 minutes wear?

8. Grass Isn't Always Greener

• A typical suburban lawn has less than 10 percent of the water absorption capacity of a natural woodland.
• Grassy lawns require more use of mechanical equipment, typically gas-powered
• Gardeners often use fertilizers and weed killers that leech into the soil and water table.

What's the solution? Plant woodland-type plants, especially native varieties, and use mulch, which has excellent absorption properties. Consider xeriscape, a type of landscape that emphasizes the use of drought-tolerant plants that need less water to thrive.

9. Does the Appliance Make Sense?

Make sure the "green" appliances are right for your family. For example, if you have a large family or only one bathroom for everyone -- the low-flow toilets are not likely going to save you water or money! Multiple flushes needed for a single person are worse than another option.

10. Raking vs. Mowing Leaves

This is a yearly neighborhood quandry for one of our members. One neighbor opts to rake a lawn full of leaves -- bagging in recycled bags to be left on the curb for the dump. Another chooses instead to mow them over, leaving them as a bed of mulch for the lawn over the winter. Weigh your options and then choose the outcome that is right for YOUR situation!

How will you deal with some of these challenges?