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By Wendy Gabriel

Good-bye 2007, you’ve been a great year.  A new baby made her on-time arrival at Gabriel Manor, another had a tail wind and came a bit early for my sister, we’ve all had life teach us new lessons and more than anything, we’ve had enough joy and laughter to fill up several years.

We’ve also had some low-lights . . . but that’s a blog for another time. 

Hello, 2008.  This year promises to be amazing, one that will be full of firsts.  Baby Greek Goddess’s first birthday.  Little Greek Goddess’s first skating lessons followed in short order by her first hockey class (she’s already tackled her first ballet and soccer classes).  My oldest niece will be the first of our 10 nieces and nephews to graduate high school.  Oh how time flies: I blinked and she went from wearing diapers to wearing Prada.

And so with the clock ticking down to 2008, it’s time for The Big Finish.  The grand finale to My Green Side, 2007.  For quite some time, I’ve been looking for a jumping-off point to leap into the new year; a light to follow, if you will, that will be something of a guidepost for the year to come.  As if on cue, I stumbled across a quote by Mother Teresa which really struck a cord . . . call it the sign in the road I was seeking:

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.  If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.  If you are honest, people may cheat you.  Be honest anyway.  If you find happiness, people may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.  The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good anyway.  Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.  Give your best anyway.  For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.  It never was between you and them anyway.”

You might be wondering what the previous paragraph has to do with living green.  To me, living green is more than just Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  It’s about living life in a way that benefits not only yourself and your family, but those around you.  It is about seeing the world, living in the world and improving the world in ways that leave a healthier blueprint for our children to follow, both physically and emotionally. 

Happy New Year!

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By Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP:  Bring Your Own Bag! 

Most anywhere you shop, stores are selling canvas bags designed to hold your groceries.  My husband brought home a couple from Byerly’s the other day (I was momentarily speechless!).  They’re great.  They fold into little flat squares so you can keep them under your car seat or other handy spots.  My Mom also found some for sale at Kowalski’s Market.  Kowalski’s also offers a nickel-per-bag refund if you reuse your paper or plastic shopping bags.  Lakewinds Natural Food Co-op has a similar incentive.   

Obviously, bringing your own bags is ideal but if you don’t, requesting a plastic bag results in less waste than paper bags.  This is basically because it takes less energy to produce and ship plastic bags.  According to the Institute of Lifecycle Environmental Assessment (ILEA), which is an environmental advocacy organization headquartered in Seattle, “two plastic bags use 13% less total energy to make than one paper bag.”  And “since plastic bags are normally much thinner and lighter than comparable paper bags, it would take at least seven 45-foot trucks of paper bags to deliver the quantity of bags contained in one 45-foot truckload of plastic bags.  Consequently, the use of plastic bags reduces road traffic, the resulting air pollution, and truck fuel consumption.” 

If you’re reusing plastic bags (good for you!) and wear and tear has rendered them ineffective, recycle them.  Plastic bags can’t be recycled through most cities’ recycling programs but if you’re in Minnesota, Twin Cities-based “It’s in the Bag” plastic bag recycling program has plenty of convenient drop sitesPlastic bags collected by “It’s in the Bag” are sorted by adults with developmental disabilities at Merrick Inc., a non-profit organization and then sent to Trex Company, a  Winchester, VA-based manufacturer.  Trex processes the bags to create construction materials used in decks and backyard patios.   According to The Trex Company, each Trex decking board (16-feet long, 2 x 6 inches) uses approximately 2,250 plastic bags. If you happen to be living outside of Minnesota . . .  

California, for example, requires all grocery stores to take back and recycle plastic grocery bags

In Wisconsin, at least in St. Croix County, Wal-Mart stores generally accept plastic bags for recycling.

In a perfect world we would all have a stash of hemp or organic cotton bags and we would bring them every time we went to the grocery store.

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By Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP:  When you wash your car, bring it to your local commercial car wash! 

Are you surprised?  I was!  I thought my eco-smug neighbor was doing the green thing every time he would painstakingly wash and wash and wash his car by hand.   

Here’s the dirt on doing it yourself:   

First, when you wash your car yourself, you use more water.  The International Carwash Association reports that commercial car washes use less than half the water that you’d use when you do it yourself.  So, according to one report, washing a car yourself uses around 80 to 140 gallons of water whereas a commercial car wash averages less than 45 gallons per car.  AND many commercial car washes recycle and reuse the water used to rinse the cars (you can’t do that at home).    

Secondly, the wastewater run-off you are creating goes directly into storm drains which sends the nasty water back into our lakes, rivers and streams.  In contrast, federal laws in the U.S. and Canada require commercial car washers to drain their wastewater into sewer systems.  So, their nasty water gets treated before it is sent back out into the world.

Do something green, go wash your car . . . at the carwash!

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