This I Believe

Laura - Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
Entered on April 18, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: environment
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I believe in Living Green. Living Green is about making a consious effort to protect the enviornment and live a better quality of life at the same time. Each person on earth needs clean water to drink, fresh air to breathe and healthy chemical free food to eat. I made this decision for myself after an event that took place in the summer of 1999.

It was August, and I remember it was a really hot day. I had just finished work and was heading to my car when a terrible feeling of exhaustion came over me. I felt my chest tighten and I didn’t think I was going to make it to my car, which was only about 20 yards away. I thought I was having a heart attack. I did make it to my car and just sat there with the air conditioning on until I felt that I was going to be ok. I went home and called the doctor. My doctor had me come in right away. After some testing and x-rays she gave me the news. First, I had pneumonia, and Secondly, I had a disease called Sarcoidosis. I couldn’t even pronounce it then, let alone spell it or tell you what it was. The next few weeks were a blur of more tests and specialists. I read everything I could find on the subject before they did a biopsy to confirm it. Doctors do not know what causes it. They do feel that it is caused by something in the enviornment. It was then that I made the decision to make changes in my life. Sometimes the changes are hard to make but now when I hear about something new, I research it, decide if it is something I should be doing, then incorporate it into my life. I sometimes joke and quote a TV character, ” It isn’t easy being green.”

Here are some of the things I do and some that I will do as time and/or money permit. I try to conserve the energy I use. I turn off power sources when I am not using them. I purchase energy efficient lights and light bulbs. The new appliances I bought when my kitchen was remodeled are energy efficient. My car gets an average of 30 MPG on the highway but the next one I purchase will have to be even more efficient. I do try to combine my errands so I feel I contribute that way. I am also thinking about building a greenhouse onto my existing home to gain the benefit of the sun to provide additional warmth on the south side of my home in winter.

I conserve water by fixing leaking pipes and I replaced the dishwasher with the kitchen remodel. In the garden, I have slowly started to replace the high maintenance plants with plants that are native to this area. Native plants not only do better in my garden, they do better during times of drought. I made a rain barrel to collect rainwater then I use this water on my plants. I mulch my plants to keep out weeds, as I do not use chemicals of any kind to kill weeds. Mulching also helps to keep the moisture in.

Clothing and household goods can be made from hemp, cotton or flax, just as they have been for hundreds of years. I have begun purchasing these fabrics when replacing things. Flooring can be made from bamboo that is quickly grown and harvested. Why bamboo isn’t used more often is really a puzzle to me. You can practically watch it grow and is one of the most durable woods for flooring available. I intend to do this in one of my rooms this year. Be careful about growing this to close to your neighbors fence line as it can send out underground roots 10-15 feet away from the original planting.

Waste can be reduced, by the recycling of old building materials. I love the thrill of the hunt finding an old piece of furniture and giving it a new purpose. My weekly trash collection usually picks up glass, tin, aerosol cans, newspaper and cardboard. I put the newspaper and cardboard in the garden. I either shred it and put it into the compost bin along with food scraps, grass clippings and leaves to decompose it into organic matter, or I use it in the walkways to control weeds, I just mulch over top a bit.

When going to the store I look for items with the USDA Certified Organic symbol on the package. That symbol tells me that no pesticides or other chemicals were used in the growing or making of that product. The same symbol is found on cotton for the clothes I wear and other items in my home, like sheets, towels, and rugs. I have recently purchased a sturdy cotton bag that I will take to the grocery store for purchases to cut down on unnecessary packaging materials.

I am planning to cut back even further on the chemicals that are around the house. There are products that contain high levels of VOC’S, voliatle organic compounds, and just being around them may make some people sick. Paint, pressed wood furniture, and wall-to-wall carpeting are a few examples. There are chemical free options for all of these items. Other chemicals are found in cleaning products and pesticides that leach into the ground water which in turn goes on to contaminate our major waterways. Our streams feed into the Susquehanna River, which runs into the Chesapeake Bay, and on into the Atlantic Ocean.

Living Green really is about choices: the choice to live in a healthy or unhealthy way. To eat food that is free of chemicals. To choose to protect our natural resources, like our waterways for clean water. To breath clean air not polluted by fuels or by the chemicals in paint. I like to think that with each change I make in my life, I might be helping others in the world. Like I said before ‘ It isn’t easy being green,” but I think it’s worth it.