Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Full Disclosure

Did I mention that I hadn’t consulted my family about “our” project?

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce the players in the “Let’s Get Green!” game:

Peter Adolf. Heralds from Switzerland. Came to Spartanburg for business. Thought he’d be here for two years, max. Twelve years, one wife, one new biz, and three kids later...he’s still here. Thank god.

Julie Thompson-Adolf. Haus frau extraordinaire. Former PR/writer girl gone granola. Would rather dig in the dirt than get a manicure. Grower of heirloom vegetables and flowers, seller of heirloom plants. Owner of Garden Delights. Child-wrangler.

Tyler. Eldest son, 18. Not sure yet how Ty will fit into our project, as he’s currently away at the country club--I mean, Furman University. Seriously, though--what college student’s dorm room offers a lake view? Bradley University certainly didn’t offer lake views. Furman is a model for sustainability, though, so perhaps we’ll find a way for Ty’s experience to join the family experiment.

Kristen, aka Kiki. Age 8. The girl is animal-crazy. Seriously. I went into labor with her at a pet store, she was that eager to get her hands on some cats. We’re convinced that she is an animal-whisperer. Creatures flock to her. She may be my biggest environmental champion during the project. A true nature lover and sweetheart. I want to freeze her at this age.

Michael, aka Mikey. Age 4. Ah, Mikey, our last child. Mikey was a preemie, the doctors gave him steroids to help develop his lungs...and those steroids explain much about Michael. He’s hilarious, wild, loud...and wants nothing more than to do everything Kristen does. You can imagine how well that goes over with Kiki.

So, as we finally sat down to dinner last night after work, school, violin lessons, and soccer practice, I thought it might be wise to share my plan to make our family more environmentally committed. Mustering my best PR enthusiasm, I gave them an overview.


Kiki was the first to react.

“Does this mean we have to eat more vegetables?” Dramatic groan.

Full disclosure: our children hate vegetables. They hate them so much that they should have scurvy. I can sneak some fruits into their mouths, but anything green? You’d think DSS should arrest me for child abuse with they way they cry and fuss. Now, I also hated vegetables when I was a kid/teen/youngish adult...and I still struggle to make them a priority on my plate. My mom cooked meat and potatoes, with an occasional side of frozen nasty veggies. Iceberg lettuce was my green of dressing.

Ironic, isn’t it, considering my heirloom VEGETABLE business?

But that’s another day’s blog...the battle of the veggies. I’ll try to stay on topic...

Mikey, being Mikey...reacted to Kristen’s reaction...”Ewwww! Disgusting poopy!” Ah, the vocabulary of a 4-year-old...

Peter just kept eating.

Hmmm. I thought he’d be my champion, rallying the troops to fight global warming, diminish our family’s carbon footprint, save the polar bears.


Here’s the thing: Peter is Swiss. He’s not a trendy do-gooder. The Swiss always think carefully about their impact on the environment. On my first trip to visit my future in-laws, I carried on in my normal, throw-it-in-the-trash-if-it-isn’t-a-newspaper-can-glass bottle tradition. My future father-in-law fished out my recyclable trash...and recycled it.


It’s not that every Swiss is a perfect carbonless footprint, completely altruistic to the needs of the earth. It’s also a financial motivation. My in-laws must discard their trash in official state-produced bags, available in three sizes, with the medium bag costing approximately $1.50. They pay for the trash they create. So basically, when I blithely threw away some cardboard, my father-in-law fished it out to save some francs. Cardboard is bulky in those pricey trash bags, but it’s easily recycled for free down the street.

The Swiss also think more about packaging. Because of the fees associated with trash, consumers can actually leave their trash behind at the store. The store then incurs the expense of the trash pick-up, which in turn causes retailers to pressure producers to minimize packaging.

“So, hon, what do you think?”

Peter looks at my can of Diet Coke, sitting on the dinner table.

“Are you going to start with these?”

He has thrown down the proverbial gauntlet. He knows I love my Diet Coke. Ice cold, no ice.

In cans.

Crap. It’s been a long standing point of contention between us, my overwhelming love of Diet Coke. In cans.

“Yes. I’m going to start with the cans.”

He’s shocked. But he’s on board. I think.

So October 1, the cans go. The project begins. Let’s see what happens...

Monday, September 28, 2009

All or nothing...

Sustainable. Locavore. Carbon footprint.

I'm all for it. Really. My blood runs green. It does.

I compost.

I raise heirloom plants.

I own a Prius.

What got me thinking about our Greenism is this:

A friend and I went to see the movie, Fresh. Now, for those of you who don't know about this fine film honoring the local farmer, a quick not plan to go out for dinner afterward, especially for chicken.

I knew what I was getting into by seeing the film, but hey--I had been housebound with sick kids all week. Two hours to sit quietly with a glass of wine versus listening to my sweet kiddos whines--it appealed to me.

Of course, after watching the film, I swore I would never eat mass-produced food again, I would patronize the local farmer, I would eradicate all of the bad choices I make on a daily basis and SAVE THE WORLD.

Then I went home, had a Diet Coke and an Oreo.

But I digress...

What really made me think about our Greenism was the conversation that followed the film. A terrific group of panelists shared their reactions to the film and answered questions from the audience. Panel members included a young, local farmer who grows his produce using sustainable, natural methods. He's like a rock-star of arugula and a genuinely nice guy. A former professor shared lovely muscadines with the audience from his berry farm. A husband and wife team that provides hormone-free, antibiotic-free meats got a little earthy and read some poetry. Plus there was a professor from Clemson, a horticultural powerhouse of a university. These individuals truly know their stuff...they don't preach, they don't instill guilt, they are just good people doing their jobs and helping the environment at the same time.

But as the discussion opened for "questions," a few audience members felt the need to showcase their vast knowledge of environmental doomsday-ness. Listening to the spewed statistics about petrochemicals used in farming (which this panel does not USE, lady!), I found myself tuning out.

Which is my point.

Why is there this disconnent between living a green life and, well, living? Why do some individuals feel the need for Green superiority, when some of us are just trying to do the best we can to positively impact the environment?

Shouldn't there be an easier way to make lifestyle changes that support a healthy environment without expending tremendous amounts of time and money?

And how can the average mom, one who works, volunteers, runs the kids to karate, soccer, piano, you name can she guide her family on the path to Green-ness without breaking the grocery budget and adding more stress to an already stress-filled life?

How can I do this?

So, in the blog-honored tradition of Julie Powell, my task in the next year is this:

I plan to minimize my family's impact on the environment. I'll keep track of what works, what doesn't, and hopefully find some useful tips to share. I won't preach, I won't be perfect, and God knows, I'll never be No Impact Man...but we're going to try. A little bit every day.

Hope you'll join me for the adventure!