A Garden Grows in The Bronx: How My Family Is Trying to Live Green

Okay, so it’s Earth Day and time to reflect on personal practice. I’m at a Fortune Magazine conference called Brainstorm Green.  There is a lot of talk here about innovative solutions, but also about how some of the key environmental answers come down to human behavior.

Lifestyle changes take thought, time, perseverance, and action. I know because I am making them myself. Sometimes it’s easier to think about being green than it is to do it.  But my family and I are trying several things, and the more we are able to accomplish, the more excited we are to find the next green step to take. It’s a snowball effect, and it feels good.

So here is what my family is trying to do.

We Are What We Eat: It’s spring and we’ve planted a new vegetable garden. In the past we’ve participated in a CSA, or community supported agriculture, which delivered fresh, organic produce to our home from local farms. (Click here to find one in your area). But now we’re growing our own local, organic food. 

Two of my daughters are serious sustainable agriculture enthusiasts, and all three of my girls love to cook, so this will be fun. Kale, chard, lettuce, carrots, radishes, beets, peas, beans. We can’t wait. In a few weeks it’ll be tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants and peppers. And how about all those herbs, basil, mint, thyme, and sage.

We have also committed to eating fewer meals with meat and to eliminate all beef from the family diet. Between the environmental devastation from factory farms and the large carbon footprint that comes from the beef industry, my family decided this was the right commitment for us to make.

You Don’t Need a Roof-top Solar Panel to Use Renewable Energy: Many utilities  offer consumers the option of having the electricity for their homes generated by renewable energy. My utility is Con Edison, and it offers this choice.  It costs us a little more--1 cent per kilowatt hour. But I am still saving, because I replaced all my incandescent light bulbs with highly efficient compact florescent light bulbs. My home just doesn’t use as much electricity as it used to. 

The biggest reduction came from the kitchen ceiling lights because that’s the room we all spend the most time in. I actually saw the decrease in my monthly bill.  Now the bill go up a bit because we are switching to green power, but hopefully it’ll have a net gain

Location, Location, Location: I confess it hasn’t been too hard for me and my family to keep our gasoline use relatively low simply because of where we live: The Bronx. There is plenty of mass transit here. I also bought a Prius, but thanks to the subway, I only put about 8,000 miles on the car each year--a lot less than the national average.

One thing I do a lot though is fly in planes. Planes emit a hefty dose of global warming pollution, so I have started buying carbon offsets for plane travel.

These are some of the steps my family has made toward greener living. We also recycle, and have lately switched to cleaning products that are safer than the toxic-laden standbys.

I would love to hear about the latest you and your families are doing to protect the environment. Send your ideas on the next big thing. Or visit NRDC’s Celebrate Earth Day site for inspiration.  

And  Happy Earth Day.