Why I Choose to be Green

I am green, when I say that I mean, I try my best to be as environmentally friendly as I can and I’m always looking to gather more knowledge on the subject.  I have taken a few classes at my local university in Environmental Management.  It hasn’t ended up getting me a job in this field however I found myself thoroughly enjoying all the classes that I attended.

I started taking classes back in about 2009 with the intent of getting a job in a field that I was really really interested in.  Every class that I attended was filled with many people that were younger and much more educated than myself and I found this very intimidating.  The good thing about being older is that you develop this sense of ‘what the heck, what have I got to lose’ attitude, which helped me get over my fear. So when it was my turn to introduce myself in front of the class and I realized I was the only housewife in the room, I said ‘what the heck’ and stood up and proudly announced that I was a Mom to twin girls and I was simply interested in this topic and that’s why I was there.  You know what, no one blinked an eye and I actually teamed up with some really talented people for our first project which was studying the possible elimination of the White and Yellow pages in our city.  This outdated program needed to be changed (in our minds anyway) as these books were and are rarely used anymore and until recently we did not have the choice to opt out of getting them.

This was a great project that involved coming up with all the different avenues that people used to get information that these books held including the most widely used choice which was the internet.  We took a deeper look into who actually used these books anymore and came up with a small list of people that may still use them.  Our final conclusion was that they were outdated and we deserved the right to opt out of receiving them.  In the years that have passed it seems that others had the same feelings because in 2010 the company decided it would no longer deliver these books to residential homes unless that household made a specific request to receive them.  Fabulous!  Less energy wasted on an outdated procedure, I like that.

Since 2009 I have been making the odd Facebook post about being green, using the knowledge that I learned in my classes.  One of my instructors said something that has stuck with me, he simply said “no one likes a finger pointer”.  I love this, every post that I make I try to keep this in mind.  I am a big believer that many small acts can accomplish large things therefore I like to try to encourage people rather than tell them what I think they should do and I am forever reminding myself that just because I do things a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the only way to do things.

I find myself using the term ‘baby steps’ a lot because when I look back over the years, I didn’t drop everything and start making my own laundry soap and cleaning products, composting, using reusable shopping bags, hooking up rain barrels to my house, growing some of my own food, buying used items instead of new and, eliminating most dangerous chemicals from my home all at once, it came in baby steps.  I was interested in one topic like composting for instance, so I took out some books from the library and read up on it.  I didn’t get it at first but I tried and failed (fruit flies everywhere!) and tried again and succeeded!  And my garden, well that was a great success then the next year a complete failure however with every year I am getting better at it and I finally have my own compost to use in my very own garden!  It’s coming along and I take pride in it.  It gets me outside and my children are learning about how to grow food.

I would love to share some of the tips that I have learned about composting.  I don’t profess to know everything but I can tell you what works for me if you are interested in getting started.  Depending on what book I read about composting it either overwhelmed me with all the ‘do’s and don’ts’ or it explained the procedure as a natural occurrence that would happen with or without your help, as long as you contributed to the pile.  Here is what has worked for me.

When you compost you work with materials that are called ‘greens’ and ‘browns’ and you layer them in the bin.  The brown layer should be at least twice as thick as the green layer.  I keep a Rubbermaid container of ‘browns’ beside my two compost bins.  Browns means, for me anyways, old grass that we had raked up from our lawn in the fall along with dead crispy leaves that had fallen off our trees and possibly some branches and sticks.  But it could also mean paper and paper products like old shredded newspaper (not glossy magazine pages), empty toilet paper/paper towel rolls etc.  The green materials consist of a large bowl that I keep on my kitchen counter that contains all the peels and pits of fruit and veggies that I have throughout the day along with crushed egg shells or coffee grounds/tea bags if that is what we ate on that particular day.

Each night I empty the bowl into one of my compost bins and then take a couple large handfuls of ‘browns’ from my Rubbermaid container and cover the greens.  I have found that if I do not cover the greens every single time then the next time I open that lid there are swarms of fruit flies!  However if you make sure you cover those greens with a double layer of browns you will not see any fruit flies.  It’s worth it to take the extra 30 seconds to do this step, trust me!

You could turn your compost once a week if you would like however I tend to get a little lazy here and just let it do its thing.  Once in awhile I stir it with a special compost turner that I got for Christmas (my favorite gift!) but this only tends to happen once a month or so.  The more you stir it or turn it the quicker you will get that black gold soil that every gardener wants to get their hands on!  Compost is a natural fertilizer therefore you will not need to buy chemical fertilizers from the store.  Also compost is a gift that keeps on giving!  It continues to break down and feed your lawn or your plants over and over again whereas chemical fertilizers only tend to feed your plants for a short time and then they actually start to do damage.  The way I look at it is Mother Nature is a smart lady who knows what she is doing.  She’s been doing it for a heck of a lot longer than we have.  We should be learning from her and not trying to outsmart her.

I would like to point out that I am most definitely not perfect.  I have added to our cities urban sprawl not once but twice in the past decade or so.  We have built two homes on the outskirts of our city because apparently the first one wasn’t big enough!  Since then I have realized that bigger is not better and I wish that we had actually downsized instead of wanting bigger and better.  If it wasn’t for my close proximity to my family and my amazing neighbors, I would definitely look at downsizing.  I try to re assure myself by reminding myself that our carpet is made from recycled plastic and that our toilets are a special low flow toilet that does not use very much water however I believe the best thing we could have done was to buy a home that was smaller and used much less energy than the one we are currently in.  Hindsight is a good thing to learn from I suppose.

This is my very first attempt at writing a blog or post and I’m really not sure how good it is but I figure, ‘what the heck, what have I got to lose’.  Well that’s my story in a nutshell.  I am still very interested in climate change and expanding my knowledge about how to make this world better for our children and our grandchildren and so on.  I still have three more classes to complete before earning my certificate in Environmental Management and I hope to do this one day however I know it will happen in baby steps.  I also promise to keep in mind that no one likes a finger pointer so I promise to pass on my knowledge and try not to judge.


Kerri Bratvold

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