Writing

Creating Your Green List

Originally appeared in Freeport’s Journal Standard.

Let me make one thing clear: I like technology. Every day I use my MacBook, iPod, camera and cell phone. I often rely on my microwave, dishwasher, fridge and other appliances. I feel blessed to live in the 21st century, driving my somewhat reliable car and residing in a house with electricity and temperature control.

However, I also like some of the “old-fashioned” ways. Hanging my laundry on the clothesline. Making my own bread and granola. Growing food in the garden and preserving it for winter. Walking in the woods for the pure bliss of it.

Is it possible to combine the old world with the new world? Reach some form of compromise? I’m trying to find out.

At times it seems impossible to change our current lifestyle. Short of emulating Thoreau and moving to Walden Pond, what can we do to make a noticeable difference? We’re not willing to commit to drastic measures and give up the lives we know. In a world where progress is measured in leaps and bounds, the baby steps hardly seem worth it.

Yet every little step does count. You are getting somewhere, albeit slowly. If life is a marathon, then it’s one race you don’t want to finish quickly. Slowing down now can pay off in the future when you finally see the results.

Hanging your laundry conserves energy and saves money. Making food from scratch eliminates preservatives and mystery ingredients. Growing your own food cuts down on pollution and transportation costs to the grocery store both for you and the truck that delivered the food from who-knows-where. Walking in the woods reminds you of the environment we need to protect and conserve.

Easier said than done? Many of us have good intentions. We want to live green and provide healthy food for our families. The number one obstacle is time. In a day that is already jam-packed with work or school or activities, we can’t find time to take those extra steps.

This is the hard part. The part when you sit down and prioritize. The part when you sacrifice something fun to make time for something important. Or maybe it’s not as hard as we think. I gave up TV and don’t even miss it. The joy I get from my old-fashioned life far surpasses anything I got from TV.

Keep in mind this isn’t an all-or-nothing situation. The Green Police won’t bust you for using your dryer or buying bread from the store. We just do the best we can with the time we’ve been given on this earth. It’s that eternal pursuit of balancing happiness and obligation. So don’t feel guilty if you sometimes fall short of your goals.

Instead of diving into the deep end, every so often I add a new task to my green list. It began with visits to the farmers market. Then recycling. Using the clothesline, energy-efficient light bulbs and chemical-free Shaklee cleaning products. Next came yoga, which led me to healthier eating. I started buying organic food and making more food from scratch. A small garden last year, a bigger one this year. A compost bin. A chest freezer to preserve our veggies. What will the future bring? Solar panels and a windmill? Only time will tell.

Once or twice a week I visit my friends, John and Sara Sullivan, on their local farm. They teach me about gardening, healthy foods, and living the good life. I help them sell their food at the Elizabeth Farmers’ Market, which Sara has been manager of for the past five years. I’ve never been much of a saleswoman, but this is something I’m passionate about. What could be better than fresh, locally-grown vegetables? Or grass-fed meat free of added hormones and antibiotics?

If you’re looking for an easy first step on your green list, shopping at the farmers market is the perfect choice. In Elizabeth, the farmers market is the closest place to buy produce and meat. Otherwise we have to drive to a grocery store in Stockton or Galena. The market food is fresher than any food at the store and sometimes cheaper. Not only are you saving time and money, you’re also getting a better product. Plus it’s a wonderful way to support our community and enjoy the camaraderie. I love coming to the market, and I’m proud to be part of such a worthwhile venture.

Examples of what Elizabeth Farmers’ Market offers: Vegetables and fruits; herbs and mushrooms; jams and jellies; baked and canned goods; plants and flowers; frozen beef, pork, and lamb; seeds and nuts; pet treats; crafts; homemade soaps; Shaklee products; photographs and greeting cards. Even if you have a garden, you’re bound to find something different at the market. New this year is watermelon. It’s also the right time for pumpkins, gourds, peppers, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and a variety of winter squash. Even the tomatoes keep coming!

We’ve been averaging twelve vendors each Friday at the parking lot of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on U.S. 20, from 3 to 6 p.m. The market ends the last week of October, so now is a great time to stock up on goods for the winter. It’s also a chance to connect with the vendors, some of whom sell products from their homes or through delivery. Feel free to ask for more details if you’re interested in local goods on a year-round basis.

I may never find the perfect balance between time and money, right and easy, living green and living by convenience. But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying. I hope you’ll join me in the pursuit. Together we can change our lives and the lives of generations to come.



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One thought on “Creating Your Green List

  1. Hello Erin! …. at least, I hope this is the same Erin that wrote such wonderful advice for aspiring YA authors, and that I emailed a few times last year.

    This is Ann (Canada)….I haven’t been able to access anything recent on your
    E.M.Rowan’s Field Notes until I saw the above for October 2011 … I was a bit worried for awhile, but it looks as though you are still alive and kicking from this recent ‘living green’ article . . . a very interesting and well-written one it is too!

    I’m still writing The Novel . . . and took a few university courses in same over the summer. Am now involved in a writer’s workshop through a college here, led by a Canadian author of children’s and YA novels…am going to get him to critique my first draft when completed (soon!!!!).

    Are you still writing, Erin? Have you been published? I have missed your writing advice (which I always found helpful) … perhaps you are spending more time on Facebook, which I haven’t joined … although I must say it was good to find you once again in the same old place . . .I’m not very technologically savvy . . . I figure if I can type, I’m doing okay!!! LOL

    Would love to hear from you again … the life you seem to be enjoying at the moment sounds enviable….

    All the best,
    Ann (severn) Benedek
    Toronto, Canada

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