Green, not Glam

It’s  fashionable to be “green”.  Everyone wants to have a “recession garden”-a new twist on the Victory Garden.  Everyone wants to recycle.  We all want to save energy.  I’m right on board.  In fact, I’m living it.  As a naturalist, I  spend time out on the trails.  But for writing, research and developing curriculum, I can operate to some extent from my home.  So, I am a telecommunter.  Translation:  I make a lot of phone calls. 


Since I work  from my home, I can do laundry at will, water the garden, hang laundry in the sun, grow my own organic vegetables, cook healthy, non-processed dinners for my family, ride my bike for errands and use an eco-friendly, electric lawn mower. 

What that really means is that I always look like something the cat dragged in, since I have just weeded, planted, cooked or sweated my way through errands on my bike.  Don’t ask what my hair looks like after the bike helmet comes off, either.  And given that I work from home, I have no chance and very little reason, save vanity, to take the time to change my clothes.   But I’m organic!

clothes line

Much has been written recently about locavores, organic gardens and trends toward home-grown vegetables. They say people want to control where their food comes from, make sure that it is as healthful, fresh and tasty as possible.  Theodate Pope was the lucky one.  She had 23 gardeners, and a staff of farmers to bring her local produce to the table.  Most of us in the twenty-first century don’t have that luxury.  She had award-winning apples and peaches,  and a special cow, Anesthesia’s Faith, who gave more pounds of milk than any cow around.  If we’re lucky, most of us have a nice tomato patch over which we fight with squirrels, raccons and chipmunks for control.  At my house, I think maybe the chipmunks are winning.

But there is no doubt of the fashion that “being green” connotes.  There is even a TV network, Planet Green, featuring such eco-luminaries as Emeril Lagasse, Ed Begley and Bill Nye the Science Guy.   On their programs, we come to see the error of our power-consuming, trash-creating ways.  And of course, these shows are emphasizing some important points.  But it isn’t as easy as it looks on TV to really live even a “greenish” lifestyle.

At a recent talk by Roger Swain (former host of “Victory Garden” on PBS) he told of the dramatic rise in profit at garden centers, up 20% last year, 30% this year.  50% more people gardening!  A New York Times article recently commented on the phenomenon, too.  They asked people how much time they expected to work in the garden in order to reap a harvest.  Most said about an hour a week.  I hope they like woody radishes (not enough water), weeds, seedy lettuce and tiny wild tomatoes. In order to actually eat what you plant, the time commitment may be up to several  hours a day, depending on the size of the garden.  Mine isn’t big, and I spend at least an hour every day.

The rage is these new lightbulbs-CFL’s.  They last a really long time and don’t use up the same amount of electricity as the old kind.  They cost an arm and a leg.  So, if you are really dedicated you can switch out all your light bulbs, but it will cost you hundreds.  Not many families can make that commitment.

Composting, now, that seems easy.  Just save those little vegetable scraps, (of which you will have many since you are eating less meat thus reducing your carbon footprint), and dump it outside with some leaves and grass clippings.  Nature does the rest.  Not so fast.  It’s a little like taking out the garbage.  No one wants to schlep out to the pile.  And the little caddy on the counter has to be cleaned now and again.  Sometimes they get a little rank.

 The grass clippings, of course, cannot be obtained without mowing the lawn yourself.  If you use a “green” type of mower, you are going to get a maximum cutting swath of about 20 inches.  A flat half acre will take you a good two hours, and you’re going to have to empty the grass catcher about three times.  On the other hand, a gas-powered mulching mower emits as much pollution as seventeen cars.  When I had a lawn service they had about three of those things scooting around the yard all at once.


A new thing I heard not too long ago was that we ought to be unplugging appliances like microwaves, coffee makers, cable boxes, etc. when not in use as they are “phantom” wasters of electricity.  I’m working on this one, but it’s hard to get used to. 

Laundry is a big one.  People with children do loads every day.  The dryer in many houses runs for hours.  Laundry smells great when you hang in on the line, and you can save a pile of money that way.  But a conservative estimate of the time it swallows to do this is about half an hour, counting hanging and collecting. 

It’s hard to sustain an eco-friendly life unless you have one thing:  time.  The average American has less of it all the time.  Most people have good will about taking care of the earth, but realistically it’s a big commitment.  What a choice to make-convenience or planetary ruin!  I feel a crushing sense of responsibility.  When I spend time outside, I recommit. 

See you on the trails,

Diane Tucker, Estate Naturalist


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11 Responses to “Green, not Glam”

  1. Ratty Says:

    Good article as usual. I like when famous people pay attention to a good idea, and I always hope it’s for the right reasons. I sometimes don’t know who is who though. Being green is the fashionable thing right now, but I wonder what happens when the next big thing comes along. Look what happened to low carb. In my opinion, the best thing to do is take care of yourself in the most economical way possible. For some of us, living green works very well. For others, just living is hard enough. Caring about the environment is a good thing as long as a person is sincere and it doesn’t do more harm than good.

  2. Bridget Says:

    Thanks Dianne for making a point of the time and money it costs us to commit to a green lifestyle–which makes it difficult for most; therefore, is a luxury.

    Not many people make that point.

  3. ccinnkpr Says:

    We all try to do what we can, right?

    CFL’s: they’re not nearly as expensive as they used to be, great prices can be found now at Home Depot and Costco if you shop at such places. I have at least one CFL that’s been burning 24/7 for 6 or more years. Most don’t last that long, but I’m glad when one does. Because of their long life, they’re also great for difficult-to-reach fixtures. The only reason I haven’t got more of them in use is because I can’t justify throwing out the old bulb unless it’s actually dead. Just remember they have to be disposed of properly because of the mercury content.

    Compost: The majority of my fruit/vegetable waste is generated in the morning when I’m preparing breakfast at the B&B. I simply set a stainless steel mixing bowl on the counter and throw all the trimmings into it, at the end of breakfast I take it out to the compost bin. The open container reminds me to do that as soon as possible and it doesn’t get nasty the way the closed ones do.

    Laundry: Obviously with a B&B I do a ton of it. I don’t have the energy to hang it all out although every once in a while on a sunny summer day I’ll hang some sheets, especially if I’m getting really backed up. But one problem you didn’t mention is pollen. At the moment there’s a ton of it floating around in the air here and anything outdoors just gets covered. That just spells all kinds of trouble that I don’t need!

    Vegetable gardening & lawn mowing: Not enough hours in the day in my life. Perhaps if I had more staff I could try a vegetable garden, but the rabbits out here are evil and frankly I just don’t enjoy weeding. It’s all I can do to take care of the flowers, trees and shrubs. One thing I can try to do is to buy more foodstuffs locally but it’s not easy to do in an area with limited agriculture. I’m actually thinking of trying to source local eggs, but I don’t know if there’s anyone local who can supply what I need. I also don’t know how the health inspector will feel about it, but if I find a source I’ll call and ask about that.

    Phantom Power: Accounts for a small % of most household consumption but adds up cumulatively. Turn off your computer at night (I don’t usually) and unplug your charger when you take the device off it. You’ll save more by making sure your refrigerator is working properly, though.

    Here’s something not many people know: using a dishwasher is “green”. Dishwashers actually save water because you don’t have to pre-wash most things. Obviously scrape off the big stuff, but all American brands of dishwasher have a food disposer in them and can handle small scraps. Any savings is lost if you’re one of those people who basically washes your dishes before loading them in the dishwasher, so don’t do it – there’s no need. I do find that casserole dishes and sometimes table knives have to be scrubbed before going into the dishwasher, but almost everything else comes out wonderfully clean without pre-rinsing or washing.

    Thanks for the thoughtful, and thought-provoking post!

  4. hillsteadnatureblog Says:

    What a terrific comment! I agree with every point you made, and frankly, given that you are an innkeeper, you are really doing perhaps more than your fair share. After all, seeing to the needs of multiple guests AND doing so with the environment in mind gets very, very high marks. It would be so easy for someone in your position to be wasteful rather than thoughtful. Is there a “green innkeeper” type association I wonder? I know some hotels have eco-friendly policies and are made notable for that. My hat’s off to you. Warm Regards, Diane

  5. saijai Says:

    Nicely written article

  6. alberto Says:

    great article. thanks!

  7. peach Says:

    Nicely written article

  8. sunee Says:

    That was a nice read.

  9. locky Says:

    Thank you for information to me

  10. dolachai Says:

    good information to me

  11. suthee Says:

    thank good aritcle

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