Last month I wrote about “Ten Simple Things You Can Do To Stop Global Warming,” and in the past I’ve referenced other ways to reduce one’s impact on the planet. It all sounds good on paper, but I will be the first to acknowledge that putting environmental consciousness into action can be a challenge. To quote a song sung by Kermit the Frog, “It’s not easy being green.”

In recent print advertisements, Kermit the Frog has been the spokesman for the Toyota Prius, the most popular hybrid vehicle in the United States. So even those of us who don’t watch Sesame Street regularly may be reminded of the potential pitfalls and perils of “being green.” I’ve been listening to Kermit’s song a lot, however — driving around in the car with my son Abel, who will turn one next month. “It’s not easy being green,’ Kermit sings. It’s true, and for me, parenthood has made that truth all the more evident.

Let’s start with the diapers. Before Abel was born, I considered using cloth diapers, but only until I’d conferred with fellow moms and got a reality check. Gone are the days of the local diaper service. There are plenty of new-styled cloth diapers on the market that you can wash at home, but when you’re going through ten diapers a day, you have to wonder if the environmental impact of all that laundry is any less than that of using disposables. So we’re using the Pampers, and contributing generously to the landfill each week. On top of that, some diapers are accompanied by a handful of baby wipes and wrapped in a plastic grocery bag to seal out odor. At least the grocery bags are recycled! I don’t even want to think about how many years it will take for those diapers to decompose…

Despite the disposable diapers, we’re doing quite a bit more laundry these days too. This is a natural consequence of when a family grows by 50%, especially when the baby is learning how to feed himself and crawl. So are we reducing the amount of hot water we use? Nope. Definitely using more of that, and more of the dryer too. I put most of the grown-up clothes on the drying rack, but not the little ones — I just don’t have time!

What about reducing the amount of packaging we throw in the trash? Again, I had good intentions. Sure, baby food jars are recyclable, but it would be more ecologically sound – and cheaper – to make one’s own baby food. Most of my friends envisioned me as the queen of homemade purees, and I thought they were right, but here I am, stocking up on crates of baby food at the grocery store each week. Sure, Abel gets the occasional homemade meal, but I have to admit, I’d rather play with him and his blocks than stand at the stove steaming carrots.

My husband and I have always been good about turning off the lights when we exit a room. But that has changed too. A typical hour for Abel involves roaming through all of the rooms on the first floor of our house, finding new things to explore. Even when we put up the gates and confine him to a smaller space, we find that we’re going back and forth from the kitchen to the living room to the dining room to meet his needs. The lights stay on until Abel’s bedtime. At least we’ve begun to replace our regular lightbulbs with compact fluorescents, so even though we’re using more energy, we’re being somewhat conscious about it.

Which is good, because we’re going to need those savings to offset the cost of keeping our house warm enough for baby. We used to keep the house at 58 degrees all day, and turn it up to 62 when we got cold. Now the thermostat is set at sixty, but if we’re home (and we’re home a lot more than we used to be) it goes up to 64. So much for turning your thermostat down a couple degrees in winter to conserve!

It’s not all bad though. Most of these measures are temporary, and we can go back to being more environmentally conscious as our son grows older. We still recycle, compost our food waste, and use cloth grocery bags. We take Abel outdoors a lot, which we hope will foster in him a love of nature. We’re trying to improve in the areas where we’ve slipped. And we try to be aware of the impact we have upon the earth even if it’s a negative impact.

So no, it’s not easy being green. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to be. Even the smallest steps we take will count toward lessening our impact on planet Earth.

By Kezia Bacon-Bernstein, correspondent
March 2007

Kezia Bacon-Bernstein’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168.