Green Families

The San Diego Zoo has embarked on a journey to calculate, mitigate, and reduce our carbon footprint for both the Zoo and the Wild Animal Park. Joining us in this adventure are six families from different locations in the U.S. who have volunteered to share their experiences as they tackle their own carbon footprint. They will be posting blog entries on this page regularly, talking about their challenges, ideas, and victories. Read along with them, and see what you might try in your own household!

Challenge #4: In the Dark?

Lighting is everything. It needs to be efficient and far-reaching, but not glare. It needs to be warm but not stifling. Ambient lighting can enhance or deflate the best of moods. When I saw that low-watt bulbs were part of this Green Family gig, I blanched. That morgue-green lighting just puts my teeth on edge! I’d rather sit in the dark than languish in that swampy hue. Imagine my delight when, after installing the low-impact light bulb into our living room lamp, the room ignited in the typical warm glow that other high-use bulbs display. Yeah! I guess the one we already had was made a few years ago, before General Electric mastered the family-friendly glow. Now I can save a few k-watts and not dampen—or darken—my mood!
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Challenge #4: In the Dark?

Glowing Blue with Pride
“Geez, those are bright!” This is the usual response I get when people walk into our room. Yes, they are bright, but the CFLs in our single five-headed lamp light up the whole room. They also use less energy than incandescent bulbs and will last about 10 times as long! On move-in day last August, all six members of my college dorm suite “family” agreed to use CFLs in all our lamps with an ongoing challenge to use the same bulbs until we graduate: one bulb for four years. How long would a CFL last in your house?
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Challenge #4: In the Dark?

For the past several weeks we’ve been teaching ourselves to live in the dark.  Not completely, although candlelight is quite calming and romantic, but rather we’re making a conscientious and concerted effort to turn lights off throughout the house unless they are absolutely necessary. No exceptions. Sounds easy, right? Well, it should be…but for some reason it’s not normal behavior. Hallway lights, staircase lighting, and accent lighting were often left turned on. That habit is quickly changing.

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We’ve issued challenges to our “green” families and asked them to share their experiences. Challenge #4: In the Dark? Vote online for the family that made the best effort!

You may remember from our second post (see Slow as Molasses in January) that we installed the electricity monitor, provided in our Green Families kit, the last Sunday of January. The monitor has a portable readout that shows how many kilowatts are being used at any time of the day or night. It can also display current costs and monthly estimates. We placed it in the kitchen window where we can easily keep an eye on it. The instant readout makes us very aware of what is on or off.
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We wanted to see if the families participating in our Green Family Challenge #3 could come up with a creative way to make a climate-change-reduction dinner, from store to table. Each family took on the challenge with gusto, resulting in some tasty meals!
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Challenge #3: A Green Valentine’s Day?

Herb chicken

For Valentine’s Day, my girlfriend of 2.5 years came up from her hometown of Burbank (Los Angeles). I love to cook, so when I heard this assignment was for a Valentine’s Day dinner, I nearly spontaneously combusted with delight. Not only would I cook delicious things, I would get to eat them! I only had a few hours before she arrived, so I went to the local co-op to pick the freshest ingredients. Our co-op is fantastic: the freshest ingredients, mostly reasonable prices, and plenty of hippies to cater to one’s every whim.
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Challenge #3: A Green Valentine’s Day?

Ah, Valentine’s Day. ‘Tis the season for cookies, candy, love—and creativity! Along with about 20 other people at my college, I made all my valentines this year out of recycled materials (materials I planned to recycled but decided re-use was more effective!). Not only was it a blast, but it yielded very personalized and creative results.

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Challenge #3: A Green Valentine’s Day?

What is Valentine’s Day? Most of us agree that Christmas is commercial, yet still we get caught up in the “spirit of the season” of giving gifts. So why not get caught up in the romantic moment afforded us on Valentine’s Day with giving some love to those whom we truly care about? Despite the dismissiveness of those not wanting to get conned by the capitalistic notions of romance, I look at Valentine’s Day as a way to show how unique my love is for my very creative wife. Therefore, I see Valentine’s Day as a day to share with my love a special moment of my time, give a bit of myself in words put to paper, and reward her with a homemade dessert as a token of the sweetness she brings to my life.

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Challenge #3: A Green Valentine’s Day?

Spinach salad

Well, thank goodness I got to the co-op last Thursday for our first order, because that bag of food kept us going for several days from what we are calling “snOMG! 2010” Parts 1 and 2 (see previous post, Winter Market Co-op).  Long story short: first wave of blizzard dumps 30 inches of snow outside my door and across most of Maryland. That ends Sunday and wave 2 comes roaring in on Tuesday, about 20 more inches. Yes, a total of (at least) 50 inches of snow is now surrounding us. And it’s cold here, so it’s not going anywhere! 
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Challenge #3: A Green Valentine’s Day?

In a word: scrumptious.  That’s how good the 100-mile-radius chicken soup came out for the Green Challenge (see previous post, Chicken Noodle Soup). Really, it is quite delicious, and even Paul said the chicken tasted “happier” than the regular (cheaper) grocery store variety. Yeah!
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