Top 5 Ways Our Family Went Green-er in 2014 – Part I

January 10, 2015 at 6:56 am Leave a comment

Contributed by Dr. Sarah

photo 1-2A fellow eco citizen’s car– and bumper sticker– says it all.

Going green is process, which is why I’m sharing our family’s ongoing efforts to reduce our eco impact and use our spheres of influence to protect the natural world for future generations.

From water filters to cars to voting– from lowest to highest impact green actions– in Part I, here are three of our family’s top five eco actions in 2014. Part II to follow!

#5. Buying a New Water-Efficient Water Filter

Over the past few years I’ve gone from wasting water without thinking– at all– to appreciating its preciousness to life.

When I learned that our under-sink kitchen “reverse osmosis” water filter wasted 4 of gallons (0r more) of perfectly good water for every gallon it gave us at the tap– I looked into water filters that clear out the toxic junk such as heavy metals without wasting water.

On Amazon I found the Value Line 2 Stage Water Filter. It was more expensive than the reverse osmosis filter system I’d previously bought at Home Depot, but it lasts a lot longer. And it cleans out the toxic stuff from the water that I don’t want to put in my body– or my kids’– without wasting gallons of precious water every day.

And I learned that water filter cartridges are recyclable through some programs:

Learn more about the pros and cons of different home water filtration systems here: ( is a great organization for both information and eco advocacy.)

#4. Using a Real Green Dry Cleaner

I got snagged by dry cleaners’ advertising their “green” or “organic” cleaning. It took me several years to wonder and then ask “What are you using?” I learned that it wasn’t toxic perc, but it was a hydrocarbon. As in petroleum. Not in fact eco-friendly. At all.

I don’t like to spend a lot of time being angry, but green-washing scams of any sort make me angry. So I used that anger to propel me to find a real green dry cleaner.

It’s a bit hard to find dry cleaners that are using genuinely environmentally responsible methods such as “wet cleaning” or C02 cleaning, but they exist. There’s one at the forefront — it just happens to be in my neck of the woods in Chicagoland– The Greener Cleaner. They pick up and deliver for free, too.

Learn about their green methods:

Learn more about the dry cleaning green-washing scam :

#3. Driving Green

I committed to purchasing the greenest car I could afford.

In 2014, I leap-frogged from a conventional gasoline powered car over a hybrid car, straight into an all-electric NissanLEAF.

No, buying an all-electric car is not the highest impact action we took because it’s an individual lifestyle action, not an action on a collective scale. But it still counts.

To be precise: My conventional 4000 lb. Toyota, which we drove about 8,000 miles a year, generated about 8200 tons of CO2 year. If we accept that an electric car is “zero emission”– the non-renewable electricity source notwithstanding– that means my family is putting 8200 less pounds of global warming pollution into the air.

To put that in perspective, the average U.S. household “carbon footprint” is about 50 tons CO2 a year. The single largest source of emissions for a typical household is from driving gasoline cars.

Not only is the NissanLEAF quite affordable (as low as $200 a month), there’s no maintenance cost, and no cost for gas. Ever. The numbers pencil out amazingly– even with gas prices at their current low.

And my ten-year old son says the lines of the headlights as “cool.”

Calculate and learn more about the contribution of your car– and household–  to global warming pollution here: (This calculator is hosted by Bonneville Environmental Foundation,, a credible source.)

Follow the chronicles of our family’s adventures with “The SilverLeaf” here on this blog!

Next Up in Part II

In Part II we’ll talk about the highest impact (collective impact!) actions we took in 2014.

Part II of this two-part post on how we went greener in 2014 will be posted soon!

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Leadership Education for Sustainability: Balancing Confidence and Humility Top 5 Ways Our Family Went Green-er in 2014 – Part II

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