Can my mini-van guilt save the planet?
By rlk71099 on November 22, 2009
There isn't much that I don't feel guilty about. I'm not sure if that is an innate character trait, or a learned one, (maybe from being the middle child, or the only female sibling, or possibly my Catholic upbringing). None the less, I feel like the worlds problems rest on my shoulders.
Two years ago, when gas prices soared to close to $5.00 a gallon near us, I realized that we couldn't go on driving our min-van. It was costing us almost $100 a tank to fill up. Not to mention that the "guzzler" was getting a wicked 17 miles to the gallon around town. I felt like we needed to do our part to protest the outrageous practices of the oil companies and our dependence on fossil fuels. Our van, which comfortably and spaciously escorted my family of five around town, would have to go. It would be a sacrifice, my husband and I said, but we could do it, we could downsize.
So, off we went to visit local car dealerships with the title to our van in hand. We would trade it in and use the cash towards a smaller sedan that got at least 25 miles per gallon around town. Of course, I would rather purchase a car that ran on hydrogen or some other alternative fuel, but we are a family of five living on one salary, that was financially impossible! We checked out a few different styles. Some cars were too small to fit three kids. At the time, we had a car seat and two booster seats that we had to fit in! Our last stop was at Toyota to check out the new Camry. It was a nice car, very safe, and got good gas mileage. The price was something we could afford and the kids "fit" in the backseat. When I say fit, I mean an adult would have to squeeze their hand in between the booster and car seats to get them buckled. For some reason, I wasn't bothered by the fact that the kids were shoulder to shoulder, devoid of personal space. Since it was July, I also didn't foresee how many more inches each child would gain with a winter coat on! Nor did I think of where they would put books and snacks on long trips. In my mind, it was a sacrifice that we could all live with.
Flash forward a year and a half. The sedan we purchased is actually just a shell for wrestling matches, whining contests, and invasions of personal space. The best one I heard recently was "Jack is breathing too loud, tell him to stop!!". No one can keep their hands to themselves, it is truly impossible! When we arrive at a destination, I am usually twitching from the stress of the journey.
Yesterday we ended the madness. My husband went and traded in his little commuter car for a "pre-owned" mini-van, (with a dvd system, might I add). He loved his little 5 speed manual car, it was the closest thing to a sports car that he probably will have until he goes through a mid-life crisis! I was humbled by his sacrifice. So how will I cope knowing that I am once again lugging my family around in a fossil fuel gulping vehicle??
These simple changes to our home make a huge impact in the amount of fossil fuel used:
1. Using compact fluorescent light bulbs in all our lamps and lights- if every American changed just ONE of their bulbs to the CFL kind, it would be like taking 1.3 million cars off the roads.
2. Recycling anything and everything we can! it takes oil to produce new plastics, so by reusing old, it helps cut down on fossil fuel usage.
3. I reuse plastic bottles and fill them with homemade soaps, shampoos, and detergents! by reusing what I have, and making products from homemade, plant based ingredients I feel like I am taking less from the environment and not contributing to pollution.
4. Not buying prepackaged snacks, juice boxes, and convenience foods not only does this save trash in the landfill, but it is also a money saving idea. If you pack a juice box in your kids lunch every day, that is about 180 juice boxes that go into the trash...and if there are 25 kids in each class, that is 4500 juice boxes for ONE CLASS in a school of multiple classes that just gets thrown away. (not too mention that the juice is almost all sugar) Use simple H2O in a BPA free thermos in the lunch box!
5. Using reusable bags at the grocery store!
6. Washing clothes in cold water! saves energy -which saves fossil fuels- which saves putting more green house gas into the atmosphere!
7. Attempting to eliminate beef from our diet...I say attempting because I occasionally get the craving for pot roast...it is the cows that produce the most green house gases when they "pass gas" in the pastures. If you google "how many cows on earth" you get some good articles about their impact on the planet. It is estimated that their are over 2 billion cows! Maybe if we all didn't consume so much beef, we could also help slow down global warming...
So, there you have it! Yes, I am once again chugging around town in a car that sucks down gallons of gas. Do I feel good about it, absolutely not! It is going to make me a happier mother having peace on our drives, understatement of the year! However, I feel like the other choices we make in the way we live offsets the impact of my mini-van.
Well, this time I am going to give myself a break and not feel too guilty for doing something I know isn't good for the planet. For all you earth loving mini-van drivers take note: just using all those compact fluorescent bulbs takes our mini-vans right off the road!
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