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Moms Talk: Families Going Green

How "green" is your family? And how much greener could you be? With home energy audits and commingled recycling, Medford's made it easier for many families.

Welcome to Moms Talk, a weekly feature at Medford Patch where local parents discuss a hot-button issue.  Let's jump right to this week's question:

What steps is your family taking to be "greener"? And what keeps you from doing more?

Tiffany Reevior: We do some very basic things, like reducing water use as much as possible, turning off lights and unplugging appliances when not in use, using compact fluorescent bulbs whenever possible, and recycling everything we can to the fullest extent of Medford's recycling program.

Going a bit further, we hang our clothes out on the clothesline in good weather.  We have a small vegetable garden, which we water primarily with water collected in our rain barrel.  We make conscious decisions not to buy too much packaged food, and to buy foods in bulk, so as not to create more waste.  We buy only the food we need and try to eat what we have, rather than throwing food away (we also have a chest freezer in the basement for storing food).  I can tomatoes and jam.  We try to buy organic and/or local foods.  And we are vegetarian, which reduces our carbon footprint. 

We got a home energy audit and, based on that, had insulation blown into the walls on the first floor of our house.  We run our dishwasher on the low-water setting and have a washing machine that uses very little water, and we try to wash on the cold water setting.  When we don't need something anymore, we try to get rid of it via Craigslist or Freecycle before recycling it or throwing it away.

What keeps us from doing more?  I guess it's money and time.  I would love to install solar panels, but they're a little too pricey for us right now, even with all the rebates available.  We should be composting our food waste, but we had a lot of trouble maintaining composting in the past, so we haven't gotten back to it.  My son would love to have worms eat our garbage, and that may be in our future someday -- it's called vermicomposting!

Tiffany is the tree-hugging mom of a 7-year-old and has lived in Medford since 2007.

Judi Harrington-McLaughlin: We have incorporated a lot of "green living practices" for several years.  Probably the biggest "reuse" category is second hand clothes.  We have been part of several "hand me down circles" since our girls were small, and they love the idea that their clothes go along to the next youngster in our extended "framily" (friends + family). The next biggest "reuse" is what I call "the free toy game": whenever a box is emptied, I ask my kids if they want a new toy, and offer the box.  They have made many interesting pieces of art, and one box that held a bathroom vanity has been in use as a clubhouse for over a year. I have also caught them on several occasions rummaging through the recycle bin for supplies for school projects. 

In the "reduce" category, I have made an effort to cut down on my driving: My kids take the school bus both ways to school, and I plot out my errands throughout the week so that I am not making multiple trips across town.  Not only is this reducing my emissions, in the days of $4.00 per gallon gas, it's saving me money!   We also did an energy audit on our home three years ago, and were able to tackle the problem areas so that we can minimize our utility bills. 

Reducing paper has been my biggest challenge, especially given that school has been the greatest source of paper production.  Luckily, the girls' school has an Abitibi bin, where I make a drop every other week. The paper collected in the bin helps raise funds for the school.  I also get a kick out of sending the paper right back to the culprit!

Judi has lived in Medford for 11 years, and is the mother of two girls, ages 6 and nearly 8.

Alicia Hunt: I believe that it is very important for each of us to do what we can to be green, and sometimes the limitations are money, sometimes they are institutional - for example, Medford hasn't fully implemented business recycling,  sometimes it's education - it's hard to know what is best in some situations, and sometimes the limitations are simply that we each can only do what we have the time and energy to do.   For someone who is starting to "be green" I have a few recommendations.  Either start with something that you can "set and forget", like changing lightbulbs or the setting on your thermostat, or start with making one change in your habits, like start recycling.  Then, once that one change is no longer a "change" or something you work at, but is just a part of your routine and how you live, then add in the next thing.  If you try to do everything at once,  it's overwhelming and most people will just give up.  If you approach being green one step at a time,  then it's an easy road to take.

Alicia Hunt is the mother of three, two 6 year-old twins and a two year-old.  Alicia blogs about greener living at Green Lifestyle Consulting.

Nancy Quinn: We do all the basics – recycle, use CFL bulbs, have energy efficient appliances, use the T when it makes sense.

About a year after buying our house in Medford, we had someone come in from the electric company to give us an energy audit. He gave us lots of information about weather-stripping and how to lower energy use. It is a completely free service and you can call your gas or electric company for an appointment. Shortly after that we switched to green energy form NSTAR. You pay a slightly higher price for electricity – but it is from renewable sources. You can choose to get 50% or 100% green electricity. A nice surprise is the cost is tax deductible and NSTAR will send you a letter with the amount to deduct at the end of the year.

Also, I just read a great book about food waste (American Wasteland by Jonathan Bloom) and I hope to implement a composting system at our home soon. I just need to find time to do it! It would be great if Medford had an official city-wide composting program.  

Nancy Quinn has been a Medford resident for 7 years.  She has two kids- 4 years old and 2 years old.

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