Green Mama: The Journey, One Box of Cereal at a Time

Hilltown Families Contributing Writer

It’s Not Easy Being Green

Kermit the Frog often sang about the woes of living life “the color of the leaves.”

“I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow, or gold or something much more colorful like that,” he crooned.

Environmentally speaking, Kermit was way ahead of his time, but absolutely, 100 percent correct. It’s not easy being green, especially as a mom with three children who have grown up in a “disposable society.” Mini-DVD player broken? Throw it out and buy a new one. Printer printed out 10 copies instead of one? “Give me the garbage pail,” they say. Too much food on the dinner plate to finish? Deposit it in the trash or down the garbage disposal.

This is the way we’ve lived our lives — my husband and I for almost four decades, my children for one. It’s natural. It’s habit. It’s embarrassing. But even more so, it’s difficult to change that way of thinking, especially when it’s one person (me) trying to do all the changing.

I recently moved one of the most comfortable, old, beaten and battered living room sets from the kids’ playroom to our main living area. “What are you doing?” my husband asked suspiciously. “Well, I’m going to order new slipcovers so it will look like we have new furniture, and if I see this ugly thing everyday then maybe I’ll do it sooner than later,” I replied. Without missing a beat my husband responded: “Why don’t we just buy a new set?”

Immediately my thoughts turned to visions of giant landfills chockfull of discarded furniture, my beloved, battered couch sitting a the top of the heap, king-of-the-hill for a matter of moments, until the next unwanted, outdated, dilapidated piece of furniture took its place. My husband saw only a brand-new, possibly comfier spot to relish his morning coffee and read the Sunday paper.

But it’s not his fault. Besides the decision on both our parts to eat healthier, it is my need to change our carbon footprint that has driven this effort to live greener. I am the one who sees giant dumpsters, destroyed forests and a misdirected compost pile every time something is thrown away. I am the one who hears the buzzing of the electric meter and the ka-ching of the money we will soon be “donating” to the electric company every time I walk by my children’s rooms, hours after they have left for school, only to find the energy from various lights, radios, computers, etc. still humming with life, excitedly anticipating their users return. (OK, that might be a slight exaggeration; my husband does hear the ka-ching, too.) And my children certainly aren’t worried, at this point in their lives about the state of the ozone or their planet (although, I’m looking for creative ways to teach them about that).

Another thing that makes it difficult being green, which Kermit never touches upon in his song, is our effort to eat healthier, more organic foods and to do that on a budget. I guess when your diet consists mostly of flies that inhabit your home, you don’t worry much about eating organic — that just happens naturally — or the costs associated with it. But my husband and I do (more so my husband than me, I must admit).

My husband needs to find a good bargain every time he grocery shops, a difficult task when eating organically, and even though I don’t worry as much about the cost of the organic cereal I do cringe at the checkout every time the clerk rings up my total. That is why it’s hard to argue with my husband when he comes home from shopping with four boxes of the brand-name sugary cereals (he did grab a box of Raisin Bran in an attempt to be healthier) for $3, less than the cost of one box of our kids favorite Newman’s Own or EnviroKidz cereals, especially in this economy.

So, we continue to learn the best way to overcome these hurdles and I continue to plead my case, because I am determined to change the way our children (and my husband and I) see ourselves in relation to our environment, and in my family’s defense, they are doing a great job (with minimal eye-rolling at mom). I have already experienced some minor victories in my efforts.
The plaid-patterned couch with the frayed edges is still in the living room. I have not ordered the slipcovers yet, but my husband hasn’t ordered a new couch either. That’s progress. We recently spent an entire three-day weekend at a basketball tournament, and not one meal was purchased from the concession stand – the majority of breakfasts and lunches were prepared with the healthy, mostly organic, foods we brought from home.

And we are figuring out the budget thing too. My friend just revealed her secrets for feeding a family of seven mostly organic foods on a tight budget. One of her clever, health-conscious strategies included making her own cereal from organic ingredients bought at a bulk-rate through a local co-op. I’m currently looking into that.

Best of all, spring is here — time to try our hands at another garden. That’s something the whole family can get behind. In fact, without one word from me, my husband was out cleaning up the garden this morning getting it ready for the upcoming planting season. What can be more organic than our own homegrown vegetables? Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that the blight stays away from our tomatoes this year. Spring also signals the time to revisit the possibilities of composting.

So we’re getting there … slowly.

Kermit was absolutely right — it’s not easy being green. But as he realized later on in his soulful little froggy ballad “green can be cool and friendly-like, and green can be big like an ocean, or important like a mountain, or tall like a tree,” and it is for all those things and my family and much, much more that I am committed to helping my family become greener, because like Kermit, green is “what I want to be.”


Kelly Bevan McIlquham

Kelly is a psychotherapist-turned-writer who resides in Hinsdale, MA with her husband, three children, two black labs, a cat, a turtle, and a few goldfish. She is the Features Editor for The Advocate in the Berkshires where she especially enjoys writing family- and education-related articles and her monthly “Parent to Parent” column. Kelly also dabbles in writing for children and has had her work published by Wee Ones online family magazine. Her new blog “Green Mama” chronicles her journey as a “green” parent in every sense of the word — from her parenting naiveté to living greener. When not writing, her favorite pastime is cheering on her children at various football, soccer, basketball and baseball games.

Photo credit: (ccl) Cuttlefish

6 Comments on “Green Mama: The Journey, One Box of Cereal at a Time

  1. I mean couch, not coach – must be the closeness to Disney World!

  2. I am anything but “green” in more ways than one. The quality of the old coach, construction wise, AND the cost of replacing is a factor AND there is also the comfort factor – not to mention sentimental. All 3 children snuggled in the big old chair. I know you are trying to be more green – but as stated by Leigh – “different sides win, different days.”

  3. Thanks for all the thoughtful comments … it’s nice to know someone out there is reading these posts. As for the couch … still no slip covers and now you are skeeving me out with the bed bugs … We might have to rethink this one.

  4. I, too, would go the route of keeping the old sofa and slip cover since I’m frugal and concerned for the environment. However, according to the authors of Slow Death by Rubber Duck ( old furniture and mattresses likely still contain PBDEs (chemical flame retardant and toxic). “Newer furniture is more often PBDE free….Before buying a product ask the manufacturer or retailer if it is PBDE free….Replacing the foam or sealing or covering upholstery tears are also options to reduce exposure.”(p.262) But of coarse, replacing the foam has some risk. Lots of ventillation is needed.

    As you said, “it’s not easy being green.”

  5. I fight the internal battle everyday also. I don’t have kids, yet… but I am still trying to be more conscious of waste — for economic as well as societal reasons. I cringe when I see the amount of waste (literal and figurative) my husband and I accumulate, yet I am often just too darn exhausted to do anything constructive about it. It’s treated similar to my exercise program — spurts of well-meaning behaviors, followed by longer periods of… nothing.
    Hmmm. I’ll have to work harder at all of this. Thanks for making me think, K.

  6. Aren’t super old couches, if they re fabric, also laden with bed bugs, allergens, etc? Not saying to defend him but to add to the “facts” a.k.a. cultural beliefs I would need to fight within myself in that situation. I can sooooo relate to what you have said… all of it! except its only part of me trying to chznge, part of myself using our busy schedule w/ 4 kids making the excuses….different sides win different days

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