News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 24, 2013

YOUR GREEN VALLEY: Green, greener and greenest: 3 women making conscious decisions

Jane Santucci
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Like clockwork, every morning as I commute to work in my four-cylinder vehicle, I pass a woman on her bicycle. On the coldest of cold days when I have to defrost my car, there she is, bundled in layers, pedaling to work. On those same mornings, a few blocks east of where I pass the bicyclist, a woman is walking to work. The three of us are all green in our own ways. While transportation is the most obvious, we all take action on different levels to lessen our negative impact on the environment.

Commuting around town

Caroline Savage is a vibrant 24-year old who bicycles to work every day. The only days she will driver her car to work are those when she is not feeling well or when roads are icy. When I write icy, I mean icy. There are some days I will be heading into work and wonder if she decided to drive because of the road conditions. Nope, sure enough, there she is, trekking along on her bike.

“I don’t think I ever had to bike [in] anything that was unhuman. In Minnesota it gets down to negative 40 [degrees]. I certainly have never faced anything like that, but people up there [ride their] bike up in that kind of cold. I guess it is not that impossible,” Savage said.

Savage started biking in college when she lived about a mile away from her destinations. She didn’t have a car at that point. If she was going to travel anywhere, it was going to be by bike. Then when she moved a little bit farther away she realized going to point B was not that much farther than point A.

“I think part of it comes down to a design of a city. When I lived in Syracuse, New York, I had more options to bike to school and then go to the grocery store on the way home because they are all within a little bit of each other. Here that is not so much the case, but what I do to combat that, I just save whatever errands I can for the weekend,” Savage said.

Now enter the greenest of us three, 33-year-old Tina Kruger who walks to as many places as she possibly can. When she and her husband were looking for a house, they wanted one within walking distance of a grocery store. In addition to walking to the store, she treks two and a half miles to and from work. She does own a car, but tires to drive it only once a week to run errands. Like Savage, weather is never a barrier on her decision to take her vehicle.

“We check the weather before we walk out the door, so we know if we need a heavy coat or a light coat, or need to take an umbrella or not,” Kruger said.

She can see how weather can be a big barrier for a lot of people, but she finds big benefits to walking, such as the transition from work life to family life.

“I have that time to prepare myself on the way in, and I am not worried about the traffic, the stop light or am I going to get caught by a train or not, the way you are when you’re driving. On the way back, it is the same thing. I have that transition from everything I was doing at work to decompress before I get home. I can better maintain a work-life balance, which is really good for individuals,” Kruger said.

Around the home

In the summer, on a rare occasion I will flip on the air conditioning. During the winter, I keep my heat on low, but only when I am home. Savage, on the other hand, has a higher onset than I when it comes to heat. She has an arbitrary threshold of 54 degrees in her home in the winter.

“I have been in really cold places and I know the power of a sweater. A sweater warms you up, just as effectively as the heat, and it is cheaper,” Savage said.

Savage would love to compost her food scraps but lives in an apartment community that does not offer composting. She remembers her college days fondly, where compost bins were in every main building.

“It is not that hard to implement. It is just a matter of there are a lot of battles to fight and is that one we want to fight,” Savage said.

Kruger on the other hand, owns her own home and composts all of her leaves. In addition to the yard waste, she also vermicomposts in her basement. She has a little worm condominium where she puts all of her food scraps. The worms eat her garbage and she turns around and uses what the worms create, to top dress their house plants instead of using a chemical fertilizer.

In addition to composting, her basement is equipped with a clothesline to dry clothes when the weather is too unseasonable to dry them outside.

Food storage

A lot of waste comes from lunch every day. I do my best to cook all my meals for the work week on Sunday and pack them in Tupperware. I heat up my lunch in a durable glass container to cut down on any “chemicals” that may leak from heating up the plastic.

Savage and I are a lot alike in this instance, and would eventually like to replace all of our plastic with durable glass dishes.

“I make as much as I can at home, and that is mainly because I am more cheap than I am green. I also like to know what I am eating. If I am preparing it, I know exactly how much sugar, oil and fat is going into all this stuff,” Savage said.

Kruger on the other hand has already made the switch to all glass containers. Unlike plastic, 100 percent of glass can be recycled. Furthermore, all three of us have made the conscious decision to buy as much local and organic food as possible. The different choices we make allow for greener options to present themselves.

“I made the choice not to buy a parking pass on Indiana State University’s campus so it is not as convenient to drive to work. By making it inconvenient for myself, it makes being sustainable more convenient. I don’t have to think, am I going to drive to work today or not because it is not that easy to drive. It is easier to put on my shoes and walk to work, and it is healthier for me. I don’t have the option to pick up plastic to put my food in, because I don’t have any,” Kruger said.

Together, the three of us are making an impact in our own way. What each of us showcases is that it is possible to make a difference. Will our small choices shift the consumptive trajectory we are on? Likely not. But it doesn’t make sense not to make greener choices for the sake of the future for others.

Jane Santucci is an environmental freelance writer for the Tribune-Star. Santucci is a proud volunteer with TREES Inc. and Our Green Valley. She also sits on the Wabash Valley Goodwill Industries Board of Directors. Share your environmental stories and tips with her at JaneSantucci@yourgreenvalley.com.