Elisabeth Röhm’s Blog: Going Green – How Do We Do It?

10/25/2011 at 09:00 AM ET

Elisabeth Röhm, best known for her role as Serena Southerlyn on Law & Order, is in the middle of a very busy year.

The actress can currently be seen on the big screen in Abduction, as well as upcoming films Chlorine, Transit and Officer Down, and is found online on Facebook and @ElisabethRohm on Twitter.

In her latest blog, Röhm — mom to 3½-year-old Easton August with fiancé Ron Anthony — wants to know how you make “going green” work for yourselves as busy moms and for your children’s health.

Courtesy Elisabeth Röhm

We often think about the world we will leave our children. That’s natural. We recycle and talk about reducing our carbon footprint as if we knew how to make these huge life changes easily.

Yet for most of us, being aware in this way is totally new. It wasn’t a part of our own upbringing and it’s as if we have to commit to an entirely new way of thinking and altering our familiar lifestyles. Going green is a pretty daunting task for most of us moms. How are we supposed to add that to our ever-growing list of things to do, PEOPLE.com readers?

Then there are those of us, like my own mother, that get excited at the thought of figuring out how to live a more sustainable life. If you’ve read this blog before, you’ve heard me talk about how my mom was extraordinary at most things. You also know, ladies, that she recently passed away. That said, I find that I am constantly trying to live up to her expectations, referring to her once-present guidance and even exceeding her amazing achievements so that she can be proud of me from wherever she is in that wild blue yonder.

“Being green” was something she seriously excelled at. At the end of her life, she had actually gotten to the point where she was only eating what she grew. I know that seems impossible, but because of her devotion to this way of life I know that it is totally doable.

Before it became trendy and popular to be striving towards a more conscious lifestyle, my mom was wearing hemp, opting for bicycles over cars, feeding me raw food instead of processed and was absolutely committed to a toxin-free household.

Of course, I often begged for the desired Twinkie instead of the Tiger’s Milk bar she’d pass off to me and sometimes when I had the flu, I’d prefer those nasty antibiotics to the echinacea and goldenseal I’d ingest.

Little did I know at the time, what seemed like my weird hippie childhood was actually my mother paving the way towards a better, brighter and safer future for me. She was a “mom on a mission,” as I like to say, and while other families were still cleaning with the likes of Ajax, my mother used vinegar to clean those crevices. She was a crunchy tree-hugging gal. A true hippie!

“Never leave the lights on when you’re not in the room,” she would urge. “And never, ever waste water,” she would insist with a smile, as if we’d already won the war. Now I find that I’m trying to walk in her footsteps and teach Easton by example. Not always easy, is it? Like I said, for some of us it comes naturally but for the others it can be confusing and overwhelming. As if everything in your life needs to change.

And the economy certainly doesn’t help when we are looking for cheaper shortcuts. Where do we begin? We try to have all of this consciousness in our lives, and yet there is still so much room for improvement. I’m sure you will agree.

Actually, if you have any great, cheap “green” tips please share them here! We’d all love to see what you’re doing in your home to make a difference and promote sustainability. Together we will overcome our own comfort zones and achieve newer and better ways of living so that our children will be healthier and have the same wealth of possibilities that we’ve had.

All of this is on my mind today especially because I spent the last week learning so much about various people and organizations that are trying to make an impact, and I was inspired to share a few things I came across with you ladies.

Two weeks ago, I participated in a panel discussion about sustainability that was hosted by BMW I, which is their new sub-brand, at the BMW Guggenheim Lab in Manhattan. You see, even big corporations are striving to meet these challenges (now that’s exciting!).

BMW i3 and i8 are new vehicles that will be coming out in 2013. Get this, they are made out of carbon fiber and recycled materials. They are a huge step in the right direction. I was also pretty excited to find out that they are manufacturing these cars in Washington state by hydro-electric power. This is definitely tremendous progress.

With these new green cars, they are also launching a “hand tonic” by Susanne Kaufmann (who has an amazing and natural skin care line) that is totally organic and safe for our wee ones.

I walked away so impressed that even huge companies like BMW are committed to finding new ways to succeed. They have specifically created this new sub-brand of the company to develop not only visionary cars, but also to find products that make getting around our populous cities a little easier on the Earth. They are seeking solutions and are a great example of how corporations can lead the charge in ensuring the environment we leave to future generations.

The event helped me to realize that this is something I need to do more of not only as a person, but also as a mother. I must deepen my commitment to a sustainable future for Easton’s sake as well. Together we can inspire each other to try even harder in this fight. We can support each other by sharing all that we know, all that we are doing and not doing so that we can tackle this together and makes lasting changes.

On that note, I also spent some time with Healthy Child, Healthy World at their fundraiser last week, where Jenna Elfman was their MC. All of us moms and dads gathered in support of Healthy Child’s mission so that we can be better “parents on a mission” that are aware and actively protecting our little ones from toxins.

This is another group pushing for change, committing to a sustainable future and educating all of us on how to provide a safer world for our kids. You have to check them out and get behind them! Their passion is totally pure and the genesis of the organization is heartbreaking and life-affirming.

I urge you to check out their website and I thank them for already having a positive influence in my life. Last night I threw out those last few bottles of chemicals underneath our kitchen sink and vowed to eliminate all toxic foods too (once again). It’s a daily practice, isn’t it?

My mom knew all of this wisdom and she led the way for me to teach Easton. I, too, want to be a positive example of change for my daughter. Together, I know that we can do that. Please share your stories and let me know if you have any other advice, tips or tricks to make “going green” an easier process.

— Elisabeth Röhm

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Showing 28 comments

Toni Keltner on

Cloth diapering is one of the easiest “green” changes you can make if you have little ones. I also make my own cleaners with baking soda, vinegar and water!

Katherine on

We use norwex microfiber cloths at home. It’s a special microfiber cloth with silver so it traps the bacteria. All you need to clean is the cloth and water…no cleaners necessary. We also eat organic produce that is grown as close as possible to our community. It’s a great way to support local farmers and reduce our carbon footprint.

KB on

I agree with the above – using cloth nappies/diapers. Secondly, starting toilet training much earlier than what the norm is in the Western world.

fuzibuni on

I love reading your thoughtful blogs elisabeth! But in every single post you refer to us as “People.com readers.” I suppose you are technically correct, and I’m sure you are well intentioned, but every time I read that I stop for a second and go hmmm. It feels kind of weird and impersonal.

Lilybett on

I’m pregnant with my first and was looking into cloth nappies (diapers) or modern cloth nappies as an alternative to disposables. While they do cut down on the amount of garbage being thrown away, there is still a trade-off in the amount of water and detergents used to wash them. Here in Australia, where we are often in drought and, even after severe flooding, still have water shortages and restrictions, this is also a consideration for us.

Sometimes this compromise between saving/reducing this at the cost of using/overusing that can be very confusing. At some point, you just have to draw a line in the sand and say… ‘well, this is what I can do’ and hopefully it helps in the long run.

meme on

We are pretty earth friendly in my house hold as well. I am currently cloth diapering my third child. I don’t even use wipes, we use baby face cloths on his bum. I try to limit the chemical exposure wherever possible. We use our clothesline only, and rarely use disposable items, such as paper towel,dishes, etc.

Amanda on

If your worried about water usage but still want to go the “green” diaper route try GDIAPERS! They are so great they use a flush-able insert that you can compost, or you can use a cloth insert. Plus they are super cute and trim!

ljf on

For kids, one of the greatest greenest things you can do it stop using plastic baggies and disposable snack/lunch stuff. We put snacks in reusable plastic containers every day and use the Lunchopolis lunchboxes – all BPA free different sized containers for their lunches. LOVE these.

Thankfully our elementary school (Nottingham Elem in Arlington, VA) is also on board. We have trash-free Tuesdays, local farmers have come to school to show their fruits and vegetables and give the kids taste tests. And we also try to go to farmers markets and explain why local is better.

SherriP on

We cloth diaper, but honestly it was all about costs of diapering twins, Lilly is right, it’s about 6’s I’m not filling a landfill, but I’m using a ton of water to get things clean. I’m becoming more self sufficient, but again, not because of the environment, more so because it’s cheaper, I use cloth wipes when at home too, it works well with the diapers, This year I’m making pretty much all of Christmas for my kids from scratch and I’m learning about soap making, but really it’s a money issue.

Rebecca Jayne on

We’re about to start using clothe diapers on my second child. They are the ones we used with my first, so we don’t have to buy anything. It definitely saves money if nothing else. We have an energy & water efficient washer and dryer so the one extra load of laundry a week is really much better for the environment than the manufacturing waste and disposing waste of disposables.

However, every little bit helps so I encourage people to cloth diaper only as much as they can be bothered to. You don’t have to do it 100% – you can cloth diaper only at home for example and still continue to use disposable when out and traveling. It’s not all or nothing. We use cloth wipes too, but only for the pee-pee diapers. It’s about a 75% reduction is wipes this way, but we keep the convenience of disposable wipes for poops.

I also make my own all purpose cleaner with vinegar, water & a few drops of tea tree oil. That and a micro fiber cloth save us on so much (money wise & environmental). I made that switch after my toddler sprayed herself in the face with some horrible toxic all purpose cleaner. It was an accident of course that she could get to it, but accidents happen with kids, so now I feel much better about the surfaces I’m constantly wiping down.

Let’s see what else. Oh, reusable sandwich & snack bags. I feel like with the frequent daily outings and lunchbox for preschool, we would probably go through a whole box of zip lock baggies every week otherwise.

I’m not changing the world or anything, but I’m saving my family money and it feels good to waste a little less. I’m lucky too that my city composts, so our weekly trash pick up is just a few gallons, and our recycling bin and compost bin are 3 times as big. 🙂

Karen on

I clean almost everything with a solution of half water/half vinegar in a spray bottle. But don’t use it in the shower, as it disintegrates tub caulk! It’s also great for mopping wood floors, but use less vinegar and hot water.

Anonymous on

i love you elisabeth! i LOVE you on L&O! i’d love a shout out in your next blog 🙂 – IZZY!~

blessedwithboys on

Think before you buy! Look for items with the least amount of packaging. Buy in bulk if possible. Or look for whichever item has the most recyclable packaging. Shop second hand. Grow your own food. Repair rather than replace. Plan your errands before you leave the house so that you drive the most efficient route possible to save on gas, and thus emmisions.

alicejane on

For people concerned about the costs of washing cloth diapers – if you have a front-loading machine it uses roughly 40% less water than a top-loading machine for the same sized load, and use cold water instead of hot. 90% of the energy used to wash clothes goes to heating the water. http://www.greenliving.about.com has some good tips.

I can’t say I’m always diligent but I do try to do things the green way. I hate the thought of using chemicals to clean. I have pets and have my nephew over often and don’t want them having those chemicals on them from walking on a floor I mopped, or touching a counter I wiped and then having their hands/paws in their mouth or whatever. I use vinegar and water to clean and a lot of green cleaners are in the same price range as chemical cleaners.

I don’t throw out paper coffee cups or plastic bags – It’s amazing how much stuff is recyclable but ends up in the garbage.

I try not to use or buy anything that comes in styrofoam (much harder to do with meat as it’s usually packaged on it). I know it’s cheap but I wish there were a law against restaurants using styrofoam for coffee or takeout. It doesn’t disintegrate and very few places will recycle it.

MommytoanE on

I believe its been mentioned that Easton is potty trained, or nearly there, so cloth diapers wouldn’t really apply.

Vinegar is wonderful for cleaning. I abhore the smell of chemical cleaners, so have been using vinegar to clean since I was young. Tho, I also love that its safe for my child and dog. Vinegar will not disolve caulk. So don’t worry about that. It will disolve hard water stains tho! AND its great for other things….like laundry, as a hair rinse, to deodorize, for washing floors, heck it even keeps some bugs off plants.

Herbs in pots are wonderful. I love that I can grow my own stuff and not rely on the stores chemically sprayed herbs. Gardening is also very doable….even in pots!

Reusing as much as one can helps as well. One little water bottle can last for quite some time if properly cleaned. Cloth diapers (once cleaned) work great past diapering stage for cloths for cleaning. Plastic bags from the store line trash cans like a charm. Recycling is a must.

All in all…going green can be easy. Just takes thought. Doing it in stages is a lot easier than jumping straight into it.

Best wishes.

Michelle on

First, let me say I absolutely love you and miss you on Law & Order. Second, I admire and commend you for writing a very raw, emotional and honest blog. It speaks volumes as to your character that you expose your insecurities, admit to having flaws and are open and willing to learn as as a parent and person. Had I not loved you before, I would after reading your blog.

I had never really thought about the environment and the necessity for being “Green” until the birth of my granddaughter who is now 3. My husband recently began picking up bike frames from the recycling yards and from people throwing them in the trash and will strip them down and completely rebuild them. We have given some away, donated others to local Wildfire Fundraising efforts and sold others for a fraction of the cost of new bike. He said it is his way of doing a small part of making it a better place for Cheyenne’s generation by keeping them from the landfill.

Nathalie on

Reducing the amount of meat you eat makes a huge difference as well. You don’t have to become a vegetarian per se, but if you eat meat-free a couple days a week it makes a difference too. And it’s healthier for your family as well, to not eat contaminated meat too often. xoxo

Bron on

Did you know that having a baby can lead to a 25 per cent increase in household energy consumption at the same time as your family income falls? We have a great greenbaby guide online at http://www.livinggreener.gov.au/guides/green-baby

Lilybett it includes the Australian research on the full environmental impacts of cloth v disposable nappies/diapers.

MiB on

I grew up pretty green too and do a lot of energy saving things without even thinking about it.

One of the cheap green things I do is to never use paper napkins and hardly ever use paper kitchen towels (you don’t even have to buy anything, just cut pieces out of worn out clothes, though you might want to at least hem the edges on the napkins you use for eating as it looks nicer). Most bacteria in fabric is actually killed if you wash it in 60 C, and even though I never use anything anti bacterial, I usually sterilize my dish cloth, dish brush and similar a couple of times a week by pouring boiling water over them, letting them stand for a couple of minutes and then rinse them in cold water (the rinsing in cold water is important since bacteria will grow during the cooling phase otherwise).

The only cleaners I use is an en eco frindly dish detergent, an eco friendly toilet cleaner and an eco friendly, concentrated all purpose cleaner that I have diluted with water and put in a spray bottle, just spray on, leave it for a minute or two and dry it off (I use a sponge for stubborn dirt), though sometimes I use vinegar too.

I also never leave anything on standby as the standby mode uses a lot of electricity, the same goes for chargers (did you know that chargers use power even when they are not charging anything?). I use reusable shopping bags and always reuse the shopping bags I do occationally get. I also never buy bottled water if I can help it, I just bring my own bottle and fill it up at the gym, the theatre, the airport and so on.

These are just a few, cheap and easy ways to go greener, some need a bit of investment (napkins, reusable shopping bags and water bottles), but they will save you money in the long run.

Rebecca on

We are blessed in this area with an amazing local food culture. Every 6 months or so, I look in my pantry and pick something that’s processed and use the Web, friends and cookbooks to teach myself how to make it from scratch. Bread, yogurt, mayonnaise, granola, pancake mix, pasta. Some things work great, don’t take much more time and bring us closer to the local, homemade way food should be. But I also give myself a break and continue to buy certain things when making them doesn’t work out well. But the goal is to make conscious decisions about where our food is coming from. I also involve my daughter in cooking every chance I get, so she grows up with a deep sense of what good food is.

Megan on

We use Norwex products for all of our cleaning. The Enviro Cloths are amazing. We don’t have any use for cleaning products with all those chemicals anymore! Plus, you don’t have to spend money each month buying more cleaning supplies!

We also cloth diaper our 2nd child. Cloth diapers & wipes are a huge money saver & they are better for our child & the environment! I always urge new moms to check into cloth diapering – once you do the homework & hear from other parents you’ll realize it is so rewarding to do something so simple to help create a better environment for your kids!

JenLaw on

Yes, cloth diapers. I have washed my own and had diaper service and it mattered very little (one load a week) on laundry, and I have four kids. I had two in diapers at a time, including a set of twins. I also did not use wipes, use wash clothes and warm water and I can tell you, my kids NEVER had a diaper rash.

Kelly on

Lillybett in regards to your comment re cloth diapers, I am from Australia and interested to know do you recycle your grey water? When you have a bath what happens to that water? Where in Australia do you live? Do you time your showers? Do you flush every time you do a wee? If you don’t now is the time to do it.

I don’t know how you feel about this but if you are serious about the environment there is nothing wrong with rising off the diapers and not washing them straight away and leaving them over night, get yourself a water efficient washing machine with your baby bonus and do one load a day and hang them out to dry in the glorious sun, its a brilliant disinfectant! Draw your line in the sand, don’t get the plastic diapers.

AR on

I know it sounds silly and simple, but I gave up straws at restaurants a few years ago. Such a waste!

domnogin on

Some of us have enjoyed Elisabeth since her policewoman on ANGEL. Save Los Angeles, save the world; same job! She’s still hot!!!

Sarah on

One easy trick is to quit using wipes for wet diapers. The nurses at the hispital taught me this trick. Urine is sterile, so there is no need to clean up after it. They only clean up after dirty diapers.

RC on

Adopting a plant based diet or replacing meat/dairy as often as you can is single most “green” thing you can do.

Miguelina on

Going green is definately the best thing to do to protect your family and environment. Take your time in researching this topic because going entirely green has its pros and cons. Some things are harder to give up than others so studing everything about it will help you make informed decisions when it comes to switching products.

A few examples of this are:

toothpaste- flouride is needed to prevent cavities most natural toothpaste does not contain this so you run the risk of getting cavities and developing gingevitus

brillo pads- have found nothing that can scrub stains like it. the natural stuff just doesn’t cut it

Thankfully a lot of companies are offering eco friendly alternatives to help make going green easier