One of the reasons Louisa Reade and her family moved from North Idaho to Ashland recently is because she wanted to be in a more environmentally friendly town.

"There people don't even recycle," says Louisa, a mother of two boys. "You have to drive a mile and they only take newspapers and cans. It was absolutely ridiculous. I didn't want my kids growing up in a place where people drive huge cars, and throw everything away, and eat crap all the time."

Reade says although she's always been concerned about the environment, she's become more ecologically minded since having children. The Reades, who are renting while they look for a house to buy, have a portable worm composting bin and use baking soda and vinegar to clean their home.

Reade says ten years ago she would have been skeptical about the idea that you can clean your house with vinegar. But then her first son, Charlie (age 5), was born and she realized she didn't want to have toxic products around her baby, and found out that natural cleaners work just as well as conventional, environmentally unfriendly products.

"I think people change their minds when they are ready to change it," Reade says.

Tracy Harding, an Ashland environmental activist and mother of two, also says she became more aware after having children. "That's a time when people make choices and changes, when they become parents," Harding says.

For Harding, anything you do to be a little gentler on the environment is worthwhile.

"I hear people say that little changes don't make any difference and I completely disagree," Harding says. "I feel like any single tiny thing anyone can do makes a difference, and you should credit yourself for them."

For Harding, being more environmentally conscious means using her car as little as possible. She drives a 1980 Mercedes that uses biodeisel fuel and estimates that she uses it less than once a week. When she needs to go to Medford she tries to carpool or run errands for friends at the same time. The rest of the time, she walks or rides her bicycle.

Why keep an environmentally friendly car off the road? "It doesn't matter that it's clean, because it's really not. It contributes to congestion. I don't want to be part of daily street traffic. The less cars there are on the road, the more inviting it is for people to consider riding and walking. The more people who ride and walk, the safer it is for people outside of the car," Harding says.

Robbin Pearce, who works in the Conservation Division for the City of Ashland, is frustrated that more Ashlanders don't know about the city's free programs to help utility users become more environmentally conscious.

The Conservation Division does extensive advertising and offers free audits to anyone who is concerned about the environment. Pearce points out the city helps with rebates to offset the cost, if there is one, of replacing energy-guzzling appliances and even installing solar panels.

Pearce says there are obvious changes every Ashlander can make: run a full load in the dishwasher or washing machine, check your water system for leaks, and sign up for a free water or energy or solar audit (by calling 541-552-2063). Being more energy efficient is also better for your household's bottom line. "We have tiered rates in Ashland," says Pearce. "That means water costs you more the more you use."

Other simple ways that you can go green suggested by the people interviewed for this article include:

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162;When you make rice turn the stove off ten minutes before it's done cooking and let the captured heat finish the job (hint: don't lift the lid).

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162;Take a free composting class offered by Ashland's Sanitary and Recycling, which includes a free composting bin (/programs.html

composting).

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162;Bring your own canvas bags to the grocery store.

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162;Don't flush your toilet after every time you go pee, unless you have company coming over. Close the lid instead.

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162;Don't take separate plastic bags for your vegetables and fruits if you don't need to. Put apples or other items loose in the cart.

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162;Buy in the bulk section of the grocery store and use your own container.

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162;Reuse packaging (Reade says an empty salsa jar is a great place to store leftover pancake batter).

Why bother making these changes? "There are pessimists and optimists and I'm definitely an optimist though I have my rainy days," says Harding. "It has a lot to do with modeling for your children and being concerned about the future in direct relation to your offspring."