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Friends of the Earth: Three Eco-Conscious Families

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Lynne Prouty and Eduardo Quintana: Tucson, Arizona
The Quintana Family
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Ellen Barnes

How do you keep kids from being massive consumers? It helps if your family of five lives in just 1,650 square feet. "There's no place to put extra stuff in this house," says Lynne.

The Quintana residence is not your average home. Lynne, 59, a high school administrator, and Eduardo, 59, an electronics manufacturing technician, were among the first to live in Milagro Cohousing, a 6-year-old "ecovillage" in the foothills of the Tucson mountains. It's a close-knit community of 28 small energy-efficient dwellings, ranging in price from $300,000 to $400,000. Thick adobe walls keep the homes cool in summer and warm in winter, and double-pane windows provide extra insulation. Waste water is treated without chemicals and then used on the land. All residents have front-loading washing machines, which consume less electricity than top-loaders. The homes and community facility, which includes a library room, laundry room, and pool, are clustered in a small portion of the village's 43 acres, so the rest of the area can be dedicated to preserving native vegetation like saguaro cacti and mesquite trees.

The couple's three children—Carolina, 16, Morgan, 14, and Savannah, 13—have all become junior ambassadors for the green movement. "The rest of Tucson isn't like this, so people ask questions, which means the kids are constantly explaining their lifestyle," says Eduardo. "And when they go to their friends' houses, they're shocked by how much stuff they have." Not that the teens don't have their own iPods. But Morgan, for instance, sets a good example by sharing video games with his pals in the neighborhood. The children also recycle glass, plastic, and newspapers, return hangers to the dry cleaners for reuse and write on both sides of their paper before recycling it. Yes, these are small things, given the enormity of global warming and other environmental problems. But as Eduardo says, "Our kids are growing up with a concern for the planet that they'll pass on to future generations through their children. It's a legacy to be proud of."