I’m not an environmentalist green freak but I do care about the environment. I realize that it will be difficult for the world’s citizens to scale back and make changes to their lives to the degree necessary to effect REAL change in our environment but that doesn’t mean all efforts are futile.Side story, my uncle made me SO upset last week when he littered out of the passenger seat window when I was driving. We were in a parking lot, so it didn’t disturb traffic for me to get out of the car and pick up his trash. See, he refused to pick it up himself. He said he didn’t care about the environment and I was on some liberal bullshit. Hmph, and people wonder why their communities look so crappy. I don’t tolerate people litteriing around me and it’s even more enraging when there’s a trashcan in plain sight (as was the case with my uncle). He’s a lost cause though. He thinks processed foods are better than vegetables because they’re processed and that sunscreen is a ploy by manufacturers to get us to buy stuff we don’t need. *le sigh*
Anyway, it makes me feel better to know that I am doing my little itty bitty part to reduce the impact my life has on the earth. I should also confess that bringing my own reusable bags to the grocery store makes me feel slightly superior to you plastic bag packers and double baggers. LOL, I don’t know why. That’s not the main impetus for “going green,” however. I want to be healthy so I want the air, water, earth, and atmosphere to be healthy as well. I care about what goes on because I don’t want to be a destroyer of worlds (literally)! So I take the time to educate myself about environmental issues by reading books, articles and studies. I also like getting little tips from helpful sites and blogs like the now defunct Make-It-Green Girl and her podcasts. Before going off the air last year, MIGG put together 10 easy steps to take toward living a greener life. She looked at it as a New Year’s resolution kind of list but we can undertake these steps at any time.
1. I will drive less.
It took me a long time to get used to living without a car. You have to do without things, and that’s very hard for a girl who grew up without wanting for anything essential. I gave up doing more than one errand in one day because the bus transfers would be so atrocious, or my bike would be so burdened with groceries that I wouldn’t be able to pedal up the hill home. I gave up the ability to carry delicate food to potlucks, move other people’s furniture, and get to doctor’s appointments without taking half a day off work. I learned how to not want to go places that weren’t served by transit, and choose doctors, stores, and friends who lived close by. But I gained a lot, too. Which leads me to…
2. I will bike/walk/bus more.
I gained a great figure and some wonderful exercise opportunities when I walked, rode my bike, or packed my groceries home on my back. Hoofing it to the grocery store afforded me the time for a cell-phone conversation without being an unsafe driver (or getting a ticket in California). Plus, I got a look at all my neighbors home improvements and landscaping. I even started walking around town for fun, snapping pictures of beautiful gardens and looking for the nicest parks to sit and read. Biking to the grocery store forced me to buy things a little at a time, so I learned to plan my meals in a completely food-centric way. And taking the train or bus to work affords me a whole forty minutes of reading time in an air conditioned or heated car with no need to pay attention to anything but my copy of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivores Dilemma. I’ve been chewing through my library at a prodigious rate since I started commuting by public transit.
3. I will change my lightbulbs.
This was a no brainer for me. I put CFLs everywhere I could, and stopped using lamps that couldn’t take CFLs, like the ceiling fan and the dimmer switch in the kitchen. I switched to LED Christmas lights and an LED flashlight. I love the extra brightness that LEDs afford. Change your lighting wherever you can.
4. I will turn off the lights when I’m not using them.
My father yelled at me all the time for not turning off the lights when I wasn’t in the room. Now I’ve turned into my father (scary) and started chastizing others. Get into the habit of looking at your power bill every month and moaning to your whole household about how it could be lower.
5. I will unplug my gadgets. (I think this would be hardest for me)
In fact, nothing should be taking up electricity when you’re not in the room. Computers, stereos, TVs, heaters, and fans should all be turned off if you don’t plan on going back into the room in the next 15 minutes. I used to live with one of those background noise TV watchers. A little home cooking and dinners together helped to alleviate her need to watch TV all evening, and my super-energy saving radio kept me company while I cooked. Now that I live alone, I find it disheartening to come home to a cold dark apartment. I got myself a plug-in timer for my lamp and my heater/fan so my home would be a little more livable when I got there. You can find them online for under ten dollars.
6. I will eat less meat.
You’ve heard the schtick, so I’ll spare you this time around. I’ll just give you some side information to push you on your way. Only bad vegetarians get skinny from protein deficiency and die from iron-deficiency. If you eat mostly plants and stay away from junk food, you will not only not die, but you will probably outlive your meat- and junk-food eating counterparts who will die of “western diseases” like diabetes and heart disease. I’m siding with the veggie-saurs and taking my chances without meat. It’s been pretty difficult — I started with a list of all my favorite foods without meat in them. Then I made a list of the ones that would do without the meat, or less meat, or a meat substitute. It’s a start.
7. I will eat more locally-produced food.
Your new mantra is FOSL: Fresh, Organic, Seasonal, and Local. The more of these adjectives you can describe your food with, the better. [chant] Oooom FOSL oooommmm. The organic standards are a weak imitation of the original organic ideals, and are even more weakly enforced, as evidenced by the latest organic fertilizer scandal as organic farmers unwittingly used synthetic fertilizer from a number of manufacturers skirting the organic standards. The fertilizer companies escaped with a small fine. (Sac Bee 28 Dec 2008) Trust is an extremely important part of the sustainable food movement, and not amount of government certification can replace the bond between you and your local growers. To find growers, farmers markets, and community supported agriculture in your area visit sustainabletable.org or localharvest.org. I’ve become summarily attached to the people at my local market, and I hope you do too.
8. I will invest in energy efficiency appliances, cars, and products.
When my mom’s washer broke, we got the high-efficiency front loader and started saving soap and water. Oh yeah! When the dryer broke, my Dad shelled out for the gas dryer and started saving electricity and reducing our risk of fire. Woo hoo! Get a new fridge, freezer, air conditions, or hot water heater before it breaks — start saving electrons now! Your budget and the electrical grid will thank you.
9. I will buy less stuff with less packaging.
It’s really difficult for me to find something that isn’t shrink-wrapped, double-boxed, and taped shut. We like to have nice neat packaging for shipping good halfway across the world and displaying side by side along with millions others just like it in the stores. But I just hate dealing with the trash. Imagine for a moment that you do not have garbage service. You had to compost, burn, or reuse every bit of everything you’ve ever bought. My trips overseas have taught me not only how wasteful Americans are, but how the wasting is facilitated by our waste disposal services. Cut the packaging, and you’ll cut the waste.
10. I will throw away less trash and recycle more.
This is the companion to number nine. The ultimate goal is to make less trash so we waste less resources and use up less valuable land for our junk. I started by buying a smaller trash can. It’s a huge pain to take the trash out, and if I didn’t reduce the amount of trash I made, I’d be taking the trash out every day. Yikes!
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