When Talking Green, It's the Little Things...

"Being Green" is a term that has been thrown around a lot in the past few years.  I tend to agree with TreeHugger that the green marketing campaign, while a great catalyst for getting people to be more environmentally responsible, is starting to overshadow the true message of what it is to actually "be green" with clever ploys to get people to buy more expensive things that may not even really be better for the Earth.  And people are smart; marketing really hasn't made that many people switch to become more sustainable.  They still drive the same cars, toss everything in the trash, and hope that someone else will take care of our problems.  Environmentalists paint a bleak picture, citing big changes that need to happen soon.  While I agree with them, people don't like change, and telling them that they must stop driving cars, buy organic, and use less resources just scares them away from the whole idea.

So what can I person do?  For me, living sustainably has been a gradual process with a slight learning curve.  I by no means am truely "green"; I think very few people can say they are.  I do hope to someday buy everything locally, use public transit or my bike to get around everywhere, use renewable energy to power the place I live and reduce my water usage to barely nothing.  And yes, we all do need to make drastic changes in our lives for the future of our planet.  However, I think there's another path than instantly converting their entire lifestyle to be completely sustainable.  How?

Sustainability is like learning to walk; you have to start with baby steps.  Every little thing we can do to change ourselves to be more aware of our environment helps.  I mean, right now the US consumes 25% of the world's resources.  Can you imagine how that would change if we just stopped using bottled water containers? Or walked to the post office box instead of driving? Or used cloth bags to shop?  We need to teach people that by taking little steps to becoming more eco-friendly, we can have the same quality of life (or better) while reducing our footprint.

Blah, blah, blah.  I know I sound like I'm all rhetoric.  I try to "walk the walk" and that's why I'm writing this post today, to show you that by doing a few simple things in your life, you CAN help make a difference.  Sure, some of these seem a little odd and others might just seem absolutely ridiculous, but remember that you must start with the simplest things and work your way up.  I've spent several years working up to some of these, like biking to work, and I'm sure that you'll find that as you start on your green journey, that cleaning up this place we call home is addicting, and soon you will find yourself dreaming bigger and bigger.  This is what will get us to those lofty goals we aim to meet.  This is what will eventually save the planet.

Alright, enough with my sermon.  Here are some tips from my daily life that I hope you will consider in becoming a little more "green", starting with the general "Well, DUH!" ones:

  • Recycle.  Seriously.  It doesn't take that much time out of our day to toss a bottle in a different bin, so why not?  For places like California, you can recycle SO many things too.  Check with your local trash service to find out what can and cannot be recycled.  True, it may be more annoying to take apart a coffee cup to separate plastic and compostibles, but I just say make a game of it.  See how much of the stuff you used to toss you can recycle; my blue bin is always full!
  • Turn off the lights.  Remember when your dad always used to say, "Turn off the lights, you're wasting electricity"?  Well guess what, he's right.  Turn off lights when you're not in the room, even if it's just a couple of minutes.  During the day, we have this great thing called the Sun too; use that for light!  
  • Unplug those electronics.  How much electricity do they actually used turn off?  Yes it's true, "Standby Power" isn't one of those huge energy-saving techniques, but a few watts here and there times millions of people, THAT is a lot.  Unplug devices when you are gone for a long period of time; heck, unplug them anytime when you're not using them if you can.  I know this can be a pain (I get tired of doing it), but there are devices out there that totally cut off power for you, like SmartBits Surge Protectors.
  • Use rechargeable batteries.  That way, you don't have to keep buying batteries, which costs a lot of $ over time AND you won't be tossing as many out (that's IF you can't dispose of them properly)  I just switched to them and it's awesome.  I always have batteries and no more piles of dead ones.  The cost is a little higher getting started, but it's worth it.
  • European or sailor showers.  This one is kind of a foreign concept (hah, get it?) to us in the US, but it does save a ton of water.  When showering, use the water only to lather up and rinse off; turn it off in-between  Believe me, it does just as good a job and saves gallons.
  • Reusable bags.  At first, you forget them every time you go to the store (I did like a year), but eventually you get used to them and they're great.  No more piles of plastic or paper bags in the cupboards!  If you can, try reusing the plastic bags you package fruit/veggies in to cut down even more or get reusable ones too.
  • Reuseable containers.  They're great for all sorts of stuff.  Water bottles.  Lunch boxes.  Even coffee cups.  Using reusable containers saves a lot of waste and money too.  Places like Starbucks even give you 10 cents off for using your own cup!
  • Donate and sell your stuff; it goes to a good home and is Earth-friendly.  Hell, I've made some major money with my old stuff on Craigslist too.  E-waste is especially bad, so sell your old gadgets, don't just toss em.  Give clothes away to the those who need them.  I love having less stuff packed in my room.
  • Try to reuse what you can't sell.  For example, I took a page out of my mom's book and reused old undershirts as rags.
  • Get a reusable water bottle.  Make sure it's a BPA-free one too; I use a Klean Kanteen, although if you're not a fan on a little (VERY little) metal taste, then I suggest one of the others.  This will save you from buying tons of plastic water bottles that often end up in the ocean.
  • Cut down on the paper.  I use a salad spinner instead of paper towel to dry fruits and vegetables, and it's awesome!  In the bathroom, flick off the water on your hands before grabbing the paper towel; you can probably do with just a small piece rather than stealing half the roll.  Use technology in place of paper; read PDFs instead of printing them, use your phone to look at a map or show a coupon to the store owner.  Paper is dead, get with the future man :-P
  • Cleaner transit.  This one has been a big item for me.  Either using public transit or your own two feet can greatly cut down on pollution.  I bike 30 miles roundtrip to work 3 days a week.  I'm not asking you to do that, but try and find an alternative to your car.  And for those small trips to the store or the coffee shop, biking or walking it is so much more peaceful and rewarding.  If you start out with small trips and work your way up, you'll be amazed at the distance you can cover without your car.
So that's it, my two cents in all-things-green.  I hope you consider my ideas and come up with some clever ones of your own.  Let me know the things you do to make your lifestyle more sustainable!  I wish you all the best of luck in becoming more eco-friendly.  

We all share the Earth; let's all do our part to keep it going!


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