Monday, June 4, 2012
10 Easy Ways to Live Greener Now
1. Choose organic. Food, clothes, toys- whatever you can. Yes, organic products are more expensive than their conventional counterparts. Still, they are more nutritious, and have significantly smaller impact on the environment. To read more about the organic vs. conventional debate, read this. Of course, factory farming is harmful to the environment whether it's organic or not, so...
2. Buy from small, local producers when you can. Use localharvest.com to find a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program near you. By purchasing your food locally (and other products, if possible) you maintain the greatest control over the ingredients and process used to produce your goods. Plus, the carbon footprint for growing/creating the product is reduced because the product isn't trucked or flown across the world to get to you. Don't want to join a CSA? Try out your local farmer's market.
3. Consider whether you "need" or "want" a product before you buy it. Sometimes we go out of our way to purchase items from the "right" sources, with the "right" ingredients... but it's wasted effort if it wasn't something that we really needed in the first place. Consider truly whether an item you wish to buy is a necessity for your family, or whether you can repurpose something else to fulfill the need.
4. Grow a veggie or two. No matter where you live you can grow something, somewhere. It may not be an acre vegetable garden with yield enough to feed your family throughout the winter, but every little bit counts! Grow an herb garden in your kitchen, some tomatoes in a container on your front stairs, or even some mushrooms in the forest behind your house. Just. Get. Growing!
5. Replace one cleaning product in your home with a natural counterpart. You can buy a product from natural companies like Seventh Generation, or you can make your own. Try our recipes for automatic dishwasher soap, laundry soap, carpet cleaner, or kitchen wipes if you're into trying your hand at making your own. Either way, less use of petroleum-based products is a huge win for everyone.
6. Pick a day to run errands. If you're like us, you live outside the city and you use a car to run errands. If you can, try to group these outings so that you only drive to town once. Need to go more than once? Try carpooling or swapping grocery shopping responsibilities with a neighbor.
7. Use a community resource. Instead of buying a book, check it out of the library. Instead of joining a gym, check out your local town rec center for open gym times. Instead of paying to use a kid's play center, use a local playground or park. Communal resources which serve a large number of people are most efficient, plus they build strong community relationships when people use them.
8. Buy it used. Whatever it is that you need- buy it used. Shopping at Goodwill and consignment stores is a great way to save some cash for sure, but also to save the earth. Purchasing products already in existence uses fewer resources than purchasing new products. So next time you need a new coffee table, jump rope, or tie consider purchasing a "pre-owned" item first. Not willing to give it a try? Then at least be sure to donate any usable item to Goodwill instead of throwing it away, ensuring that someone else can benefit from your "trash."
9. Skip the take out dinner and eat at home. This sounds like a money-saving idea, but is it good for the planet? Of course. (Would I lie to you?? Never.)
Take out food usually comes in a lot of packaging so that the food tastes good and isn't soggy when you get it home. But all that packaging is obviously wasteful and harmful to the earth in production and in a landfill. Plus, national restaurant chains are famous for shipping their food from distribution centers no matter where the restaurants are located, creating a huge carbon footprint for your meal. (When we had a Red Lobster here in Maine a few years ago, they used to advertise Maine lobster on their menu... which they bought from Maine fishermen, shipped to a distribution center in Pennsylvania, then shipped back to Maine as frozen seafood. It sure didn't taste as good as the stuff I buy from the fisherman on the pier, and it magnified the carbon footprint of the meal dramatically. Incidentally, Red Lobster went out of business here.)
For easy alternatives to eating out at a restaurant try freezer cooking (making extra dishes when you make dinner at home and freezing them for future use), or potluck dinners with friends.
10. When you do go out or "buy out", patronize establishments which use earth-friendly practices and treat their employees well. To see a great list of these planet-friendly businesses (not just restaurant chains), go here. Think about the companies which still use child labor (for a list go here), and consider which companies you'd like to support with your dollars. After all, we can speak loudest with our cash- where we choose to spend sends a powerful message to companies about what business practices we, the consumers, will tolerate. Which practices do you endorse? Does your wallet coincide with those choices?
Well, that's my top ten ways to live greener and more humanely without a tremendous amount of effort or up-front cash. I hope it inspired you to do something... anything?... just a little bit differently than the norm.
Oh yeah, and remember to turn the lights out when you leave a room. (Smile.)
Saving water is also very important. You might want to install flow meters in your home to be able to monitor and control the amount of water used in places such as your bathroom, the kitchen or even in the garden.