Going Green

December 12, 2018

I am continually stunned at how out of touch so many of us are when it comes to our impact on our fragile planet. Even when we think we are living more consciously; often…if we really look, we are consuming at an alarming rate. Each and every one of us takes and takes from the planet that gives us life with barely a passing thought as to our impact on her…me included sometimes.

You may think that climate change is so big and so abstract that there’s no way you can have an impact. But there is. Each and every day we make choices that can help reduce pollution and use of resources. And the combined impact we can make together? Well it just might save us…and the planet for future generations.

These lucky 13 tips will help you live greener and more sustainably and you won’t feel a thing.

1. Stop wasting food. In America, the average household wastes about 1/3 of the food it purchases. Besides a waste of money, food waste creates a strain on environmental resources, and preventing other people from their fair share of the food produced.

Buy smaller amounts when you shop and freeze foods that which would otherwise spoil and be wasted.

2. Light it up. With LED bulbs, you save money and a lot of energy. LED lights last longer than most and use 25-80% less energy when in use.

3. Simplify. Living within our means is easy. Minimalism encourages us to live uncluttered lives in simple, clean spaces. It encourages us to ask the same questions each and every time we are considering a purchase: Do I need this? Will this product enhance my life? This type of thinking allows us to live simply and elegantly, taking less, spending less, conserving resources and enjoying and appreciating what we have.

No one is perfect and sometimes you just want something. I try to keep those purchases to a bare minimum, but sometimes want and need collide. Indulge…occasionally.

4. Clean naturally. It’s crazy how many chemicals are in cleaning products. And guess where those icky compounds end up when you rinse them away from your sink, counter, floors and toilets? Yup…our waterways. Go with natural cleaning products. There’s no excuse these days since they’re as effective (if not more) than any chemical you might buy. You can also make your own cleaning products from ingredients in your kitchen. 

5. Re-hab it, baby. We have become a throw-away society. It’s easy to toss out old, worn-looking items, but you can also bring them back to life with a little TLC and some creative energy. Refinish an old chair or dresser before kicking it to the curb. Put new cushions on those yard chairs. You give it a new look and your personality shines through with a flair you won’t find in any shop.

6. Bike to work. You’ll be fitter and happier; you’ll use fewer fossil fuels with driving; you get to enjoy nature and arrive at work un-stressed and your heart is stronger and healthier. It’s a win-win-win-win.

7. Stop with all the paper already! From receipts to packaging, our planet is smothering in paper waste (not to mention plastic bags and straws). Set up online filing systems; bank and pay bills online; stop buying paper towels, plates and napkins; skip plastic bags and straws; carry canvas bags for your shopping and give the planet a rest from all this unnecessary waste.

8. No more single use. Plastic is the scourge of our modern society and so is take-away food (in my view). From coffee cups to to-go containers, plastic forks to disposable razors, water bottles to straws, we throw away more junk than our poor planet can handle. I know it’s convenient; I do. But the future demands more of us now.

I was sitting in a Starbuck’s recently, waiting to go to a meeting, drinking espresso in the cup I brought with me (much to the employees’ annoyance). In 30 minutes, I watched about 50 cups hit the trash bin. And it seemed that there was no recycling at this location. Yuck.

The party’s over, kids. Time to clean up our mess.

9. It’s take lunch to work day. Try it. You can either pick up a grab and go lunch with packaging the environment doesn’t need and calories, fat, sugar and salt you don’t need…or you can pack leftovers from last night’s home cooked feast in a re-useable container and enjoy food you love, that your body appreciates and make a lighter footprint on the planet (both literally and figuratively).

10. But it’s trendy. Did you know that the fashion industry and its waste is one of the top polluters of our planet? While we all love a bargain, those cheap tees and jeans come at a very high price to Mother Nature. Heavily sprayed GMO cotton, synthetic fibers manufactured for clothing, polluting dyes all wreck havoc on our waterways and soil. Not to mention the thousands of workers caught in the web of unfair wages to produce those bargains for us. Now, many fashion houses are cleaning up their acts, and there are more and more plant-based fashion options made from sustainable materials, which is great news for us and the planet.

It’s not to say we can never buy new clothes, shoes or accessories, but do we really need quite as much? It’s a question I ask myself all the time when I am being seduced by a gorgeous window display of clothing I would “just die for.”

My mother used to say that if you invest in a few great, classic pieces, you need less. She’s right. When I am in Italy, I treat myself to one new piece for my wardrobe. In return, I donate a piece I no longer wear to a charity. For me, it feels like a win win.

For many people, the answer to this dilemma of wanting a new wardrobe takes them to consignment shops, which is a great solution as well. You can find some real treasures in a good shop.

11. Waste right. Part of life involves waste, whether we like it or not. There seems to be no escape from that small bag of trash you put in front of the house each week. The key is to waste as little as possible and to recycle, re-use and compost as much as you can…making that bag you put out each week smaller and smaller. For great information on how to produce less waste, head over to www.goingzerowaste.com. I have found some great advice there that we have put into use at our house. It feels so good not to waste as much.

12. Buy local and fresh. Stop what you’re doing (ok, finish this article) and take yourself over to www.localharvest.org. Type in your zip code and find the farm market, community garden or CSA (community sustained agriculture) and become a part of that community. Supporting small family farms is great for them as they care for our food and the surrounding environment (in most cases); you support the local economy; you save money on produce when you join a CSA;  you get to know the people who grow your food; you eat the freshest food available to you.

13. Go plant-based. There’s no way around this and it’s the best news I can give you…ever! Everyone from the World Health Organization to food experts to doctors advise that we ditch meat and all other animal products from our diets. It’s not only better for us; it’s better for our precious home. We are less of a burden on the healthcare system when we eat well. We feel great and become proactive in changing the world…and it’s the most delicious contribution to planetary wellness we can make. See? You can change the world.