Disclaimer: Since I started blogging regularly I’ve tried to avoid getting political on here. I use this blog for a different purpose, so I don’t think this is the forum for my political rants. Even if it means biting my tongue ‘til it bleeds sometimes. (I’m working on a doctorate in political science, so you can see how I might have a few political opinions itching for expression. Oh, the restraint.)
But I think going green in a financially viable manner (FU Lazy Acres!) has shifted from the expressly political to a more socio-cultural phenomenon of late. And if not, well, I’m not telling anybody else to go green. This post is about how I can be more green. If it helps others, that’s fabulous. But if that’s not your cup of tea, I’m not on a soapbox and I’m not talking about you anyway. M’kay?So it all started with MOOP (matter out of place). There was a lot of it this year. And with the simple action of picking up a MOOP bag that said “Earth Guardians – Leave No Trace”, collecting MOOP, and feeling a bright, shiny little glimmer of pride, I suddenly catapulted into becoming highly motivated to be more green. Especially if it is also cost-friendly because, did you hear? (whisper) We’re in a recession.
It’s not that I haven’t cared about the environment up until now. I have. But in more of a “we-should-really-care-more”, wave-of-the-hand, gestural type of way. Because I am a lazy, lazy slave to convenience. There, I said it. I admit. I like things easy. I also like them cheap. And most green options I’ve seen have tended to be much harder and much more expensive than the status quo. So having a bin for recyclables was pretty much the extent of my eco-consciousness.
(Side note: I was also on Weight Watchers, where losing weight is made much, MUCH easier by single-serving packaging. Yay, weight loss…BOO waste. Even I felt ashamed of the egregious waste…as I continued to do it.)
But going more green is daunting. Doing my research (Because when I don’t know, I read. Copiously. Generally online.), I find going green really is a lifestyle change. I’m telling myself it requires baby steps. It’s small goals and little changes and moving to bigger changes when you’re ready. Kind of like exercising: if you go from coach-potato to running a marathon in one day, it will hurt. And it will pretty much guarantee a moratorium on all future exercise. So…baby steps.
A lot of the things I found don’t apply to me because I rent an apartment instead of owning a home, so it turns out there’s no one go-to-list of things you can do to go green. Thus, baby step number one, for me, is creating a list of things I can do to go green: things that speak to my lifestyle, my habits, and my needs.
1. Use reusable grocery bags. I got a few from Trader Joe’s, but remembering to use them was kind of a hit-or-miss event (though I do always say no to bags when I can carry things myself). Paper and plastic bags I got, I saved for re-use in other ways (like as trash-can liners), but I can commit to being better about using only reusable bags. My question is: what do people do about trash bags? Are there non-plastic trash can liners? Will the trash guys pick up trash cans filled with unbagged trash?)
2. Commit to washing and reusing Ziploc bags. I use Ziplocs a lot. They are so useful for a whole host of reasons. But I can cut down on a lot of waste by reusing them.
3. Take the bus to work. Not only does this save me the cost of a $400 annual parking permit, I’m also reducing my carbon footprint, saving gas money, and reducing dependence on foreign oil. Well, I suppose I still depend on it for the bus to operate, but at least it’s not the bus AND my car operating on it.
4. Shop more from our local farmer’s market and food co-op. I’m actually really sad at myself for not doing this more often before. Yes, it means extra stops for shopping because I can’t get everything I need, but it is better for so many other reasons. I’ve always complained about wasted food because buying at groceries kind of enforced bulk buying since everything comes in family-of-four sizes. And the extra always went to waste because my family-of-two simply cannot consume that much. But also, buying locally means I can bring in some of my old cartons (like egg cartons) and fill them up instead of buying new ones all the time and throwing them away. Less waste! This idea comes from The Greenest Dollar and reading through her list of ways to reduce plastic was like “Whoa. Make your own yogurt? Use vinegar in your hair instead of conditioner? Eschew ALL plastic? You are awesome, lady, but I’m just not there yet.” But I can reduce some of it. Now, if only Asian food supplies were produced locally…but alas, I must still rely on globalization to meet my needs there.
5. Stop using plastic water bottles. This is a big one for me. I use way too many of them, even though I do own a stainless steel water bottle. It’s just…I don’t like the taste of metal in my water. Which means if I use my stainless steel bottle, I end up drinking less water…which is baaaad. I need to drink more water. So…working on this one.
6. Use more eco-friendly laundry detergents and homemade cleaners. Okay, this one is a no-brainer. Why haven’t I done this before?
7. Diva cup. Men, ignore this one. Ladies, just google it.
8. Gift wrap and gift cards. I’ve been kind of anti-gift wrap and gift cards for a while. I like making gifts look pretty and fun to unwrap, but I don’t like the waste or the fact that gift wrap often costs almost as much as the gift itself (I have a large family and a small budget. Christmas. Don’t judge.) And gift cards? Unless you have something really special or important to write? Kind of a waste of money. Plus what do you do with them after? Save them for a while and then fight between guilt and necessity when you eventually throw it away because you’ve run out of space. I’ve started saving ribbons and gift bags for reuse. But now I’m on the prowl for other gift-wrap packaging that can be reused. Like this gift I recently made for a friend: Homemade lavender milk bath, brown sugar body scrub and honey yogurt facial supplies. With (super cute!) reusable glass bottles and basket.
9. Make more use of freecycle.org. This one is a new discovery for me. But the next time I’m tempted to just toss something, I’ll offer it up to someone else who might find it useful. And I will try to get more things second-hand because I’m getting over my prissy need to be the first owner of things.
10. Turning off lights. I like a lot of light. I’m a light-consuming creature. I do try to turn off lights when I’m not in the room, but I could be more conscious about it and also try to avoid turning on lights that aren’t necessary. I don’t know how well I’ll succeed at this one, but it is a goal. I should also be unplugging those phantom energy users, but I can already tell I’ll be annoyed by a bunch of unplugged plugs lying around or by power strips I’d forgotten I’d turned off. It disrupts my sense of order. But maybe, with time, I can change my attitude about that.
11. Start saving money now to buy a Kindle. Because I LOVE books. And I love the idea that I can have all my favorite books, without having to schlep, move, and save space for the heavy, bulky things, while still supporting my beloved authors and publishing companies. It is officially on my wish list (alongside an ice-cream maker and juicer. Hint, hint. You know, in case you want to buy me something. I’ll be your best friend! Just sayin’…). If I ever get lucky enough to be an author in demand, I’ll also send special love to agents and publishers who prefer e-submissions.
12. Start composting. I eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, which does produce a lot of food waste. But by composting, it can turn into something that is not waste at all and I can make my landlord’s (and maybe a few neighbors’) plants happy.
13. Use a junk mail stopper like Direct Marketing Association or Mail Stopper (formerly known as Green Dimes) to stop the junk mail. Oh, I’m so excited to discover this! I’ve already gone paperless with bills, but still receive so. much. junk. Every day. No more junk mail? Sign me up!
14. Any suggestions from you?
Anyway, hopefully if I start with baby steps I can develop habits that are more sustainable (both for the environment and for my motivation).