I know I cannot save the world. Not alone anyway. I fall short of living the perfect green life. I still drive instead of taking the bus, I have not yet brought myself to fully commit to the navy shower, and I just cannot afford to go solar even though I desperately want to. I renovated my house before bamboo floors existed, so I’ve got laminate. I love new stuff, so I don’t yet shop at thrift stores and I sometimes buy strawberries out of season because my daughter loves them so much. There are just some green steps I am not ready or able to make. Hopefully one day I will be stronger, but until then I have learned the importance of making every little bit count.
I participate in all the usual “easy” green behaviours. I bring my own bag whenever I shop. I use a stainless steel water bottle and never purchase bottled water. I recycle and compost in my home. I use natural cleaners and personal care products. These are the basics – the first little bits that count.
Yet, I often wonder what else can I do to make a bigger difference for the planet? At first glance, it may not seem like much, but it all adds up.
I researched the local banks and selected one that gives back to the community as well as has green business practices. And when I use the ATM, I do not request a balance statement, which just ends up in the trash two seconds later. I do all my banking online and select the paperless option for all statements and bills whenever I can.
I wash my all my clothes (except for diapers) in cold water. I admit I don’t like crunchy towels, so I use the dryer for towels and sheets, but everything else gets hung to dry.
BYOB or C
I always bring my own bottle or cup! If I am desperate for a coffee break but forgot my travel mug at home then I go without, rather than using a disposable cup.
Better Bulb Behavior
All my light bulbs are CFL’s. This is another easy one. They last longer so you are changing bulbs less often anyway. It takes so little time to go through the house and make the change. I also make sure all the lights are out in rooms that are not in use. Sometimes I see a light on in the corner of my eye as I am passing a room and I am so tempted to just keeping on walking but I know it is important to go back and save that energy. It seems so little, it makes me wonder how much a difference it could really make. And perhaps my one light bulb isn’t going to save the world. But what if you turned yours off too, and that other guy, and that lady down the street? What if we just made that small effort?
The Dirty Deed of Diapering
If you have babies, this is definitely worth looking into. No more folding or pins! Today’s cloth diapers are just as easy as disposable. Just dump the pail of dirty diapers into the washing machine instead of the garbage. I do use hot water on this load and they do get tossed in the dryer on a medium setting but that is a lot smaller of an impact than all those disposables sitting in the landfill from diapering two kids for three years. And using flannel cloths, instead of disposable wipes is also an easy choice to help me limit my waste.
Something new I am making an effort towards is unplugging everything not in use to save from the “vampire” energy, when plugged in electronics still use energy when turned off but still plugged in. I make an effort to wander the house before we go out of town to make sure virtually everything is unplugged. The harder step is unplugging the toaster and coffee machine everyday between uses but we are getting there.
Another easy and fun change was deciding on no more wrapping paper and no more cards. This commitment forced me to get creative. I now often wrap presents in reusable shopping bags or dish towels or something else useable. I still use a little bit of ribbon to dress the bag up. I try to just tag the gift with a small note card (preferably recycled) or if I do decide to get a card, I make sure it is made from recycled paper and uses soy or vegetable inks.
Wait a second
Now things begin to get a little tougher. I am a consumer. I admit it. I love to shop, I love to consume. Unfortunately for me, one of the top rules of eco-living is consuming less. I try, and I try… but I admit that I love to shop. So to limit my impact on the planet, I work hard to shop smarter. I wait a second to determine if I actually need the items, and if so, I take the time to read labels and think about where and how the product is manufactured. I buy organic cotton whenever possible and always stick to natural fabrics. No matter how cute the pajamas, I say no when they are made from some man-made fabric like polyester, which is made from non-renewable crude oil that is a heavy producer of pollution, due to the mining and manufacturing of it. My dream for the world is to not have to read the labels of everything I look at because everything will be manufactured in a sustainable way. Why do we even need the choice of polyester pajamas? But until then, I make sure that when I do consume, my choices are as sustainable as possible.
I could go on and on about the easy steps we can take in our homes and lives that have a huge impact on our planet. Litterless lunches and local foods. Library books over book stores. A rain barrel and push lawn mower. I may not be ready to give up my hot showers, but I know there is value in all the “little bits” I can do. No one person can do it all. Some changes are just too big and inconvenient right now, but by knowing that every effort that you do make impacts our planet, we are saying something. It tells the manufacturers what we prefer, it tells our farmers that we support them; it tells the industry that we want change. And one day we won’t have to make the choice because our only options will be green.