Practically Green, Part 1

Simple Steps to Preserve the Planet

In my efforts to be “green”, which you can read about here and here, I have adopted new ways of doing a lot of things over the years. It hasn’t always been easy. I’m as resistant as the next person when it comes to change. But I’m learning that once I make a change and it takes hold, it becomes easier to make the next one.

You must start by picking the low hanging fruit. Choose the easiest step to take and proceed from there. This applies to changes of all kinds, so feel free to adopt this mentality towards going vegan, getting fit, learning a new subject, etc. For me, the key is taking control and doing something—that always makes me feel good. It keeps life fluid and interesting.

If you want to incorporate more eco-friendly practices into your life, then you will want to follow this blog for the next few weeks. I plan to post about 30 eco-friendly steps that have become a habit for me. Of course this wasn’t always the case. I’m an example of how one can change. I hope that my story not only educates others but inspires at least one person to become more eco-friendly.

According to a United Nations report on Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production: Priority Products and Materials, “We must start looking into our everyday activities if we truly want a green economy—for developed and developing countries.“

Let’s start with the most common and easiest actions you can start today. In the coming weeks, the practical steps I offer may seem more challenging, but with a bit of effort, you can make them habits too.

Small yet Powerful Actions to Set You on the Path to Environmentalism

  1. Bring your own shopping bags. By now, you probably have more than enough reusable shopping bags on hand, so store them everywhere. Keep a small compactable one in your purse or backpack, and several larger bags in your car. This way you always have them available. The trickiest part about reusable bags is remembering them in the first place. Once it becomes a habit, this step is a no-brainer, especially if you live in an area where you have to pay for bags.
  2. Carry a reusable water bottle with you everywhere you go—no exceptions. Years ago the place where I worked provided bottled water to its employees. (Sadly, I was on the wellness committee that suggested this “improvement” of providing employees with bottled water in the late 90s.) But as I began to wake up to the issues, I realized that bottled water was wasteful (even if you recycle the bottle) and I could make one simple change, which would make a big difference. I stopped using the free bottled water at work and began using a reusable bottle and filling it with water from the drinking fountain. This reduced my impact on the planet by approximately 750 plastic bottles a year. Now multiply that by 1,000 employees from one company and you begin to see the big picture—750,000 bottles a year. On a more positive note, the company has since switched to filtered water to reduce its impact on the planet. You can also use a reusable coffee mug when picking up your morning coffee.
  3. Let dishes air dry in the dishwasher. This is a new one for me, and admittedly, I don’t like it. I would like to empty the dishwasher when the cycle is done, not after I open the door and let the dishes dry, which inevitably takes several more hours! But if I do it long enough, I’m certain I will get used to it. Becoming an environmentalist requires the ability to make adjustments to your lifestyle even when it might be “inconvenient”.  Bonus: Run full loads only.
  4. Use paper bags instead of plastic when scooping kitty litter. (My cats revolted against the kind you can flush, so I’m stuck with the clay litter.) No need to bury plastic bags full of kitty waste in landfills indefinitely though. At least by using paper bags, there is a possibility of it breaking down. You can purchase brown paper lunch bags for a couple of bucks and they do the job quite nicely. Also, remember to save any paper bags you collect when making a purchase.
  5. Buy fruits and vegetables grown closer to home—at least on this continent. Obviously farmer’s markets are great for buying local produce but when you live in a colder climate they aren’t always an option. You can still avoid buying produce from the other side of the world. Consider the transportation impact of shipping produce from one side of the world to another. This step was a tough one for me initially. There is a week or two every year that I can’t find apples from anywhere but someplace far away like New Zealand. I had to accept that I would have to go without apples for a couple of weeks. On the bright side, it’s an opportunity to try a new fruit or vegetable that is grown closer to home at that time of year. It took some time to get in the habit of reading the labels to find out where the produce was grown, and in fact, sometimes the store signs are wrong. Once it becomes a habit, it’s a simple yet powerful principle to follow.

Stay tuned for Practically Green, Part 2.

You can support my efforts to be “green” by donating to the Global Seva Amazon Challenge. I’m raising funds to defend rainforest ecosystems, stand for environmental justice, and reclaim indigenous rights in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Can you spare a few dollars and donate today? Click here for more information.