Tuesday, April 17, 2012
What Does It Mean To Be Sustainable?
My college roommates teased me when I saved my pasta water. Our neighbors balked at us when they discovered we rinsed and reused our plastic grocery bags. A friend laughed when, as she gave me my first tour of Costco, my overwhelm forced me to flee. Are these indications that I'm a tree hugger?
It's not that simple.
Our current world is set up to make green living nearly impossible. Food may be "organic", but much of it has been shipped from around the world or across the US. Therefore, we may be consuming healthier food, but our impact is huge. Our systems primarily revolve around our vehicles. We spend countless hours driving to and from work, to the grocery store, gym, shopping, or shuttling kids to their various activities. Strip malls are concrete empires, building after building surrounded by parking spaces, hindering biking or walking enthusiasts. So, are we doomed? Our world-as-we-know-it certainly does make “being green” seem like a daunting endeavor.
The point is that we each play a role in the future of our communities. Being sustainable means making well informed, conscious decisions. For instance, when faced with the decision to purchase ceramic plates and cloth napkins for your home versus continually using paper plates and napkins, you might want to weigh the benefits of your one-time costly purchase to your long-term waste contribution and expenses.
If the concept of sustainability is an overwhelming one to embrace, then perhaps break it down into manageable baby steps or even micromini-movements. Following are 10 suggestions on first steps that you can take to sprout your “greener” lifestyle:
1. Purchase 3 cloth bags to use repeatedly for groceries and any other shopping you do. Be sure to put them somewhere you’ll remember so that you, in fact, use them.
2. Don’t buy plastic water bottles. Wash and save a glass jar for water refills.
3. Air-dry your clothes instead of using the dryer.
4. Save paper that has only been used on one side – rather than buy note paper, recycle your used paper by cutting it into note-size pieces.
5. Save and reuse your wrapping paper.
6. Use compact fluorescent bulbs, and switch off your lights when you leave the room.
7. Shop at your local second-hand store or hold periodic clothing swaps with your friends.
8. Check books out from your local library.
9. Turn off your computer when it’s not in use.
10. Keep your automobile tires inflated, which improves your overall gas mileage.
Ultimately, unless everyone can live off the grid, bike everywhere you go, grow and process your own food, and solely support your local economy (i.e. shop at local art studios, the farmer’s market or your local health food store), we cannot claim to have a small footprint. However, we can live sustainably by making deliberate decisions, starting with just a few simple steps. Join me - give "green" a whirl!