Filed under: general
Having decided to take action, I next had to decide what actions to take. Since I’m currently a student and so a) have little money, and b) live a semi-nomadic lifestyle, renting apartments and moving every couple of years, what ever changes I made, at least to begin with, had to be economical ones that didn’t increase the amount of possessions I would have to take with me when I moved. Also, I soon realized how quickly one could become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information, some of it conflicting, available about sustainable living. Becoming overwhelmed was not what I had in mind when I started this endeavor. So I started small and started slow.
Here are some general guidelines that I’ve developed for myself. I believe they will be helpful for anyone who is trying to “go green:”
*Start small and start slow. Focus on one aspect of your life at a time, with small changes that can have a large impact. For instance, first make changes to your eating habits cleaning and your use of electricity; worry about things like sustainable vacations only after you’ve made changes to your everyday life. Also, look for changes you can make without having to buy anything or require a small initial investment that will save you a great deal of money in the long run; you’re likely to find that these changes are the easiest to implement.
*Look for changes you can make that are beneficial in more than one way. For instance, make choices that not only have an environmental benefit, but an economic one and/or a medical one as well. Since I hate shopping, I look for choices that also reduce the number of items on my shopping list. I also prefer to spend as little time cleaning as possible, so one of my priorities has been to replace disposable items, such as kleenex, napkins, q-tips, acne pads, and feminine hygiene products, with reusable ones. This reduces the waste I produce (environmental benefit), the amount of money spent on household items (economic benefit), the number of products I routinely need to buy (less shopping), and the number of times I need to empty my trash (less cleaning).
*Do what’s best for you in your circumstances, and be sure to take other people’s suggestions (including mine) in context. As a single, young woman living in an apartment, for instance, my priorities and the changes I can feasibly make are different than a family living in their own home. Everyone happens to have certain items “just lying around the house,” but they may be different from household to household. Finally, everyone values certain aspects of their lives differently, so making a certain change for one person may be no big deal, while for another it may represent a considerable sacrifice. Extract what advice you can use and don’t be affronted if advice given is inapplicable to you.
*Think critically about what you read. In particular, pay attention to the source of the information. It’s good advice in any situation, but there is a huge amount of information out there about environmental issues and sustainability and some of it conflicts. Also, the green movement touches on many political issues, and politics can obscure objectivity. Finally, the green movement has now attracted the attention of the major corporations, so there is an ever growing number of products on sale that are marketed towards environmentally minded people. Some of these products are indeed very useful. The utility of others, like this soy couch from Crate and Barrel, are dubious at best.
Above all, “going green” means gaining an awareness of yourself and society that is greater than you may be used to. It means thinking very carefully about why you do what you do and what is really important to you. In a way, it’s much like finally waking up after sleepwalking all your life. In the end, I believe that people make the best decisions they can, based on their options and their knowledge about those options. Seek to expand your options and learn what you can and the rest will follow.
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