4 simple and practical strategies to help us in going green to reduce our carbon footprint and be more environmentally conscious.
This sweet little mountain landscape painting found its way to me a few weeks ago, jumping out at me amongst piles of bric-a-brac and discarded clothing in this hole in the wall thrift store near my house. By coincidence or perhaps fate the view depicted looks exactly like my favorite spot on my family’s tree farm in North Carolina. The likeness is truly uncanny.
I’ve been gazing at it frequently, trying to decide where to hang it. But in doing so a rabbit hole of scary questions came to me:
What if art became our last lens to a beautiful natural world?
What if outside our windows smog, acid rain, steel and glass towers, trash, and concrete dominated?
What if this little 16″ x 19″ painting offered the only glimpse at blue skies, green trees, and wide open vistas?
Could that be my grandchildren’s future…my great grandchildren’s?
Admittedly, I’m sounding a bit defeatist and pessimistic, but in listening to the news coverage about “the tipping point” maybe not.
Listening to NPR lately has made me increasingly aware that we are fast approaching the moment where our ability to radically alter the pace of global warming to avoid drastic weather conditions, rising seas, and more plant and animal extinctions will be negated. According to climate scientists, even if we drastically cut emissions today, the damage to the atmosphere will take decades or more to start to recover.
This helped put our inadequate pace in perspective for me:
“We need to increase tree cover five times faster than we are. We need to ramp up renewable energy six times faster. And the transition to electric vehicles needs to take place at a rate 22 times faster.” ~ John Kerry, Biden’s special envoy for climate
What I’ve been reading about current environmental issues, trends, and solutions:
“Carbon Emissions Could Plummet. The Atmosphere Will Lag Behind” NPR, All Things Considered
What is enough?
I like to consider myself environmentally conscious and have been so from an early age. Do you remember those orca paintings from David Miller in the 90’s, the Lisa Frank baby animals in psychedelic colors, and the “Human-I-Tees” shirts with witty environmental quips? Yes, I had the t-shirts and the trapper keeper!
Well, those marketing campaigns really worked on me as a kid. Not to mention the fact that the 90’s was the decade of the Kuwait oil fire disaster, Rio de Janiero Earth Summit, the M/V Braer oil spill, several Greenpeace protests, and the Julia Butterfly Hill protest where she lived in a Redwood tree for two years. I’m not saying I was fully aware or actually understood all of those environmental events as a child, but growing up in that miasma had an impact.
I use tote bags instead of plastic grocery bags.
I don’t buy and try not to use plastic water bottles.
I don’t let the water run when brushing my teeth.
I recycle. I pick up trash in my neighborhood…I re-use and re-purpose…in fact most of my business is based on shopping thrift stores!
Is that enough?
Lately, I feel like the answer is no! My efforts really are not enough, and I’ll be totally honest during the pandemic, I’ve been a bit lax in my commitment to these habits. With the 51st Earth Day this week (April 22nd), I feel its necessary to kick my butt in gear and recommitt to going green, while finding and supporting new ways to do so!
Going Green or At Least Greener
I’m not interested in a political debate here, and I’m not going to get up on a soapbox and lecture you dear readers. I believe global warming is happening, and I believe we can do something to change it!
I won’t let Mother Earth be confined to a 16″ x 19″ framed memory!
If like me you are growing increasingly alarmed, unsure what to do or where to turn, and want to take going green to the next level this post is for you! I’m not an expert or an activist. I’m sharing with you the research and efforts for change I’m making in hopes it helps and inspires you too.
4 Practical Strategies:
Going green doesn’t have to be complicated if we actively try to lessen our negative environmental impact by building on simple straight forward steps. Pick two or three strategies you can act on this week and work to make them habits!
Stay in the Know
Educate ourselves! With all the sad, horrifying news the past year it can be very tempting to shut it all out and just ignore or retreat from it. I’m not saying don’t take a break from the news if you need it for your mental well being, but don’t let a break turn into apathy.
- We need to support news sources that are contributing scientific based reporting and sharing the research for solutions.
- Explore other sources for information besides the news like National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s website, EarthDay.org, United Nations Sustainable Development, and scientific magazines and journals
Put Everyday Dollars into Green Products
Put our money – the everyday dollars we spend on necessities and household goods – into organizations, brands, and services that are actively pursuing green or greener methods for manufacturing and solutions to our environmental issues. See this post about 15 eco-friendly products you can shop right now to make an impact.
- Plastics – our biggest litter problem and the most prevalent type of marine debris. We need to avoid single-use plastics (think drink bottles, soap bottles, straws, flatware) and find alternatives. Read this article and this IUCN brief to learn about how plastics harm wildlife and our oceans. Read this about recycling problems.
Re-think plastic use with these alternatives:
- Compostable or recycled material trash bags
- Re-useable food storage: wrappers like waxed cotton, baggies, glass containers
- Re-useable straws – bamboo or metal
- Drink bottles and cups – my favorite is the Yeti 30 oz tumbler and for a brand producing eco-friendly bottles check out Soma
- Soap dispensers – laundry, hand and dish soaps
- Beauty products – check out Grove Beauty, Kiehl’s, Arbonne for companies prioritizing sustainability
- More swap ideas here.
- Clothing – clogging up landfills, consuming massive amounts of water, and releasing greenhouse gases. Cotton and polyester are two of the most commonly used fabrics in the clothing industry and causing the most harmful environmental impacts. Wrap your mind around this:
- It takes 2,700 liters of water to produce one cotton shirt that’s enough water to supply a human for two and a half years with drinking water.
- Polyester production for textiles released about 706 billion kg (1.5 trillion pounds) of greenhouse gases in 2015, the equivalent of 185 coal-fired power plants’ annual emissions.
Chic & Eco-Friendly Clothing Options: (see brand list in this post)
Eat Plant Based
Evaluate the way our food choices are part of the Industrial Food Complex and how that is impacting the environment. A plant based, locavore diet is better for the Earth!
- We need to increase our vegetable and plant consumption and slow down on meat both for our body health and our planet health. When we do consume meat consider how it is being raised — smaller farming operations that use grass-fed, free range, and organic practices are better! Watch this! Read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
- Understand our “foodprint” and how much carbon the foods we regularly eat are contributing to greenhouse gases. Check out this calculator and this food scoring system.
- Shop more local farmer’s markets and co-ops! Find one near you with this database.
Swap for Energy Efficient
Our houses’ energy efficiency is something we can improve to reduce our energy waste and greenhouse gases. It’s about using less energy to do the same thing, and ultimately, efficiency accumulates savings over time! Consider an energy audit on your home to learn how you can improve it.
- Swap out incandescent lightbulbs for LED – a 12-watt LED bulb uses 75-80% less energy than a 60-watt traditional bulb but provides the same level of light. LEDs are long-lasting, durable, and mercury-free. Learn more about benefits and how to choose LED lights here.
- Buy appliances and electronics with the ENERGY STAR symbol, which means products meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. ENERGY STAR certified products provide the functionality of standard appliances but use less energy, reducing their impact on the environment.
- We need to get rid of out-dated water hogs – toilets are a surprisingly thirsty component of our houses accounting for about a quarter of water use. Swap older ones for efficient new models when possible. For more on water conservation read this.
- Change to a digital thermostat that saves energy on heating and cooling. We invested in the Nest thermostat and we can control it with our phones. Eco-mode is the key feature that tracks your movements or schedule, saving you money when you are not at home.
I know I’ve dumped a load of information on you in this post, so I hope you will use this as a jumping off point to do more research and find ways you can implement simple strategies of going green. Please share a strategy or idea for going green in the comments! I have so much more to learn, and I’d love to hear about the efforts you are making!
Yes, it will take a change of mindset, time, energy, and money to do so. But aren’t those blue skies, twittering birds, green trees, and wide open vistas worth it?
For additional environmentally friendly brands head over to this post.