Sunday, March 23, 2008

Living green

Despite all the hype, I am going to come out and admit it: living green is d*$%ed hard. It is! Making changes to our consumption patterns and changing our environmental blueprint takes some personal evolution and a heck of a lot of soul searching.

At a time when going green is cool, everywhere you look there is another joe trying to sell you something that is "environmentally friendly". Huh? So trading in my poly-cotton bedsheets for organic cotton is good for the environment? What do I do with my old sheets? Send them to the thrift store so someone else, who can't afford to be eco-friendly(or is just smarter than me), can buy 'em? Should I really buy the corn bottle for my water with the built in filter because it will biodegrade? Perhaps the companies that tout these products are truly offering their wares out of concern for the earth. Perhaps they realize that there is also a great amount of money to be made from our mass hysteria about global warming, landfills, and celebrity endorsements of earth friendly living.

C'mon people! Reduce, reuse, recycle. It's a simple concept, one that bears reiteration....

1. Reduce means that I STOP being such a stupid, mindless consumer. I personally avoid malls as much as I can because I often see things that I "need" to buy. Thank God I have the personal discipline (or maybe it's just the empty wallet) and often put off those decisions. I usually find I can go without. Does that mean that I don't have objects in my home that I love? Nope. I had a wise friend who told me, about 5 years back when I was having a similar rant to today, "But Amy, beauty is important. When you are careful about your choices, you can have beautiful things that support your spirit and enhance your life." She was right. These days I shop for form AND function, and look for unique, one of a kind items at thrift shops and local markets. When setting up my apartment last year, I had to purchase many household goods. I purchased a beautiful set of dishes from the late 70s/early 80s at a local thrift store and I smile every time I use them! The entire stack cost me less than $10, I wasn't buying a new product with lots of packaging, and I got a high quality well made item well within my budget. When it's a big purchase, like a digital camera, I buy for the longest use possible, which may mean a higher initial cost but with more features and better construction I will use it for a longer time period.

2. Reuse. See references to thrift stores in #1. Think of ways to use what you have in your home before you get rid of it, or exchange it with friends. Since I believe so strongly in #1, I'd like to see us choosing things for our homes that will last generations, instead of just "right now". Reusing the packaging that your food came in, for example, is a great idea. If you can get rid of the packaging in the first place (I never use all the pesky plastic bags in the grocery store produce department, for example, and it's never been a problem), then you've followed rule #1 and don't have anything to reuse in the first place.

3. Recycle. And not just your pop bottles. They fall under rule #1. So do plastic water bottles and more. If you must buy treats, make sure you do recycle. I for one think that beer and wine are more acceptable alternatives to pop because they come in glass bottles and glass is more earth friendly than plastic. Recycling, especially plastic, is important but also has great environmental and economic impact. If you can buy at stores that allow you to forgo their packaging and use your own containers, like bulk food stores, by all means, do it! If not, make sure that any items that can be recycled in your household are. Some commonly overlooked items are fluorescent lights and batteries, neither of which belong in the landfill.

Truly going green, as opposed to using our consuming tendencies to buy buy buy, can be hard. It means really weighing out our current purchases with their impact on our health and the health of our environment long term. Some of the benefits include being able to sleep better at night and reduced stress on your pocket book.

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