Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ten steps on the path to being green

Low Impact Man recently asked readers what their recommended first steps for going green were. Here are 10 great ideas from reader comments to get you going:

  1. Read. Find something that sparks your passion. Beth Terry writes: “I'd give him/her the article "Plastic Ocean". That was my way in, the piece that broke my heart and made me realize I had to do something.” Brandon Watkins recommends another site: The Story of Stuff.
  2. Explore your passions. Writes Jenn: “If you're a foodie, start with good food and using less. If you love to bike, work that into your routine. If you're already a bit wiggy about water use, then explore all those options first. It's much easier to start on a change if you're already inspired.”
  3. Take small first steps. Switching to CFL bulbs, buying reusable bags and limiting your paper towel use are three examples of quick wins.
  4. Be mindful of how you spend. Saving a few dollars or cents may not be worth any long-term damage. I was reminded of that very thing a few weeks ago when I mentioned I’d swapped aluminum cans for plastic cups of Diet Coke to save some cash. Adds Hanna: “Buy less things. Don´t buy on impulse. Ask yourself if the thing your [sic] buying is something that you REALLY need. If something you own works don´t buy a new one.”
  5. Go local. Frequent the local farmers market. Writes Brandon Watkins: “I feel like there's something genuinely mind-altering about knowing where your food comes from, meeting the people that grow it, and getting a reminder every time you make a meal about your impact on the world and your own effort to be ‘green.’ …It forces you to think and build localization into your mindset.”
  6. Go even more local – grow in your own backyard. Onions, lettuce, tomatoes and herbs are simple things that can even be planted on a balcony container. “Getting in touch with your own food by getting your fingers dirty is the quickest way to change your thought patterns about other green issues,” Gavin writes. “A little bit of action to feed yourself goes a long way in the change to a more sustainable lifestyle and to help solve one of our planetary issues.”
  7. Put off plastic packaging. Avoid plastic bags and non-recyclable containers. Look at what items you purchase that can be not packaged in plastic (i.e. buy in bulk, visit the local market or don’t rewrap produce in another layer of plastic.)
  8. Change your transportation. Look into bicycling, walking, carpooling or anything that doesn’t demand one person, one motorized vehicle.
  9. Make changes at home. Shorten your shower; unplug electrical items when not in use. Limit your dryer use. Turn down the water heater.
  10. Recycle what you can. You might not have the luxury of curbside recycling for everything, but look at what you can do. At my home, we recycle #1 and #2 plastic and cans at home; drive the office paper, junk mail and newspaper to a freestanding drop off on the way from daycare and leave the plastic bags in the drop-off contained in Kroger. It is not always convenient, but it works for now.

One last thought: A comment by arduous: “Being mindful of how your actions affect others. Everything else stems from mindfulness.”