Lately the lesson I've tried to impart on my oldest is that the world is not black and white.
And neither is learning to live green.
Learning to live green, for me, has come from unexpected sources. It's not just from picking up the latest book at the library or from reading from a list of blogs and Web sites. Instead, I've culled inspirations from random articles, experiences and people I've come across in person and online.
Here are some of the lessons I've learned on the path to being greener.
Green can be cheap, but cheap isn't always green. You can take your dollar and buy some inexpensive off-brand window cleaner, or you can use vinegar. You can buy shower cleaner or baking soda. Either one works but they vary on their environmental impact.
Likewise, think about how you eat. Fast food may be cheap – you can probably feed yourself from a dollar menu – but you have a much higher environmental (and bodily) impact than if you chose fresh fruits or vegetables or packed a sandwich instead.
Grandma's ways sometimes worked. Home cooking, home-grown vegetables, layering when it was cold, making use of hand-me-downs, using leftovers for casseroles – all of these things helped our grandparents’ generation reduce their living expenses (important during tough financial times) and also reduced the impact on the environment.
Vote early and often. Vote with your dollars, vote with your e-mails to your congressmen or a business. Make your voice heard. What you say and where you spend makes a difference.
Regardless of what you earn, regardless of this economy, you can make your life a little bit greener. So you can’t buy solar panels? So what? There are still small steps you can take. Turn off your water or lights. Buy green products when it fits within your budget. Turn off your car and go inside a building instead of idling in a drive-through lane. Don’t print off things unless you have to, and when you do, print on both sides of the paper. Little steps count.
Watch your budget. Don’t buy what you can’t afford. It helps your wallet, your clutter and your waste.
Convenience counts. Yes, convenience products, foods and services may shave your time, but they also have hidden (or not so hidden) costs. Consider: At the store last night, I could buy a pound of wheat pasta and toss with a splash of olive oil and a clove of chopped garlic. Or I could buy a package of side-dish pasta that makes about 1 ½ cups of garlic and olive oil flavored pasta for roughly the same price. The difference in time? A few minutes extra to boil water. Mincing a clove of garlic can be done while the water boils. The difference in quantity and quality? Considerable.
So here I am in my journey. I've learned a little and accomplished a few small things. Have I gotten very far on the way to a greener lifestyle? My desk at work suggests no. But have I made a small difference and helped impact my family's thinking? I certainly hope so.