EcoJaunt has taken us all over the country; from rooftop farms in Brooklyn to water catchment gurus south of Tucson; we’ve seen a lot. But no matter where we go, be it downtown Portland, Maine or Earth Day Fest in Topanga, California… we always get the same comment/question: Yes, that’s very cool, but what can I do, right now?
So, this blog is dedicated to communicating simple ideas that we should all be aware of and the associated changes that anyone and everyone can make on some level to make their life more sustainable and eco-community-human friendly! Hurrah!
There are five basic principles I’d like to address. Why five? I don’t know, really. Three sounds like not enough and four just doesn’t have a good ring to it. Plus 5 is one of those amazing magical prime numbers that can work wonders (or at least it will be once this post is through!).
In no particular order, they are:
1. Waste and Conservation
2. Go Local
4. Fuel and Energy
5. HEALTH of SELF
We’re going to take these slow, one at a time, baby steps…thank you Bill Murray! Today’s winner is….
Do you ever think about what happened to that granola bar wrapper, or your disposable coffee cup, or the packaging your i phone came in?
Do you ever ponder how many dollars, gallons of gas, and CO2 emissions could be saved if you parked your car one day per week?
Do you ever wonder how much less energy you’d consume if you unplugged your household items and insulated your windows?
This is not a rant on waste statistics, though the average American does create an average of 4 pounds of trash per day (1460 lbs/year) and uses 544 gallons of petrol each year. But I digress…
This is a rant about awareness! In this wonderful country of America (and that is not a completely sarcastic comment), we don’t have to look at our trash… so we forget it exists. The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” had to come from somewhere!
We are also lucky enough that our energy consumption is completely unlimited. We are not given a battery for the day or told we have a certain number of kilowatts for the month. We aren’t FORCED to conserve energy or be aware of how much we are using because it seems that these things are of unending abundance.
But to become aware of these elements is a whole new realm of vision, an entirely new piece of the puzzle that helps guide decisions. Simply to be aware that each piece of waste created will find its way into a leaky landfill or pollute ground water will help you to identify actions and habits in your life that can be revised for the better… and that’s what we’re shooting for, right?
So what can you do, what are the easy starter pieces? Daily activities are a great place to begin. Anything you do every day will have a greater cumulative impact over the long haul…and I’m pretty sure that’s what we’re in for ;)
Most days of the week, a greater majority of people will go to work, the key word being ‘go.’ How we get there varies entirely, but is another important choice we can make every day. Will this day include a bike ride, a walk, the bus, the train, teleportation, or perhaps a trip in the car? Many of us get stuck in a transportation rut, but we have the choice everyday and there is always the option to choose differently! Yahooo.
Every morning, most of us caffeine addicts will enjoy a cup o joe… and believe you-me, there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that. But, for those enjoying their breakfast brew away from home, there will be a choice to be made. No, not latte or Americano! The choice will be disposable cup or self-brought reusable mug. Do you have to remember it every day? Yeah, you do, but you will save an exorbitant amount of paper cups from being used and trashed each year simply by providing your own black gold receptacle. Simple, check!
Later that day, many of us will do work on a laptop, leaving it plugged in all day and all night, instead of allowing the battery to drain and then recharging it. Computers, particularly when they are not shut down, will suck energy as long as they are plugged in. All appliances do this! Just think of how much energy your toaster has been using all these months that you haven’t even enjoyed a good crunchy bagel!
Around noon-ish, many of our bellies will begin to rumble and make other mysterious noises that incline us towards the all powerful FOOD. Anyone with a grab and go lunch break may end up with a sandwich, a burrito, some amazing Indian cart food, or a burger. All these items will come wrapped in paper, encased in Styrofoam, and include plastic disposable silverware. Lots of room for improvement there! Waste decreasers, UNITE! How difficult would it be to bring your own plate, Tupperware, or just a spoon from home to decrease how many waste products you use each lunch break? Think of how it would be if you had to live with every piece of food packaging that you used: each drink cup, every food box, and paper bag. Lame sauce!
After lunch, do you drink a pick-me-up cup of coffee? …but we’ve been there ;)
After work, you might stop at the store on the way home. Talk about choices; supermarkets are currently a crazy rainbow of marketed packaging whose colors one can so easily get lost in! We could spend 5 pages discussing (do you like how we’re ‘discussing’ now?) the goods and bads of grocery stores, but how about two examples that will point in the right directions.
Picture it: you’re in the snacks aisle grabbing some grub to go in your wee one’s lunch (and perhaps secretly your own). Instead of fruit snacks, you decide to go for the raisins (healthier) in their tiny red boxes wrapped 6 to a bunch in plastic. Choice: do you buy a food item that will create waste each day that a box of raisins is eaten, not to mention to cover wrap around them? OR do you go to the bulk section, where you will not pay for packaging and create much less waste; you can even bring your own reused plastic bag to put your bulk section raisins in for mother earth brownie points!
The raisins inspired you to go for gold and get some fresh fruit. As you peruse the apple section, you notice that all the stickers read ‘New Zealand,’ but that the pears are from the states. When you choose the product from far away, you are basically paying for gasoline and shipping, so here you have another place that you can make the choice to conserve! Plus pears are pretty good.
When you return (commute=choice) home, you and the fam decide what to do about dinner. You’ve made lots of good sustainable choices, so you treat everyone to a dinner out. There are a handful of places within a mile from your house, and being the healthy amazing fantastic mother earth star student that you are, you decide that the family should walk (conserving gasoline) to the local organic food place (again conserving fuel for shipping) and have dinner. It’s delicious, but everyone is stuffed and there are leftovers for days! Instead of accepting the doggie bags of doom, you’ve brought a few Tupperware storage containers from home, man you are getting good at this!
After your walk home (conserving gas and improving health therefore conserving healthcare spending), you stretch out, unplug your already charged laptop, and have a little play time on FaceBook. Since you’re feeling keen on your new ideas, you post a short paragraph about awareness of waste and conservation that your 1300 friends will see and implement in their lives.
Before turning in, you attend to your teeth, shutting the water off while you’re brushing (conserving agua), look in the mirror and say, “You’re one swell looking environmentally savvy person, you are. And tomorrow, you’re going to do even better and get the insulation fixed up so that not so much heat is wasted next winter.”
Everyday is full of opportunities to make better choices and create less waste; little changes make BIG DIFFERENCES!
*****sidebar statistic for your viewing pleasure: The highest point in Hamilton County, Ohio (near Cincinnati) is ‘Mount Rumpke.’ It is actually a mountain of trash at the Rumpke Sanitary Landfill towering 1045 ft. above sea level.
That is nutty.