The reminders are all around us – go green, save the earth, be sustainable! But all of that seems easier said than done. Sure, you utilize reusable grocery bags and try limit the amount you drive your car but you may wonder, “Is it enough?” The answer is not a simple yes or no – instead it’s more of a “We can always do more!” mentality. The guilt of being an average American consumer may sometimes be overwhelming. In addition to the advertisements telling us to go green, headlines such as “Americans Use More Energy Than Any Other Population” or “Most Food Travels 2,000 Miles To Your Plate” may make us feel like there is nothing to we can do. “I can’t stop factory farms” or “What am I supposed to do about the people down the street who leave their lights on 24/7?” are more than likely recurring thoughts. The truth is that while it is a long road toward worldwide adoption of environmental standards that will protect the earth and its habitants, there are plenty of things you and your family can do to promote sustainability in your home and community. Do not let the global environment crisis leave you in a state of paralysis – instead, do what you are able on a smaller scale and turn that guilt into pride! By doing these five things, you and your family can start contributing to a better world.
- Go paperless whenever possible – Enrolling in paperless billing and bank statements is a great way to cut down on paper use. Most of us pay our bills online anyway, so what is the purpose of receiving your statement via snail mail? Many companies will also offer discounts for enrolling in paperless billing. Want to reduce even more wasted paper? Opt out of junk mail! The average American household receives 69 pounds of unwanted mail per year – half of which isn’t even recycled. Check out this awesome site to learn about opting out of junk mail.
- Eat local as often as you can – If you were surprised earlier to learn that most of the food we eat travels over 2,000 miles from farm to plate, sorry but it is the unfortunate truth. All of that travel harms the environment through carbon emissions from trucks and trains and leaves your food less than fresh. Luckily, there are a lot ways you can eat local without spending a fortune. Try subscribing to a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program in your city. Once a week (or every other week), you will receive a box full of delicious fresh fruits and vegetables grown right in your town. If you live alone, consider splitting the boxes with a pal – you will get a LOT of food! Check out this website to find a CSA in your community.
- Educate yourself and others – Environmental education is one of the greatest barriers to getting people to go green. Your neighbors, friends or family may not be aware of the effects their actions may be having on the environment or how to offset them. Take the food travel information from earlier – when buying their groceries, most individuals don’t even think about how far those products have come to be placed on the supermarket shelf. When you learn an interesting fact or tip on sustainability, spread the word (think: social media)! Many local food co-operatives and community education programs offer classes on greening your daily life. Topics may include things such as installing a rain catcher at home, how to grow herbs or even making your own natural soap. Encourage others to go to classes with you – knowledge is power! And do not forget to teach children about the importance of protecting the earth! These are lessons that can – and should – last a lifetime.
- Make cleaning day more eco-friendly – The sprays, soaps and polishes we use around the house to keep things neat and tidy can harm the environment. Toxic chemicals and dyes go down the drain, ending up in our rivers and lakes. Even products labeled as “natural” may not be so earth-friendly, as many contain synthetic fragrances that still find a way into our water. Making your own dish, laundry and all-purpose cleaners out of common household ingredients will guarantee that you are using non-toxic cleansers while also saving you money. Things you already have in the pantry such as baking soda and lemon juice make amazing and effective cleaning solutions. Check out this site for lots of recipes for homemade cleaning products.
- Shop smart – There are many ways that being a more conscious consumer can help the environment – and perhaps even save you some cash. Think about where and how you shop – for example, perhaps you need a dresser. Instead of rushing out to the closest furniture store, why not buy a gently used one? Websites like Craigslist and FreeCycle have lots of things for sale and are almost always an amazing deal. You can even try a local antiques shop. When it comes to clothing, try to avoid garments that are dry-clean only. This will reduce your trips to the dry-cleaners, which will save you money and cut down on toxic chemical use during the cleansing process. Don’t forget to visit the library, too, for lots of free and educational entertainment for the entire family, including books, movies, magazines and music.