Our world runs at a hectic, and sometimes overwhelming, pace. We demand fast access to goods and services to satisfy our whims. All of these choices come with external costs. When we buy water, sometimes we spring for the bottle with “30 percent less plastic.” Examples like this “environmentally minded” product have been brought about by the green movement. But such token reductions amount to “greenwashing”.
Marketing firms target the combination of wants and needs and the ever-present environmental repercussions of our consumption. “Going green” has become a tagline to grab our eye and help assuage any feeling of responsibility by claiming to be better for the environment.
But this only works because of our shared awareness of our behaviors’ consequences, our sense of responsibility as the effect of our “infinite” growth economy on our shared environment becomes harder to ignore.
Thousands of birds have fallen from the sky in different areas with no explanation as of yet. Industrial and agricultural chemical runoff has caused massive fish-kills along American waterways. Record snowfalls in places that typically get none. The world’s largest ice shelves are melting at an increasing rate.
The easiest response is to zone out by turning on the television, going clubbing, playing World of Warcraft, or whatever might suit your fancy. But another way is not only possible but will save you time, money and increase your personal health and the health of people and places around you.
An easy way is to adjust how we treat our homes. More prevalent in the media than in the past, the importance of home insulation and energy efficient Compact Fluorescent Light-bulbs has been emphasized to the point of becoming commonplace.
Legislation is evolving as well; CFLs will be nationally mandatory by 2014. Sealing the cracks around your doors and windows will protect you from those terrible draft-caused chills, takes an hour one time for the year and will reduce the energy needed to heat the space. Let the sun in – it not only warms your body and home, but is great for your mood. Just a few “green” changes at home, especially during a Michigan winter, will be seen at the end of the month with a smaller utility bill.
Personally, my favorite part of living a more efficient lifestyle is the food. The rainbow of nutritious, locally-sourced foods not only has a smaller footprint and supports our neighbors, but they taste great.
Even in the winter, farmer’s markets are full of root vegetables and easy-to-make recipes that are quick, tasty and feel perfect in your belly while the snow falls and the wind chills. Through a Community Supported Agriculture share program, you can get boxes of fresh produce (meet farmers and farms at www.localharvest.org for more information).
If you can’t afford the extra time or cost of non-subsidized foods, try packing your lunch; a sandwich you make costs less than a dollar, but you can’t find one worth eating for anywhere near that price at a sandwich shop.
There is no doubt Eastern is a commuter school, and a common complaint is the lack of parking, especially with enrollment up this year. Single occupancy driving, needlessly idling and inefficient driving styles like flooring it from a stop (often to a red light) increase the emissions we release.
Organize a carpool – it could save hundreds of dollars every semester. If you live on a bus line, use it, it works well. Snow and ice are obstacles for novice bicyclists, but weather is not always an obstacle and human-powered transport burns fat, not fossil fuels.
If any of these changes seems inconvenient, or even daunting, challenge yourself to try an alternate way just once a week. Opportunities to reduce your impact and personal costs are all around if you look.
Incremental adjustments lead to sweeping change, and a great place to start is the original three: reduce, reuse, recycle (and they are in that order for a reason).
Ask yourself some questions as you go about your days, ones like: Can this be homemade or bought second-hand? Can this item be used again? Is there a version in a more responsibly-sourced package? And do I need (or even want) this?
These questions and behaviors are important because in all reality, nothing can actually ever be thrown away. It will still stay with the planet forever.